The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/13/13 at 06:52 PM ET
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff offers a slightly different angle on the team's decision to re-sign Daniel Cleary, suggesting that Justin Abdelkader and Cleary may be the only players the team has who can fill a "gritty" offensive role:
Some fans of the team point to Cleary’s wonky knees and his underwhelming 9-6-15 numbers of a season ago and see the 34-year-old holding back the development of some of Detroit’s younger forwards.
Instead, the naysayers should focus on Cleary’s playoff performance last spring – four goals and six assists during the 14 most important games of the season – and recognize the value he brings to a team that while deep in forward talent, is shy in forward grit.
As much as they have a lot available up front, the Wings were still lacking a key element – someone with a mix of skill and tenacity who was capable of skating alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on one of Detroit’s top two forward units.
Cleary could very well be that guy. Detroit coach Mike Babcock hinted as much after the deal was done, though he also intends to give Justin Abdelkader, another gritty type who underwhelmed offensively last season (10-3-13 in 48 games), a shot at the spot.
“He’s 26 years old, it’s just about time he became a player in the league,” Babcock said of Abdelkader. “It takes you that long. bby skates way better than he used to. He’s got huge confidence. Being invited to (the U.S.) Olympic camp probably didn’t hurt him confidence-wise.”
In last year’s training camp, people talked about a possible Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Damian Brunner line, while conveniently forgetting a significant fact of life – that this isn’t fantasy hockey.
“Sometimes the gameplan is different,” Datsyuk said.
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