The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/10/13 at 09:12 PM ET
I feel like I'm falling down on the job here. I'm sitting in a room with two folks who are doing a helluva job transcribing over an hour's worth of interviews into something digestible, and all I can offer you at present is a chunk of audio meatier than ten pounds of steak. With news cameras in tow and professional photographers snapping pictures, the blogger whose readers paid his way up...
May or may not be doing a decent job. You're going to have to tell me what I need to improve on, what you want to see more of, and what you feel I can do better (also known as "constructive criticism is welcome").
The biggest things I'll say about today's session at the Red Wings' summer development camp are that:
A) shorter than any "first day" by at least four hours (see: practices from 12-12:50 and 1-1:50 PM as opposed to the usual 8-to-10 and 2-4 split sessions, which will return on Thursday and Sunday as the schedule for those two days has been revised)...
B) And that it involved more new faces than any camp that I've attended since the first time I headed down to Joe Louis Arena to watch something that few people paid attention to.
The stands were packed for today's sessions, and while admission was free today, I expect to see that jam-packed trend continue. Friday's scrimmage is going to be absolutely nuts as both people in attendance for an Up North holiday weekend, a chance to see the Wings' top prospects up close for those who can afford to make the trip
The media was here in full force as well, with the Free Press, Detroit News, Fox Sports Detroit, Michigan Hockey, Hooked on Hockey Magazine, the Traverse City Record-Eagle, WOOD TV8, the 9&10 News, Fox 32 and the Left Wing Lock all in attendance, and the Wings will cover it too...
So to to say that this is a different beast in terms of those who have access to the event (which used to take place in an empty JLA) and those who cover it is one thing. But we're only half of the equation.
Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill's in attendance this summer, Tomas Holmstrom took to the ice for the first time, and in addition to Blashill, Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek, Wings video coordinator Keith McKittrick and defenseman mentor Chris Chelios, there were three personnel who I couldn't recognize.
I watched Team Yzerman practice, and they consisted of:
#43 Darren Helm
#67 Rasmus Bodin
#80 Dean Chelios
#42 Martin Frk
#63 Phillipe Hudon
#64 David Pope
#76 Ty Loney
#73 Brody Silk
#39 Anthony Mantha
#62 Zach Nastasiuk
#86 Dominik Shine
#47 Alexei Marchenko
#77 Richard Nedomlel
#48 Ryan Sproul
#79 Ildar Telyakov
#28 Trevor Hamilton
#68 Jake Paterson
#34 Andrew D'Agostini
And, in limited participation, #31 Jared Coreau
So that's 4 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie who are "returnees"
Team Lidstrom consists of:
#72 Andreas Athanasiou
#81 Michael Babcock
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi
#85 Kurt Etchegary
#21 Luke Glendening
#84 Barclay Goodrow
#82 Mattias Janmark-Nylen
#60 Marek Tvrdon
#70 Jamien Yakubowski
#87 Dane Walters
#75 James De Haas
#71 Alex Gudbranson
#61 Xavier Ouellet
#3 Nick Jensen
#74 Marc McNulty
Taking part in the off-ice activities: Mitchell Wheaton
#34 Jake Patterson
Four forwards and three defensemen are returnees.
In other words, out of the 38 players taking part, fifteen--39% of the roster--have been here before, and in past years, that number's been somewhere between 50 and 60%, even including free agent invites.
The turnover on the ice was quite evident, and the turnover in terms of coaching was evident.
Add in the fact that the players skated for all of fifty minutes, and that I saw one of them practice...
That's not a lot of "eye time" with which to base some assessments, and the fact that the drills weren't exactly Tomas Storm nuanced, well, I can give you some initial assessments of just about everybody, and, regrettably, that's about it.
Most years, the first day is a full day, with practices going the way they will tomorrow and on Sunday--with nearly two hours of on-ice time per group--and instead, the players had their physicals this morning (mostly out of sight save some high jumps), got on the ice for a little bit to get their feet wet, and after a post-practice meal, ironically enough, they went to speak to a nutritionist earlier this evening.
So what did Jeff Blashill have the players engage in?
Red Wings drills.
First skaters headed up and down the ice in 2 or 3 lanes, engaging in give-and-go passing from the far blueline to the north goal as the goalies did drop-and-stop drills with Jim Bedard's as-yet-anonymous understudy at the south end of the ice.
Squeeze the passing lanes to two, squeeze the spacing, have the red jerseys go from south to north and the white jerseys go from north to south, and then fold in a third skater who provides some nice passive pressure at the start of the give-and-go and eventually joins the 3-on-0 rush.
Peel the two skaters off and let a coach, standing at the goal line parallel with the faceoff dots, send a pass toward a lone skater who has to take a shot, get another puck from the coach, and then take a second shot.
Make that skater peel back behind the people behind him in line after taking the "rebound" pass from the coach.
Then, all of ten minutes into the drills, set up something that I began to call the "Filppula peel-off," because Valtteri Filppula was so very famous for skating in to the half boards at high speed, stopping completely, and then dumping a puck back to his point man.
Three skaters break out from the far blueline, skate in with "forwards" passing to each other, and at the half boards, one peels off and sends the puck back to the "defenseman," who's waiting at the blueline. Sprinkle in Blashill and Chris Chelios very loudly telling players to keep on each other in terms of their spacing and pace.
Nineteen minutes into a 50-minute skate, finally actually have your players stretch. Let Darren Helm lead them, and make sure that Helm knows he's got to lead the end-of-practice stretch, too, in no small part because Helm does about six more stretches than the "kids" know how to do, and he does them slowly to emphasize getting things done correctly (this is a major point of emphasis, of course).
All the while, Jared Coreau was stopping some long shots, but mostly working on his lateral movement, pushing off with his skates, etc. as he's still recovering from shoulder surgery, and isn't quite cleared to drop to the butterfly and recover (though he's working in new gear, including his shiny mask and Vaughn Ventus pads, blocker and glove) with players charging toward him.
When Jeff Blashill finally brought out the white board, you'd better believe I took note of the fact that he suggested that his defensemen ought to have their "ass on the side of the puck," and that he encouraged forwards to put shots off goalies as a form of forechecking.
With Coreau mostly sidelined, D'Agostini and Paterson (with one T) had the workload, and I should note that Helm did NOT take part in all of the "battle drills." The skating stuff, yes, but when it came to drills that involve contact and bump-and-grind smears, hooks, pushes and pulls, well, there's just no purpose in exposing someone who hasn't done any skating or much working out in two months to that kind of abuse.
The other players didn't mind though, and the 3-on-3 drill with the nets placed on the opposite side boards of the north end, with players making passes from behind the net to 2 teammates who worked against their opponents to score. Essentially, the man behind the net made the outlet, and it was up to the forwards to out-grind each other toward the goal.
This is a theme we're going to come back to on a pretty regular basis: very slowly but surely, the levels of complexity are ratcheted up, but the subtleness with which people like Tomas Storm will add intricate detail to the mix will be offset by the coaches' emphasis on intensity, skating and "pace"...
And occasionally, they'll pull the nets closer together and have the players engage in some "road hockey on ice" drills just to hammer home the concept that there's very, very, very little time and space to work with at the professional level.
Of course, as you might expect from the Repeat to Mike Babcock's Pete, Blashill kept score as the reds and whites battled it out for five minutes.
Thirty-two minutes into the fifty-minute practice, the players finally got a water break, and the defensemen and forwards were split, with the forwards taking to the north end of the ice with Blashill and Jim Paek, and the defensemen heading to the south end to work with Chris Chelios (the nets having been moved back to their customary places).
The defensemen got their legs under them in what I would describe as tandem sprints from the blueline to goal line, and then they worked on taking passes from the half boards and walking laterally along the blueline before shooting, then "battling" along those half boards to get pucks back to a second defenseman in the "pair"--and these drills alternated from one side of the ice to the other, so the right half boards and left half boards were used, and requiring the right-shooting and left-shooting defensemen to adjust accordingly.
At the other end of the ice, the forwards began by taking passes from near the faceoff dots, looping back to the blueline parallel to that dot and skating in and shooting, but soon they were shadowed by a second forward, and then two forwards worked against a third "shadow," all taking a pass from the faceoff dot or half boards wall, looping back to the blueline and then skating up the slot and shooting.
The drills ended pretty quickly with first a dump-to-the-coach-and-retrieve-the-puck sprint from the far blueline to the goal line and back again, and before I could figure out who was dumping and who was chasing, Blashill seemed satisfied and called it a day.
Helm led the stretch and I hauled ass down to join "the pack," as it were, and collect the quips and quotes that regrettably prevented me from watching the second group skate.
I don't know how else to put it. Everyone has it right to some extent about there being a "pack" of journalists who are in it for certain quotes and little else, and yet everyone has it wrong in that it's not that "the pack" doesn't give a shit about hockey, or that they're any less interested--it's that editors tell their reporters what to do, and it was inevitable that the first day involved speaking to Darren Helm about how Darren Helm was doing, even though, as I suggested in the audio-posting entry, that devolved into ten minutes of asking Helm how his back was and whether he was going to feel good enough to return for the 2013-2014 season based upon what his body will be telling him next Monday.
He didn't have a good answer other than to smile through gritted teeth and do his best to pretend that skating in a summer development camp with "kids" who may be as much as eight years younger than himself--with Helm not really able to take part in the vast majority of the on or off-ice training that forms the bond between the younger players--yielding an utterly alien experience for someone who's going to try to find his way as he's probably going to do his best to keep out of sight of those holding sound recorders, lest he receive another visit from the Spanish Quote-quisition.
Mind you, all those questions basically repeatedly asked forced Helm to come up with new answers, and as such, he ended up hashing out his condition, what he's been doing for the past couple of months, whether he was ever diagnosed with a specific ailment and what his hopes are going forward...
But it sucked to be part of the group subjecting him to that torture by questioning...
And it sucked ass to miss the Bertuzzi-Jensen fight and not see half of the skaters get their legs under them, because, in the end, the pack has its ups and downs, and sometimes you need to hear what players have to say for yourself as those who are told to chase certain interviews do just that...
And sometimes you need to watch some hockey by yourself and think. Or at least I do.
In terms of the players I actually saw skating on Wednesday, here are my initial impressions:
#43 Darren Helm: Like I said, there was little power in his stride and his hands were a bit wonky as he hadn't done much other than skate by himself since, say, March. He tried to push himself at times but you could see him holding back, and not being happy knowing that he had to crank it up to 2/3rds Helm Speed and leave the rest on the table against other ultra-competitive (as Babcock would say) people who were out-skating and out-executing #43 because #43 had to play like he was a beer-leaguer.
His fit and finish were a little sloppy from the lack of physical strength and "wind," but you could obviously tell that it was an NHL'er doing the drills, comprehending them immediately and knowing where to be before his teammates were there, so the bag, she was mixed.
#67 Rasmus Bodin: Rasmus Bodin looked like some kid that Hakan Andersson picked out of a backwoods league, still growing into his body as he clumsily fumbled drills and struggled to keep up with the pace of things last year. This year, at least based upon twenty or so minutes of viewing, his size and strength are now in a body whose brain is comfortable with what it's now used to attempting to control. He looks like someone with promise, a big checking forward with solid skating skills and nice passing. So far.
#80 Dean Chelios: Jake's the defenseman, Dean's the forward, and Dean looks like he's put a little more meat on his bones, but he remains smallish even after gaining a few pounds. He's speedy and skilled but whether he can translate his tempo and grit into something more, after three years of watching him, I'm still not sure.
#42 Martin Frk: Frk is still sporting something of a playoff beard, and a year after suffering a groin injury during the first real day of skating, he chugged up and down the ice so hunched over that I thought something was wrong with him. As it turns out, the guy who wears #91 may not be nearly as fast as the original, but he sure as hell has a similar stride, albeit with his legs not set so far apart like Fedorov's. Frk's this hunched-over goal-scoring machine, and it's evident that he wanted to power his way to the net and shoot shoot shoot, but the thing I find interesting about Frk is that it seems as if he gets a little McCollum-y when he doesn't score. It bugs him, and it's almost as if he takes that last missed shot with him.
#63 Phillipe Hudon: Hudon will never be big but he's ripped as ripped can be, he's still Wings property for another year thanks to his single year spent at Cornell, and I can't help but admire his grit, determination, level of competition and just his endless enthusiasm for attempting to live with OCD while grinding out an existence as a fourth-line pro forward.
#64 David Pope: Pope can deke and dangle like the puck's soap on a rope. I saw him snipe a couple of slick shots home. Other than that, I can't tell you that he made much of a first impression.
#76 Ty Loney: He's right-handed. He's not overly big. And he didn't stand out.
#73 Brody Silk: I saw the jersey with his name on the back speeding up and down the ice, skating very hard. I didn't see much else. That's not his fault--like you'll find with some of these prospects, and this will be the case for the entire week in some instances, because I'm focusing on Wings property, it's harder to get a read on these guys, and some of what they do is too subtle for someone who's only got twenty-two years of watching hockey in his 35 as opposed to 30 or 40 years of bird-dogging it watching.
I'm no scout. I just pretend to be one in this blog.
#39 Anthony Mantha: BIG MAN SYNDROME.
It is very, very evident that #39 looks a wee bit like the gentleman who wore #39 before switching to #93 to accommodate one Dominik Hasek in Johan Franzen.
Yes, Mantha is a little bit too easy-going, but he's also betrayed by his body, because you see this HUGE, LANKY kid chugging up and down the ice, and you think, "Why can't he do more? Why isn't he hitting everything that moves? Why isn't he dominating the game?" And yet you see Mantha go into traffic and come out of it against much heavier players with the puck (6'4" and 190 might be generous on the weight side by ten pounds), and mostly, you see him skating remarkably well for a big man and scoring really gorgeous goals. The "natural goal-scorer" tag was made for players like Mantha, who don't need to wind up or need any time or space to flick the puck off their stick with high levels of accuracy and momentum.
#62 Zach Nastasiuk: I saw a grinder. I definitely saw someone who needs to put another stride in his skating ability. But mostly I saw one of those rare non-star hockey players who knows exactly what he is as of a week and-a-half after he's been drafted, and is perfectly comfortable in his skin. He's a pre-lockout Kirk Maltby.
#86 Dominik Shine: Erm...Nice name. He didn't stand out. Sorry.
#47 Alexei Marchenko: BIG wind-up on a hard shot. Good skating, has really filled out into a man. He's six two, at least 190 and he skates well and passes well. There's some "Russianness" to him but he mostly looks like a skilled defenseman who's been playing in the KHL--which is good in that his skill level is high, but is bad in that he's expecting the game to be played at a soccer pace.
#77 Richard Nedomlel: Nedomlel has literally and figuratively improved by leaps and bounds from the time I first saw him skate three years ago. No longer gigantic but awkward, the 6'5," 230-pound defenseman may still be all arms and legs, but he knows what to do with them, and he knows that his bread and butter is being a big, physical stay-at-home defenseman who can actually keep up with play.
#48 Ryan Sproul: I wasn't overly impressed with Sproul but I think that on the first day, he didn't have to go flat out. Sproul has a big, heavy shot, he's a big, heavy hitter, and like Nedomlel, he's much more efficient in the way that he uses his body. To some extent, the best part of Sproul was that he was big and bombastic and you noticed what he was doing when he was at his best, and he seems to have really polished his game to the point that you don't notice him sometimes--and that's good.
#79 Ildar Telyakov: Gigantic. Humongous. 6'9." Can keep up. Gigantic. Humongous. Bears watching. But other than that, I don't got much for you.
#28 Trevor Hamilton: Erm, uh...Defenseman!
#68 Jake Paterson: There are some Osgood comparisons to Paterson, but not the pre-lockout Osgood. Paterson is a very solid butterfly goaltender who doesn't look like he's 6'2," but looks like he's wider than his listed 183 pounds--and not by cheating with oversized goalie gear. He seems to very naturally cover a lot of net, and while he can get caught on the glove and blocker side, he has a nice wide stance, and active stick and he's much, much more in control of his rebounds than he was last year. He looked like he was just doing his thing out there, and that's good to see for a first day.
#34 Andrew D'Agostini: really, really skinny--5'10" and 173 pounds seems like a, "With his gear on" weight--with banged-up pads and a tendency to cup his catch glove under the puck like Henrik Lundqvist, not really "catching" the puck as much as he sort of tucks it into his glove and body like a baseball player. He got beat on the corners, all of 'em, but he was very combative and worked very hard.
And, in limited participation, #31 Jared Coreau: Very very big at 6'5" and very polished. From what little movement I got to see, pushed off really well, moved efficiently, looked like a big goalie who knew how to not flail himself all over the place.
That's what I've got for ya. I've been going for a long period of time and the news cycle never seems to die down--and tomorrow, I'm gonna be up for an 8 AM practice (that means that this very slow-moving night person has to go to bed at 11 or 12 and get up at 5:45 or 6 to be at the rink by 7:40) and will not leave until after 4...But at least Friday's scrimmage does not involve any morning skate stuff.
But it's gonna be a push.
I would like to kindly ask you what you need me to do more of--do you want more transcriptions, more attempts to take my fingers off the keyboard to take a crappy cell phone picture, do you want me to interview any particular players or watch for specific things tomorrow? Let me know what you'd like me to do...
And please be patient with me. When I read what the more polished and traditional folks do, I feel like some half-moron yutz who doesn't have a clue what he's doing, and I'm definitely feeling like that today. But that being said, this really was and is the first summer prospect camp where so much is so very new and so very different. I'm gonna have to paddle like mad to keep up, I think.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.