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From the ‘Probert Ride’ to more Red Wings prospect profiles

Amongst Red Wings-related news on an all-too-quiet Sunday afternoon (something tells me that 30 teams’ scouts, general managers and coaches took the day off after traveling back home from the draft), and starting with a focus on past players’ legacies, the Windsor Star’s Dylan Kristy reports that the first annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride was a success:

Almost a year after his death, Bob Probert continues to be remembered as a “protector” of his community. More than 800 riders came out with their motorcycles Sunday for the inaugural Bob Probert Memorial Ride.
The first ride was held in partnership with Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital foundation, CAW Local 444 and 2458 to help raise awareness and money for the hospital’s angioplasty program. Probert died July 5, 2010 of heart failure. He was only 45. Riders left Hotel-Dieu and wound their way along the shoreline of Essex County before returning to Place Concorde in Windsor. Hundreds of supporters, many wearing red, white and Probert’s number 24, packed the starting line for the all-day event.

“This is a very emotional time for me to be over here and I’m honoured to be part of today’s event,” said Chris Chelios, honorary captain for the ride and former Detroit Red Wing and Chicago Blackhawk. It’s a great tribute to the people of Windsor supporting Bob and I’m very honoured to be a friend of Bob’s and to be part of his as an honorary captain.”

The proceeds from the motorcycle ride will allow the Hotel-Dieu Grace to help save lives:

“Right now we have one angioplasty suite so we’ll be adding a second suite and a new building adjacent to the hospital,” said Ken Deane, Hotel-Dieu’s provincially appointed supervisor, adding Windsor-Essex has death rates from heart disease significantly higher than the rest of Ontario. This will allow us to provide 24/7 coverage at a state-of-the-art angioplasty centre staffed by our professionals, using our equipment, in our facility and helping our residents.”

In other charitable news, Wings coach Mike Babcock appeared at a charity dinner to raise funds for the Edge Skills Academy North in Grande Prairie, Alberta recently, and the school’s website states that Babcock’s presence helped raise significant funds for the school…

Mike Babcock has been a long-time supporter of Edge School. Having hosted the annual Edge Legacy Dinner in Calgary in 2010, Mike agreed to continue as spokeperson and host the first Edge Legacy Dinner in the newest Edge affiliate campus in Grande Prairie on June 21, 2011. The event, a packed crowd of over 450 people, was a huge success. Although final numbers haven’t rolled in yet, it has raised over $60,000 for the program. Edge School Skill Academy Grande Prairie offers an integrated academic, athletic and character building program for students in Grades 4-12 based on the successfuly model of Edge School in Calgary. Grande Prairie students can be part of the Dance or Hockey programs.

And in a purely future-oriented vein, as reported yesterday, Wings scout and alumnus Kirk Maltby worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Troy to plant vegetables, and the Wings’ Facebook page posted a short video of Maltby’s participation in the event:

Staying with a probable Wings alum but discussing food on the other end of the “healthy” spectrum, the Los Angeles “Wrap’s” Jake Weinraub reports that LA’s “Coney Dog” restaurant, which is partially owned by Kris Draper, will actually raise money for charity when it officially opens in September, but the oddly-located restaurant—which sits between the infamous “Viper Room” and “Whisky a Go-Go” clubs—is already open and business is booming:

Fittingly, the actual opening—in September—will be a fundraiser for the Midnight Mission, hosted by Michigan heavyweights Kid Rock and Magic Johnson, with help from Mitch Albom.

While [director Mike] Binder’s celeb friends sponsors are making their presence known at the restaurant, Binder is the one spearheading the project. In the tradition of Lafeyette Coney’s original entrepreneurs, he enlists the help of his family—his niece and daughter both work as servers, with business input from his wife, Dianne.

The Coney Dog isn’t a franchise, though—more of a style of restaurant. There are a ton of Coney restaurants in Michigan, with the following staples on their menu: a Coney dog, loose burgers (ground beef served with chili, mustard and onions on a hotdog bun) and beer.

“I kind of attacked it like making a movie—that attention to detail,” Binder told TheWrap. “Getting the silverware just right like those old-time Detroit places, getting the plates, having the Faygo pop and the Vernors.”

I’m not sure how to explain a Coney to a non-Michigander, other than to say that it’s not made from “sloppy Joe” chili or the kind of chili that’s going to burn your tonsils off, assuming you have them (I don’t)—the fluffy bun and natural-casing hot dog (the restaurant actually buys the hot dogs once used by American Coney Island in Detroit from their former supplier) are topped by a very sticky and Greek-influenced savory chili that’s not like anything you can buy at a fast food restaurant or make from a can.

And yes, I know it’s a bit strange to go from talking about heart health and educating youngsters to celebrity largesse and the kind of indulgence that might require Lipitor if you don’t eat it in moderation, but that’s how we’re going to “roll” today.

I mentioned this this morning, but as the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons noted one more Wings alum, Mark Howe, might have his best chance to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year as the HHOF will announce its induction class of 2011 on Tuesday, and, as the Sporting News’s Ray Slover notes, the eligible inductee pool isn’t exactly fantastic:

Hall officials will announce the next class at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday. Among the first-time candidates, goalie Ed Belfour appears the best bet. The rest of the first-timers are fairly pedestrian. Perhaps the class will include Kevin Lowe, who has seven Stanley Cups on his resume; long-serving players like Doug Gilmour, who had 1,414 points; or 500-goal scorers like Dave Andreychuk and Joe Nieuwendyk.

Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Weekend will be Nov. 11-14 in Toronto. The induction ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Nov. 14.

The selection committee meets Tuesday ahead of its 2011 class announcement.

Two people who will be included in this fall’s induction are known. Long-time Edmonton Oilers beat writer Terry Jones will receive the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. And NHL veteran and long-time Detroit Red Wings broadcaster Mickey Redmond will receive the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, as voted by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association. Jones and Redmond will receive their awards at a Nov. 14 luncheon.

From past to present roster decisions, again, “If you missed it,” the Free Press’s Helene St. James reported that Jonathan Ericsson’s all but assured to remain in Detroit as the Wings will re-sign him shortly…

he Red Wings are closing in on a deal for defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, with only some details left to discuss. General manager Ken Holland met with Ericsson’s agent during the NHL draft at Xcel Energy Center, and said Saturday the two are planning to talk again Monday.

“A little bit of the conversation that’s going on with Ericsson’s camp is where we see him fitting in,” Holland said.

The Wings have three top-four defensemen signed in Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart. They’re going to use free agency—which starts Friday—to fill the fourth spot. Ericsson is penciled into the fifth slot, but Brendan Smith is going to get a chance to make the team, and Jakub Kindl, who really impressed with a strong second half, is a candidate for the third pairing, too.

Ericsson, 27, is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, but he has said all along he’d prefer to stay with the Wings, who selected him with the very last pick, No. 291, in 2002.

But “Jagr Watch” has taken a predictable turn as Penguins GM Ray Shero seems to be swaying toward making Jagr an actual contract offer, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari noted that Shero’s going to be pretty busy on the free agent front:

With the draft in his rear-view mirror, general manager Ray Shero said he is ready to shift his focus back to free agency. He said nothing of consequence happened during the past few days with his free-agents-to-be, and that he has not spoken with Petr Svoboda, who represents Jaromir Jagr, during that time. Svoboda had been scheduled to attend the draft, but changed his mind because of a family issue in the Czech Republic.

“I may have a conversation with him in the next day or so, just to touch base,” Shero said.

He also has to try to get deals done with forwards Mike Rupp and Pascal Dupuis before July 1, when they will qualify for unrestricted free agency.

“I have to start making some decisions,” Shero said.

The Penguins’ cap situation is much tighter than the Wings’ in terms of wiggle room, so the Wings are supposedly offering Jagr more money (depending on who you believe, somewhere between $2-2.5 million—I don’t buy the forum post that Alexei Kovalevich says indicates that the Wings have offered Jagr a $3.75 million contract) than the Penguins can, but Jagr’s first choice at this point is obviously to rejoin the team he began his career with if at all possible.

If we are to believe the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek, speaking on TSN’s “The Reporters,” Jagr’s maturity level and ability to play at the NHL level deserve a “thumbs-up”:

Eric Duhatschek, Globe and Mail: My thumb is up to Jaromir Jagr, whose imminent return to the NHL for a victory lap is good news on multiple fronts. It’ll permit one of the most dynamic players in history to make the rounds one more time, so a generation of fans that didn’t see him in his prime can get one last look at a future Hall of Famer. Yes, Jagr was that good - and based on how well he played for the Czech Republic at the 2010 Olympics and 2011 World Championships, he still has something to give, especially on the power play, where both of his primary suitors - the Penguins and the Red Wings - could really use the help. Jagr has matured. When you talk to him now, there’s a gravitas about him that was missing in his early, carefree days with Mario & co. Welcome back Jaromir. We missed you.

He may have something to give, but for a 3-and-a-half-million-dollar salary, I’d think that the Wings would try to sign someone ten years younger (like Brooks Laich) instead.

We don’t know whether any of the nine players the Red Wings drafted on Saturday will pan out, but if you’ve been following the “getting to know you” profiles of said prospects over the past day, you probably know that the Wings feel they’ve got a steal in Tomas Jurco, who they drafted 35th overall.

If there’s anybody who knows Slovak out there, Sports.cas.sk posted extended video interviews with Jurco, his mom, his agent and Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer, but they’re in, well, Slovak.

As the Wings are the Wings, while the top-end prospects merited mentions, we tend to be particularly interested in the Wings’ late-round picks as well. RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest has already offered an overall assessment of the Wings’ draft class and profiles of Jurco and Marek Tvrdon, and today, he profiles the Wings’ classic “skinny Swedish defenseman” pick in Linkopings HC defenseman Mattias Backman:

“He’s not a spectacular (Niklas) Kronwall-type player,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “He’s more of a ‘make-a-good-first-pass’ guy and he’s a mobile skater.”

The Red Wings selected Backman from Linkoping of Sweden’s top under-20 league in the fifth round, 146th overall, of Saturday’s draft in St. Paul, Minn. Backman didn’t play on the Swedish national team, so he wasn’t under the microscope of scouts at the IIHF world junior championship. But he made a big impression on Andersson playing for his club team. Backman, who is a great skater, was among the top five defense scorers at the under-20 level, recording two goals and 18 assists for 20 points in 27 games. He has also played 11 games in the Swedish Elite League over the past two seasons.

“He’s close to 6-foot-3 and he’s very mobile, he thinks the game well, he keeps the game simple, he has a very good first pass, and he can also skate the puck out of trouble,” Andersson said. “He’s a good defenseman.”

Backman is expected to be one of seven defenseman on Linkoping’s Swedish Elite League team next season. The hope is he will establish himself as a regular and earn a spot at the WJC. Like most prospects — especially those taken late in the draft — adding strength is his first order of business.

“If he fills out, he has a really good chance to play in the NHL,” Andersson said. “The other tools are there.”

The strange pick that is gigantic stay-at-home defenseman (he’s 6’4” and doesn’t turn 18 until July 1st) Richard Nedomlel offers, well, size and strength...

“He’s a big, rugged defenseman, and his coach (Mark Lamb) says he’s more of a North American than he is a European,” said Red Wings scout Jeff Finley. “He loves the physical part of the game.”

As his zero in the goal column indicates, Nedomlel is “limited with the puck,” according to Finley. But he did collect 10 assists and started earning power-play ice time toward the end of the season, which was enough net him the Broncos’ most-improved player award. The Red Wings, who took him in the sixth round (175th overall) in Saturday’s NHL draft in St. Paul, Minn., see a big, mean, stay-at-home defenseman in Nedomlel.

“He’s big, he plays the game hard, and at the end of the day, he’ll be a shut-down guy,” Finley said. “He blocks shots, he throws open-ice hits, he likes to fight, and he plays a North American style of game.”

Nedomlel, who was ranked just 205th overall among North Americans by Central Scouting, had no guarantee of being picked. He’s certainly got a lot of work to do, but the Red Wings liked his progression throughout the season and put a lot of stock in a positive review from Lamb, who was a Philadelphia Flyers teammate of Finley. The key in Nedomlel’s progression will be whether he learns to play within his limitations. That’s what the Red Wings will be watching for over the next two seasons.

“Guys who are limited skill-wise, you just have to have enough hockey sense to keep yourself out of trouble,” Finley said. “You have to keep things very simple and play to your strengths. You look at the progress throughout the year, with his size and physical game, and he has lots of upside.”

And the player who intrigues me the most outside of Tvrdon is CSKA Moscow defenseman Alexei Marchenko, who went undrafted last season due to a major injury (his spleen was removed) and remains a player who will be hard to bring out of Russia due to the KHL’s crazy free agency rules. Wuest reports that the Wings are ready and willing to both wait for Marchenko’s contract with CSKA to expire and believe that Marchenko’s willing to deal with the stigma of leaving the KHL despite the fact that CSKA will, technically speaking, own his rights until he’s 29 and will automatically re-sign him every year until then:

“He’ll play two more years with them and then he wants to come to North America,” said Red Wings Russian scout Nikolai Vakourov.
Marchenko became a regular with CSKA Moscow and finished the season ranked 25th among Europeans by Central Scouting. Averaging more than 13 minutes a night as a teenager, Marchenko played 23 games with CSKA Moscow, registering two assists and a minus-2. He also played in Russia’s junior league, the Minor Hockey League, piling up five goals and 33 assists for 38 points in 36 games. Described as skinny and not overly physical, Marchenko is more than capable of playing a simple, stay-at-home game. But Vakourov said there’s more upside than just that.

“He’s not very offensive but he’s smart moving the puck,” Vakourov said. “I would say he’s a puck-moving defenseman. He can play the power play and in general he has good tools to play in the NHL one day.”

It doesn’t hurt that he’s a right-shooting blueliner, something the Red Wings need more of. Vakourov rated Marchenko as the best 1992-born defenseman in Russia and said he has a “very good chance” of being a top-pairing defenseman and a captain for his country at the IIHF world junior championship in December.

Defenseman Dmitri Bykov (258th overall in 2001) is the Red Wings’ only Russian draft pick to have panned out as an NHL player since Datsyuk (171st overall in 1998), but if Marchenko can add strength to his slender frame, he has a decent chance.

“I think for the seventh round he’s a great pick,” Vakourov said.

Finally, in terms of “the future,” WXYZ reports that the Wings’ “Social Media Day” party has reached its 1,000-attendee limit, but if you’re attending, here are the details thereof:

When there’s a “social media party for shy people” party, I might attend it, but until then, I’ll keep pretending that I’m outgoing and keep my mumbled hellos and sit-in-one-place-and-let-people-come-to-me anxiety-busting strategies to myself.

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RWBill's avatar

Perhaps the class will include Kevin Lowe

I say induct Rob Lowe, for the epic Youngblood contribution to sports movies.

Posted by RWBill on 06/26/11 at 09:10 PM ET

Speedy's avatar

i attended the ride,i was awestruck at the incredible numbers of riders.to be honest i found myself tearing up when Brogan Probert spoke,as well as when the riders started-good cause,lots of love of 24 everywhere.Chelios,Sheldon Kennedy were there along with several friends who played with him.i took some pics,and have most of Brogans speech on video.i will try to post my pics.anyone who has posted here awhile knows why i have a deep attachment to him.he inspired my sobriety nearly 24 years ago.i believe an article he did motivated me to change my life for the better.

Posted by Speedy on 06/27/11 at 01:39 AM ET

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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.