The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/16/13 at 10:43 PM ET
This is a general interest-type story/topic, but I felt that my Wings-centric perspective merited posting it here. Feel free to read or ignore as you wish:
If any consolation could be taken from the Red Wings' second-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks--and it was somewhat heartening to know that Niklas Kronwall stated that the Wings' collapse still stings when he attended the MIS 400 on Sunday--it's the fact that the Wings' outgoing division rival and their new division rival, the Boston Bruins, can't wrap up their Stanley Cup Final series until at least June 21st, by which time even stragglers like Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk will have headed back to their off-season homes.
The "off-season" term is something of a misnomer for the rest of the NHL.
48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final ends, teams are allowed to begin the process of engaging in cap-compliance buy-outs, and as the CBC's Elliotte Friedman stated on Saturday, teams beset by cap problems, like the Flyers, can't even begin to engage in contract negotiations with UFA-to-be Mark Streit until they have the tagging space under the dropping cap (from $70.2 million to a "summer cap's" worth of 10% over $64.3 million) to spend next season's money.
The draft takes place on Sunday, June 29th, with all 7 rounds taking place on the same day in Newark, New Jersey. Six days later, on July 5th, the unrestricted free agent season begins. A little over two months from July 5th, most teams will holding their training camps for the 2013-2014 season (the Wings begin training camp on September 12th in Traverse City).
The lockout-shortened 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby took its toll on those who wrapped up their seasons with playoff-less late-April locker room clean-out days, and, as Paul noted, the Montreal Gazette's Jack Todd very accurately suggested that it would take Zdeno Chara-like feats of strength and endurance for the Chicago Blackhawks or Boston Bruins to return to the Cup Final given that their players won't even begin their off-season training until mid-July, a full month behind 28 other teams' players.
To some extent, playing this far into summer yields a campy, "Blessing in disguise" line applied to someone like Bruins forward and unrestricted free agent-to-be Nathan Horton; should Horton need shoulder surgery, he'll be out for three or four months, which means that he won't return until November at the earliest, yielding a month's worth of salary cap relief for whoever signs him to a $5 million-plus contract; for any of Horton's teammates or present-series opponents, any hint of surgery or lingering significant injury will all but certainly yield missing at least the start of the 13-14 season.
For players like Wings prospect and Grand Rapids Griffins forward Jan Mursak, the situation's even worse: Mursak's season will end on either Tuesday or Thursday, and, should the Griffins capitalize on their two chances to win the Calder Cup, he'd better book his time with the trophy in a hurry: Mursak will have about a month to pack up his apartment in Grand Rapids, head home to Slovenia, get his affairs in order and then find a way to move his belongings all the way to Khabarovsk, Russia (5,000 miles away if you leave Grand Rapids and fly across the Pacific Ocean going west, and more like 9,600 miles if you travel to Ljubljana, Slovenia and then on to Khabarovsk) by late July, because Amur Khabarovsk, his new KHL employer, will begin their exhibition season by the end of the first full week in August, and they'll be playing regular-season hockey on September 4th.
As the Toronto Star's Damien Cox suggests, the fact that the NHL Awards were reduced to, "Congratulations, you've won an all-expenses-paid trip to fly to Chicago, accept a miniature version of an award you'll spend no time with, conduct some interviews and hold a conference call, and then get the *#$%@& out of here, because it ain't YOUR Cup Final!" underscored that the reality of the "off-season" situation for every team not named Chicago and Boston:
For the other 28 teams, preparations for the 2013-2014 season have already begun, and even the all-but-written rule that teams shouldn't make waves until the Cup's been awarded...Well, teams have stomped all over that bit of etiquette, and Cox suggests that we should expect some delayed fireworks from teams 29 and 30, too:
Amazingly, as the final moves along, stories are proliferating about the strange, strained relationships within the two organizations. In Chicago, the connections between president John McDonough, GM Stan Bowman and the coaching staff are said to be terribly frayed. With Boston, the executive divisions between the Cam Neely group and the Peter Chiarelli group are thought to be similarly troubled, and in both cities, it’s amazing the political intrigue hasn’t gone public or inhibited the ability of either team to win.
It’s hard not to get the sense, meanwhile, that the other 28 clubs are either anxiously awaiting the end of the Cup final to get down to business or aren’t willing to wait any longer.
The old tradition, that teams would try to avoid doing major business during the final to allow for maximum exposure of a marquee event, has clearly disappeared after a season in which the schedule was so compacted after the lockout it seemed doubleheaders were the next step.
Sadly, that meant the annual NHL awards were jammed into a few shards of live programming and scattered press releases over the past few days. Nobody misses the annually awful awards show, but it was patently unfair that the likes of P.K. Subban, Sergei Bobrovsky and Jonathan Huberdeau did not get anything close to the full meal deal in terms of exposure and attention as they accepted their first major NHL honour.
Edmonton stole a little bit of the spotlight last week by signing Dallas Eakins to coach — unfortunately, before Ralph Krueger had even been fired — but that was forgivable, probably, because they were trying to beat the Canucks to the punch on this appealing young coach.
The Rangers jumped in on Friday by picking Alain Vigneault over icon Mark Messier as their new coach. With the nearby Brooklyn Nets tabbing the barely retired Jason Kidd to coach, there would have been symmetry in the Blueshirts going for an ex-player, but GM Glen Sather resisted the temptation to go big and instead played it safe.
Mark Streit went from Long Island to Philly in one of those pre-free-agency strikes, and the chatter is that his Flyer contract will illustrate the loopholes still available to teams interested in circumventing the spirit of the salary cap (think massive signing bonus). Phoenix, perhaps, is being sorted out, but not one person should be surprised if the team is neither sold to new owners nor relocated, but rather remains under NHL proprietorship as efforts to hold a gun to the head of embattled local taxpayers continue.
Then there's the weird, "Brendan Shanahan's meeting with the Calgary Flames" scenario, which doesn't seem likely to yield the NHL's disciplinarian leaving his present job for a hockey operations job under Flames president Ken King, theres the release of the CBA to the general public by the NHL, the fact that the Wings and most every other NHL team spent this past week holding pro and amateur scouting meetings to make final plans for the draft, free agency and to settle upon a team-determined "off-season game plan" (to use TSN's Scott Cullen's term) regarding shaping their NHL teams and AHL affiliates' rosters, their front office and coaching staffs over the next two-and-a-half months.
The Flames and 27 other teams, it’s clear, just can’t wait to get started on next season and no longer are, whether or not that detracts from the Cup final. That die was cast, of course, when this league and its players decided it wasn’t convenient to start playing until January.
That places the Blackhawks and Bruins at a significant disadvantage compared to the Red Wings, and while this may be some Kronwall-like lingering anger, disappointment, frustration and even resentment on my part doing the talking for me, well...
That ain't a bad thing.
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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.