The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/22/13 at 07:21 AM ET
I went to sleep around 6 AM on Saturday, got up at 10:30, had an hour nap and "powered through" both the family Christmas party and a Wings-Leafs wrap-up, so I figured that staying up until 6:40 AM to watch the second episode of 24/7 myself would be worth it (because, obviously, nobody ever posts it bootleged on YouTube).
I heard that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had tossed the cameras out of the room--which was about a 35 on a one-to-ten scale of probability of occurring--but, in Babcock's words, I wanted to "see it" for myself.
Here's what I thought as I viewed the episode (and cue the spoiler alert), with the more MSM-ish blogger and media's takes included.
Three minutes of "showing" yields a revelatory image of Jimmy Howard getting an MRI at the same time that the rest of us have to get MRI's--either early in the morning or late at night--and in a weird way, that makes me smile.
And Randy Carlyle...Is a grump. He reminds me of the gym teacher whose version of "the talk" involves schematic illustrations and a rendition of Every Sperm Is Sacred. I get that he's from Sudbury and that he's grateful to be a salt-of-the-earth guy (or nickel of the earth guy, as the case may be) and all, but he's harsh. Very harsh. You can see why the Ducks play the way they did and the way the Leafs are built post-Burke.
I find it interesting that Abdelkader, Smith, Quincey, Kindl and the young guys--and Alfredsson--have gravitated back to the Birmingham-and-Troy area. For a long time, those locales and West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills were the only places Wings players planted roots, but the Swedes changed that and planted roots in Novi, where the coaches and management call home. And let's just say that Smitty is Smitty, via CBS Sports' Chris Peters:
Then watching Abdelkader get concussed as the Wings lost to Pittsburgh was painful. The medical room isn't a pretty place, and I know as I've seen it--there's a trauma area that has what is essentially a simple surgical table and a ready set of basic diagnostic/crash cart stuff--and the training room itself feels a lot less like somewhere where guys take stitches and reveal lost teeth, broken bones and torn ligaments..
I like the fact that Babcock very specifically told Tomas Tatar to not hang his head, that it was bad body language, and that the 24/7 crews showed fans leaving en route to the Wings' disastrous outing against the Pens.
I'm just not that interested in the Leafs--but the crews caught something of a break in getting Toronto tangling with Chicago on a Hockey Night in Canada game.
I do despise the way that Schreiber's narration (he's wonderful, mind you) seems like so much "showing" to non-hockey fans. You transpose it with wonderful footage. It feels...To somebody who wants to sit down and watch more than, "Highlight A fades to highlight B, slow-mo celebration yields Carlyle rooting the team on in the locker room, turn up the inspirational music, let's show that our color saturation is way better than even the CBC's" crap.
Though it's hilarious that Miley Cyrus,' "We Can't Stop" is the Leafs' victory song, and that Carlyle has to explain that he's a "classic rock" turned metal man as balance.
Too much coaching. Too much coaching. These guys keep it short and sweet for a reason, and players lead, too. You don't get that feeling from HBO.
Aha, Jurco! Jurky, whose taste in music IS TERRIBLE. And Babcock saying, "Don't think, play, have fun" is lovely. As is very earnest, "Frustration is a waste of time" talk--a man believing his own lines--and a VERY brief view of the coaches offices' video room. Holy crap, wide-screens all over.
To Tampa Bay at home. Babcock emphasizing body language after the disallowed goal against Bishop. But so little very chat from the bench.
I will say this: the views of the multiple screens in the coaches' room show how integral Keith McKittrick, the video coordinator, is to the team. He's an assistant coach who happens to sit behind a keyboard.
Ken Holland makes an appearance in the press box, chewing gum, passing Kris Draper and a couple of young kids who look like Chelios kids, walking back to the locker room, speaking in front of a chart of all 30 teams' rosters, and he and Babcock finishing each other's sentences.
Remarkable. They disagree, but to see the GM and the coach talk to each other and bring a united front together over the course of a few paragraphs' worth of commentary, well, that's not surprising, but it's cool to see.
Then the Leafs play ping pong! Kessel vs. Phaneuf, for the championship of all time! Where's Elisha?
Oh *#$%@&, I believe that we're going to get the goalie controversy cranked up to eleventeen given their discussion of the Reimer-Bernier split duty spiel.
One thing about the ACC compared to the Joe: the Joe's player gym is so small that maybe a dozen players can squeeze into it. The Leafs can all work out together. I don't imagine that it happens all the time, but that kind of detail speaks to the fact that the Joe's...Let's say maximized its potential, and those kinds of details matter to players. Does that kind of stuff justify half a billion dollars' worth of investment? Not for a second, but it's gonna happen in no small part because the team gym's small and the press box was an add-on. Welcome to the real world--it's a strange place.
Dinner scene! It's the Leafs' turn, and it's steak and fancy silverware, not seafood, ribs and fish taco shots! With credit card roulette paying for ten guys and $735 worth of food!
The scene shifts to Clark Park, no small irony there, with the Wings' Winter Classic Legacy Donation highlighted, and Chris Ilitch speaking to the cameras and to the public as the face of the franchise. Babcock, Kronwall, DeKeyser and Howard in tow as the team donates a Zamboni (and side boards and lights).
Niklas Kronwall then tells tales of growing up playing outdoors, Sunday practices at 8 AM, and the team-city connection is played up in contrast to the horrible, horrible slump.
Kronwall's followed by the cameras onto the practice rink, but Babcock gives the "confessional" interview and Kronwall insists that leadership is about challenging yourself to be a few percentage points better while being part of the team.
Smiles in practice. Babcock preaching relentless positivity while saying that hearing Pavel Datsyuk saying he has to be better is music to his ears.
Pavel speaks for the first time, says he has to be better, more be productive, more be shooting, it starts from him, if he steps up and produces, everybody else will more be better.
And Zetterberg takes a twirl before we head back to the Leafs some 30 minutes into the broadcast, greeting stern Leaf game faces on the bus in Pittsburgh.
[sarcasm] Oh, look, the Penguins on HBO twice. I for one am stunned that Sidney Crosby is mentioned almost immediately. [/sarcasm]
Slow-motion replays and Root Sports' idiots giving play-by-play as Carlyle very painfully swallows the occasional "f*ck" so the microphones don't pick it up--and honestly, in hockey, f*cks are so common that you don't blink at the profanity, that it's not personal, that it's salt and pepper.
Nazem Kadri fakes, Leafs draw even, Bodie gets in a couple of fights, Crosby punches Kadri in the head, and the refs toss Phaneuf and Zolinierczyk for unsportsmanlike. Bodie gets stitches--an ugly sight seeing the needle slide three inches into his upper lip--and then Phaneuf and Crosby engage in a lengthy discussion.
Which is surprisingly honest, though separated by the refs. Sorry, gang, hockey players don't speak in elaborate code. There's no time.
Wait, the Penguins beat Toronto, and I feel conflicted? Oh, right, Pittsburgh.
Switch to Detroit, and this:
Legal pads in the era of laptops, tablets and the like, and an admission that Weiss's groin issue is a stomach issue--and a sports hernia is indeed a rupture of the abdominal wall.
Back to Toronto and Nazem Kadri's immaculate apartment for a conversation with the dad. Leaf memorabilia all over the place. Kadri seeming a little more human after he admits that he's got to deal with his dad's advice like everybody else, and saying that he appreciates it.
15 minutes left. Kind of waiting for the HBO guys to drop the, "And Kadri's Muslim!" line. Thankfully, they show his Audi and let Kadri tell his own tale--a welcome break from Schreiber's insightful but sometimes incessant commentary.
But he is their Brendan Smith. Elite talent and an elite ego.
There is a razor's edge between confidence, arrogance and believing that your shit doesn't stink that exists in the top professional jobs in most every field--especially competitive endeavors--and even Nick Lidstrom liked to point out that he wanted to believe that he was the best defenseman in the world.
Howard gets a CT scan on his knee and DeKeyser eats in the players' area of the locker room (first glimpse at the paneling) as Jurco scores his first goal against the Ducks, and then things fall apart, with DeKeyser displaying the same kinds of faces that you and I make when we see it turn into shit.
Leafs lose to Florida, Wings lose to the Ducks, and Alfredsson and Selanne hear the ref insist that they had to call a game misconduct to Quincey for his hit on Getzlaf--which Quincey insists is a two-minute minor sans the blood.
Here comes the much-anticipated camera cut-out scene. And Babcock is much more blunt, telling them, "Get out of here, get the *#$%@& out of here, that's why I shut the door."
Cue the montages, including a good one of a fan making the Joe's glass wobble and shiver, and lots of angry glares from the as-yet unspoken-to Bertuzzi.
Carlyle puts a practice on the line based upon how hard his players work out in what really are massive facilities. Cut to a presser...And then Babcock speaking to the cameras as the Wings depart with the inevitable knit caps.
Schreiber notes that doubt and fear are kind of inevitable and that the fires thereof cannot be extinguished as the Wings leave the Joe amidst the puddles and dark and scary night...And that's that.
I've got an English degree, and my extended stay at the U due to bombing out of engineering and then having to deal with sleep apnea means that I graduated with so many credits that it would take me a year-and-a-half to get a master's degree. If I can get healthier and I keep getting the Babblock when trying to cover the team I try to cover professionally, I may very well pursue a doctorate instead of keeping on with the grind.
So much of my classes were about the writing process, the storytelling process, that it's not funny. I exhausted my avenues to write instead of write papers about books other people wrote, and when I chose the latter types of courses, I very purposefully cast my net far and wide, reading as much German, Russian, Arabic, Czech, Armenian, magic realism, hard-boiled detective fiction, true crime and even children's lit as I could.
Good storytellers show, they don't tell. The last episode was so much more showing than telling, so much place-setting, person-setting, team-setting, context-setting through, "You may not know these people at all, so here's the situation" talking that it was painful at times.
There was less "showing" and more "telling" in this episode, but we still haven't heard much of anything from Zetterberg, from Datsyuk, from Bertuzzi, and the coaches are relied upon so very pivotally as "characters," narrative-drivers and team-in-my-image-makers that I can't blame them for throwing the cameras out.
I like Mike Babcock. I admire Mike Babcock. I want to know more about the process behind the product he delivers, though I'm sure he doesn't want to reveal his trade secrets. I want to know why he's so consistently on-message, why he so adores scrapping with the press...
And I'm not going to get any of that, because HBO's 24/7 structure invariably pigeonholes the coaches as the gatekeepers, as the decision-makers, and as fans know, Babcock the teacher often hands over a detailed collegiate-level lesson plan to an elite set of players who implement it by finger painting and eating the occasional crayon.
The inmates don't run the asylum, as it were, but they certainly paint the pictures that the coaches end up working to perfect, to revise, to openly scribble upon with their own paintbrushes, and HBO isn't about letting the players tell their own tale unless it's within the strict confines of parallel storytelling (i.e. "equal camera time") and the overriding narrator's narrative drive.
I don't mean to over-think this so severely--I'll blame it being 6:58 AM as I type this--but I'd argue that Fox Sports Detroit and the Deep Diggers get more meaningful insights into who the players really are and how the "living organism" that is the team we follow lives, breathes, coughs, convulses, scrapes along and sometimes soars than 24/7 ever could.
Certainly, seeing the Wings get the cinematic treatment is beautiful, it's compelling, it's revelatory given that Babcock guards his information like a big Saskatchewan black bear guards its kill in winter...
But it's not the be-all-end-all, and if you're into the more substantive stuff, pay attention to the fact that Niklas Kronwall's gloves are CCM-branded Reeboks with old Bauer cuffs, that we still haven't seen the Eastern Orthodox icons in Datsyuk's locker, that some players still prefer paper checks stuck above their nameplates on a two-week basis as opposed to direct deposit, appreciate the details and the banter that matter to you, because following a sports team isn't about asking HBO to hold our hands through a very guarded and limited keyhole camera's view into the "uncensored" stuff.
It turns out that the uncensored and private realms in which the players and coaches operate aren't the "stuff" of the story of who they are, what makes them tick, what matters to them and why they do what they do.
24/7 is like a gateway drug for fans who want to spend more time and energy following their favorite teams--or maybe enough immersion for those who don't want to follow the team in more than casual depth to at least be able to say, "Well, I saw that on TV and I know this as-yet-unseen tidbit now!"
It just ain't for me.
In terms of the media's takes, the Free Press's Steve Schrader took notes...
The losses and injuries continued to pile up, but the Red Wings took them stoically and philosophically like the true professionals they are in Saturday night's episode of "24/7" on HBO.
In other words, it was kind of a yawn -- until the show's final 10 minutes, during the 5-2 loss to Anaheim, and Mike Babcock couldn't hold it in any longer.
"Get out of here!" Babcock said, tossing HBO's cameras out of the Wings' dressing room between periods.
"Get out of here! That's why I shut the room! Get the (bleep) out of here!"
Other than that, there was little up close and personal stuff or much emotion with our reserved Wings, other than Justin Abdelkader and Brendan Smith driving to the game together in last week's snow.
HBO likes to show closeups of Todd Bertuzzi -- drinking Corona, blowing bubbles, just looking grim -- but not talking.
(It's better than chew, and I'm looking at you, Landon Ferraro and Calle Jarnkrok)
CBS Sports' Chris Peters posted the inevitable Crosby-Phaneuf scene...
Amongst Peters' notes:
- There were a number of great moments from Mike Babcock in this episode. He shared a lot of his philosophies on coaching and offered a lot of one-liners like “Frustration is a waste of time.” Also, when the Wings lose Johan Franzen to injury, Babcock discusses how to adjust the power play and tells his staff “I have no mule.” That was a personal favorite.
- While Babcock was open at times about how he operates as a coach, when his Red Wings go down 4-1 to the Anaheim Ducks to start the first period, he's less warm and fuzzy. Babcock aggressively kicks HBO's cameras out of his locker room.
The man's smacked me on the ass with his stick telling me I was gonna freeze my ass off in short sleeves. He'll push and shove his way out of a presser after, "See you, guys..." if necessary. I respect a man who asks you to respect his personal space, and who isn't "untouchable."
NHL.com's Dan Rosen offered a set of vignettes, including the following:
HBO finally introduced the viewer to Detroit general manager Ken Holland 22 minutes into Part 2. It was not the type of introduction Holland would have liked.
He was calm, cool and collected as he told ex-Red Wings player and current special assistant to the general manager Kris Draper that the team would have to "regroup tomorrow" following a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Franzen was injured in that game.
Holland made his way down to the dressing room area and into Babcock's office, where the two of them were shown having a discussion about what has been ailing the Red Wings lately.
"The way we're going right now we score a goal and it's a no goal," Holland told Babcock. "When things are going good it's a non-issue. Right now it's…
"It's an issue," Babcock interrupted.
Holland responded by saying, "The hard part is we make a couple mistakes …
"It's in our net," Babcock said. "We're not scoring."
"Well sometimes you score and those mistakes, they're not a factor," Holland added. "When you don't score, it's nothing-nothing, nothing-nothing, all of a sudden we get our hands on the puck, it's a turnover and it's in our net."
"I thought we did lots of good things," Babcock said, "but we find a way not to win."
The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger offered a Leaf-centric take on the episode, but he included the following:
Detroit defenceman Kyle Quincey, who received a five-minute major and game misconduct for shoving Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf into the boards face-first during a 5-2 loss said: “The blood (on the face of Getzlaf) f----- me.”
Quincey figured he would only have received a minor had Getzlaf not started to bleed.
My family Christmas party's Wings consensus:
1. The team will work its troubles out over time;
2. The team needs another top-pair defenseman;
3. Kyle Quincey is terrible.
I liked the fact that Zeisberger referred to an off-the-cuff comment made by Babcock after the Wings' win on Saturday night, too:
As Alfredsson waited for the officials to give him the green light to skate in on Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, Wings assistant Bill Peters leaned over to Babcock and said: “He’s going to go bar down, then ride his stick. Watch this.””
Much like Peters predicted, Alfredsson did shoot high. And he did beat Bernier high for the decisive goal which, coupled with a Pavel Datsyuk marker right after his own, gave the Red Wings a 2-0 margin in the shootout and a 5-4 victory in the game,
What he didn’t do was ride the stick like former Leafs tough guy Dave (Tiger) Williams used to when he scored.
Can you imagine the uproar such a gesture from Alfredsson would have caused in Toronto? Leaf supporters still haven’t forgiven Alfie for pretending to throw his stick into the ACC stands nine years ago, a move they thought was his attempt to mock then-Leafs captain Mats Sundin who had been suspended just days earlier for chucking his broken twig into the platinums.
It would have made for some great drama for the HBO folks. Not that Alfredsson’s on-ice heroics weren’t spicy enough.
“I have to admit, (being booed) fires you up,” Alfredsson said afterward, HBO’s boom microphone hanging over the handful of reporters talking to him in the Wings dressing room. “It was a big win. It was a great feeling.”
Good night and good morning.
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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.