The Malik Report
Impressions from day five of the Red Wings’ develompent camp, mid-day news & Datsyuk, watch salesman
by George Malik on 07/11/11 at 04:01 PM ET
Update #2 at 4:24 PM: According to Jim Nill, Teemu Pulkkinen’s training with Jokerit Helsinki: At 8:05 this morning, I arrived at Centre Ice Arena and read a message that was eerily similar to something that happened a year ago—the Red Wings’ prospects’ on-iace activities had been canceled for the day due to issues with the ice. Give or take a day, the same thing happened at Joe Louis Arena thanks to an utterly all-too-predictable Detroit Water and Power line blowing out, necessitating a shift to Detroit’s City Sports Arena as the Joe’s ice turned to slush.
Here at Centre Ice Arena, they apparently suffered some sort of failure in the cooling system, and while the Red Wings are the Red Wings, the fact that Huntington Rink got goopy and David’s Rink was working just fine did not give the Wings precedence regarding the use of a rink that’s being used to host girls’ hockey tournaments all day long.
So the Wings’ staff improvised and chose to do some off-ice sessions, forcing a bleary-eyed blogger to make a decision: do I stay at the rink and hope for something to happen, or do I just go back to the hotel and catch up on some desperately-needed sleep?
I asked the best boss in the world what to do, and he suggested that if I was going to sit somewhere (and this person happens to know how compulsive I am about hockey news), I might as well sit at the rink, and I did, and I’m glad that my boss made said suggestion.
First, I was able to watch the Red Wings’ “teams” engage in some off-ice drills that were sweat-inducing and borderline insane; second, I managed to very briefly speak to Jim Nill and find out that the Wings’ signing of Joey MacDonald to a 2-year contract which is at least a one-way deal for the 2011-2012 season was and is an “insurance policy,” which GM Ken Holland confirmed to the Free Press’s Helene St. James (stating that MacDonald will start the season in the AHL, and that his deal’s worth $550,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 at the AHL level); third, I managed to weigh in the Commodore 64 debate in a timely manner; and fourth, and most importantly, I managed to speak to a few prospects about their activities and the big switch-up, hearing the following from most of them:
The Red Wings may have planned on giving the players six straight days of split sessions, in which they take to the ice or start working out at 8:30 and go until 10:30 or 11, then each lunch, take a nap, and come back to the rink for either on-ice or off-ice workouts from 2:30-4:30, both adding an eighth day to the tournament and another day of hard workouts for the players’ advantages…
But the guys are admittedly mentally and physically drained, even after enjoying the switch-up that was an hour-and-a-half of practice, an hour-and-a-half of working out and then a scrimmage instead of an afternoon remix on Sunday. Both the youngsters and the returning vets have been pushed to their physical and mental limits over the past four (now five) days, and while they’re up for the challenge, the words I kept hearing were that everybody’s tired and everybody’s sore.
For reference purposes, here, again, are the rosters of the “teams” involved…
38 Thomas McCollum
66 Tyson Teichmann*
2 Brendan Smith
32 Adam Almquist
64 Danny Dekeyser*
42 Max Nicastro
15 Richard Nedomlel
62 Ryan Sproul
3 Brad Walch*
47 Brent Raedeke
14 Gustav Nyquist
60 Trevor Parkes
70 Willie Coetzee
58 Landon Ferraro
58 Nick Oslund
68 Adam Estoclet*
24 Dean Chelios*
63 Julien Cayer
45 Casey Fraser*
Injured: Gleason Fournier
34 Petr Mrazek
31 Evan Mosher*
25 Brian Lashoff
54 Sebastien Piche
27 Travis Ehrhardt
56 Bryan Rufenach
61 Xavier Ouellet
75 Artem Sergeev*
77 Jake Chelios*
28 Tomas Jurco
53 Louis-Marc Aubry
65 Mitchell Callahan
71 Travis Novak*
50 Brooks Macek
74 Alan Quine
29 Marek Tvrdon
73 Phillipe Hudon
72 Zachery Franko*
49 Jesse Fraser*
Note: Players with an * next to their names are try-outs.
And the ice is firming back up at Huntington Rink as I’m writing this, so it’s pretty safe to assume that the schedule for the remaining days of camp will go as follows, per the Red Wings:
The Red Wings’ 2011 Prospect Development Camp will continue next week with on/off-ice sessions taking place in Traverse City
Tuesday and Wednesday (8:30 – 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.). This year’s camp wraps up on Thursday, July 14 with another intrasquad scrimmage as well as a skills competition (8:30 – 10:00 a.m.). More information on Traverse City ’s Centre Ice Arena can be obtained by visiting www.centreice.org.
The tickets cost $5, which is a pretty darn good deal.
I also need to mention the following right here as this is going on today, per RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau and her Left Wing Lock blog:
Training Camp Ticket Fax Sale Starts Today
A fax ticket sale will begin as of noon on Monday July 11th for all remaining tickets for the 2011 Detroit Red Wings training camp. To purchase your tickets, please click here for the order form and fax it to (231)-933-3037.
Ticket availabilty for September 17, 18, and 20 is limited to standing room only. All ticket levels are available for September 19. The aditional practices scheduled for September 21 and 22 are available for general adminission price of $10. For more on ticket pricing and other camp details click here.
So what did the prospects do? For about an hour and a half, each group worked out in the gym under the guidance of head trainer Piet Van Zant, assistant trainer Russ Baumann, Grand Rapids Griffins strength and conditioning coach Aaron Downey and Wings prospect mentor Chris Chelios.
I didn’t get to see the in-the-gym parts of the affair, but the usual fifteen minutes of plyometric exercises—or, in plain English, lots of running and jumping and stretching to, according to what I overheard from Van Zant, both stretch out the players’ muscles and get their body temperatures up prior to working out. This is apparently pretty darn important.
The players then headed into the gym for about 45 minutes, and when they emerged, they did some stretches that…
Had Aaron Downey gasping for air and had the players drenched in sweat at the end of all of 10 minutes of working out. Chris Chelios had the players engage in a set of push-up like drills in which the players first popped up onto their toes and rested their torso and body weight on their elbows and lower arms, doing so for about a minute. Then they were expected to shift to their left side and lean their body weight upon first that elbow-bent lower arm, and for a shorter period of time, a fully extended arm. They then repeated the on-their-belly drill and moved over to the right side of their body, and then back to the middle.
Chelios would give them, “One more minute,” “Thirty seconds,” “Ten,” and, “Five, four, three, two, one” countdowns, and again, whether we’re talking about the prospects or Aaron Downey, there were more than a few rubbery arms, players struggling to keep their butts in line with the rest of their bodies and the grunts and groans of extensive physical effort.
By the time that the players were done with their ten-minute drills they were gushing sweat and going for water and Gatorade like they’d emerged from Death Valley, and of course, I don’t need to tell you the obvious—Chelios himself, at 48 years of age and retired from hockey, was fine and dandy.
THAT is why the Wings brought him on as a prospect mentor.
After rehydrating, the players brought out their sticks and gloves—sans tape on their stick blades—to engage in some rather extensive stickhandling drills under the guidance of Tomas Storm, using golf balls instead of pucks or tennis balls (and I have to say before I write this that, as an equipment nut, having twenty sticks and pairs of gloves sitting on the table I’m working at and its adjacent tables made me extend my professionalism to its fullest extent, not so much as touching sticks I’d love to hold, flex and fiddle around with. It would be impolite and disrespectful of the players’ tools to do so, and I know where the boundaries of professionalism lie, so I didn’t, but man, it was hard).
One might think, “Oh, it’s just stickhandling with golf balls, how hard can it be?” but when the Wings’ skill development coach is involved, there’s no such thing as easy.
Storm had the players do one-handed side to side dekes, attempt to stickhandle the balls around the perimeter of their bodies, they engaged in toe-drags on their backhand sides, hands-apart dekes in a half-circle’s radius in front of them, hands-tight dekes in a half-circle’s radius in front of them—in both cases, keeping their legs bent and under them in a skating position and only pivoting their upper bodies to move from side to side—and they also worked with partners, first attempting to deke around a poke check, then deke through and under their opponent’s stick, then pass to each other on the backhand and receive passes on the forehand with two golf balls in play, then attempt to stickhandle, slash each other, and then retrieve their golf balls, take long steps forward while dangling to the absolute extent of their reach, and perhaps most crazily…
Deke and dangle while on their feet, then on one knee, then on two knees, then laying on their butts and lower backs, then shifting back to two knees, then the other knee, and then back on their feet.
Even the best stickhandlers were messing up, and golf balls were rolling all over the place. Landon Ferraro had a look of frustration on his face, Trevor Parkes had his cheeks puffed out trying to concentrate, even the goaltenders were forced to take part in the drills, and engaged in them with varying degrees of effectiveness (Evan Mosher, quite the stickhandler, who knew?) Brent Raedeke actually starring and, in the second group, well…
I’m not allowed to take video here. I’ve been told that by both the rink staff as they state that it might result in college hockey players losing their eligibility, and I’ve been told so by Jiri Fischer for perhaps a more obvious reason—the Wings are taking video of their prospects doing these drills for assessment’s purposes, and they don’t want someone else taking said video and using it or even having me go beyond explaining what I’m seeing to you because there is nothing in the NHL like R&D—as in “Rob and Do”—and if the Wings have an edge over another tea, they want to keep it.
I’m very disappointed, however, because when the second group took part in the stickhandling drills, what did Tomas “the Magician” Jurco do?
First bounce the golf ball on his stick blade—which most of the other players couldn’t manage to do because it’s a golf ball, for goodness’ sake.
Then bounce the golf ball on the shaft of his stick, on the side of the shaft parallel to the blade.
Then bounce the golf ball on the top of his shaft, which is about half the width of the sides.
And he did it like it was nothing, like he was just goofing off and trying something new. THAT was a YouTube moment, but again, it ain’t professional, so you can only picture it in your mind because it happened too fast for me to whip out my camera.
Did I mention that he wasn’t even using his own stick curve or brand?
In any case, I can also at least report that while the players were engaging in these stick drills, when they boobled the golf balls and they rolled down the hallway and I or a member of the rink’s staff had to toss them or kick them soccer-style back to the players, they were giggling, making fun of each other, and having a very good time. The mood was serious but not so serious that they couldn’t make fun of themselves, and that was very good to see after four very serious days of activity.
They were exhausted after the stick drills, too, because they were doing them at a high tempo and working pretty darn hard with their upper and then lower bodies, and they didn’t receive more than 20 or 30 seconds of relief before Storm had their arms and shoulders moving back and forth again, and the drills lasted for a good forty minutes.
Perhaps even better for them, after the “morning” session (which ended at about 11) and “afternoon” session (which ended at 1) wrapped up, the players were told that, instead of having an afternoon of on-ice work, they were allowed to go back to the hotel, do whatever they wanted for a few hours and then assemble on the beach across the way, where there’d be a grill, games like bocce ball and shuffleboard, and eventually some paddle-boarding under the guidance of Chris Chelios and aa few water safety people (so that they don’t whack each other over into the water). I didn’t see the relief on the players’ faces as much as I felt it in the room.
In the end, these are very young men, and even though they’re here on what Brendan Smith called a “business trip” and they’re here to work, they’re also young men who’ve been awakened at 6:45 AM to head to the rink and either skate or work out for two to two-and-a-half hours at an NHL level of physical and mental demands, have lunch and/or nap, come back to the rink at 2 to do the dry-land training or skating that the morning group engaged in for another two to two-and-a-half hours, and then get undressed and head back to the hotel, hang out from about 5:30 to 11, go to bed and do the same thing. That doesn’t take into account the amount of time they spend getting dressed, getting their gear ready, get undressed after their drills (it takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes for a player to suit up), shower and in many, many cases, head to the trainer’s room to get any sore spots looked at and treated. On top of all of that, they’re watching video before and after practice and are being critiqued on everything they do, so it’s…
A job. A job that starts at 6:45 in the morning and goes till 5:45 in the afternoon, which is hard enough for most of us who sit in front of computers and churn out content, but is doubly difficult for people who are asked to work out and skate like NHL players, and in between, take in copious amounts of information as to how they must improve on and off the ice.
They need today off, they need that mental recharge—because on Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s back to the rink from 7:30 till 5:45, on Thursday, there’s going to be a much harder scrimmage than they engaged in last time around from 8:30-10:30, and then they head back to Detroit for a second round of grueling fitness testing on Thursday afternoon before heading home on Friday (and they got to Detroit last Tuesday or Wednesday, making this a 10 or 11-day business trip).
Hopefully between the scrimmage and the afternoon “off,” they’ll get their mental and physical batteries re-charged and will really be ready for the hard push that will be the last three days of camp.
In the interim, I will tell you that the mood is light and that these guys seem to get along very very well, that you an listen to Jurco talk about his stick in an interview I conducted with him below, and that I’m very grateful that I came to the rink, because I witnessed a side of this development camp that I was unable to see when the on-ice sessions held my attention, and I’m very grateful that I came to the rink because, when I needed to know what was up with Joey Mac, wouldn’t you know it, there came Jim Nill walking by.
Now I’m going to head back to the hotel for a short nap before checking in on the Osgood/Conklin situation (MacDonald will reprise his role as the team’s #2b goalie and a mentor to Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce in Grand Rapids), I’ll try to translate the damn SVT.se interview with Nicklas Lidstrom and I’ll try to get some sleep myself because, in all honesty, between the day job, writing this stuff and the fact that I’m not getting much sleep, either, this has been a grind and it’s just about gritting my teeth and dealing with the next three days.
Before I wrap things up, Red Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime provides some wise words which I’m hearing the prospects repeat as well (amongst some notes and a plug for yours truly):
As a fan, it is difficult to assess Development Camp because with few exceptions, the players are still 2-4 years away from the National Hockey League, especially with the depth of our organization. And for those players like Brendan Smith who could contribute in 2011-12, the true test will be in September’s Training Camp, where they will be matched up with and against NHL caliber players.
The players are 2-5 years away, in many cases, they’re 2 weeks into their Red Wings careers, and even the players will admit that their showings during the prospect tournament, the main camp and, if they earn the opportunity, exhibition games matter way more than what’s going on here. This is a first glimpse of how to train and play like a Red Wing for the new guys, a positive reinforcement of skills and fitness for the prospects who will head back to their junior or NCAA teams but remain in the system, and for the players who are either turning pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season (Mitchell Callahan, Landon Ferraro, possibly Trevor Parkes or Louis-Marc Aubry), this is a head-start that will hopefully serve as a springboard for the kind of fall and winter that will turn heads and eventually earn them AHL jobs and, down the line, spots with the Red Wings.
This is all tremendously fascinating stuff, but it’s also one big beginning, and nothing more.
Multimedia: I finally spoke to Willie Coetzee, who’s been harder to wrangle an interview with than I could ever have imagined, in no small part because he’s a bit of a glare-stare guy, but as it turns out, he’s as approachable as can be and he wanted to talk to me (and he reads my stuff…and I tried very hard to talk less and let the interviewee talk more this time around). You might also be interested in his discussion of how he had the proper stick “fitted” by BASE hockey, a company owned by Cliff Ronning:
While I’m not allowed to take video, I did at least record what it sounds like when 20 players are using un-taped sticks to fiddle around with golf balls…
And I spoke to Tomas Jurco, including asking him about his stickhandling and the type of stick he uses. He was trying out a Valtteri Filppula curve CCM U+ Crazy Light today, but Jurco usually uses an Easton with an 85 flex and he prefers a toe curve, currently a Patrik Elias curve, but his hope is that he can have a stick made with a completely flat blade until its toe, which he wants to stick out and curve upward like a Hossa/Kopecky/Prospal blend.
In other Red Wings-related news, Sportsline’s Adam Gretz ponders what the Wings will do with their back-up goaltending situation, noting that the Free Press’s Helene St. James seems to believe that the Wings will bring back Osgood instead of signing Ty Conklin;
• This morning, Red Wings assistant coach Jeff Blashill spoke to WDFN’s Matt Sheppard...
Blashill also spoke to ESPN 970, as noted by MLive’s Phil Zaroo:
when the Red Wings were left looking to fill to assistant coaches not long after their postseason came to an end, head coach Mike Babcock was explicit in his desire to find men who were willing to challenge the status quo.
“I definitely don’t think it’s reinventing the wheel,” Blashill told Casey Ford and Bill Blohm on ESPN 970’s Sports Pen. “I think it’s just a matter of a different perspective. I’ve come from a much different perspective than where (Mike Babock’s) been. I think the fact that I took a totally different route than he and, actually, Bill Peters both did – going through the college ranks, going through the USHL. I’ll bring that new perspective and those new ideas, and I’m sure a lot of my ideas won’t be right. But one thing that I’ve always thought is if I have an idea, I want to say it.”
Blashill was an assistant under Ferris State’s Bob Daniels and Miami’s Rico Blasi – two successful hockey programs – and though he’d give his two cents, he wasn’t always right.
“I was certainly never afraid to say what I thought,” he explained, “with the idea that I just wanted to help us get to the top. I’ve been wrong lots, but I’ll certainly bring as much to the table as I can, and hopefully enough of those ideas are things that can help us build toward winning the Stanley Cup.”
• In business news of a participatory vein, Puckdrawn.com has revealed its latest set of concepts for its design the Grand Rapids Griffins’ New Year’s Eve Game Jersey contest;
• In business news of a semi-participatory vein, the Source and Advisor reports that Dino Ciccarelli’s new sports bar will open on Tuesday;
• And in the land of snickering, Kris Draper, Henrik Zetterberg, Danny Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk trust their expensive watch needs to Lucido Jewelry, and you should, too:
The Pavel Datsyuk video includes ubiquitous use of a model and Datsyuk’s frickin’ diamond-studded stick on fire!
That actually trumps the Danny “I love jewelry!” Cleary video:
Update: In case you didn’t see it in the first-line update, I asked Jim Nill about Teemu Pulkkinen, and Mr. Nill stated that Pulkkinen’s training with Jokerit Helsinki and felt more comfortable staying with them. Keep in mind that one of Jokerit’s assistant GM’s, Ari Vouri, also happens to be the Red Wings’ Finnish scout, and that both Ilari Filppula and Patrick Eaves’ brother, Ben, play for Jokerit now, so there are more than a few pairs of eyeballs with Red Wings ties watching Pulkkinen and monitoring his progress.
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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.