The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/26/12 at 07:23 PM ET
Updated 2x with some evening Wings news at 6:48 PM: Given our little discussion regarding the underwhelming nature of Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s comments regarding his team’s plans in terms of possibly signing free agents, I’ve had this nagging voice in my head wondering whether Holland’s comments had something to do with the CBA which the NHL and NHLPA must negotiate this summer.
The CBA which the NHL essentially wrote by itself thanks to Ted Saskin’s betrayal of the players he was representing, the league was able to doubly ensure that its goal of parity would be ensured by both forcing through a 24% rollback in player salaries and dropping the salary cap so dramatically that many teams had to buy out players to become “cap compliant,” and I can’t help but believe that Chairman Mao would love to redistribute NHL talent all over again if he’s able to get away with it.
Bettman has always attempted to model his league after the NFL, with cap-induced player losses serving as an alternate version of “revenue sharing” to help rise the tide for ships that are either sinking financially or plain old aren’t managed very well but know how to manage cycles of at least making the playoffs and then tanking to replenish the cupboard with high draft picks and free agent signings plucked from the rosters of well-managed teams which cannot afford to keep all the players they’ve drafted and developed.
After the last lockout—and many indications and whispers suggest that while the players don’t want to piss off fans by engaging in a third “work stoppage” over the past seventeen years and second lockout in eight years, Bettman and the Board of Governors were at least emboldened enough by the, “Lockouts are a matter of course” business practices engaged in by the NBA and NFL that it assumes the same fans who were infuriated to find out that there was no “inflationary spiral” of salaries directly tied to ticket prices (which are determined by supply and demand, not salaries or team performances) which would magically cease thanks to the lockout the owners promised them would make watching hockey more affordable are fans who will easily, gullibly accept the concept of losing up to half a season’s worth of play (a la the 1994-95 lockout; the owners seem to believe a “work stoppage” would allow them to force Donald Fehr to blink and grant concessions to the league)—shifts in player personnel did pique interest in a league that had “gone away” for a full season…
And if the league manages to wipe away teams’ abilities to get away with exceeding the cap by paying more real-world funds to players than their cap hits, which are averaged over the life of the players’ contracts, would indicate, if the league manages to depress the “cap ceiling” with or without squeezing an across-the-board rollback from players, if the league is able to reduce the players’ share down from 57-and-change percent to somewhere around 50% of revenues, and especially if the league manages to reduce the payroll range’s gap from $15 million to $10 or even $5 million, especially if the “floor” drops dramatically…
The vast majority of the league’s teams would either have to engage in “amnesty” or plain old against-the-cap buyouts, further redistributing talent around the league and ensure that, in conjunction with coaches employing real-time digital video scouting software and a league whose three-point games allow some wins to be more equal than others, the NHL would move ever closer to Bettman’s dream of supreme parity, all while—especially given the fact that ticket prices aren’t going to go down by a penny in any market, regardless of how long any potential lockout might last—selling more jerseys and generating more interest in hockey, which is very, very, very important if the owners choose to take a “break” to reduce player wages.
ESPN’s Craig Custance at least hinted at a cap reduction which might force teams to jettison players in an “Insider” blog entry pondering whether the Boston Bruins might have to trade Tim Thomas to accommodate RFA-to-be Tuukka Rask’s imminent raise…
According to multiple sources, the expectation is that the salary cap will be dropping when the new CBA is settled, which tightens things up even more for the Bruins.
And I can’t help but believe that Bettman, who managed to convince 27 of 30 of his Board of Governors to approve a hackneyed realignment plan that wasn’t particularly well-researched last December, will also be able to convince the Board that taking a little pain in the form of jettisoning some star players to further help the causes of say, the Columbuses and Islanders of the league, perhaps promising the Board that such a redistribution of talent might help, perhaps alongside with some reforms in revenue sharing, get more teams off the “dole” that’s largely funded by slashing hunks of prime steak from teams’ cash cows, their playoff revenues, would benefit everybody in the long run. He’d be lying, of course, because somewhere between six and ten teams tend to struggle financially, thanks to poor management, rink debt, operating losses, not doing well on the ice and plain old business issues plaguing their ownership groups, but the man seems to be able to sell lead paint chips to nursery schools as snack food.
Update: And because this is in fact a Red Wings blog, here are some evening tidbits:
• NHL.com’s confirming that Pavel Datsyuk (and some guy named Evgeni Malkin) will play for Russia at the World Championships;
• Via Puck Daddy and RedWingsFeed, would Joel Ward’s game and series-winning goal against Boston have counted if Kerry Fraser was reffing the game, or if, say, Knuble, who let himself be steered into Tim Thomas and stayed there, was Tomas Holmstrom? Of course not!
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose reports that Justin Abdelkader and Jimmy Howard are still practicing at Joe Louis Arena before leaving Metro Detroit to join Team USA at the World Championships on Saturday, and in the interim, Abdelkader presided over a re-enlistment ceremony for U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Aron Mazurek;
• One Brendan Smith has climbed p the list of Hockey’s Future’s top 50 NHL prospects:
16. Brendan Smith, D, Detroit Red Wings
Height: 6-2, Weight: 195, Fall ranking - 36
There is not much to dislike about this all-around defenseman with size. Brendan Smith had another strong season in the AHL, but his NHL debut was even more impressive as he contributed at half-a-point per game despite only averaging around 15 minutes of ice time. Big, mobile, and physical, Smith is very close to being ready for the NHL. He can still improve on the smaller details of his game, like his pivots. With at least one of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, or Kyle Quincey potentially departing from the Detroit Red Wings next season, Smith will get his shot at a permanent NHL roster spot.
• And I hate to agree with 97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Stone on this point, but I do indeed agree with him:
2. Ken Holland has taken some criticism for the early exit of the Red Wings. Many fans can’t understand why he did not do more to acquire more scoring. I am sure he tried to spend some of the five million he had left under the cap, but there was nothing out there worth anything, and no they were not going to get Rick Nash. Unfortunately, Anaheim was still in the playoff hunt and did not want to part with people like Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, or Ryan Getzlaf. I do take him to task for the Kyle Quincey acquisition. Giving up a first round pick for Quincey seems high considering Philadelphia only had to give up a 2 and a 3 to get Nick Grossmann who I think would have been a much better fit than Quincey.
Update #2: Take this for what you will, from 97.1 the Ticket’s Jamie Samuelssen:
Detroit is a blue-collar town. And for years, fans have associated with the blue-collar favorites. We’ve had our stars – but we’ve always had a special affinity for the blood and guts guys too.
Is that era reaching its end? Are we seeing the end of the so-called blue-collar athlete in Detroit? Consider the fact that three unique careers are at or near their end. Tomas Holmstrom finished out his 16th season with the Wings last week in Nashville. He almost assuredly has played his last game in Detroit and probably in the NHL. The Pistons Ben Wallace said earlier this season that he’d retire at the end of the season. So his final game in an NBA jersey should come tonight at the Palace. (Wallace has backed off that a bit – he may return for one more year.) And the most maligned Tiger of all – Brandon Inge is clearly near the end of his career. Some Tiger fans are hoping that end comes sooner rather than later.
Holmstrom became a star in Detroit by withstanding constant abuse in the crease. Wallace seemed to be a throw-in in the Grant Hill sign-and-trade deal and ended up using rebounding and defense to become an NBA superstar. And Inge, for all the criticism, worked hard, constantly switched positions, and hit enough to stick in the Tigers everyday line up for nearly a decade.
When they leave…who’s next? Who will be the next grinders and muckers to become fan favorites in Detroit? I’m not sure there are any candidates. Justin Abdelkader likes to mix it up for the Wings, but he has to score a few more big goals to start having #8 jerseys pop up at the Joe. Maybe Stephen Tulloch who is undersized at middle linebacker but still plays the position at a high level. The Tigers have spent so much money on stars that there isn’t much room for the Tom Brookens type player on the roster. I have a hard time seeing the fans becoming enamored with Andy Dirks or Ryan Raburn.
Maybe it’s a product of the times. And maybe there’s a void for the next Wallace or Holmstrom or Chris Spielman to arrive. But for now, we should appreciate just how much some of these guys have accomplished. They’re the most unlikely of stars given their physical tools. And yet somehow they won a lot of games, signature a lot of great moments and played their way into the hearts of Detroit fans for many, many years.
2 words: Darren Helm.
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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.