Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

It’s a little of column A and a little of column B for the Red Wings, and stuff about thugs on ice

There’s usually a rule where once my practice update falls off the front page, I get to post another entry discussing treaded-upon ground, but I’m not sure how the rule works when I’m the one that’s bumping my practice post off the page.

In any case, the Red Wings’ 10-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday brought in both the commensurate amount of what Mike Babcock deemed pennance commentaries from the team, and it also brought forth (and will continue to bring forth) so much hang-wringing from columnists and sports-talk radio personalities that it’s silly—as were some of the comments. Former radio personality and Fox Sports Detroit blogger Art Regner offers one take on the Red Wings’ performance-as-an-indicator-of-franchise-health that seems all too familiar at this time of year, even when the Wings are playing dominant hockey…

If there’s a Detroit team that’s earned a free pass after such a horrific outing, it’s the Wings. Yet, this is not a one-time aberration. The Wings appear listless, slow and lazy.  Gone are the days when they could win games by just flipping the switch.

An attitude readjustment needs to take place within the Wings’ dressing room ASAP. Something just isn’t right. 

If they continue down this uninspired path, the only switch that will be flipped is the one turning out the lights on Detroit’s season.

Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika (a former Wings beat writer, too) offers a slightly different take on the Wings’ loss and said switch-flipping…

The Red Wings just suffered their worst loss in years – a 10-3 stinker to the Blues before a booing crowd at Joe Louis Arena. They just finished a five-game homestand 1-2-2. They just slipped to 21st in the NHL in goals against (2.88 per game). But there is more poise than panic for a team that will make its 20th consecutive playoff appearance.

The Wings jumped out to a 17-4-2 start this season. When they ran into injury problems, they remained high in the standings. Lately they have been sitting on that cushion of points while playing more desperate teams who have been scrapping for playoff positioning, scrapping to make the playoffs or scrapping to make a statement at the end of the season. Another problem for now is that these guys have been through this so many times before. They have gone into the playoffs hot and fizzled in the first round. They have gone in cold and won the Stanley Cup. Defense? They ranked 21st in goals against in 2008-09, too. They went to Game 7 of the Cup final.

In short, they have seen how little the regular season can matter come playoff time, and they think they can turn it on when properly motivated. “We’ve been seeing that switch, too,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg(notes) said. “When we’re really back up against the wall, we’re playing good hockey.”

That’s fine, as long as the Wings get that switch flipped, and the time is coming. The Wings have been much better on the road (24-10-4) than at home (20-13-6) this season, but they still want home-ice advantage, if only to save on the wear and tear of travel. They have put themselves in jeopardy of losing the second seed in the Western Conference, which would guarantee home ice for the first two rounds. The San Jose Sharks are one point behind with a game in hand.

Center Pavel Datsyuk and goaltender Jimmy Howard are slated to return from injuries Saturday against the Nashville Predators, whom the Wings lead by six points in the Central Division. With four of their final five games against teams fighting for playoff spots – one against the Predators, one against the Carolina Hurricanes, two against the Chicago Blackhawks – the Wings have ample opportunity to get their game going. They should have ample incentive, too.

And, hand-wringing aside, he allows us to switch gears to on-ice misdeeds of the past, noting that Todd Bertuzzi was very defensive—and understandably so given that Steve Moore’s agent is trying to sue him, Marc Crawford, Brian Burke, the Vancouver Canucks and the NHL—regarding the fact that his hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Johnson gave Bertuzzi his first ejection since his attack on Moore:

“You haven’t heard my name at all, have you?” Bertuzzi said. But that’s about all Bertuzzi will say about it. He doesn’t want to talk about anything that references the Moore incident even indirectly – even his clean record since – because it continues to hang over his head in the courts and the court of public opinion.

Remorse is a funny thing, however, because in a not-so-different act of abject carelessness and ensuing awkwardness, local folk hero Darren McCarty finds himself set to sign autographs alongside one Claude Lemieux at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mt. Clemens this Saturday (from 2-4 PM). McCarty told the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy that, on a personal level, he’s buried the hatchet with Lemieux, though he’s obviously still upset with Claude for his hit on Kris Draper, while Lemieux…Sounded like someone who has neither chosen to give a damn about what he did nor engage in any sort of appearance commemorating his misdeed for any other reason than the pursuit of dollar signs.

That’s fine, because both he and the once-bankrupt and twice-divorced McCarty have bills to pay, but DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples was curious as to what the man whose cheek bears what are quite literally ever-more visible marks of the scars Lemieux dealt (him as he grows older, the titanium plates holding his right orbital bone become more and more apparent) has to think about McCarty and Lemieux’s capitalistic venture:

When Kris Draper was asked about the upcoming autograph signing at Gibraltar Trade Center North in suburban Mt. Clemens, featuring Darren McCarty and arch-nemesis Claude Lemieux, the Wings’ assistant captain said that he hopes his old teammate is, “Making a lot of money off it”.
...
Draper said he’s pushed beyond the horrid event, which left his jaw wired for more than a month.

“It’s a long time ago, trust me,” he said. “I’ve moved on.”

While Lemieux never offered an apology, he likely won’t anytime soon, which is fine with Draper.

“There’s been no contact between the two of us,” Draper said. “And it’s probably going to stay that way. Do I think about it? No. It happened a long time ago, and that’s the past. It defined that rivalry, I thought the team rallied around it, and it brought upon it back-to-back Stanley Cup years, so I kind of look at it like that.”

I know it’s an abrupt and perhaps heavy-handed suggestion, but the Wings have suffered more than enough scars over the past three seasons to leave the team mentally bruised and battered, and it certainly seems like the team’s spirit is suffering. In this instance, the Wings’ biggest and most dangerous rival seems to be the Detroit Red Wings, and things will get ugly in a hurry if the Wings don’t rally around each other and offer the kind of competitive efforts that made the team and its fan base so proud during the heyday of the Wings-Avs’ rivalry.

The Wings certainly seem to feel remorse about the way things have unraveled, at least, so there’s hope in acknowledgment of culpability, but as you and I know all too well, words mean very little if you don’t go out and back them up when the puck drops, and in that sense, the Wings really do face a franchise-identity-defining test of character going forward.

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Comments

Guilherme's avatar

When I was kid, I did okay in school.

I didn’t study at all, lack of effort was obvious. But I had my “talents”, my “skills”, and those were enough to do well. I didn’t study Portuguese, but I could write well by logic. I didn’t study much Math, but I could de almost everything using proportion and, mostly, logic. Geography and History were easy, ‘cause I was good with facts. I was great in English not because I studied, but because I liked it. Again, no effort, but “natural skill” was enough.

That was enough until high school, then came Biology and Chemistry and Algebra, and stuff got hard. I said to myself, “I’ll study now”, but I didn’t, since I was used to take things light and have no trouble.

I could say I’m like that until today, and honestly I hate myself for it. I want to study, I want to read, I must do these things if I wanna be somebody in the (very, very near) future. But I can’t, bad habits killed any hope I had, so I’m going through a personal hell in college, having to re-do some classes that I know I’d nail the first time if I just put more effort in to it, and damn, I know “natural talent” won’t take me nowhere nowadays.

That’s my story, take it for what you will.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 03/31/11 at 07:41 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I do think the Yahoo Sports guy had a point - that the past month or more, the Wings have been playing teams who are in desperation mode about getting into the playoffs.  Last year, the Wings were in desperation mode and won a lot of games in March and April.

Maybe we’re all making way too big a deal about their play of late.  The playoffs will tell all.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 03/31/11 at 10:09 PM ET

calquake's avatar

Maybe we’re all making way too big a deal about their play of late.  The playoffs will tell all.
Posted by Ms_Red_Winger on 03/31/11 at 08:09 PM ET

Every one of the"19” fervently hopes that is the case.  One point of disagreement though… it isn’t just their “play of late”.  Since December the Wings have been a slightly over .500 team.  Defensive play has been spotty at best which is backed up by their 21st defensive ranking.  I agree the “playoffs will tell all”.  If the Wings do well (WCF or better) all will be forgotten.  But a 1st Round knock-out will only make the rising calls for change that much louder.  The Wings have run out of reasons why they are playing poorly.  The Playoffs will be “put up or shut up” time.  I don’t know about anybody else but I haven’t been this nervous about the Red Wings chances for quite a while.

Posted by calquake on 03/31/11 at 11:50 PM ET

Chet's avatar

based on the last game vs. nashville, i hope this team is ready saturday. their work ethic won’t be the only potential problem because the preds will be running at them all g*ddamned game…

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 04/01/11 at 01:12 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 03/31/11 at 05:41 PM ET

Algebra I and Intro to Physical Science nearly destroyed me in high school and like you said, “Shit got real.”  But it wasn’t until my Junior year in high school that finally got things turned around.

Cotsonika’s article raised my hopes for at least till Saturday’s game.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 04/01/11 at 03:51 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Algebra I and Intro to Physical Science nearly destroyed me in high school and like you said, “Shit got real.”  But it wasn’t until my Junior year in high school that finally got things turned around.

I wonder when the Wings will realize shit got real.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/01/11 at 09:27 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.