The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/18/13 at 12:22 AM ET
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson dedicated the bulk of his "Hockey World" column and blog entries to the Red Wings this week, engaging in a fascinating interview with Wings GM Ken Holland about the possibility that Detroit might not make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season, and they talk about the Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be, too.
Matheson believes that the Wings might be better served long-term by missing the playoff cut and taking a chance in an NHL draft lottery that will now give each and every one of the 14 non-playoff teams a chance (albeit a weighted one) at the 1st overall draft pick, but that's not the way the Wings operate:
"Yeah, I want to make the playoffs. Yeah, even eighth. Anybody who makes the playoffs is good enough to win in the West,” Holland said. “I don’t think even the teams with all these points (the Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks) are unbeatable. You saw it last year with L.A. and with how far Phoenix went (as far as the Western Conference final).
“Every team is one injury away from a big fall if it’s the wrong guy. Before the Oilers game (on Friday) I guess there had been 60 games that had gone to overtime or shootouts (showing how close the league is). The biggest thing is your goalie. Do you have one you think can take you all the way? I think we do in Howie (Jim Howard). Even the teams that have all these points are winning games 2-1 or in shootouts. That’s got nothing to do with how it could be in the playoffs with a real overtime, five-on-five, a real hockey game.”
“We’ve got a new team, a new year (without Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart on defence, with a run of injuries, with older players such as Pavel Datsyuk, who turns 35 in July). I’ll make a decision (on trades) if it helps us get into the playoffs and add to the streak, but to do something that doesn’t make good sense short term and long term, just to get in … that’s not a good business decision.”
In terms of the Wings' drafting and development, Holland isn't sure that the team can manage to continue finding superstars in later rounds without a dip into the draft's higher order, but that's not necessarily the point:
“Our scouts have done a good job, getting Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg in the later rounds (since 1990), but you can’t count on that. For one team to get those sorts of players where we did, that happens once every 30 years, probably,” Holland said.
As for the team's "home-grown" players, Holland seems willing to pony up to re-sign Jimmy Howard...
“I like Howie. Born and raised in our organization, he’s competitive, he’s 28. We’d like to sign him, whether it’s before April 3 or in the off-season,” Holland said.
But Matheson thinks that Valtteri Filppula's purported $5 million-a-year salary demands are a bit much given that the Wings have other players to attempt to retain:
He has five other unrestricted free agents: Val Filppula, who’s looking for a big hike over his current $3 million, Daniel Cleary, whose body has taken a pounding, Swiss rookie winger Damien Brunner, fourth-liner Drew Miller and extra defenceman Ian White. If they’re not going to be in the 2013 post-season, do the Red Wings trade some of these players for assets or draft picks?
“Our history is we let these things (signing guys) go through the playoffs because we’re trying to win the Stanley Cup and you deal with business in the off-season. But we’re on the bubble now,” Holland said.
So we'll have to wait and see. As I said on Sunday, regarding Pavel Datsyuk, waiting and seeing instead of jumping to conclusions sucks, but the Wings already give their fans more than enough to freak out about on a day-to-day basis, especially this season...
And maybe it's just me living as someone with chronic illnesses that limit the energy I can expend on hockey on a daily basis, but if I got as panicky as some fans do about both the present and the future (I have enough trouble dealing with that in real life thanks to the anxiety disorder and depression I battle), I'd be too exhausted to get out of bed in the late morning.
Matheson filed three other blog entries to round out his Hockey World column, and each and every one of them include Red Wings-related topics.
He offers this quip about Pavel Datsyuk...
Sidney Crosby is the best player in the universe, but Pavel Datsyuk is the best of the rest. That game he played Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks was the ultimate 200-foot clinic, a marvel with the puck (nobody in hockey beats more defenders one-on-one) and without it. “He sees the plays like Gretzky used to see the plays,” said one NHL pro scout. He’s a Hall of Famer, no matter if he’ll play fewer than 1000 NHL games. Datsyuk’s work was so awesome in Vancouver, Wings’ GM Ken Holland told people it was the best game he’d ever seen Datsyuk play and nobody’s seen Datsyuk more than Holland. Now the key is keeping him in North America past next season. His contract is up after the 2013-2014 season, and he thoroughly enjoyed his time playing back in Russia in the KHL during the lockout. He might want to finish his career back home.
Again, you and I talked about this on Sunday, and I don't believe that Mike Babcock and Holland are trying to run Datsyuk out of town. I believe that Datsyuk's decision to enroll his daughter in primary school back in Yekaterinburg two years ago tells us all we need to know about his intentions to "go home" when his career is over, and whether his career with the Wings ends in two years or eight years depends on whether he's willing to stay in Detroit with his wife and daughter half a world away.
There's obviously no doubt that the Red Wings can influence his decision-making based upon their personnel moves and the money they offer Datsyuk to stay in the NHL, but at some point, he's going to go back to Russia, and we may as well do our best to enjoy him while he's here.
Like the vast majority of the Red Wings' players, our access to Datsyuk's personality on a daily basis is only going to last as long as his playing career does. He and every other Wings player basically lend themselves to us, and at some point, the leases expire and the players move on.
If you’re Taylor Hall, it never hurts to have the Canadian Olympic team coach say it’s the best he’s seen you play as Mike Babcock, head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, did on Friday. Babcock hasn’t officially been told he’s reprising his 2010 Olympic gig, but it’s a formality. Holland, part of Steve Yzerman’s Olympic management team, was also in the house to see Hall.
Holland accompanied the team throughout its Western Canadian swing.
Given that Holland told 97.1 FM's Ken Kal that he spent time visiting friends from his hometown of Medicine Hat, AB during the Flames game, his trip wasn't all business, but I'm sure he was doing some scouting for Hockey Canada, visiting his players' Western Canadian-based agents, checking in with the Vancouver Giants regarding their plans for Marek Tvrdon, a Wings prospect the WHL team wants to retain for one more season...
And I'm sure he was assessing his team in terms of what his plans are if the Wings look like a playoff team come April 3rd (the trade deadline; he'll be a buyer), what his plans are if the Wings look like they're not going ot make the playoffs come April 3rd (???), and what he'll do in terms of roster moves if the Wings ever get healthy (you won't like to hear this, but the team will probably send Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist back to Grand Rapids so they don't sit in the press box when they could be contributing to the Griffins' playoff run).
The team does believe that Darren Helm will return from his back injury either on Wednesday against Minnesota or during the team's California-and-Phoenix road trip next week, but Mikael Samuelsson may be 2 or 3 weeks away from returning, Carlo Colaiacovo's shoulder's still bothering him, Todd Bertuzzi may or may not return this season and Kyle Quincey's probably going to need surgery for his broken cheek, which could take him out of the lineup for as little as a week if it's minor surgery or a chunk of time if he's got a broken orbital bone.
As for the trade deadline?
So many teams are so jam-packed together in the standings that I'm not anticipating many moves being made, and the Islanders plan on trying to re-sign Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky, so I'm guessing that the Wings won't make a move, but this must be said out loud:
Holland kicks every tire. I can assure you that he's going to call about everybody to find out what the asking prices are and what the market will bear.
Holland's going to attend the GM's meetings this Wednesday in Toronto, too, and he may or may not pitch the concept of extending overtime to 8 or 10 minutes, but he told Matheson that he does plan on suggesting that the NHL make one change to its overtime format as soon as possible:
We all know Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland isn’t a big shootout proponent, even though the incomparable Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk is one of the NHL’s all-time best.
“I still think we should have a dry scrape of the ice after the 60 minutes … a year ago, I timed it in Detroit with Albert Sobotka (the guy who waves the octopuses and also drives the Zamboni) and it took 5:30. So within six minutes, we’d be dropping the puck,, then we go to 4-on-4, then 3-on-3 for either five minutes or four minutes,” Holland said. “You get better ice, and I think you’d have more games decided in overtime, before the shootout. I brought this up two years ago at the GMs meetings. Now it’s up to somebody else.”
As it is now, they don’t do anything with the chopped up ice in OT when it’s four-on-four for five minutes, then they have a dry scrape for the skills contest.
Who calls Al Sobotka "Albert?"
This isn't necessarily Red Wings-related, but it's worth noting that while Scotty Bowman works for the Chicago Blackhawks now, he still makes himself available to chat with anyone in the business who wants to talk to him, including Holland, Babcock, and in this case, Edmonton Oilers coach and former Swiss National Team coach Ralph Krueger:
When the Oilers were in Chicago recently, godfather of coaches Scotty Bowman visited the Edmonton Oilers’ dressing room to see Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger.
"We first met at the world championship in Vienna in 2005 before the tournament started and when we (Swiss national team) got knocked out, I sat with Scotty. He was interested in finding out more about international hockey,” said Krueger, who was like a kid going to school for the very first time.
“Of course, you ask Scotty a million questions. I picked his brain. You try to find out what made him so successful. When I’d be in Switzerland for tournament, I’d always look at the scouting list to see if Scotty’s name was on it whether he was working for Detroit or Chicago. You don’t have many friends in this business, but he’s somebody I really like.”
In the Matheson's opinion and/or "Short Shifts" department:
Because of the Atlanta Thrashers relocating to Winnipeg, then the lockout, Calgary, Detroit, Vancouver and Chicago have yet to play at the MTS Centre, home of the Jets, and won’t until next season. That’s two Canadian teams and two Original Six teams who have yet to make an appearance in Winnipeg.
Looks like the outdoor Heritage Classic games will be back on, starting next season for the Canadian clubs. Vancouver will get one in 2014 and the Jets are hoping for one in 2015 at Winnipeg’s new football stadium.
The one thing I kept hearing at last summer's prospect camp was, "When are we going to Winnipeg?" from many of the Wings' Western Canadian-born prospects, and they were really disappointed to hear that the Wings were scheduled to only host the Jets.
And given that the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek believes that the Wings will make a pitch for Corey Perry...
A well-respected, longtime NHL executive, raising his eyebrows at Anaheim giving centre/captain Ryan Getzlaf a whopping $8.25 million a year in a new eight-year deal: “That’s almost as much as Crosby’s getting (on average).” Still not sure why Perry hasn’t just signed the identical $66-million contract. They are tied at the hip, aren’t they? Perry, I hear, goes home to Ontario every year so not married to California like Getzlaf is.
Perry's from Peterborogh, ON, and he played for the London Knights as a junior-aged player. London, ON happens to be about an equidistant drive from Toronto and Detroit. Take that for what you will.
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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.