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On Joey MacDonald stealing Ty Conklin’s job as the Red Wings’ back-up goaltender

Catching up after a day whacked out on an uber-antibiotic called Levaquin (seriously, somebody just take a Roto-Rooter to my nose…): No, he is not a conventionally efficient goaltender, nor do Joey MacDonald’s surprisingly short legs, low thigh rises on his pads and tendency to scramble around the crease and “fight off” shots make him look as imposing as the layers of lightning-fast toes, leg pads, stick, glove, blocker and still-crouched chest and shoulders that Jimmy Howard bristles and efficiently brandishes toward would-be scorers, but “Joey Mac” has won the Detroit Red Wings’ back-up goaltender’s spot for the remainder of the regular season, and Wings GM Ken Holland was nothing less than eloquent in explaining why the Red Wings chose to take the risk of exposing Ty Conklin on waivers all of a week before the trade deadline:

“[Conklin] hasn’t played a lot and hasn’t had a really good chance to get it going,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “It opened a crack and Joey MacDonald grabbed it. Things change. It’s pro sports.

“From an organizational standpoint, coaching standpoint, we really don’t care who does the work as long as the work is getting done. It’s the (NHL) it’s day-to-day. It’s not that way for superstars, but it is day-to-day for a lot of players in the league. It’s the old, ‘What have you done for me lately,’ and Joey MacDonald has been an incredible story for us the last two weeks.”

So the “incredible story” will ride the pine behind Jimmy Howard as the Wings’ starter attempts to readjust to the pace of NHL play—which cannot be replicated in practice—and hold his goal stick with his index finger packed and pointed out, with MacDonald ready to assist should Howard encounter any difficulties, and Conklin will head down to the Grand Rapids Griffins, who desperately need goaltending help with both Jordan Pearce and Tom McCollum struggling mightily for a team whose playoff life depends on more or less “winning out” its remaining games:

“I think Ty Conklin needs to play,” Holland said. “We’re running a risk he’ll get claimed on waivers. We’re prepared to take that risk.”

Holland said he never considered looking for backup goalie help after Howard broke a finger Feb. 2. MacDonald had a cache of goodwill already built up from last season’s solid performance after Chris Osgood got injured.

“We were always confident it was everyone else that wasn’t confident,” Holland said. “I think Joey played great last year. You need depth. I think he played similar to this year, but we’re scoring a bit more for him.”

That’s been the case for Howard as well, and as the Wings begin the last full week of February with back-to-back measuring stick games against Chicago tonight (8 PM EST, FSD/CSN Chicago), Vancouver on Thursday (7:30 PM EST, FSD) and a game against a team that’s strangely had the Wings’ number in the Avalanche on Saturday (7 PM EST, FSD), here’s hoping that Holland finds the time to add and not subtract from the roster in a reasonably-priced manner while Conklin heads down to Grand Rapids and reaffirms his status as an NHL-caliber netminder.

He needs to find himself and his game pretty badly, and as the Wings continue to battle for Western Conference and Central Division supremacy, his teammates back in Detroit need Conklin ready, willing and able to assist their efforts, too.

Here’s also hoping that I’ll be back to work sometime this afternoon. It’s more than time and as the trade deadline approaches, we need all hands on deck here at KK.

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Comments

SnLO's avatar

On Joey MacDonald stealing Ty Conklin’s job as the Red Wings’ back-up goaltender

Is it really stealing if it’s in fact earned? Just sayin’...

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 02/21/12 at 04:02 AM ET

Avatar

That Andrew Johnson seems pretty young, and I hate listening to young people, but I think his article pretty much nailed what I’ve been thinking.  The rebounds have been horrific sans the SJ game.  He seems like a great guy, but if Howard goes down the Wings are toast in the playoffs.

With that said, I don’t think a goalie trade was necessary.  The dropoff from Howard to just about any backup they could acquire is huge.  There are guys out there better than Conks and Joey, but nobody who is going to get hot for 2 months and win a cup.

Posted by ExiledinLA on 02/21/12 at 04:07 AM ET

DrewBehr's avatar

”... but if Howard goes down the Wings are toast in the playoffs.”

I keep hearing this argument and I simply do not understand it at all. We aren’t a team that needs a goalie to play lights out game after game to accumulate wins.

Did we not just win 6 straight with MacDonald in goal? And it’s not like those were 6 straight against the Blue Jackets and Islanders. We beat San Jose, Philly, Nashville, a hot Anaheim team…

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 02/21/12 at 04:59 AM ET

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... but if Howard goes down the Wings are toast in the playoffs.

I wouldn’t say toast, but it will definitely be a challenge. Detroit was able to ride an aging Chris Osgood to back to back Stanley Cup appearances against the Penguins, and even won with him.

Having a strong goalie is just a plus for Detroit, and not a requirement like it is in San Jose.

Posted by Devin DiNardo from San Jose, CA on 02/21/12 at 05:35 AM ET

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but if Howard goes down the Wings are toast in the playoffs.

I can join the fun too.

Anyway, every single one of the 16 teams that end up making the playoffs will have their chances of winning the Cup decrease if their starting goaltender goes down.  Sure, some will be affected more than others, but it’s incredibly rare for a team to win the Cup having to rely on the backup goaltender even if the backup is more the 1b goaltender as opposed to the #2 goaltender.  All the “what if” talk as far as injuries are concerned is pointless with a month and a half still left in the regular season.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 02/21/12 at 06:24 AM ET

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I’m not sold on this send Conks to GR to get into game shape crap. He looked bad in St. Louis too, and I was beyond surprised when Holland re-signed him this past summer because Joey Mac was a perfect #2.

Being an aging goalie is a lot like being an aging boxer.  You wake up one morning and ‘POOF’, your reflexes are gone and all of a sudden you’re a former boxer. I hope I’m wrong buy I think thats where Conks is.  He may have lost that special something that NHL goalies need.

I’m still thinking its a better idea to send Joey to GR and let him stay in game shape and keep Conks here so he can work with Bedard a ton and play a boatload of ping-pong to bring those reflexes back… unless they’re worried about Jimmy’s finger and needing their backup sooner than later.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from W.B. on 02/21/12 at 07:50 AM ET

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Is it really stealing if it’s in fact earned?

Sometimes yes. But the argument of stealing would be that Conklin struggled in one game where he had very little defensive support and MacDonald stole a point and Babcock never looked back. No one ever said theft had to be easy. (Granted, Conklin didn’t inspire confidence in most of his starts but on the other hand, MacDonald was playing more frequently.)

it’s incredibly rare for a team to win the Cup having to rely on the backup goaltender even if the backup is more the 1b goaltender as opposed to the #2 goaltender

Osgood, 2008

Posted by bleep bloop on 02/21/12 at 09:31 AM ET

Alan's avatar

I honestly don’t have a problem with it. Good for the kid.

Sure, he has some work to do, but I doubt he’ll be relied on to carry the Wings to the Cup. Howard is fairly resilient, and barring serious injury, something tells me he’ll stick it out in the playoffs like every other player seems to.

That said, it’s nice knowing there is a capable backup on the bench. Whenever we played Conklin this season, my stomach did flips and I felt the need to imbibe on delicious alcoholic beverages until I passed out. While I continue to feel the need to imbibe delicious alcoholic beverages, my stomach no longer Olympic gymnastics with the prospect of Conklin playing.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 02/21/12 at 10:25 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

Joey Mac and Conklin played the same number of games. One is 3-5-0 and the other is 6-1-1. Which to keep?

Sometimes Ken Holland makes staffing changes that I don’t quite understand. Sometimes he makes very easy calls. This was an easy call.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 02/21/12 at 11:33 AM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

Sometimes yes. But the argument of stealing would be that Conklin struggled in one game where he had very little defensive support and MacDonald stole a point and Babcock never looked back.

I think part of the reason that it looked like he didn’t have any help is because the team didn’t have any confidence in him.  Whenever they played with Conklin on the ice they looked unsure of themselves.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 02/21/12 at 12:38 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

Can Conks play Pav’s spot, LOL Pav out 2 weeks minor knee surgery. I won’t say what I feel!!!!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 02/21/12 at 04:11 PM ET

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it’s incredibly rare for a team to win the Cup having to rely on the backup goaltender even if the backup is more the 1b goaltender as opposed to the #2 goaltender

Osgood, 2008

Posted by bleep bloop on 02/21/12 at 06:31 AM ET

Very true, but can you name another?  Plus, do you think St. Louis as a team is as good as Detroit was that year to win with Elliott if Halak goes out?

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 02/21/12 at 04:48 PM ET

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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.