The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/27/14 at 12:53 AM ET
I miss Jim Nill. The Red Wings miss Jim Nill. Nill was an absolutely fantastic "cheerful cop" to Ken Holland's "keep-them-expectations low-in-a-very-intense-way" cop, and his gregarious, easy-going and ever-optimistic nature lit up a room.
At last summer's development camp and during training camp, it was very evident that Nill's ability to smooth everything over was missed, and it took a long time for Ryan Martin and Kris Draper to get comfortable stepping into the void in terms of both media relations and learning their way as the actual assistant GM (Martin, like Holland, is very intense) and the new "social lubricant" (though Draper is, of course, also intense) and special-assistant-to-the-GM, respectively.
In terms of Nill's status as the Wings' draft guru, the Wings have done their best to replace him by committee, but tonight and tomorrow mark the organization's biggest post-Jim-Nill test, because Nill didn't just leave on his own--he also took director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell and scout Mark Leach with him.
While the vast majority of the Wings' scouting staff remained, the Wings hired an outsider in Tyler Wright to take over as the director of amateur scouting (Jeff Finley was named chief scout), and while Wright did a pretty damn good job over the course of three calling-the-shots drafts for Columbus, Wright's pair of interviews with Matt Sheppard, Ansar Khan and Chuck Pleiness suggest that we're at least going to see a subtle change in the way that the Wings select players.
More right-shooters, fewer small players, more centers by default, and possibly more of an edge, which all sounds good when you remember that Kris Draper found Tyler Bertuzzi and that Ryan Martin found Anthony Mantha...
But this is Nill and McDonnell's second draft for the Dallas Stars, and as I read Nill's conversation with the Dallas News's Mike Heika, discussing his working relationship with the Kitchener, Ontario-based McDonnell, I kept thinking, "Boy, I'm gonna have to watch this draft closely to see who the Stars pick, and try to compare the pick-for-pick progression over time":
“We’ve been together so long that I think we know each other pretty well,” said Nill, who has cut down on scouting to concentrate on the job of general manager. “I’m not out there seeing the players as much as I have been in the past, so I trust his eyes.”
Likewise, McDonnell, 54, said he knows what Nill is looking for.
“Honestly, since we first started together [in 1995], we were pretty much identical in how we saw things,” McDonnell said. “We would fill out our own scouting reports or prepare a draft list, and it was like looking in a mirror. We’ve always been on the same page.”
And now that duo will be responsible for building the Stars’ talent pool. Nill and McDonnell ran the draft last season on a fairly short preparation schedule, but the early results are solid. Dallas took Valeri Nichushkin 10th overall, Jason Dickinson 29th, Remi Elie 40th and Philippe Desrosiers 54th. And after one year, each appears to be on a fast track.
They also reflect an interesting mix of styles. Nichushkin is from Russia, the type of player the Stars might have avoided in the past. Dickinson is a skilled center from Ontario who might be ready to jump into the Stars’ No. 2 center spot in two seasons. Elie is a defensive-minded winger from Ontario. Desrosiers is a goalie from Quebec.
“I don’t know that we have any real tendencies, I think we want to find the best player wherever we can find him,” McDonnell said. “I guess if you asked what we like, it’s skill and compete level. We’re going to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the players, but if you look at the end of the day, that’s the kind of player we’ll often get.”
Most tellingly, the Stars will be picking exactly one damn spot before the Red Wings do:
This year’s draft presents some interesting challenges. Dallas picks 14th, and most experts say that between 10 and 30, the draft is pretty even. In fact, if you scan mock drafts, the Stars are tabbed to take six different players. Nill said he does not expect to move up, because the cost in trade would be too high. He said he would be open to moving down if he thinks a player they like could be had later.
Heika and Nill continue, and boy howdy, tonight and tomorrow are going to be...interesting.
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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.