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Preparing for a Dallas-vs-Detroit, Nill-vs-Wright draft dynamic

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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Comments

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George
This is where your blog goes completely and totally off the rails.

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.

You don’t have any insights into the innerworkings of the Red Wings. I’m not sure why you pretend you do. ANd if you have
Of course the Wings miss Nill. Of course there was a major adjustment when Nill and McDonnell left. That goes virtually without saying. So why do you feel the need to trump it with this fake insight?
You read and write about the Red Wings more than just about anyone. That gives you license to share your ideas and theories.  But it crosses a line when you act as if you know the innerworkings—when you say it was evident but provide no evidence.

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/27/14 at 02:12 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Bob. If you don’t like what I write, and you don’t value my opinion…

Go. Find. Somewhere. Else. There are other blogs that cover the Wings…And believe me, I didn’t write a tenth of what a clusterfuck last summer’s prospect camp or training camp were without Nill, or how pissed off the organizers were about the power vacuum or the fact that plans kept changing and changing and changing without Nill doing the legwork of dealing with hiccups.

I do *#$%@& know what the God-damn hell I’m talking about. You’ve been the *#$%@& who’s gone off the rails, and if you’re going to keep bitching and making the comments section a minefield, you’re not going to be welcome here.

This shit ain’t fake—the first *#$%@& rule of blogging is, “DON’T MAKE SHIT UP.” And I DON’T MAKE SHIT UP.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/27/14 at 02:25 AM ET

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Must have hit a nerve to get all those &$*#s

Look George, you want to assert something, back it up. If you don’t, you look like you’re making it up. Frankly, I don’t think that someone who sees the front office in action a couple times a year has the basis to making the kind of sweeping assertions you just did—

And I think you do a disservice to your readers when you try to draw the lines and then try to read between them.

What you wrote reads like first class BS. Your emotional reaction to my post doesn’t help.

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/27/14 at 03:05 AM ET

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Bottom line—It’s fine to have theories and explore ideas. Just don’t pass it off as fact unless you’re prepared to back it up.

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/27/14 at 03:07 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I didn’t tell you a quarter of what I know from connections that I will keep private as well as my own observations. I’m done here but I’m sure you’re not.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/27/14 at 03:11 AM ET

alwaysaurie's avatar

Why is Captain Bob pretending to be George Malik’s editor and asking for detailed explanations of what Mr. Malik is writing?

Captain Bob, if you want us to believe you’re Mr. Malik’s superior, back it up. If you don’t, you look like you’re a fecking idiot who doesn’t understand how to read a blog.

Posted by alwaysaurie on 06/27/14 at 03:29 AM ET

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I’m a commenter posting on a blogger’s post—nobody’s superior, nobody’s inferior.

I just call Bull Shit when I see it. Just like people who think I’m bull shitting would call me out on it.

There is no Wright-vs-Nill draft dynamic that anyone can reasonably expect to understand on draft day. I mean, maybe Nill will draft Swedes and Holland will draft college kids…but really—-
Besides…why is it Wright vs Nill, and not Wright vs McDonnell, or Nill vs Holland.

Ken Holland is not “intense.” He’s so laid back that it’s almost hard to believe he’s an executive.
Nobody needs Jim Nill around to “smooth things over.” If Jim Nill is needed, it’s for his drafting ability. Not “media relations” (ie, being nice to the blogger) they were nice enough to let him.

Unless you work in the front office on a regular basis, don’t pretend to know the interpersonal dynamics of a working group. I know people who work in offices and are clueless about the dynamic they are part of.

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/27/14 at 03:47 AM ET

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Bob, just go away. All you do is stir up bullshit in every topic you post on. I’m sick of seeing you here, and I’m sick of seeing you on WiiM. Do us all a favor, if you feel like saying something….don’t. That includes responding to this.

Just keep trucking George, ignore this *#$%@&.

Posted by Vedeynevin on 06/27/14 at 05:45 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Ken Holland is not “intense.” He’s so laid back that it’s almost hard to believe he’s an executive.
Nobody needs Jim Nill around to “smooth things over.” If Jim Nill is needed, it’s for his drafting ability. Not “media relations” (ie, being nice to the blogger) they were nice enough to let him.
Unless you work in the front office on a regular basis, don’t pretend to know the interpersonal dynamics of a working group. I know people who work in offices and are clueless about the dynamic they are part of.

While I wouldn’t disagree that George makes mistakes from time to time, it would seem to me that you, Bob, are doing the same thing that you are accusing him of.  You are trying to tell us how Jim NIll is or isnt, how intense Ken Holland is or isnt, with no actual insight into the how those men are when not in front of the media.  At least George has been behind the scenes and actually spoke to Nill and Holland in a candid situation or two.

Seems silly to call someone on their “BS”, and then spew the same BS to backup your argument.

Posted by Hootinani on 06/27/14 at 07:14 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

And I think you do a disservice to your readers when you try to draw the lines and then try to read between them.

Please don’t pretend like you speak for a set of people larger than yourself. George’s readers are smart enough to know what they’re reading. This “won’t somebody please think of the children” routine is unnecessary. You haven’t been appointed as the protector of the readership.

While I wouldn’t disagree that George makes mistakes from time to time, it would seem to me that you, Bob, are doing the same thing that you are accusing him of.  You are trying to tell us how Jim NIll is or isnt, how intense Ken Holland is or isnt, with no actual insight into the how those men are when not in front of the media.  At least George has been behind the scenes and actually spoke to Nill and Holland in a candid situation or two.

Seems silly to call someone on their “BS”, and then spew the same BS to backup your argument.

Exactly.  Perfectly stated, Hootinani.

 

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/27/14 at 07:30 AM ET

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I for one actually noticed the switch in tact as of recent. I honestly don’t believe that they would have chosen Mantha last draft had Nill and McDonald been there. As a matter of fact, they took a pass on him at 10th overall in Dallas. Mantha was projected in the top ten until his bout of public troubles. Too bad for them.
An organization that has long drafted skilled but undersized forwards benefits from drafting size as long as they keep in mind there are still talented undersized players that other teams don’t value. Just don’t fill 2/3 of your roster with them.

Posted by geoffreypelkey on 06/27/14 at 07:37 AM ET

RW19's avatar

Mantha was projected in the top ten until his bout of public troubles.

Hmmm ... Mantha did not have any public troubles that I know of and I am a pretty addicted OHL/QMJHL watcher. He was regarded as a 15-25 range type pick most of the year and chided for his lackadaisical style which was mostly crap anyway. Perlini gets the same treatment at times.

As for the change in philosophy, well I think when you look at it closely, they have actually done a great job of adding skill and size. Jurco, Sheahan, Tverdon, McKee, Nedomlel are all bigger players from the past few years, but nothing stops them from going for the smaller guys like Tatar, Jarnkrok or Pulkkinen when they see a special quality. I would say the only early pick of the last few years that made me scratch my head was Frk. Aside from a rocket shot he had nothing else IMO and often seemed uninterested as a junior.

Posted by RW19 on 06/27/14 at 07:58 AM ET

Avatar

Yep, I guess thats right. I thought I had read an article about that, but cannot find a shred of evidence of it so I suppose it was probably scuttlebutt anyway.

Posted by geoffreypelkey on 06/27/14 at 08:05 AM ET

Paul's avatar

No reason to respond to Captain Bob, he no longer will be able to respond.

I gave him some slack, a few weeks ago I requested he email me or George, he never responded.

As you know, I normally let people have their say, but CB seemed to have something against George and refused to discuss it, so it ends today.

I also like to keep my actions against a member close to the vest, but this time other KK members have the right to know what went on.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 06/27/14 at 09:27 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Thank you for the update, Paul.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/27/14 at 09:46 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

nobody’s superior

Hey now, I operate at a pretty high level of awesome.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 06/27/14 at 09:52 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

More right-shooters, fewer small players, more centers by default, and possibly more of an edge…

If this really is Wright’s approach to drafting, then I’m all for it. Right now, the Wings have all the 5’10”-5’11” and 170lb-180lb forwards they need. It’s time for both size and “grit” to get the same respect as “slick” puck-handling.

That’s why I really, really hope the Wings take Alex Tuch tonight and skip over guys like Fabbri, Larkin, Milano and HoSang. In three years, a line of Mantha, Tuch and Sheahan would be a blast to watch.

No reason to respond to Captain Bob, he no longer will be able to respond.

Wow. From a “captain” to busted out in one swift move – without even a stop at “lieutenant” on the way. Now that’s the kind of leadership we need in the Wings front office. grin

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 06/27/14 at 10:13 AM ET

The Meal's avatar

Cool insight George.  I hadn’t thought of this draft dynamic, but you’re spot on.  Thanks for sharing with us.

(And thanks, Paul.  Hopefully there is at least one other “close to the vest” event which has happened to a frequent TMR responder who posts in the same stylings.)

Posted by The Meal on 06/27/14 at 10:19 AM ET

WingsFanInBeanLand's avatar

I also like to keep my actions against a member close to the vest, but this time other KK members have the right to know what went on.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 06/27/14 at 10:27 AM ET

Thanks dear Emperor.

I refuse to do the whole “block this member” thing because I like to see other points of view but Cap’n Crunch’s personal vendetta against George was getting ridiculous.

 

Posted by WingsFanInBeanLand from where free agents no longer dare. on 06/27/14 at 10:20 AM ET

Soupsnake's avatar

Keep up the good work George. I definitely appreciate what you do and I don’t get why some people feel the need to tear you and others down at every chance they get.

You have great insight into the Wing’s organization and I’ve never gotten the feel that you’re making up BS for attention. Your posts are always a breath of fresh air a hockey blogging world full of attention whores.

Posted by Soupsnake from Canton, Mi on 06/27/14 at 10:44 AM ET

awould's avatar

No reason to respond to Captain Bob, he no longer will be able to respond.

Busted down to Private. Thanks, Paul. That guy was a bad apple. Whatever way the debate went, he went the other way, often contradicting himself, which is typical for a contrarian. We have a couple other contrarians on this blog, but at least they’re not combative jerks with a gripe to scratch.

Posted by awould on 06/27/14 at 11:57 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.