The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/29/13 at 02:03 PM ET
Updated 3x at 4:19 PM: During today's Red Wings summertime practice at Joe Louis Arena, Darren Helm skated with the team, but his status in terms of recovering from his back issues remains...tenative...according to MLive's Brendan Savage:
Savage penned an article about Helm's recovery (as Paul noted, the Free Press's Helene St. James covered the, "WTF is Fil doing at the Joe?" angle, video interview with Filppula included) and thought processes as training camp approaches...
"I'm not thinking about [returning] I'm just trying to get better," Helm said Thursday after skating with about two dozen players at Joe Louis Arena. "I'm not putting a time line on opening the season. I'm just trying to get better. I did want to get back for last year, but with no real reason of why I had back pain it made me push harder and harder to work through it. Now, things are going well, I want to keep it at this pace and when I'm ready I'm ready."
Helm, 26, missed all but one game last season after injuring his back while working out during the NHL lockout. Doctors never gave him a definitive diagnosis as to what the problem was and he spent the entire season and most of the playoffs trying to return to the ice with no luck.
He was finally able to skate in July at the Red Wings Development Camp in Traverse City and reported no setbacks.
Since then, Helm has been skating and lifting weights at Joe Louis Arena and although he's feeling the usual pain that goes with working new muscles, he said he hasn't experienced the pain that sidelined him last season.
"It's muscles I haven't used in 5-6 months," said Helm, who has played all or parts of six NHL seasons and was on Detroit's 2008 Stanley Cup championship team. "I use them here or there to try and get back last year. We've been skating pretty good here, having some good workouts and I'm just going to keep going. There are days where it's a little achy or sore but ... I can kind of distinguish between the good and the bad and it's mostly been good. Just kind of work through it, stretch through it, skate through it and it's been good."
As did the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
Helm wouldn’t use the word encouraged to describe how he feels where he’s at in his recovery process just yet.
“I haven’t thought about the word I would use,” Helm said. “I’ll be even happier when I’m playing in a game.”
Helm played just one game last season due to slightly torn disc in his back that never required surgery. Helm took part in the Wings’ annual prospects development camp in Traverse City to test out his back.
“Traverse City was the first time I’ve skated in a long time,” Helm said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little nervous. I didn’t want to push myself too hard at the start, but I eventually got there.”
Helm has been skating in Detroit for nearly three weeks.
“It’s been feeling really good,” Helm said. “I’ve still got some work to do in the weight room and a few more things (on the ice) to get past, but I think it’s really looking good. I don’t think it’s the first hit (I need to get past), there are a lot of different aspects of the game that I’m kind of worried about at this stage that I’m at right now. Hitting obviously is a big one, twisting and turning, even getting tired and trying to push it because that’s when you get hurt is when you’re tired. I’m not in the shape I’m usually in so I’ve got to get back in that kind of shape.”
“I haven’t felt the pain I’ve felt before in a long time,” Helm added. “It’s more muscles I haven’t used in five or six months. I used them here or there to try and get back last year. We’ve been skating pretty good here, having some good workouts and I’m just going to keep going.”
And both Savage and Pleiness posited video interviews with Helm:
Pleiness posted an interview with Jimmy Howard, too:
The Detroit News's David Goricki went in a different direction, speaking with Johan Franzen, and he offered an...Um, unique...Take on his skill set...
Franzen doesn’t like the “goal-scorer” tag.
"I am not a goal scorer,” he said. “I am a hockey player. I never look for goals. I look to play good and then people score or I do."
Franzen is looking forward to the new competition in the Eastern Conference.
"It will be a lot of new faces and you've got to learn how those teams play, and it's going to be different, probably take a while before you get to know everyone," said Franzen. "You have to be extremely focused and you've got to come prepared because we've played so many years (in the Western Conference) and you pretty much know every guy on those teams."
Franzen plans to make himself scarce once the HBO 24/7 cameras come out prior to the Winter Classic: "I'll try to hide somewhere. I really don't like being in front of the camera."
And he addressed the Wings' offseason additions as well:
Franzen is happy to be reunited with his former Swedish national team teammate Daniel Alfredsson, but also sad to see Valtteri Filppula leave the Red Wings for Tampa Bay.
"I've played with Alfie on the national team a lot,” Franzen said. “I like him. He's a great guy, big competitor and has a huge shot for the power play, so it's a good addition. (Filppula) has been a great player for us for a long time and he'll be tough to replace, but he wants to try his wings somewhere else and I wish him the best of luck. We'll try to do the best with what we have here."
In other news, the Detroit News posited "Division-winning odds"...
The Red Wings’ chances of winning the title in the new Atlantic Division are 7-2, according to the oddsmakers at Bovada.
The Bruins are the Atlantic favorites at 11-5. The other division favorites are the Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings. For more odds go to bovada.lv.
NHL DIVISION TITLE ODDS
Boston Bruins, 11-5
Detroit Red Wings, 7-2
Montreal Canadiens, 9-2
Toronto Maple Leafs, 9-2
Ottawa Senators, 13-2
Tampa Bay Lightning, 15-2
Buffalo Sabres, 30-1
Florida Panthers, 50-1
1. Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 09/01/1989
Statistics: 58 GP, 23 G, 60 P (Grand Rapids, AHL) / 22 GP, 3 G, 6 P (Detroit, NHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 121st overall in 2008 by Detroit
Year in Review: Nyquist was one of the best players in the AHL. During the NHL regular season, he was below average, but he stepped up his game in the playoffs.
The Good: Nyquist is an exceptionally gifted player with the puck, and he can consistently make top-level plays. His puck skills are high end, and so is his hockey sense, as his ability to see the ice and make difficult feeds is very impressive. Nyquist anticipates lanes opening well, and he can be dangerous on the man advantage when setting up along the wall. He also has above-average speed, with a good first step.
The Bad: Nyquist's physical game is fringe, as he is somewhat small, and he will not really put guys through the wall. His defense still is not the best, either.
Projection: He could be a below-average top line winger.
2. Calle Jarnkok, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 09/25/1991
Statistics: 53 GP, 13 G, 42 P (Brynas, SHL)
Acquired: Second round, 51st overall in 2010 by Detroit
Year in Review: Jarnkrok was one of the top young players in Sweden, leading Brynas in scoring and logging a ton of two-way minutes.
The Good: Jarnkrok is a very gifted offensive player who scouts regularly praise for his top-end hockey sense and high skill level. He is a very creative player who can make defenders miss and set up scoring chances with consistency, He has gotten quicker, with a decent-to-solid top gear, and good overall agility. Jarnkrok is a solid defensive player who can check good players, as well as contribute offensively.
The Bad: Jarnkrok's main weakness is his physical game, as he is a slight player who can easily be muscled off the puck. How he develops his strength and handles North American physicality will be the major test for his game.
Projection: He could be an decent top line forward.
Update #1.5: The Detroit News's David Goricki also spoke with Jimmy Howard regarding #35's Olympic hopes...
"We have a lot going on with the Winter Classic, having a lot of guys vying for Olympic spots, HBO 24/7, so it's going to be pretty hectic around here," Howard said. "I think you just go out there and take care of business for your own team, just make it tough on the (USA Hockey) advisory staff.”
Howard is one of six goalies being considered for the Olympic roster. The others are Ryan Miller (Sabres), Jonathan Quick (Kings), Craig Anderson (Senators), Cory Schneider (Devils) and John Gibson (AHL).
“You know, every goalie that could possibly make those three positions are top-notch goalies,” Howard said. “It's going to be the guy who is playing their best through November and December is pretty much (the deciding factor) we were told. So if you get off to a great start, and maintain it, hopefully you'll get the opportunity to go. It's always been a dream of mine to play on the Olympic team.”
We kind of knew this...
The Red Wings missed Darren Helm's speed and gritty play last season, when he was limited to playing just one game due to a back injury.
"There were a few different things that may or may not have caused it,” Helm said. “All I know is it's back pain and I'm just working through it."
Filppula signed a five-year, $25 million free-agent contract with the Lightning in July after negotiations with the Wings fell through.
“We were working on it for a long time and it didn't happen,” he said. “You just never know."
I don't believe that story for a minute. Weiss will be paid of $500,000 less than Filppula over the course of his 5-year deal, and $500,000 isn't enough for a 29-year-old who's spent his AHL and NHL careers with one team to scoot. I fully believe that Filppula decided that essentially replacing Vincent Lecavalier (though Yzerman and the Lightning deny that's what Filppula's in Tampa Bay to do) was more intriguing to Filppula than remaining with the Wings.
Update #2: Michigan Hockey dispatched Stefan Kubus and Michael Caples to the Joe, and here's his report:
Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Brendan Smith and Drew Miller all came out on behalf of the Red Wings. But for this group and the rest of the club, there’s plenty being served up on the plate in 2013-14.
“We’ve got a lot going on, don’t we?” Howard said. “With the Winter Classic, a lot of guys here vying for Olympic spots, HBO 24/7… It’s going to be pretty hectic around here.”
Helm, who played only one game last season, said he was encouraged with the progress he’s making in recovering from a lingering back injury, but isn’t prepared to put a timetable on his return just yet.
“I’ve been here for a few weeks skating and it’s been feeling really good,” Helm said of his back. “I’ve got some work to do in the weight room and few more things to get past, but it’s really looking good.”
For No. 43, just getting back on the ice with his teammates was prescription enough for the time being.
“It was great, even in Traverse City, being out there in that kind of atmosphere, it was fun,” Helm said. “It was fun. This is where I want to be. I love to be here with the guys, skating around, shooting pucks, joking around on and off the ice. I missed it. I’m definitely at a better mind set than I was last year.”
Meanwhile, the Red Wings’ crop was joined by some familiar faces, as Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler (Livonia), Carolina’s Nathan Gerbe (Oxford), Edmonton’s Corey Potter (Lansing) and several other Michigan natives took to the ice to run through some drills.
Update #3: Via Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy, Panini America DID post some pictures of Petr Mrazek signing some autographs at the NHLPA's rookie showcase, and Dobber Hockey's Eric Daoust suggests that Brendan Smith is a fantasy hockey "keeper":
Brendan Smith (DET)
Like most Detroit Red Wings’ prospects, Brendan Smith has been brought along slowly. Despite being drafted in the first round (27th overall) in 2007 he only made the jump full-time last year at the age of 24. His potential in multi-category leagues has been apparent since day one but his career really took off in 2010, his final year at the University of Wisconsin, where he had a whopping 52 points and 76 PIM in 42 games. He then turned pro and put up a combined 66 points and 214 PIM in 120 games with Grand Rapids of the AHL.
Smith’s first year in the NHL was not a great one offensively but he continued to show plenty of fantasy-league promise. In 34 games he had just eight points but added 36 PIM, 20 hits, 35 blocked shots and 33 shots on net. This was accomplished in just 18 minutes per game, a low total for a defenseman.
Going forward, those numbers can only improve as the team continues to transition away from the retired Nicklas Lidstrom. With experience he will gain more confidence which will give him more ice time and thus will make him more of a factor on the score sheet as well as in shots on goal, hits and blocked shots.
In the meantime, expect Smith to gradually improve each year. The offensive numbers will come with time but the peripheral stats are not going anywhere. In deep leagues he was already a good depth option during his rookie campaign. Expect him to take a step forward this year and become relevant in most multi-category leagues. At a price of just $1.2 million there are not many better combinations of immediate return on investment and long-term potential.
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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.