The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/28/14 at 03:53 PM ET
This afternoon's crop of Red Wings-related news falls into the "scattershot" category, but the first story's particularly pertinent. Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill told WOOD TV8's Larry Figurski that he believes the Red Wings have a significant number of potential top-four defensemen in Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Nick Jensen, Adam Almquist and Mattias Backman (though Blashill did not name the players he felt were top-four material, perhaps out of professional courtesy).
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose profiled Ouellet overnight, RedWingsCentral discussed the aforementioned players and Adam Almquist earlier this month, and this afternoon, Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji profiles Backman:
Backman is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound defenseman who came over from Sweden with two games remaining in the Grand Rapids Griffins' regular season and made his AHL debut on April 15 against the Lake Erie Monsters.
He played in those two games and in 10 playoff games until the Texas Stars eliminated the Griffins in the second round of the AHL playoffs. Backman had one goal and five assists in the playoffs, and impressed Griffins coach Jeff Blashill immediately.
"Mattias has been compared a lot to Danny DeKeyser and probably rightfully so," Blashill said. "He skates very well, he's got a real long stick. They both have skinnier bodies that they've had to build up their strength so that they can handle the rigors of pro hockey. He's got a real ability to get back to the puck, break it out, he can pass the puck real well. I think he's got borderline dynamic offensive ability from the blue line in. That'll be a real, real plus in his game. He looks like somebody to me that's got a chance to play in the NHL as early as next year."
With Linkoping, his Swedish Hockey League team, Backman had six goals and 15 assists in 54 games this past season and two goals and 24 assists in 52 games during the 2012-13 season.
Backman had seven assists in 13 playoff games with Linkoping this season and two goals and four assists in 10 playoff games with Linkoping last season.
"It's fun to play here, a little different," Backman said after the Griffins defeated the Abbotsford Heat in the first round. "It's going faster and more intense and at the end every time you get the puck and make a play, you get hit. But I like the play here."
Wakiji continues at length, and she points out that Backman may be a left-shooting defenseman, but that won't prevent him from joining the big club if he plays well enough to earn a spot--and the same is certainly true for Ouellet.
Regarding other prospects, in the "huh?" category, ESPN's Corey Pronman listed the "Top 30 prospects of the past 3 years" in an Insider-only entry, and Anthony Mantha didn't make his cut;
And I don't want to say this too loudly, but Fox Sports Erin Brown points out that Andrei Vasilevskiy, the goalteder the Tampa Bay Lightning picked with the first-rounder Detroit since to the Lightning in the Kyle Quincey trade, is among the team's brightest prospects...
Otherwise...Crain's Detroit Business's Bridget Vis reports the following:
For the second consecutive year, the Detroit Red Wings ranked fifth — tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers — in the hockey fan support index released today by New York City-based market research firm Brand Keys Inc.
The rankings are part of Brand Keys 2014 Sports Fan Loyalty Index, based on a survey of 150 fans from each team in the National Hockey League.
The survey’s findings are used by Brand Keys to create its “emotional drivers” of fan loyalty to rank the clubs, which correlate highly to the teams’ television viewership, fan attendance and amount of licensed merchandise purchased, said Robert Passikoff, president and founder of Brand Keys. Those drivers include pure entertainment, authenticity, fan bonding and history and tradition.
Passikoff said the Red Wings ranked high in pure entertainment and were second-highest among the 30 NHL teams in the category of history and tradition (topped by the Boston Bruins). However, the team scored low in authenticity, which relates to how fans perceive players playing as a team, and fan bonding, he said.
Top Five (last year’s ranking in parenthesis)
1. Chicago Blackhawks (2)
2. New York Rangers (1)
3. Boston Bruins (2)
4. San Jose Sharks (3) and St. Louis Blues (6)
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (4), Detroit Red Wings (5) and Philadelphia Flyers (5)
30. New York Islanders (30)
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (29)
28. Phoenix Coyotes (28) and Winnipeg Jets (27)
27. Buffalo Sabres (23)
26. Tampa Bay Lightening (26)
Amongst ESPN's Craig Custance's chat comments:
GBK (Lincoln Park): So who is the next team to plan on trading for Mike Babcock? So far the rumors have him going to Toronto, Pittsburgh, as an assistant for Red Berenson at Michigan, and staying with the Red Wings.
Craig Custance: GBK - You can't trade for a coach in the NHL, so that settles that. Babcock has one year left on his deal with the Red Wings, which he'll honor. After that though, all bets are off. I wouldn't rule out another deal with Detroit but he at least has to be intrigued by the idea of being the coach to finally turn things around in Toronto. Or if somehow the timing works in Pittsburgh next year, that's a great job. As much as UM fans would like it, he won't be coaching in Ann Arbor anytime soon.
Connor (Marquette, MI) What do you think Detroit needs to do to fix their defense? The free agent market isn't that great and I've seen possible trade options( Edler and Ehroff) but is it possible to keep young guys like Nyquist, Tatar, and Jurco and still get a top 4 defenseman?
Craig Custance: Connor - The trade route is definitely the most likely route for improving that defense, although I could see a guy like Dan Boyle making sense in Detroit. Ken Holland likes his veterans. Both of the guys you mentioned will be in the mix. Detroit has made a move on Edler in the past and kicked the tires on Ehrhoff at the deadline. Both would be an upgrade but Ehrhoff would be my first choice. You'd have to give up a young forward and pick to get him but that's okay, that's an area of strength in Detroit.
And in the alumni(ish) category, NHL.com's Michael Langr reports that Dominik Hasek and Jaromir Jagr have a war of words going on regarding the Czech Republic's failures at the Olympics and World Championships...
And Aftonbladet's Erik Karlsson (no, not that one), via RedWingsFeed, reports that Jonathan Ericsson's brother Jimmie is finally following big $$ to the KHL. Jimmie is 34, and he's spent the past 8 seasons with Skelleftea AIK (and the past three seaons as the team's captain), but Ericsson's cashing in on his back-to-back SHL chapionships by joining SKA St. Petersburg.
Jimmie's never going to make the NHL unless he's willing to ride buses in the AHL and live with a 2-way contract, and he turned down an offer from the Vancouver Canucks to play that kind of role last year, so here's wishing Jimmie all the best as he earns some of Gazprom's petro-dollars.
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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.