The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/03/14 at 10:55 AM ET
Updated 7x at 2:42 PM: As Paul noted, the Red Wings took to the ice a little earlier this morning at Joe Louis Arena, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose reports that the "Captain's Practice" was well-attended:
Today is the first day that the locker room will be open to media following the #RedWings captain skate at JLA. Stay tuned for the coverage.
There are 18 #RedWings on the ice at captains skate, including Alfredsson and Kronwall.
Forward Kevin Porter is wearing No. 22 with the #RedWings.
The #RedWings on the ice today are: Forwards (40, 43, 93, 18, 14, 57, 22, 11, 41, 20); D-men (2, 48, 4, 55, 65, 47); and Goalies (35, 50).
(57 is Mitch Callahan, and 48 is Ryan Sproul)
Yes, Daniel Alfredsson skated, as the Windsor Star's Bob Duff Tweeted...
And the Free Press's George Sipple noted via phone-pic Tweets:
Sipple also Tweeted the following...
Ken Holland said plan remains same: Daniel Alfredsson will skate for a few weeks before making a decision.
Mike Babcock is watching practice.
And the Free Press posted an, "Alfredsson's there" article on Sipple's behalf:
Several Detroit Red Wings regulars are skating at Joe Louis Arena this morning, including forward Daniel Alfredsson, who hasn't yet announced whether he will play this season.
Wings general manager Ken Holland has said he doesn’t expect Alfredsson to make a decision until he has skated for a few weeks.
Other Wings on the ice today include forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also offered practice Tweets...
Over 20 players here at JLA for a conditioning skate ...among them - Zetterberg, Alfredsson, Franzen, Helm...
Holland says situation with Alfredsson will play itself out over next few weeks....will assess where Alfie is at in 2 weeks
Plan is to talk with Babcock at some point this month about new contract. ...Babcock just got into town and is wAtching today's workout
In the text department, ESPN's Craig Custance, who's conducting a chat at 1 PM, posited an Insider-only Atlantic Division preview that bases itself upon the concept that every team is "Chasing the Kings," and here's what Custance had to say about the Wings:
Detroit Red Wings
Franchise center: Pavel Datsyuk falls in the same category as Henrik Sedin and Joe Thornton -- franchise centermen on the downside of their career. But, when he’s healthy, Datsyuk is most-certainly a championship-caliber center. He played just 45 games last year but when he did, the Red Wings had a Corsi For of 56.1 percent.
Strong top four anchored by legit No. 1 defenseman: This is an area in which Detroit has struggled since the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom. Niklas Kronwall was the ideal leader of a second pair when the Red Wings were winning championships. He’s handled duties as Detroit’s top defenseman admirably but the top four in Detroit isn’t what it used to be. After missing out on Matt Niskanen, Detroit was forced to bring Kyle Quincey back. As inconsistent as Brendan Smith can be, he finished last season with a team-best Corsi For of 54 percent.
Playoff tested goalie: Jimmy Howard has played in 45 career playoff games and has a career postseason save percentage of .919, which is pretty good. He was outstanding in nearly knocking off the Blackhawks during the 2013 postseason but overall has a losing record in the playoffs at 21-24. Coming off a season in which he finished with a .910 save percentage, he has something to prove this season.
Skilled fourth line: With the emergence of young forwards like Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist, Detroit has depth at forward that should populate a strong fourth line. If he’s healthy, Darren Helm could end up centering that line which would bring an element of speed that would be hard for other Eastern Conference fourth lines to match.
Entry-level contributors: Detroit’s preference to let young players develop means some of them are already on their second contract when they start making major contributions at the NHL level. For instance, Nyquist had a breakout last year but is entering the second and final year of his second contract. Jurco is the only one of Detroit’s young forwards still on his entry-level deal. That changes if Anthony Mantha makes the team.
Total: 3 of 5 Kings championship attributes.
Custance continues with seven more Atlantic team previews...
And the Wings posted this press release:
Detroit Red Wings Foundation kicks off fifth year of the School Assembly Program with forward Justin Abdelkader on Thursday
Wings School Assembly Program set to make 115 visits during 2014-15 season
DETROIT – Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader will kick off the fifth year of the Red Wings School Assembly Program with a visit to St. Regis School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., on Thursday, Sept. 4 from 2:00 – 2:45 in the school’s gymnasium. The School Assembly Program, which is set to visit 115 schools during the 2014-15 season, is sponsored by the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, Michigan Education Savings Program and The Kroger Company of Michigan.
Abdelkader and the Red Wings School Assembly Team will introduce elementary students to the sport of hockey through a youth street and floor hockey initiative. The Wings will provide equipment and hands-on instruction to familiarize kids with the sport of hockey and to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle.
The School Assembly Team opens every program with an interactive lesson on exercise, healthy eating and the growing issue of bullying, followed by an energetic hockey shootout competition pitting students against teachers.
Each school receives two full sets of floor hockey equipment complete with hockey sticks and nets courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation. In addition, every student receives a Red Wings folder from the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, an informational brochure on college savings strategies, courtesy of Michigan Education Savings Program, and a healthy eating cookbook from the Kroger Company of Michigan.
Now in its fifth year, the Red Wings School Assembly Team has visited 357 local schools, reaching more than 150,000 students and providing 714 sets of equipment to physical education departments throughout southeastern Michigan. Notable players and alumni such as Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Jimmy Howard, Danny DeKeyser, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Chris Osgood have each attended an assembly.
A special fundraising initiative administered by the Red Wings School Assembly Program has helped local students raise more than $85,000 since 2011 for a variety of charitable endeavors.
Update #0.5: Via RedWingsFeed, MLive's Ansar Khan examined Stephen Weiss's "outlook" for the 2014-15 season. Again, Weiss is signed for 4 more years at $4.9 million and, according to Capgeek, has a no-move clause this season.
Weiss played through 26 games before requiring a pair of surgeries to first repair a sports hernia and then remove that surgery's scar tissue (he posted 2 goals and 2 assists), and Weiss played in 17 games during the 2013 season before requiring reconstructive wrist surgery, so it's hard to say what exactly Weiss can bring to the table:
2013-14 in review: His first goal as a Red Wing came at 3:13 of overtime in a 3-2 victory at Carolina on Oct. 4, the second game of the season. ... He didn't score a goal in his final 18 games (Oct. 15-Dec. 10). ... Underwent surgery on Dec. 23 to repair a sports hernia. ... Experienced a setback during the Olympic break in late February. ... Underwent a second procedure on April 21 to release scar tissue. ... Won 51.5 percent of his faceoffs (184 of 357). ... Average of 1.08 shots per game was the second-lowest among the club's forwards. ... Had the lowest percentage of hits (four in 26 games) on the team. ... Has missed 87 of a possible 130 regular season games the past two seasons due to injuries.
2014-15 outlook: The 2013-14 season couldn't have gone much worse for Weiss. It can only get better, right? It starts with his health and, according to the team, he is fully recovered and has experienced no issues while skating this summer. He'll be ready to go for the start of training camp and looking for redemption. The Red Wings signed him to a five-year, $24.5 million free-agent contract in July 2013, expecting him to fill the second-line center spot better than Valtteri Filppula did the year before. They were hoping Weiss could put up 50 points; he averaged 19 goals and 53 points over six seasons in Florida from 2006-07 to 20011-12. But he was hurting in training camp and tried to play through it (he later admitted his mistake) and was never able to display the skills that made him the Panthers' second-leading career scorer. More of a playmaker than a finisher, he needs to play on the second line, flanked by wingers who can score, to maximize his ability. He might start the season on a line with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist, or perhaps Daniel Alfredsson.
Khan continues and asks whether Weiss can regain his form.
Update #1: TSN's Darren Dreger discussed Alfredsson's status last night;
Correction: Kevin Porter has been assigned No. 28; Andy Miele has been assigned No. 22.
The Score is focusing on the Red Wings today, with Chris Battaglia offering an "Offseason Round-up"...
A lack of free agent signings means any improvements for Detroit in the coming year will come from within the organization. Players like Tatar, Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco should take another step forward in their development with full-time NHL roles, if they get them, while last year's big free agent catch Stephen Weiss is a prime candidate to rebound from a forgettable, injury-plagued season.
The biggest questions for the Red Wings are on the blue line and in the crease. Detroit has been thin on top-line defensive talent since the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and that looks like it will continue after the failed pursuit of Niskanen and Boyle (among others). Jimmy Howard posted a pedestrian .910 save percentage in 2013-14 and any further regression on his part could put the Red Wings' playoff streak in jeopardy.
Detroit isn't likely to finish ahead of the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, but if stars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg stay healthy, the Red Wings look like an Eastern Conference playoff team. At least on paper.
And Ian McLaren and Darren Kritzer examine 5 fantasy hockey players who are key players, including the following:
Proceed With Caution: Gustav Nyquist
Nyquist will be an obvious "sleeper" candidate after scoring 28 goals in 57 games last season, but an 18.3 shooting percentage suggests that kind of production may be unsustainable.
In 40 previous games with the Red Wings heading into last season, Nyquist recorded four goals on 65 shots, good for a shooting percentage of 6.15 percent.
According to QuantHockey.com, the average NHL shooting percentage in recent years hovers around nine percent, meaning there's more than a good chance that Nyquist won't maintain the pace he set in 2013-14.
Take A Flier On: Tomas Tatar
Instead of banking on Nyquist, astute fantasy owners could turn to Tatar.
The 23-year-old scored 19 goals, added 20 assists points and a plus-12 rating in 73 games for Detroit last season; he also received 2:17 of power play time per game, and led all Detroit forwards with a 56.3 Corsi For and 208 total shot attempts at even strength, which bodes well for continued offensive production.
Tatar will likely remain somewhat sheltered by head coach Mike Babcock, meaning he'll start the majority of his shifts in the offensive zone and away from top defensive opposition. As such, Tatar could be good for 25 goals and 45-50 points, providing great value with a late pick.
Winging It in Motown's SlapshotGoal offered an EXHAUSTIVE Corsi-based analysis of the Wings' defense, too...
And in the post-practice scrums, from Kulfan...
Alfredsson says he will know before training camp whether he will play one more season
Update #3: The Score's Thomas Drance offers "3 Storylines to Watch This Season":
A quiet summer, a thin defense: The Detroit Red Wings swung and missed on Dan Boyle, Stephane Robidas, and Matt Niskanen in free agency.
Christian Ehrhoff, who the Red Wings were interested in acquiring at the trade deadline, elected to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Vancouver Canucks ultimately didn't move Alexander Edler, a player the Red Wings reportedly had 'considerable interest' in. Right-handed shooting defenders like Mark Fayne, Tom Gilbert, Mike Weaver and Anton Stralman all signed elsewhere.
Ultimately the Red Wings turned to Kyle Quincey on July 2, but that seemed like a fallback move and he's probably best suited to a third-pairing role. Aside from Quincey - and if you want to stretch it rookie 22-year-old Alexey Marchenko - the Red Wings have no right-handed shooters along the blue-line. The club may very well end up playing without a right-handed shot in their top-four this season, which you know coach Babcock isn't happy about.
Will Detroit's uncharacteristically quiet summer and wafer thin blue-line come back to bite them this upcoming season?
Back at full throttle: The Detroit Red Wings battled through a myriad of injuries during the 2013-14 season, and still qualified for the playoffs thanks to the contributions of young players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco among others.
Now, after a long offseason, players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm are back in game shape. It's a good problem to have, but it does create something of a question for the club - where do the talented young kids fit in now that the veterans are off of injured reserve?
Are there enough minutes and pucks to go around in Motown?
In 2013-14 the Red Wings probably took to long to install the likes of Nyquist, Sheahan and Tatar into the lineup. Arguably it nearly cost the franchise their nearly two-decades long streak of qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Will the organization repeat that mistake this season?
Update #3.5: Arriving on a jet plane...
Update #4: !!! per DetroitRedWings.com's Roose:
With a logjam at centermen, #RedWings Mike Babcock said today that he plans to start Darren Helm at wing on Pavel Datsyuk's line.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirms:
One interesting note from Babcock today - Helm will start on a wing on Datsyuk line
Update #4.5: From the Free Press's Sipple:
Mike Babcock spoke today...said he plans to start out with Darren Helm on wing playing with Pavel Datsyuk.
Daniel Alfredsson: “If I was confident enough after the season that I would feel the same way ....I would have signed already." #redwings
Update #5: The Score's Justin Bourne continues the Score's Wings preview by discussing the Wings' to-the-front-of-the-net passes in the defensive zone:
In a standard forecheck, most teams bring a winger from the middle of the ice who angles the d-man up the wall - where he’s almost always been instructed to go anyway - into F2, where they hope things start to go awry.
F3 is usually so high in the middle (or wide, depending) that it leaves a soft spot that Mike Babcock has permitted his team to exploit in an effort to get out of the zone without banging the puck into shinpads along the walls.
For Detroit, the rewards have been worth the risk.
I chatted with Mike Babcock about the concept, where he confirmed Detroit considers using their net front in the D-zone a solid option.
Yeah, for sure, when you think of forechecking in today’s game in the National Hockey League, or any other league, you’re looking to take away the walls. They’re coming hard with one, they’re taking the wall with two, and probably the other side with three, there’s a space that you can execute in front of your net. Obviously the problem is when you turn the puck over in front of your net sometimes it ends up in your net. But I’m a big believer in getting back and executing fast so you don’t have to play in D-zone coverage at all. You turn pucks over by keeping it along the wall and you end up in the D-zone, and we’d like to be in the offensive zone by making that good first pass.
Babcock acknowledges that it’s not necessarily option 1A for his club - you always take what’s given to you, and you’d choose the boards over the middle every time - but if the walls are closed off, they trust their players to put the puck somewhere risky to advance zones.
Bourne continues with extensive illustrative examples...
Update #6: The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted an interview with Daniel Alfredsson...
“I would love to play, there’s no question, but at the same time you have to listen to your body,” said Alfredsson, 41. Last season, it was Alfredsson’s back that told him to take a seat on more than one occasion and it’s the state of his back that will ultimately determine whether he’s back for an 18th NHL season.
“I had some issues with my back throughout the year, but nothing serious until the end when I started getting some tingling in the nerve down the right leg,” said Alfredsson, 41, who also indicated he suffered numbness in his back. It’s been OK for the last while. I’ve been skating a little bit in Sweden and now coming over here and doing more full skates, it feels pretty good.
“I just have to make sure that when you do it every day for a couple of weeks we’ll see how it feels. We’ll go from there and make sure it holds up and it’s not just feeling good for a little bit and then you’re in and out all year long. That’s not what anybody wants.”
And Mike Babcock:
“That’s the whole key right there, he has to decide if he can play or not,” Babcock said. “We don’t want a part-time player, we want a full-time player, so the guy’s got to be healthy, he’s got to be able to skate. He’s planning on playing hockey. Now, when you get out there and get going . . . no one’s bumping into you yet, until training camp starts. You get whacked a few times and you seize up a couple of times. We’ll see what happens.
“If you start the year injured and you’re 25, you got a chance to finish the year healthy. If you start the year injured and you’re Alfie’s age, the chance of you getting ready to go is a lot harder.”
Update #7: The Detroit Free Press's Sipple spoke with Alfredsson, too...
“If I was confident enough after the season that I would feel the same way starting the season as I did last season, I would have signed already,” Alfredsson said.
Alfredsson said he’s still optimistic about what the Wings can accomplish this season. He said young players got a chance to show what they can do, and that will benefit the team going forward.
“The biggest thing is, if this team can stay healthy, it will be more consistent,” Alfredsson said.
And this shouldn't surprise you:
Babcock said forward Daniel Cleary has trained very hard and believes he can be a factor this season.
“We believe, if he can get back to playing, he can help us,” Babcock said. “But if he can’t get back to playing, he can’t help us.”
Cleary had four goals and four assists for eight points in 52 games last season. Some were surprised when he was re-signed this summer. Babcock said that, during his time with the Wings, the club has made “way more right decisions” than wrong ones.
“Dan Cleary’s play is going to determine whether it’s a right or wrong decision,” Babcock said.
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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.