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Red Wings ‘Captain’s Practice’ post in progress: new faces, talkin’ bout Helm, Mantha and Kronwall

Updated 7x at 5:51 PM: The Red Wings Captain's Practice is underway at Joe Louis Arena, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan reports that its participants have changed ever-so-slightly from yesterday's crop:

Same group essentially skating today...plus Tatar.

And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose reports that there's another defenseman skating with the team as well:

Two more familiar faces - Tomas Tatar and Brian Lashoff - have joined the #RedWings at today's captain's skate at Joe Louis Arena.

And yes, we're a week and a day away from the start of the Wings' prospect tournament in Traverse City:

This morning's articles from both the MSM and blogs focus upon yesterday's practice topics of note (for the most part): MLive's Ansar Khan dicusses Wings coach Mike Babcock's plan to play Darren Helm on Pavel Datsyuk's wing...

Babcock said he's making the move because he has Riley Sheahan and either Luke Glendening or Andersson as centers on the third and fourth lines. He also believes Helm and Datsyuk can help each other.

"(Helm's) tenacity, pace, heaviness on the puck and because I've got to have room for other guys, I think he can help," Babcock said. "I'm probably going to start him with Pavel, to give Pavel that tenacity to help Pav out a little bit. Helmer can play down low in the zone, too, a bit for him. Now that all depends on Weiss and his situation and how healthy everyone is."

And Khan wisely asked Babcock whether Weiss, Sheahan and Glendening/Andersson playing as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th-line centers, respectively, means that Henrik Zetterberg might start the year on Datsyuk's line as well:

"That's a good question," Babcock said. "We'll see on the 19th (at the start of training camp)."

Actually, we won't, because he added: "Z and them won't play together in training camp because I need three teams. Weiss, Z and Pav will be first-line centers on their teams at camp."

Octopus Thrower's Peter Fish wondered aloud whether moving Helm to wing is a good idea...

This might be Mike Babcock’s best choice heading into next season and will help not only relieve the pressure in the middle of the ice, but will give Pavel Datsyuk a player with a ton of speed and skill to disrupt the defense and take pressure off of Datsyuk.

Now when players are focusing on Pavel Datsyuk making moves on the ice, Darren Helm will be able to blow by the defenders for a long pass or if the defenders are more worried about Helm’s speed, then Datsyuk’s skill will over-match them.

There is no way a team will be able to contain both of these players, especially if Henrik Zetterberg is place alongside them on the line, as well.

The last time Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm were out on the ice together was during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. When Helm was put on the ice with Datsyuk, I knew something special was going to happen on the ice and that is exactly what happened.

Fish continues with a highlight of a Datsyuk-and-Helm goal against Chicago...

And Winging It in Motown's Winged Octopus also discussed the potential move...

Helm may seem like an odd choice until you think about what Helm really is - and that's a faster, better defensively, and overall more skilled version of Justin Abdelkader. Just a couple years ago these two were your bottom 6 centers, and Helm was just the better player. Helm is relentless along the boards - an example that comes to mind is this PK shift which made me an instant fan of him. It's difficult to watch that shift and not get excited about the idea of Helm being freed up to wreak havoc on the boards to an extent that he just can't as a center. Another fun side effect of moving Helm out to the wing is this frees him up quite a bit more to cherry-pick on the rush like Nyquist did quite a bit last season. At center, Helm can't really get away with that too often with the heavy defensive responsibilities a center has, but from the wing he's got quite a bit more freedom to threaten the other team on the rush. Not only that, but if any linemates can hit him in stride on the rush, it's Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

The main objection to Helm on the wing is his reputation for "stone hands" - a fair objection to be sure. Helm does lack a degree of scoring touch; however, his hands sure are not worse than Abdelkader - probably a little better actually. If he can provide all the things Abdelkader does except do them all a little better, that should please both sides of the Abdelkader on the first line debate. To wrap this up, let's take a quick look at sample forward lines with Helm on the first line:

Left Wing  Center  Right Wing
Zetterberg  Datsyuk  Helm
Franzen  Weiss  Nyquist
Tatar  Sheahan  Alfredsson
Miller  Andersson  Abdelkader

And finally, via RedWingsFeed, Detroit Sports Site engaged in a roundtable discussion regarding Daniel Alfredsson's possible re-signing, which prospects they'd like to see make the team, and whether the Wings' forward machinations might affect the chances of prospects attempting to crack the opening-night lineup, including a certain Anthony Mantha:

[Chris Burke]: I think Mantha fits where the Wings more or less have hinted all along that he fits: As a high-minors guy in 2014-15 and as a huge piece of the puzzle in the future. Just because he might open the season in the minors does not mean he’ll stick there — we saw enough proof otherwise last year. Giving him a little more time and keeping him in their back pocket for later in the year is not an awful strategy.

[Rob Starrs]: I think we all know the truth here, he’s not going to see much NHL time this year, even though he should be brought up immediately and placed In the lineup. The track record for the Wings bringing up guys when fans want them has not been favorable, so I don’t expect a huge change. Unfortunately it appears he fits in as our top prospect in Grand Rapids and barring any noteworthy injuries he might only skate a few games in the winged wheel this season.

[Max DeMara]: It’s hard to say where Mantha fits in right now. Probably somewhere in Grand Rapids. Aside from having a breakout camp, I don’t see him making the big club immediately. That being said, if Mantha plays well with the Griffins throughout the year, there’s no reason the team shouldn’t consider calling him up at some point. It will be a delicate balance with him this year. Is he as good as last season’s record scoring shows? Maybe, but expect a bit of a learning curve this year.

[Andrew Tomlinson]: Where he fits and where he plays are two different questions. I think he fits in Detroit. We saw what having a young kid around can do for the whole team. It gives everyone a little pep-in-their-step and really provides some electrifying uncertainty to watching the Wings play. In the true “Red Wings Way” though, he will definitely play in Grand Rapids to at least start the season. The Wings have too many contracts as it is.

The gents continue, and I don't expect Mantha to make the team out of training camp--unless his play takes a step or two forward in terms of his urgency and pace--but I do believe that a half-season's worth of adjustments to professional competition with the Grand Rapids Griffins should yield a latter-half-of-the-season call-up that will mark the end of his AHL career.



Otherwise, MLive's Khan examines the "outlook" for the Red Wings' co-leading scorer, one Niklas Kronwall. Kronwall's 33 and he's in year 3 of a 7-year contract with a Capgeek-stated cap hit of $4.75 million and a no-trade clause, though Kronwall's actually being paid $6 million for this upcoming season.

He posted 8 goals, 41 assists and finished even in plus-minus over the course of 79 2013-14 games played, he registered a goal, an assist and a -1 in 5 playof games against Boston, and after Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were lost due to injuries, the Red Wings' players and coaches stated that Kronwall served as the team's acting captain.

Here's Khan's take on Kronwall's 13-14 campaign and this upcoming season's "outlook":

2013-14 in review: Tied for first on the team with 49 points, two short of his career high. ... Led team in power-play points (25). ... Led team in average ice time (24:18) and average shorthanded time (3:03), second in average power-play time (3:22). ... Named NHL's second star of week on Dec. 2 following three consecutive two-point games. ... Matched career-best six-game points streak Nov. 21-Dec, 1 (two goals, seven assists). ... Recorded two three-point games (Oct. 12 vs. Philadelphia and Feb. 27 at Ottawa) and 11 multi-point games. ... Led team in blocked shots (154). ... Led team's defensemen and third on club in hits (93). ... Missed two games with a concussion (Oct. 19-21). ... Has missed only eight games in four season after experiencing several injuries earlier in his career. ... Selected for Swedish Olympic team for the third time. Named captain after Henrik Zetterberg withdrew due to back injury. Had no goals and two assists in six games as Sweden won the silver medal.

2014-15 outlook: He'll be the anchor on defense for the third year in a row, following Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement. He'll continue to be relied on to do it all – lead the team at even strength, man the point on the top power-play unit, log more shorthanded minutes than anyone else and provide offense for a defense that lacks scoring threats. And he'll continue to play against the opposition's top line. He's step up and deliver a big hit once in a while but can't do it as often as in the past with so many other responsibilities. He's helped with the growth of young defensemen – Jonathan Ericsson, his partner since the start of the 2013 season, and Brendan Smith, whom he was paired with during Ericsson's absence.

Khan continues and asks fans to weigh in as to which defenseman should serve as Kronwall's partner on the first defensive pairing.






And yes, I'm raising funds again--I misjudged my stay in Traverse City by one night, and I need to raise another $90 to stay there for one more evening. If you can shake the piggy bank, I'd greatly appreciate it.

I've attended two of the past three Traverse City-based training camps/prospect tournaments and the past three summer development camps at your leisure. If you're willing to lend a hand, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it.

Any and every donation helps pay the way up there (I break even) and I'm strongly considering printing some t-shirts and/or ensuring that every entry has a "sponsored by/brought to you by" note (and as always, the coverage is based upon your suggestions and questions, so it's an interactive experience).


My "merchant ID" is my non-work email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, and I'm incredibly grateful for your readership and support. Thank you.

I'm just looking to break even, I really am.



Update #1: Here he comes...

And, via RedWingsFeed, you've already seen Ray Bishop's photos of Jimmy Howard's new mask...

Today, Bishop discussed the aesthetic touches not so evidently visible via a conversation with InGoal Magazine's Lachlan Macintosh:

Speaking with InGoal Magazine, Bishop explained that Howard “wanted to go with something clean, classic, and BOLD this year… a classic Detroit Red Wings feel to it.” One look at Howard’s new helmet and we’re sure he and the rest of the Hockeytown, USA fans will be pleased with the final result. The left and right sides of the mask are identical, displaying two large Red Wings logos that meet in the middle of the chin. The new Vaughn mask by Pro’s Choice also has a few more subtle details mixed in.

While the large winged wheels synonymous with Detroit hockey dominate the sides of the mask, Bishop added in some “Ghost” stripes and details “to sweeten the deal and personalize it a bit more for him (Howard).” Along with Howard’s number 35 in a classic font on the chin, there are some sweet graphics that are unique to Howard and the Red Wings franchise. The 1926, the year of inception for the Red Wings, might be obvious, but if you look above the old calligraphic “D” logo on top of the mask, you can see some faint racing stripes. Any fan of Jimmy Howard knows that he has paid tribute to the Motor City in the past, and while it’s not a Ford Mustang, we think it’s a great nod to the passion and history of Detroit.

On the back of Howard’s mask, a crest depicting an American flag, the motto “Let’s Roll”, and the initials of his two sons accompanied by two rampant lions. Underneath all that, and against a brick wall background, the nickname “Howie” is sprawled out in similar “ghost” fashion to the 1926 written on the top of the mask.

While Howard was nagged by injuries at times last year, the Syracuse, NY native still played a respectable 51 games. While not necessarily impacting Howard’s workload, the injuries may have affected his play. The Red Wings did make the playoffs for a 23rd straight year, but Howard went 21-19-11 with a .910 SV% and a 2.66 GAA. While it was admittedly not a strong season from Howard, he was still named to the US Olympic team that traveled to Sochi. In three playoff games last year, Howard went 1-2 with a .931 SV% and a 2.02 GAA before the flu caused him to miss the final two games of a first round exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins.


Update #1.5: According to NHL.com's Matt Sitkoff, Henrik Zetterberg's the 5th-best fantasy hockey left wing on the "market."



Update #2: In charitable news, from the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau...

And in not-so-charitable news, "Hope Smoke" transcribed part of TSN's Darren Dreger's commentary on TSN 1050 Toronto's noon sports show (I will post the interview when I find it), and here's what Dreger had to say about one Mike Babcock.

Dreger did quite a bit of uninformed BS'ing given that Babcock's been emphatic about wanting to stay in Detroit and that Jeff Blashill's very happy in Grand Rapids, but...

Dreger "given the history of Babcock in Detroit & the success of the franchise I can imagine ownership wants to get something done..."


Dreger "... with Babcock over the next few weeks or so"


Dreger "there is the business side of things & if you're Babcock what's a fair number?"


Dreger "is Babcock ready for a fresh start elsewhere or is the organization ready for one? That takes the angle in a different direction"


Dreger "Jeff Blashill is an NHL ready coach. He's going to be on the Wings bench either as an assistant or as Babcock's replacement"


Dreger "one thing that's curious to me, the $ the NBA/NFL coaches make is off the charts."


Dreger "what's Mike Babcock worth as a UFA coach on the open market? The sky is the limit"


Dreger "If Tortorella is getting $2 million to go fishing, what's Babcock getting $3-$4 million?"


Dreger "Babcock has earned his path. This is a guy who is always looking for information."


Dreger "Doesn't matter if you're the GM or an entry-level front office staffer, if you have info that might make Wings better he listens"

Babcock's no saint, either--he's hard to work with from a PR standpoint, for starters--but Captain Ego is driven to find every competitive advantage, and yes, he's going to make a player-level salary of $3 or $4 million when the Wings extend him at some point this season.


Update #3: From the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...




Update #3.5: Quoth the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

Helm feels there will be little or no adjustment moving to wing...can use his speed


Update #4: From the Macomb Daily's Pleiness:

Update #5: DetroitRedWings.com's Craig Peterson spoke with Babcock regarding his status:

"If we get something done in September, great,” Babcock said. “But if we don’t and I’ve said this and no one believes me, I have a real good relationship with the general manager and I’m real confident in my own ability and confident in the ability he has to put together a team. We’ll find a way to work something out over time.”

Babcock is entering his 10th season as the Red Wings’ coach, making him the longest tenured coach currently in the NHL. However, lack of a current contract extension should not be cause for panic in Detroit.

“I’m real comfortable,” Babcock said. “I’m not selling my house or anything like that. Life is good for me.”

Babcock has won 415 regular-season games during his time spent with the Wings, won two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, won a Stanley Cup and another Stanley Cup finals appearance. He is arguably the most successful NHL head coach of the past decade. With a decorated resume, Babcock is in a position of power in terms of negotiation but understands the situation and environment he is in.

“I’ve thought a lot about that (contract negotiations),” he said. “Lots of people have asked me this question. Kenny Holland is a good man, the Ilitches are good people and they’ve looked after us.”

Negotiations could heat up in two weeks at training camp in Traverse City, but if the season starts before an agreement can be reached, Babcock seemed confident that the absence of an extension would not be a distraction.

“We’ll find a way to work something out over time,” he said. “I’m not all wound up about this one bit.”

Also, from the Free Press's George Sipple:

Darren Helm said Mike Babcock told him at the end of last year he could be moved to wing, so it isn't a huge shock. #Redwings


Helm on playing with Pavel Datsyuk: "I just gotta be ready for the puck and work hard for him....Create some space with my speed."'

Update #6: Via RedWingsFeed, oh joy, here's Babcock's take on Daniel Cleary, from Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner:

"Dan Cleary helped us be very good for a long period of time," Babcock told reporters Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. "He played really well for us. What we try and do is not confuse the player with the person. We love the person, and the player last year couldn't help us. But he's trained so hard, and obviously we monitor this pretty closely.

"He's done everything he can possibly do. We've had the testing done (on his knee). We didn't just fall off a turnip truck. We had all that done before we made any decisions, and we think he can help our program."

Babcock did admit that Cleary's play will determine whether the Wings made the right decision on bringing him back. But Babcock's convinced that if Cleary's knee holds up, he'll have an impact on this year's team.

"I used to say every year, 'Tie goes to the veteran. You've got to beat the guy out here in camp,'" Babcock said. "Now, the best player is playing, period. So if you're 22, it doesn't make any difference. We're in that stage of our development."

Before you get all excited about Babcock's comment, he was referring to the Wings' corps of promising young defensemen, who'll be given every opportunity to make the team.

The Wings might be committed to a youth movement -- especially on the back end -- but just like Linus needed his security blanket, coaches need to feel secure too. It's in their DNA.

Cleary provides Babcock with that sense of security. Only time will tell if it's real or false.


Update #7: According to the Blackburn News's Mike James, former Wing Tim Cheveldae will be making a charitable appearance in Southwestern Ontario...

Organizers of this year’s FireFest in Chatham say the 3rd annual event will be a big economic driver.

Event chair Brent DeNure says they’ve got 70 to 80 firetrucks committed to the event, making it the largest of its kind in the country. In addition to that, Denure says 20 teams from across North America have registered in the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

“Last year we had about 70 rooms over two nights and this year I think we’ll have 100 rooms,” says Denure. “The draw power FireFest is beginning to have and the credibility it’s beginning to have is really quite impressive.”

The event runs September 19-21. A speaking engagement on the Friday night at the St. Clair College Capitol Theatre will also feature, among others, former Detroit Red Wings goalie Tim Cheveldae.

In ECHL news, per the Toledo Blade...

The Toledo Walleye's preseason schedule will consist of a home-and-home series with Kalamazoo.

The ECHL announced its preseason schedule of 22 games today.

The Walleye will face Kalamazoo during a preseason game at the Huntington Center at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 10. The teams will then meet again the following night in Kalamazoo at 7:30.

Admission to the Oct. 10 home exhibition game is $5 and 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the team's charity, the Walleye Wishing Well. All seats are general admission. Game-plan holders with receive a ticket to the preseason contest at no additional cost.

Toledo will play only two preseason games. The Walleye open the regular season at home when they host the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday, Oct. 18.

This is...different...

And in prospect news, from DRW Prospects on Twitter:

Okay, so:

1. Adam Almquist and Severstal Cherepovets lost 2-0 to Torpedo Nizhny Novogrod;

2. In Champions Hockey League action, Mattias Janmark had an assist in the Frolunda Indians' 7-3 win over Geneva;

3. And Axel Holmstrom didn't register a point in Skelleftea AIK's 4-1 win over Sonderjyske Vojens.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Soupsnake's avatar

Helm on the top line? I like it!

Posted by Soupsnake from Canton, Mi on 09/04/14 at 01:26 PM ET

awould's avatar

Helm on the top line? I like it!

me too

Posted by awould on 09/04/14 at 01:30 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Seems a shame to waste the chemistry that Z and Nike had last season, especially with Zs back all healed up.

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 09/04/14 at 01:44 PM ET

topshelf14's avatar

I like the idea of Helm with Datsyuk. Wouldnt mind seeing Z on his own line with Nike. Keep the kids together and I think you got 3 dynamic scoring lines.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 09/04/14 at 02:34 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Ha ha ha. Good one.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 09/04/14 at 10:13 PM 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.