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Red Wings catchy-uppy post 2: Olympic overload

Okay, as those of you who've been anywhere near a computer over the past five days are probably "Olympic'ed out," here is an incredibly brief summary of the coverage of Red Wings-related stories from "out of town" sources over the past four days:

USA Today:

ESPN:

2. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

We look back now at the 2013 playoffs and remember Corey Crawford's resiliency and ability to bounce back from bad moments propelled the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup. And at times, we forget just how close Howard came to ending Chicago's run and carrying Detroit to the Western Conference finals in an outcome that might have further raised his profile like Crawford's. The Red Wings were up 2-1 in the third period of a Game 6 that could have eliminated Chicago in the Western Conference semis, and Howard's strong play that series was a huge reason.

Howard finished the 2013 playoffs with a .924 save percentage, and in three Detroit wins over the eventual champs he allowed just two goals combined. His postseason solidified him as a playoff performer. He also gained international experience in the 2012 world championships, where he went 5-2 with a .910 save percentage.

 

  • Team Canada coach Mike Babcock explained his reasoning for a little "ball hockey" to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, and he also chatted about playing on a 200'x100' surface:

"They [the players] came here for three simple things. No. 1 was to get to know everybody better from players to coaches to management to trainers, to get to know them and have a comfort level," Babcock said.

"No. 2 is to understand the details of how we're going to play -- terminology, where to stand, how to play in your own zone, how to play on the power play, penalty kill. We've gone over and over that. The walk-throughs made it slow enough to really spend some time on it.

"The third thing I think was critical for them is the evaluation process. How do you get to Sochi? We've tried to explain it to each and every guy so when they leave here they've got three months to do their part. They're in control of whether they go."

More from Babs, which you've probably heard:

"I thought it was a real good day for us,” Babcock said. "Obviously, I have never done this before. We've put a lot of planning into it. I spent a lot of time talking to people to gather the information -- [head coach] Tom Izzo in particular with Michigan State basketball. He talks about the walk-throughs, and [they are] part of the reason that he believes they've been to six Final Fours in the last 15 years. Todd Downing is a quarterback coach with the Lions. He talked about the plays they walk through each and every day and the muscle memory and the timing and spacing that's going on.

"This is a big sheet, and guys aren't used to it. It's even bigger when you can't move very fast, and you couldn't go very fast today. But I thought it was a good teaching tool. The other thing is when you've got 23 guys on your team, you usually got to teach 23 different ways. Everybody learns different, so when you see it on video, it's one way you see it. In a book, it's another way. You've got a posting on the wall, you walk through it again and then you talk about it. To me, what we're trying to do is get them to understand the way we're going to play, so it meets the comfort for them when they arrive in Sochi."

TSN:

Sportsnet:

  • Babcock told the Canadian Press that he may employ the "walk-through" with the Wings:

The Detroit Red Wings head coach entertained the notion a walk-through could perhaps replace the game-day skate in the NHL.

"Why not? You’ll see the Red Wings doing this in their hotel one day, for sure, to work on the power-play," Babcock said. "The National Hockey League’s 82 games and it’s a grind.

"You know how much work this was for these guys to lay down this floor and put the lines on it? It would be way easier to come here and skate. Let’s not kid ourselves. I’d rather be skating. I’d learn way more about these players. But it was fun and it keeps you guys entertained."

Coach Mike Babcock won’t hesitate to play them out of position to get their talent on the roster. He expects to have a lot of centres on Team Canada.

“I just know in our own situation in Detroit, we play our best players all over,” Babcock said. “We just like them on the ice. And we’re going to do the same thing here. The best players are going to play.”

We All Bleed Red has more from Babcock if you're interested, but Babcock did speak with Hockeycentral on Saturday, and this is good:

The Score:

Sports Ilustrated:

  • Again, SI's Allan Muir's picking exactly zero Wings to start on Team USA's Olympic roster.

Sportsline:

The Sporting News:

When asked about how he came up with the idea, Babcock said he drew inspiration from some of his Michigan coaching brethren, in partcular Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and Detroit Lions quarterback coach Todd Downey.

"Tom Izzo is a Hall of Fame basketball coach," Babcock said. "When I phoned him, he was thrilled to talk to me and had a bunch of ideas for me. We talked back and forth, he was able to help me understand the process so we could present something to the players so they could learn but also so I was confident enough that we could do this."

Babcock praised Downey effusively.

"He was fantastic. Actually, he was brilliant. He had so many good ideas for me," Babcock said. "It's easy for me to come out and run stuff when you're on the ice. That's what I do for a living. This isn't what I do for a living, so I didn't know how it was going to be."

IIHF.com:

Mike Babcock, Canada’s head coach, figures it’s pretty cut and dried on what’s needed to play for Canada as the country attempts to defend the gold medal it won in 2010 in Vancouver.

“The guys who are playing the best (during the NHL season) will be on the team. Guys who can skate, the guys that take care of the puck, the guys that play 200 feet... are going to play for us,” said Babcock.

...

Babcock and Yzerman both agree that, ideally, they would have the players on the ice. That said, they feel there is still the chance to accomplish a lot during the off-ice orientation camp. Babcock and his staff will hold a pair of walkthroughs – a term widely-used in American-style football – to instruct players on certain systems.

“It’s three things,” explained Babcock about the importance of the orientation camp.

“You get to know one another... That’s a priority. Number 2 is to understand how we’re going to play, the details, the spacing on the ice, how big it is, where you’re supposed to be, understanding the terminology and what’s going on. The third thing for me is that being an Olympian is much bigger than just being part of a regular hockey team. You’re part of a bigger team – the Canadian team.”

The CBC:

At first, Dylan Walchuk thought someone was playing a joke on him when he answered his phone on Sunday evening. But this was no joke.

The voice on the other end was Mark Howell, his new coach at the University of Calgary. He informed his incoming freshman forward that Hockey Canada wanted Walchuk to help out the Canadian men's Olympic team in their ball hockey walk-through on Monday.

"It was like a dream come true," he said. "It was sweet. To see those guys on TV all the time and then getting to play with them, they're all good guys and it was an experience I will never forget. It will be cool to see myself on television tonight."

Hockey Canada needed someone to fill in for Joe Thornton. The San Jose Sharks captain stayed home this week because his two-month-old baby boy briefly had to be hospitalized with an illness. When the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Walchuk entered Canada's dressing room, he found his stall right between Crosby and Brad Marchand. He even had a brief discussion with Crosby.

So why did Hockey Canada choose Walchuk? Well, when Babcock and his assistants put the University of Calgary through a practice last week, Babcock was impressed with the former Spokane Chiefs forward. It probably didn't hurt that when Babcock coached junior, it was in Spokane.

"That's the best story about this whole thing so far," Babcock said. "Life is about what you make of it. Mark Howell and the U of C Dinosaurs helped us out, and they helped us out to get the coaches organized. Their team had a team party, a double-kegger the night before I came in. We put them through the paces and that kid was the best kid on the ice by a million miles. So when Thornton couldn't come in, that's how life should be -- when you do good things, good things happen. He did a good job. He didn't have to. He did a good job, was excellent out there."

After he explored opportunities in Europe and the ECHL, the 21-year-old Walchuk of McBride, B.C., only decided to attend the University of Calgary a couple weeks ago. He will study business.

Babcock also talked with Wharnsby about adding Ralph Krueger to the coaching mix, the ball hockey game, he praised Roberto Luongo and he was blunt about what players need to do to make the team:

"We've tried to explain to each guy that they have three months to do their part, and that they're in control whether they go," Babcock said. "I think it's very specific. You tell them how they have to play to be on this team. You tell them the way they have to take care of the puck, the way you skate, the way you play defence, what's involved and what we're looking for."

Yzerman and the management team, as well as Babcock and his assistant coaches, want even the best offensive players paying attention to defence.

"The way I look at it, all the best teams in the league that win, play right," Babcock said. "Their offensive players play without the puck. So if you think you're playing the other way, you're not coming."

...

The players had to stay off the ice because of insurance costs. But the walk-throughs on Tuesday were noticeably slower than on Monday. There was concern that the players' pace was too swift in the earlier sessions. Finally, Babcock wanted the players to understand what they need to exhibit in the first three months to make the team.

"If you're leaving here without an idea, you didn't listen," he said.

Could this team be younger than the 2010 gold-medal squad?

"The only thing I've seen is there is so much experience in this group," Babcock said. "There are so many medals, so many championships and I'm comfortable with that. But obviously, it's going to be different [than Vancouver] and it should be."

NHL.com:

"They came here for three simple things," Babcock said. "No. 1 was to get to know everybody better, from players to coaches to management to trainers, to get to know them and have a comfort level.

"No. 2 is to understand the details of how we're going to play: terminology, where to stand, how to play in your own zone, how to play on the power play, penalty kill. We've gone over and over that. The walk-throughs made it slow enough to really spend some time on

"The third thing I think was critical for them is the evaluation process. How do you get to Sochi? We've tried to explain it to each and every guy so when they leave here they've got three months to do their part. They're in control of whether they go."

"Being an Olympian to me is much bigger than just being part of a regular hockey team," Babcock said. "You're part of a bigger team: the Canadian team. That's not just the Canadian hockey team, that's the Canadian Olympic team. I think it's a special, special thing. When you get special opportunities, your preparation should be the same. Our preparation this week has to be gold-medal preparation."

From there it will be all about waiting and watching to see who stands out in the first three months of the NHL season. Babcock made it clear that nobody from the 2010 team will be given an advantage.

"That's over with," he said. "This is a new opportunity, and so some guys who played on that team are still on the top of their game. They're going to be on the next team. Some guys that were on that team didn't get invited to the camp and their career is not at that point. So once again, it's the best guys that are going to play on the team."

Babcock said it was also important for him to get out on the floor and teach because he never feels he gets enough out of watching a video clip.

"I don't learn very good by watching TV," Babcock said. "I'm a schoolteacher by trade. You go through all these different ways of teaching, they've got to grab onto something. Plus, it's fun. They're out here joking around -- bad pass here or pick up there, little things like that. I thought it was very, very good."

Babcock indicated that he may actually take the walk-through back to his team in Detroit and use it in the hotel on the road in lieu of a morning skate.

"You'll see the Red Wings doing this in their hotel one day for sure to work on the power play," Babcock said. "I thought this was great. It wasn't hard. No one got hurt. There was no wear and tear on the body. It was fun, and it was different. The National Hockey League is 82 games and it's a grind. There was nothing wrong with this. It was good."

Still, though, Babcock wishes he didn't have to use the walk-through Monday to get his systems in place.

"Let's not kid ourselves, I would rather be skating," he said. "I'd learn way more about these players, but it was fun and it keeps you guys [the media] entertained, too."

Calgary Sun:

  • Eric Francis spoke with Babcock about goaltending and the fact that he wants "no-risk" players.

Vancouver Sun:

The hope is that all the ideas and terminology filtered through, and will stay in the memory banks.

“We’re going to have the same retention we did last time, without any question,” Babcock said. “What we’re not getting out of this camp is the evaluation part. We get everything else. They’re going to go back to their teams and they’re not going to think about any of this stuff. But when you turn the light bulbs on for them again, the terminology, the patterns, what’s expected, it’s all going to be the same. They’re smart guys ... and when they get to Sochi, they’ll be way ahead.”

And Jonathan Toews praised Babcock:

“One of the good things about him as a coach is he’s very detailed and very specific,” said Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “He requires attention from all his players and you saw it right away. Guys were listening and paying attention to detail. When the team gets to Sochi there’s no time for adjustment. Guys have to be ready to play the right way and right away.”

“I would say to you that the other countries had a better last three months of the season than our country did in net,” he said Monday. “Let's watch the first three months of this season. One of these goalies will be real good. And one of these goalies will be hot going in, that everyone will know who's playing goal for Canada.”

There’s really no other way. Whatever changes Hockey Canada tries to make in the development system might not produce results at the elite level for 10 years or more. Luongo, Price, Smith, Crawford, Holtby. Three will make it ... unless it’s someone else.

“Anybody,” said Babcock. “There's lots of players that aren't here that probably might end up with an opportunity. Play good. I read or hear, 'Oh this guy feels snubbed.' So what? Do something about it. The great thing about life is you get to control what happens to you the majority of the time. Do something about it if you're not here.”

Toronto Star:

  • Via SI's Allan Muir, I love the fact that the Toronto Star's Damien Cox called Hockey Canada "cheap" for not ponying up $1 million in insurance to allow the players to skate. If Team Canada did pay that sum, what would people say? They'd blast the organization for not spending the $ on youth hockey or other programs.

Puck Daddy:

Babcock loves to pick other coaches’ brains. He’s constantly searching for new information. So he talked to two coaches who do this for a living.

As the coach of the Detroit Red Wings, he stayed local. He called the quarterbacks coach of the Detroit Lions, Todd Downing. NFL teams often run walkthroughs because they need to go over a lot while taking care of players’ bodies. At the suggestion of Wings video man Keith McKittrick, who once worked for the Michigan State hockey program, he also called Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo. One of the secrets to Izzo’s NCAA tournament success has been walkthroughs in hotel ballrooms. The Spartans outline courts on carpets with tape and go over plays, absorbing info quickly while saving energy amid the hubbub. Izzo has made six Final Fours and won a national title.

“He thinks that’s why they get there,” Babcock said.

So Team Canada issued uniform shoes, shorts, T-shirts and ball caps. The players wore gloves, carried sticks and batted around orange hockey balls. They didn’t screw around. They didn’t walk around, either, though this was supposed to be a walkthrough. Several players said the surface was a little slippery and they had to be careful when the whole point was to avoid injury. Forward Logan Couture even fell down.

“We didn’t think there was going to be as much running as there ended up being,” said winger Milan Lucic, who hadn’t played ball hockey since 2007. “Mike wanted to make it a workmanlike day, and that’s what it was.”

Babcock deliberately selected the groups, lines and pairings to keep the media guessing and the players believing. (No, just because they ran alongside Sidney Crosby on Monday doesn’t mean Chris Kunitz and Patrick Sharp will be his wingers in Sochi.)

He barked instructions as if this were a real practice, going over things like forechecking, penalty killing and line changes. The Canadians worked on their spacing and were more cognizant of it this way. Though they were running, they were moving far slower than they would have been on skates. They couldn’t get carried away, either, trying to prove something.

One thing Babcock took away from Downing and Izzo: “Sometimes the intensity of practice gets so high physically that it’s not as engaged mentally.”

USA Hockey:

That's all I can find that's fit to print, as they say.

 

Update: The Lansing State Journal's Chris Solari did speak with both Abdelkader prior to his trip to Team USA's camp:

“I’m just really excited and honored to be selected,” Justin Abdelkader said last week while at MSU’s Pro Camp. “Now, it’s kind of the first step in that process to making the team.”

Red Wings left wing Abdelkader and Buffalo Sabres goalie Miller will be two of 48 participants. USA Hockey will deterimine and submit a 25-man Olympics roster by Dec. 31. The 22nd Winter Olympiad run from Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia.

...

The 26-year-old Muskegon native while at MSU attended the 2005 U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, then competed for Team USA and finished third at the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden. Abdelkader joined the U.S. team at the 2012 World Championships, getting a goal and three assists as the team finished seventh.

“It’s just a great feeling — pride and honor to play for your country,” Abdelkader said. “It’s something special, and something that you can’t simulate. You don’t have that feeling until you finally put that ‘USA’ jersey on and represent your country against other players from around the world.”

This orientation camp is more of a get-to-know-them opportunity for the players and USA Hockey staff. Grand Haven native and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will run the squad from the bench, and Dave Poile is Team USA’s general manager. Decisions for which players will make the team predominantly will be based upon their early-season NHL performances.

“I just want to get off to a good start,” Abdelkader said. “I just have to play the way I’m capable of playing, and hopefully they’ll want a player who can play my type of game. I think I’m big, I can skate and I’ve played on the big ice before.

“We’ll see. I’ve had some international experience, but there’s a good crop of talented players. It’s not going to be easy.”

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Comments

TreKronor's avatar

All this ball hockey talk has me excited to start my outdoor ball hockey series this winter…

Posted by TreKronor on 08/28/13 at 11:44 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.