Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings catchy-uppy post: all the gnus that’s fit to post, including Alfredsson, Babs, KH, etc.

I've been pretty close to comatose for the past two days, so Paul's been doing his best to keep up with the lunacy that surrounds Daniel Cleary's fate and to offer the most pertinent Red Wings-related stories. Here's my attempt to catch up with the past 30-some hours' worth of stuff, on a source-by-source basis:

DetroitRedWings.com:

As Sarah Danhaer notes, about half of the Red Wings' players began their trek to Traverse City via a community relations tour...

The Community Tour is an opportunity for the players to give back to the fans by visiting areas in the Michigan community. Eleven players – Danny DeKeyser, Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton, Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl, Drew Miller and Stephen Weiss – took part in this year’s tour visiting locations in Harrison Township, Frankenmuth, Lansing, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo and Grand Haven.

The east leg of the tour, including players Danny DeKeyser, Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton and Jimmy Howard, started off with a visit to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. Players were greeted by over 250 military members and their families.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard said it’s a wonderful experience getting to visit Selfridge, sign autographs and take photos with military members. “They’re the real heroes and to be able to come here and meet with them is great,” Howard said.

The next stop on the east tour was to List Elementary School in Frankenmuth where the players were greeted by a sea of red and white in the gymnasium for the school’s “Red, White and Hockey Day.” Players were prompted with pre-selected questions from the students themselves, followed by class photos with each grade and interviews of each of the players by a List Elementary student reporter.

List reporter Zoey asked Cory Emmerton what advice he can give for success, “I think the biggest thing is to work hard at everything you do, no matter what, and stay in school.”

And the Wings posted both website-based and Facebook-based photo galleries documenting the tour, and the Wings posted a photo gallery from the prospects' tournament-winning tilt against St. Louis.

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned articles about Darren Helm, who doesn't believe that he'll be skating on Thursday...

“I don’t think it’s in the cards right now,” said Helm, who suffered a pulled groin muscle while skating in an informal team practice last Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

The 26-year-old Helm missed all but one game last year with a sore lower back. He has spent the last few months rehabilitating the inflamed disc. Even without the groin injury, it’s likely that Helm wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season when the Wings open against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 2.

“It’s going to be a couple of weeks where I’m not going to be able to get the physical contact or do stuff that I wanted to do,” Helm said. “It’s kind of taken a backseat right now to this groin.”

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland doesn’t expect Helm to skate at all this week.

“I don't think he's going to skate,” Holland said. “Nothing to do with his back, he's got groin aggravation or groin strain. He's been off for a few days now, groins are 1-3 weeks, so we'll see in a few days.”

Helm’s off-ice workouts have been limited so not to aggravate either of his existing injuries. Last week, coach Mike Babcock said he had Helm penciled in among the Wings’ top five centermen, along with Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson. Riley Sheahan is sixth on the Wings’ list of centers, Babcock said.

When asked if he thought that Helm would be ready for the season, Babcock said, “I have no idea. The way I look at it he hasn’t played in a year and a half basically. If we get him it’s a bonus.”

Stephen Weiss, who's excited to be joining the Wings while anticipating playing alongside Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson...

"I feel lucky. To play with two players like that is going to be awesome,” Weiss said. “I’m going to move the puck wide and go to the net and let them do their thing. But to play with two guys like that you can’t do too much better than that.”

Weiss gives the Red Wings another instinctive two-way centerman to compliment the talents that Pavel Datsyuk brings to the top scoring line. Datsyuk will begin camp working alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader. A talented play-maker, it would seem that Weiss could benefit from playing alongside proven scorers like Alfredsson and Franzen. Having spent his entire NHL career in the Eastern Conference, Weiss has a definite appreciation for what Alfredsson will bring to the Red Wings, and potentially, the second line.

“I think his puck-possession, his intelligence are what separate him from other guys,” Weiss said. “He’s real smart. His panic-threshold with the puck is so high. He has great patience and as a centerman to play with wingers like that is pretty special. You move the puck wide and go to the net and he’s going to find you or find somebody else.”

Weiss has seen even less of Franzen over the years, but the former Plymouth Whaler made some observations on the Mule in last week’s informal skates at Joe Louis Arena.

“He’s just a big, strong, power forward,” Weiss said, of Franzen. “He can score, make plays, and has really good speed, too, so we have a good mix on the line. I can move it either way and get going to the net in the middle and those two can make plays with each other. I’m just going to try to get those guys the puck and get out of the way and let them do their thing.”

...

“In this day and age it’s pretty tight out there 5-on-5, so the power play, anytime you can take advantage of that you’re going to help out your team in the long run,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I think adding Alfie and Weiss both of them are tremendously skilled. Alfie has that great shot, great vision, and Weissie with all of his skills. Hopefully we’ll have two (power-play) units that can produce and help each other out.”

Roose spoke with coach Tom Renney about the Wings' power play...

“There are guys that have good touches and get good looks that I'd like to see shoot more, no question about that,” Renney said. “There was an improvement from the previous year, I think we were 22 to 15 or something like that and you want to see marked improvement again this year. What it comes down to is a successful power play to me is all about retrievals and there's no retrievals if you're not shooting. So the bottom line is we need shots, we need net-presence, we got to get the puck back.”

As fundamental as that might sound, that is the bottom line for the Red Wings. Puck-retrieval puts the opposition under duress causing longer shifts and creating chaos in the offensive zone. These are the nuances that the Red Wings will begin to work on when players begin the first day of training camp drills at Centre ICE Arena on Thursday.

“You get the puck back and it seems you got more room and time to work with it,” Renney said.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Red Wings had the league’s best power play. In 2008-09, Detroit’s power play mowed along at 25.5 percent and produced 90 goals, which is the most scored by any team over the last five seasons.

The Wings’ power play, especially on the road, struggled last season. They were 0-for-36 in the first 10 road games. A listless power play can adversely affect the rest of the team, which was evident in the Wings 7-11-5 record when opponents didn’t allow a power-play goal. The coaches certainly would like to see that improve.

...

That shouldn’t happen this season with the addition of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, who are both expected to contribute in their own ways on the power play.

“One of the things you've got with Alfie is an experienced NHL player with a right hand shot that can navigate the whole end zone and give you more options off of that. That’s important,” Renney said. “Stephen's really an interesting player, he's a convertible type player because he can play up and play the point on the power play. How we choose to integrate him into that scheme remains to be seen. I think the power play should be more dynamic. There are some fundamental parts of the power play that are incumbent with any successful power play and that's net-presence, the shot and getting pucks back. At the end of the day, the X's and O's mean nothing if you don't do those things well.”

And Roose penned something of a training camp forecast/outlook:

“There's a lot of positive stuff that's surrounding us right now,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “Last year in the playoffs the young guys got a lot of experience playing in two Game 7s in hostile environments. Danny coming in was a little unknown. He was a heralded college player. You heard about him, how big he was and how smooth a skater and passer he was, but I think him coming in, it was sort of ‘What are we going to get?’ He stepped in and played tremendously for us. I remember after the first game saying, ‘Wow, this kid's legit.’ Smitty, same way, he stepped right in and started playing big minutes for us. He really grew as a player throughout the year. Kindl had probably his best year as a professional.”

...

Granted, much of this year’s optimism is heaped upon Alfredsson and Weiss, who, along with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, will give the Red Wings a much needed scoring punch, something the team lacked last season after finishing among the top 10 in league scoring the previous two campaigns. Moving to the Eastern Conference, the Wings, who averaged 2.54 goals in 2013, will need to average three goals a game.

“The additions of Weisser and Alfie are really going to help us,” Howard said. “Gives us a great No. 2 centerman. Alfie's going to be great on the power play for us. Gives us another weapon, possibly free up Pav and Z a little more. It's exciting time of year. I'm looking forward to getting through training camp and starting Oct. 2.”

The Wings enter this season feeling much more confident in their young defense. Last season, the Wings were fifth in the league in goals-allowed, surrendering 2.29 goals per game. Only Chicago, Ottawa, Boston and the New York Rangers allowed fewer.

Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson will be the top defensive pairing with Kindl, Smith and Kyle Quincey challenging for spots three through five at training camp. Lashoff and DeKeyser are likely to battle for the No. 6 defensive role on the roster.

While the future seems bright, Wings coach Mike Babcock prefers to view the team’s defense a little more cautiously.

“I had no idea Smith and DeKeyser and Kindl could do what they do,” Babcock said. “Smith and DeKeyser are in their second year, so are they going to fall off the face of the earth or be like they're capable of being? That's going to determine lots of what happens around here.”

..

“It’s a full out tryout training camp for a lot of people, excluding Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Weiss and if I don’t say Mule he’ll be pissed off … so Mule,” Bertuzzi said. “There’s jobs to be had and jobs to lose. You have to go into camp and you have to play for a spot. It’s not like the old days when you pretty much know where you’re stationed. You have to earn your spot.

MLive: Ansar Khan discussed Jordan Tootoo's tenuous spot on the roster...

“For me, it’s about having the opportunity to play in the NHL, and that (a trade) is out of my reach,'' Tootoo said. “I’ve got to worry about my game and take it one day at a time and let the business people do that side of things. I’ve been through a lot over the years. This is what makes you a stronger person, both on and off the ice.''

The Red Wings signed Tootoo, 30, to a three-year, $5.7 million contract in 2012. They were seeking a physical presence and agitator for their fourth line, someone who occasionally will fight.

Tootoo played in 42 regular season games (three goals, five assists, eight fighting majors) but appeared in only one playoff game. Coach Mike Babcock opted to use players who provided a different dimension in the postseason, rotating in the likes of Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson, who had been injured virtually the entire regular season, and utilizing penalty killers Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller, who returned midway through the playoffs following a late-season injury.

“(Tootoo) did everything we wanted – he was physical, he gave us energy,'' Babcock said. “The type of player he is, he gets way more opportunity early in the season when it's being silly (more fights), and then he doesn't in the end.''

Babcock said the lack of fighting in the playoffs was one of the reasons he didn't use Tootoo. Tootoo said his exit interview with Babcock went well.

“For me, constructive criticism is a good thing,'' Tootoo said. “That’s what you have to work on and build off of. I thought I did everything that was expected, but at the same time it’s basically one day at a time for me here, and that’s been my mentality for the last three years.''

He posted the Wings' training camp lines...

Khan's as puzzled by the Cleary situation as the rest of us are...

In the community relations tour department, the Musekgon Chronicle's Mark Opferman spoke with Justin Abdelkader when he visited Grand Haven...

"I like the collection of our team. I think we have a good mix of veterans and a good mix of young guys,” Abdelkader said. “I think it’s going to be a good year. Everyone is excited moving to the Eastern Conference. It’s going to be a little different. I think everyone is excited about that, too. We’ll see a lot of new opponents and some more Original Six matchups. I think everything is positive here going forward.”

Abdelkader, a left wing, isn’t sure what line he’ll play on, but his numbers picked up when he had the chance to be paired with Pavel Datsyuk last season. In just 48 games, Abdelkader finished with a career-high 10 goals and three assists and had a plus-6 rating.

“If I get that opportunity, I’m really excited. I really enjoyed playing with Pav last year,” he said. “I kind of found how I need to play. He’s such a good player. He’s an easy guy to play with, but at the same time, I’m just trying to go out there and do my job and play my game. Be around the front of the net and be on the forecheck.  It’s a lot of fun. We’ll see what happens this year and where they put me. I’ll just try to keep building on my game and get better and build off last year.”

Miller said he saw Abdelkader’s game pick up with his line change.

“He went up and played with the big guys on our team and you saw him gain confidence and each game he was getting better and better,” Miller said. “It is something for him to build off for this season and continue to play with that confidence.”

Hugh Bernreuter posted a video interview with Cory Emmerton...

And he spoke with Jimmy Howard at the team's stop in Frankenmuth...

[F]our Red Wings answered questions, then posed for picture and exchanged high-fives with hundreds of students, ages 4 through 9.

“That was a lot of fun,” Howard said. “We stop at a lot of places, and it’s always a lot of fun to go to schools and talk to the younger fans.”

Howard, 29, revealed several secrets to the students, including his favorite color (red), favorite hockey team growing up (New York Rangers), favorite ice cream (chocolate chip), pets (two dogs, three cats).and pre-game meal (pasta, chicken, vegetables).

“Those questions are a lot harder than the ones I usually get asked,” Howard said. “I actually had to pass the microphone to one of the other guys while I thought about a question. You’re ready for the normal questions after a game, questions about power plays and saves and things like that. When you get a bunch of kids asking questions, you’re never prepared.”

In the prospect department, Brendan Savage penned an article profiling Xavier Ouellet...

"I'm a two-way defenseman," Ouellet said. "Pretty strong defensively. I can bring a little bit of offense, too. I have a good first pass. That would be my game."

Ouellet's strengths far outnumber his weaknesses, according to RedWingsCentral.com, which ranks him No. 8 on its list of prospects.

"A solid two-way blueliner ... Combination of vision and hockey sense helps him lead the breakout effectively ... Makes a great first pass but has also shown he can carry the puck up the ice when the time is right ... Doesn't make many mistakes with the puck ... Responsible in his own zone, battling for position in front and chasing loose pucks ... Excellent work ethic ... Mobile with good first-step quickness ... Has added a physical dimension and willing to drop the gloves when necessary ... Character player who wore a captain's C in junior at the young age of 18."

Indeed, Ouellet served as Blainville-Boisbriand's captain for his final two junior seasons, something else which should help him when he begins his pro hockey career.

"I had a lot of responsibility, so that's a good thing," he said. "I've always been a leader. I think I will always be. That's how I am. It's not a letter that makes me be a leader. I'm just like this. It doesn't change anything. You have to give your best every day. That's what I'll do next year."

Ouellet agrees with the Red Wings' assessment that he needs to improve his skating.

"Gotta keep getting stronger and faster," said Ouellet, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 190 pounds. "That's the main thing. If I want to play in the NHL, I have to be really explosive and strong on my feet. That's the next step. There's a lot of good (young) defensemen (in the Red Wings system). With the Red Wings right now, there are a couple of guys doing really good. It's good for all of us. There's a lot of competition. It brings out the best in all of us."

Savage also spoke with Ken Holland regarding one Daniel Cleary...

"We would have loved to have signed him back," Holland said Tuesday. "We tried to sign him prior to July 5 (and the start of free agency). We made him an offer and that moved a little bit but ultimately it wasn't anywhere near where he wanted it to be. We signed Weiss and Alfredsson and with the signing of Jimmy Howard, the cap money was gone."

Cleary, 34, will reportedly receive $2.75 million per season for three years when he's able to sign with the Flyers.

The Red Wings offered Cleary a three-year contract on July 3 that averaged slightly more than $2 million per season, but he turned it down.

...

"He's a good player," Holland said. "We liked him. He was a versatile player. He was a vocal guy in the locker room. He could play left wing, right wing and he could play with star players. Dan gave us some years of real good hockey. We want to wish him well."

Khan updated Darren Helm's status...

“I don’t think it’s in the cards right now,'' said Helm, who described his status as day-to-day. “Come down here, do my thing and see if I’m ready. I haven’t really been shown to be ready or proven to be ready yet.''

This latest setback – he hurt his groin last Friday – further delays when he can test his ailing back with physical contact.

“It’s going to be a couple of weeks where I’m not going to be able to get the physical contact or do stuff that I wanted to do,'' Helm said. “It’s kind of taken a back seat right now to this groin and (his back) feels all right right now. I've got to get (his groin) feeling good and then I’ve got to make sure my back is OK. I think we’re losing at least a week of contact and physical activity I wanted for my back at camp to get ready.''

Asked it appears he won't be ready to start the season on Oct. 2, Helm said, “I don’t know. I’m not worried about any timelines I just want to get better.''

...

“He's been off for a few days now; groins are 1-3 weeks, so we'll see in a few days,'' general manager Ken Holland said.

Helm was limited to one game last season due to lower back pain. He missed the final 10 games of the 2011-12 season due to a sprained knee. Then, in the playoff opener against Nashville, he had tendons severed in his forearm from a skate blade, ending his season.

“The way I look at it he hasn’t played in a year-and-a-half, basically,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “If we get him it’s a bonus.''

And he penned a pre-training-camp article as well:

“It's always lots of enthusiasm and interest at the beginning of the season,'' center Pavel Datsyuk said. “After rest you're just hungry about hockey. You come to Traverse City, it's a nice city, lots of fans. We have good time here.''

...

The Red Wings feel they're heading in the right direction as they shift to the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division.

“There's a lot of positive stuff that's surrounding us right now,'' Howard said. “Last year in the playoffs the young guys got a lot of experience playing in two Game 7s in hostile environments. The additions of Weisser and Alfie are really going to help. (Weiss) gives us a great No. 2 centerman. Alfie's going to be great on the power play, gives us another weapon, possibly free up Pav and Z a little more. It's an exciting time of year.''

Holland said they have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

“We finished fifth in goals against without Nicklas Lidstrom,'' Holland said. “Our optimism is based on the additions of Weiss and Alfredsson, the development of young kids, Grand Rapids winning the (AHL) championship with a lot of kids. We're a deeper organization than we were a year ago.''

The goal, Holland said, is to make the playoffs and compete for the division title in a tough group that includes Stanley Cup finalist Boston and playoff teams Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

“Any team that makes the playoffs can get hot at the right time,'' Holland said. “We've seen No. 8 seeds beat No. 1 seeds. The disparity between the 8 seed and 1 seed isn't that much.''

While I was cobbling this entry together, Khan penned an article discussing the competition for spots up front during training camp:

“In the nine years I’ve been here that was the best rookie (class) we’ve had by far,'' Babcock said. “We have 16 forwards in camp that plan on playing in the NHL, that’s too many. So the competition from within is as high a level as we’ve ever had it, which is a positive thing.''

More than 60 players will start practices and intrasquad scrimmages Thursday morning at Centre I.C.E. The preseason opener is Monday at Pittsburgh. They will break camp the next day. As always, Babcock wants to use camp to establish work ethic, rebuild structure and concentrate on the details of the game.

“It’s an individual time of year,'' Babcock said. “There will be guys (guaranteed to be) on our team, but your chunk of cheese, you better bite on it and hang on because someone else wants it. You better do that right now, so that’s your power-play time, your penalty kill time. The amount you want to play is up for grabs and over the next month we’ll get it figured out.''

...

“I just talked to Bert, he's feeling good; Sammy, no issues,'' general manager Ken Holland said. “We got 16 forwards on one-way contracts. We're going to carry 14. We're going to have to make some decisions, probably 3-4 days prior to starting the season. So we'll let this thing play itself out over the next three weeks.''

...

“Last year was last year and we made a good run at the end, but we have to re-establish things,'' Babcock said. “Are we a good team? Well, we have to start proving it right now by starting to get better each and every day. But there’s no question we have more options as a staff.''

Macomb Daily: Chuck Pleiness published an initial Cleary article...

“He’s a good player, we liked him, he was a versatile player,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “He was a vocal guy in the locker room. He could play left wing, right wing and he could play with star players.”

Cleary will attend the Flyers’ training camp on a profession tryout. The deal won’t be finalized until the end of the month or until the Flyers can clear some cap space.

“We would have loved to have signed him back,” Holland said. “We tried to sign him prior to July 5, we made him an offer and that moved a little bit but ultimately it wasn’t anywhere near where he wanted it to be.”

When Cleary rejected the Wings’ two- and three-year offers they moved on and signed Daniel Alfredsson (one year, $5.5 million) and Stephen Weiss (five years, $24.5 million) on the first day of free agency.

“The cap money was gone,” Holland said. “Dan gave us some years of real good hockey. We want to wish him well.”

Then a, "WTF?" revision...

He took note of the training camp line breakdowns...

He updated Darren Helm's status...

“It’s kind of like a groin tear, groin strain so I just can’t,” Helm said. “It’s going to be a couple of weeks where I’m not going to be able to get the physical contact or do stuff that I wanted to do. (My back has) kind of taken a backseat right now to this groin and it feels alright right now.”

Helm had just begun ramping up his workouts on and off the ice since returning from having a slightly torn disc in his back that never required surgery.

“No one has said anything about time lines or anything,” Helm said. “The groin is going to be a little bit, got to get that feeling good and then I’ve got to make sure my back is OK. I think we’re losing at least a week of contact and physical active I wanted for my back at camp to get ready.

“I’m not worried about any timelines I just want to get better,” Helm continued. “We’re doing as much as we can without aggravating either the groin or back.”

And Pleiness penned an article about Daniel Alfredsson, too:

“I’ve been around a long time,” Alfredsson said after taking his physical on Wednesday prior to the opening of training camp. “It’s still exciting, but it’s obviously a big change for me coming here.”

...

“It’s a situation where you got to prove yourself again,” Alfredsson said. “In Ottawa I knew where I was at all times pretty much. I feel like I’ve got to put my best foot forward again. I don’t think it’s that much different. If I had been in Ottawa it would have been the same thing, when you work, you put 100 percent effort into it, no matter where you are.”

Alfredsson had been the league’s longest serving captain until the move.

“It’s a great situation we’re up here for a week, no distractions, just hang out and get to know all the guys and get to know them on and off the ice,” said Alfredsson, who could also earn $2 million in bonuses this season. “Hockey locker rooms are pretty much the same everywhere you go in the world. I know a lot of the Swedish guys, I know a couple of the other guys from before. It’s different, but it’s not that different. It’s going to be exciting. This is a great hockey market, which is fantastic. They really care about the team, very supportive. It’s going to be fun to start.”

Alfredsson will be the eight Swede in Detroit’s locker room joining Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson, Gustav Nyquist and Jonas Gustavsson.

“I’ve been very welcomed here, from staff to people around town and the players as well,” said Alfredsson, who had been skating informally in Detroit with teammates for the last two weeks. “It’s going to be fun to sort out who’s going to play with whom and for myself, where I fit in. It’s going to be fun.”

Now those of us who are already up here are always told to leave the Wings alone during their physicals. So I was not at the rink today because I wasn't supposed to be. But the MSM'ers always show up, and as such, Pleiness posted videos of Weiss...

Alfredsson...

Assistant coach Tom Renney...

Coach Babcock...

And Helm speaking to the media, too:

Detroit News: Ted Kulfan first discussed Daniel Cleary's deal with the Flyers and added some notes to the mix...

Count defenseman Niklas Kronwall among the Red Wings excited about the start of training camp with new Red Wings Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss aboard.

“They’ve been around for a number of years and they add so much leadership and skill,” Kronwall said. “They add so much to a team. Those two guys are going to help our team a lot.”

Before offering this about Cleary:

There was no sign of Cleary at Centre ICE Arena as players were taking their physicals. Holland and Babcock met with the media, but there was no mention of Cleary.

...

Internet speculation began Cleary may have better offers elsewhere. But Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren told Philadelphia reporters later in the afternoon he expects Cleary to be in Flyers camp Thursday when it opens.

Cleary isn't responding to reporters' texts or calls.

The Detroit News's Candice Williams took note of the community tours, and the Detroit News posted a video of Pavel Datsyuk driving with the Michigan State Police...

The Red Wings posted a non-embeddable video regarding the MSP visit, too, but their YouTube channel posted it as well:

And he penned a "state of the Wings" training camp intro...

“I’m excited,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said as the Red Wings begin training camp today with physicals before taking the ice Thursday. “With the additions we made over the summer, and the fact all the young guys earned so much valuable experience last season, we’ll be better off.”

The signing of free agent forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss strengthened the team’s offensive punch. And, forward Pavel Datsyuk signed a three-year extension, smashing any speculation he’d finish his career in Russia.

Plus, the experience gained from last season’s playoff run which ended in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Blackhawks, should provide a confidence boost.

“Especially in the stretch run last season and in the playoffs, every game meant so much,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “The young guys gained a lot of experience, playing in two Game 7s in the playoffs and holding their own. It’s something to be optimistic about. I can’t wait to get training camp over with and get to Oct. 2 (the start of the season).”

As well as a slate of "questions" to be answered...

Kulfan offered a slate of Wednesday afternoon notes, too:

"We can't get hung up on last year," coach Mike Babcock said. "Last year was last year. You had a good run at the end, but we have to re-establish things.Are we a good team? We have to prove that each and every day. That's our focus."

Babcock likes the depth of this team, especially after the addition of free agent forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Competition, particularly for jobs up front, will be fierce. The Red Wings have 16 forwards and plan on keeping 14.

"We're going to have to make decisions, but those decisions probably won't be made until three or four days prior to us starting the season," general manager Ken Holland said. "We'll let this play itself out for the next three weeks."

...

The start of this season doesn't compare at all to last season for Patrick Eaves. A combination of the lockout and lingering concussion concerns made for uncertainty for Eaves, who did get cleared just in time for a quick training camp. This season, there's obviously no lockout issue and Eaves, after going through an entire shortened season injury-free, is completely healthy.

"You can't even compare," said Eaves of the two seasons.

Eaves is among the forwards fighting for their jobs, but he's looking forward to it.

"It's always good to have competition," Eaves said. "That's why we play the game. Everybody wants to compete, and it's great that we're starting up here."

Detroit Free Press: Via RedWingsFeed, the Free Press offers an update on Daniel Cleary's status...

The Daily News said Cleary did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Helene St. James had snagged player and GM comments about Cleary's departure....

“It’s sad to see him leave,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Still hasn’t sunk in yet. He has been a huge part of our team for many years. Not only on the ice but a big presence in the room as well. A great guy, and he will be missed, big time.”

Todd Bertuzzi, who hit it off with Cleary after joining Detroit in 2007, said losing him “stinks.”

Ultimately it came down to numbers. The Wings couldn’t crunch them in Cleary’s favor.

"I'm a big Dan Cleary fan," general manager Ken Holland said today. "I think he really grew into a real solid NHL player in Detroit. He was a good leader. We tried to re-sign him."

Cleary, 34, agreed to a three-year, $8.25-million deal. He can't yet be signed by the Flyers because they are $2 million over the salary cap. However, they'll get cap relief when defenseman Chris Pronger's $5-million salary gets put on long-term injured reserve, and they also could make a move.

Cleary also had significant interest from the Florida Panthers and San Jose. He remained in talks with the Wings until late Monday, but when the Wings couldn’t match the Flyers, the decision was made. He told the Free Press Monday, “I’m off to Philly,” but he didn’t want to make any further comments.

And she offered the following on Wednesday morning:

Cleary’s teammates and coach, Mike Babcock, were all rooting for for a deal to materialize. Cleary was the team’s second-leading scorer in the playoffs, and their leading scorer in the Chicago series. In the locker room, he was an irascible presence and a leader.

She penned a story about Jordin Tootoo...

“Every year is a tryout camp for me,” Tootoo said. “That’s how I take it mentally. Just have to prepare myself mentally every day to be the best that I could because there’s hundreds of other guys that would rather be in your spot. So, I’m coming into camp with the mindset of fighting for a spot on the team.”

The Wings are taking 16 NHL-ready forwards to camp, though Darren Helm already is nursing a groin injury and isn’t expected to join teammates on the ice until next week. Tootoo is up for a role in the bottom six, as a winger. Given how much talent the Wings have, Tootoo could find himself on a crowded fourth line.

Tootoo, 30, said he worked on a few things over the summer, but he didn’t want to go into details: “I did everything I could to make sure I gave myself every opportunity to make this team.”

And I posted the Wings' training camp teams/lines, and St. James did some tea-leaf reading:

The Detroit Red Wings start training camp Thursday and have been split into three teams for the next few days.

No big surprises — Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are together, with Justin Abdelkader as the right wing. Stephen Weiss is between Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson.

Darren Helm is nursing a sore groin and is out of the mix. That has put the early third line as Joakim Andersson with Gustav Nyquist and Todd Bertuzzi. The fourth line features Cory Emmerton with Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves.

That leaves Jordin Tootoo, Tomas Tatar and Mikael Samuelsson as the odd men out, for now.

Windsor Star: Bob Duff posited a feature article about Daniel Alfredsson which is accompanied by a photo gallery...

“It’s different,” Alfredsson said, laughing somewhat uncomfortably over the need to find a new comfort zone after so many years in Ottawa. I’ve been in one spot for a long time. It’s exciting for me to come to a new organization, a new team, and try something else.”

In terms of mere numbers, it’s easier to decipher why the Wings would want Alfredsson. There are his 426 NHL goals, his 1,108 points, and his 13 seasons of 20 or more goals. Adding up what Alfredsson brings to Detroit’s mix is about vastly more than simple digits, though.

“He’s been playing in the league for 17 years and a captain for 13 years,” Zetterberg said. “That’s a lot of experience. There’s the skill factor he has with the puck, and he skates very well. He’s a right-hander and that’s something that’s always nice to have on the power play. He’s been playing as a D-man on the power play for many years, so it’s a perfect fit for us.”

Detroit coach Mike Babcock also pointed to Alfredsson’s experience factor, noting it’s another well he can tap into in terms of intelligence on other teams, especially considering Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference this season.

“He’s been in the league a long time,” Babcock said. “He knows how to play. He’s real comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t mind talking to you. Even when we meet with him on the power play, it’s not going to be us telling him, it’s going to be him telling us. We already know what we know. What does he know? Let’s gather the information from him. That’s what you do with veteran players, good players.”

Toronto Sun: Mike Zeisberger appears to be up here in Traverse City to follow Alfredsson, and he took note of the Wings' near-awe in being able to sign #11...

"When I first heard it, I don't know if I thought so much about adding another Swede. It was more like about adding Alfie," Kronwall said. "I didn't really think it was true to start with when I first heard it, to be honest. I had to hear it from a few different sources to really believe it. He's a guy that's been around for so many years and had a great career. For him to break away from Ottawa and choose to come here says a lot about what he wants to do. Hopefully we can help each other out. We all want to win."

Zeisberger noted that Alfredsson's looking forward to playing alongside Johan Franzen...

“(Franzen) is a guy with a big body, strong, strong on the puck,” Alfredsson said. “Great deceptive shot. Good vision. He’s a guy that can make things happen in front of the net. Great balance. Seems to find a lot of loose pucks as well. He’s a guy you try to beat your man into the corner and then find him in the slot.”

Zeisberger asked Babcock and Renney about Alfredsson "fitting in"...

“I’m excited to see him. I’ve seen him for a bit. He’s a veteran player that has a real good chance to help us. The thing that exictes me is that we improved our team a ton last year. Since '09 our team had progressively gotten worse even though we still were getting a ton of points. Last year we got going in the right direction again. In the nine years I’ve been here, that’s the best rookie (crop) we’ve ever had by far. That’s exciting, especially with the off-season additions (Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss) we’ve made.” - Head coach Mike Babcock

“From my point of view, he’s a great player. We’ll see how this works out for him this year. He’s an outstanding leader primarily because he plays the game the way it should be played. You don’t get a 'C' on your jersey because you take shortcuts or without the primary commitment. It will be really interesting and exciting to see how he adapts to the Red Wings program. We have a lot of great talent here. We do a lot of things by committee. Our talented players are very aware that there are five guys on the ice and that they all have to be connected. I think Alfie will really enjoy that.” - Assistant coach Tom Renney

And Zeisberger spoke with Alfredsson about Ottawa Senators fans' high likelihood of greeting him with a chorus of boos when he returns to Ottawa on December 1st:

"I've thought about returning to Ottawa for that game a little bit," Alfredsson admitted Wednesday in a one-on-one interview with QMI Agency. "In the end, people deserve to do what they think is right. I'm going to cherish that night, no matter what happens. It's a night I'm going to look forward to. So many great memories in that building and this will be another one I'll always remember when it comes around."

Even if the anti-Alfie sentiment becomes ugly at times?

"People will judge, no matter what I think," Alfredsson said. "They will judge me on what they think I've done. That's definitely their right. I'm fine with whatever way that goes. Either scenario isn't going to change my feelings for the city and the people of Ottawa. It's going to be a night I'll remember."

As for his adaptation to being part of the Wings and living in Metro Detroit...

"It's been a lot on my plate the past month. But it's been exciting. I believe change is good at times to challenge yourself. We're challenging ourselves as a family. The people in Detroit have been great to me and so has the organization, helping me out however they can. I've been able to find a house, which we'll be able to move into next week. Got the kids in school, got the kids in sports, everything slowly is getting into the normal routine. It's been fun and challenging."

And some other "burning" questions...

Michigan Hockey: Michigan Hockey posted photo galleries of the Wings' community relations tour stops in Grand Haven and Lansing, as well as a photo gallery from the prospect tournament championship game, and their new issue is available to read online...

Grand Rapids Griffins: The Griffins confirmed that they've signed Kevin Lynch to an AHL-only contract, and the Griffins clarified when they're going to split from the Red Wings to conduct their own training camp:

The Griffins will commence their own training camp in Grand Rapids on Monday, Sept. 23, with practice times and locations yet to be announced, before playing a pair of neutral-site preseason games against the Lake Erie Monsters. Grand Rapids will first battle the Monsters on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Mich., home of the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers, before squaring off again on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 7:05 p.m. at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, home to the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires.

The 2013 Calder Cup champions will commence the AHL’s regular season and begin defense of their title on Fri. Oct. 4 in Rochester, the first of three straight road games to start the season. The Griffins will then raise their championship banner prior to hosting the Milwaukee Admirals on Fri., Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.

The Left Wing Lock: Sarah Lindenau wrote an article about Jared Coreau...

Jared Coreau has come a long way since being called a ‘stylistic mess’ by the Red Line Report. The 6-foot-5, 207 pound goalie has worked tirelessly with his goalie coach to improve his game and get ready for the next level.

“I think that comment was mostly referring to my game in tight,” he explained. “They say big guys have big holes so I was really opening up and making snow angels. My goalie coach in Ottawa and the coaches I have had throughout the years have worked with me on being compact and staying tight.”

The hard work paid off for Coreau who posted significantly better numbers in his final two seasons with Northern Michigan University. In 38 NCAA games last year, the undrafted free agent netminder had a 2.70 goals against and a.919 save percentage while showing he could be take on increased workload and play consistently. His efforts were rewarded with NHL contract offers from at least seven teams including the Red Wings.

“I had offers from other teams, but the Red Wings are an original six team,” he said. “The history is extremely rich and it goes pretty deep. They develop their players and I know I am a project and I need a lot of work.”

My Fox Detroit: WJBK posted a video from the Wings' charity golf outing...

 

Out-of-town press: The Canadian Press took note of Daniel Alfredsson's absence from the Senators' training camp...

"It will be a change without having Alfie around, but like I said earlier we expected him to sort of be near the end so it's not a huge shock for us not to have him here," forward Jason Spezza. "We thought it would be because he was retiring and not moving to another team, but we knew eventually the void would have to be filled."

Alfredsson's departure was one of the main talking points as players took part in physicals and fitness testing on Wednesday.

"It's been talked about so much and I know I've talked about it so much that it doesn't really seem like today has any impact on him not being here," Spezza said. "It will be different a little bit, but in hockey you're used to guys moving on and having lots of change."

As Paul noted, TSN posted a Red Wings team preview...

The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Red Wings' performance after a shortened season?

The Red Wings found themselves having to scratch to make the post-season after 48 games so they will need some younger legs in the lineup to stretch out to the 82-game mark. Look for some of that Grand Rapids talent to make the jump to fill some ice time for 35-and-overs like Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Samuelsson, and Todd Bertuzzi.

On the Books – What off-season moves did the Wings make to get themselves back in cap shape?

According to Capgeek.com, the Red Wings are already at the salary cap of $64.3 million, which is why players like Brunner and Cleary became the odd men out in Detroit.

Headliners Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Alfredsson and Weiss all check in at cap hits of about $5 million or more. If the Red Wings want to bring in any more talent they are going to have to ship out an equal amount of salary to make it happen.

Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Wings after realignment. After years of lobbying, realignment has allowed the Red Wings to finally return eastward for the first time since 1981.

Gone are Detroit’s frequent trips to the West Coast and the club should benefit from limited trips outside their time zone. The Red Wings lose long-standing division rivalries with Chicago and St. Louis but will settle easily for Original Six rivals Toronto and Montreal.

Detroit was frequently a challenger for the Western Conference crown alongside strong teams like the Blackhawks and Canucks and should find themselves in a comparable spot in the East alongside elite clubs like the Bruins and Penguins.

As did Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski...

Gold medal: Pavel Datsyuk. The KHL coveted him, but he re-signed with Detroit for three years. From his highlight reel moves to his defensive domination, Datsyuk is made of magic.

Silver medal: The Red Wings braintrust. Babcock is one of the NHL’s elite coaches, if not it’s best. Holland is reloading the team without sacrificing the future. Sure, there might be some concern about the front office after Jim Nill bolted for Dallas, but the Wings remain in good hands.

Bronze medal: Jimmy Howard. Rumors that he’d be exposed post-Lidstrom were greatly exaggerated.

Potential disqualification: The pitfalls on defense. Brendan Smith was a liability in the playoffs, Kyle Quincey can be inconsistent and one hopes that DeKeyser doesn’t regress at all in Year 2.

Closing Ceremonies: The Detroit Red Wings will be in the top four in the Atlantic Division, battling the Boston Bruins for the top spot. Finally, a geographically friendly schedule for the veteran team – let’s see what the Winged Wheel is able to accomplish in the East. And remember: The better the Wings do, the more we'll have to hear about how they're the heart and soul of a city in despair, trying to lift up Detroit with their championship aspirations. Act accordingly.

And NHL.com's John Kreiser believes that Jimmy Howard is "on the hot seat":

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings -- Detroit's four Stanley Cups from 1997-2008 were won without relying on a goaltender to stand on his head; the Red Wings' puck-possession game and deep roster were the keys to victory. But times have changed, and management has made a major financial commitment to Howard, who's the unquestioned starter and key to Detroit's success. He was among the NHL's best last season with a 2.13 goals-against average and a save percentage of .923, then helped Detroit upset the Anaheim Ducks and nearly do the same to the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs. He has to play to that level again for the Red Wings to get back to the postseason.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

d ca's avatar

George,

Nice summaries but missed the biggest bit of hockey news that I saw today…

spin-o-rama move in the shootout to stay legal as NHLPA rejects league’s proposal

Bert just gained even more worth on the roster..

Posted by d ca on 09/11/13 at 08:30 PM ET

Primis's avatar

As time goes on and more and more talk about Alfredsson, I become even more convinced Weiss succeeding is far, far more important to the Wings.  Some previews are even forgetting to mention Weiss entirely, and that’s stupid.

Seriously, having a legit #2 center is way more important.  And Since Alfie is undoubtedly probably a 2nd line winger tops at this stage in his career, I don’t see how he’s more important.  If Weiss can keep Z playing with Pav, jackpot.

Posted by Primis on 09/11/13 at 10:25 PM ET

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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.