The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/11/13 at 12:52 PM ET
Okey dokey, I managed to post the audio from this morning's media availability at the day 2 of the Red Wings' summer development camp, at which Team Yzerman took part in on-ice drills and Team Lidstrom worked out off the ice. The roles will be reversed this afternoon.
Amongst the Tweets from other folks who took in the proceedings (and Sarah Lindenau has already posted a morning gallery):
I'm not supposed to tell you that, but I will have more this afternoon.
Lindenau posted a Jeff Blashill interview from Traverse City's Vic McCarty, albeit from a couple weeks ago, too.
As many players say, starting to prepare for a game involves eating well and resting well the night before the game, never mind the day of it. Tomas Holmstrom of all people mentioned that players can't get away with eating fast food or pizza like he and Chelios did when I spoke to him on Wednesday, and as Jeff Blashill said today, these players are on their own for the first time in their lives in so many instances, and we forget that not all of them know how to cook for themselves.
Regarding Helm: yes, he still looks tentative, yes, he looks nervous, yes, when I asked him about his golf game and he said that he hadn't swung a club in two years, and I gave him the, "Golf is a good walk spoiled" line, he responded with a nervous laugh after trying to figure out what the hell that meant.
Helm is on his own, literally and figuratively, taking part in skill drills but not the strength and conditioning sessions, and he's quite honestly ducking the media when at all possible--understandably so as my, "How's your golf game?" was an attempt to lighten the, "How's your back? How about now? How about NOW?" mood...
But even in terms of skill drills, Helm is so far advanced in terms of his techniques and facing so little pressure to do anything other than get his legs back under him that it can be borderline comical to see him "Smith" his way through drills (if you recall previous years, Brendan Smith was blessed with so much natural talent that he "hot-dogged" his way through drills instead of getting them done correctly). Even at perhaps 50% instead of 80%, he just doesn't have to work very hard to out-skate his teammates, he picks up drills faster and he sort of fades in and out of view as he's on the ice for some but not others.
Darren Helm, ghost from a Scooby Doo show.
Sipple filed a story about Helm while I was writing this:
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said, because Helm hasn’t been skating recently, “we’re moving in baby steps the first couple of days.”
Helm told reporters Wednesday that he won’t participate in Friday’s scrimmage. The Wings are giving their prospects Saturday off. The camp ends with morning and afternoon sessions Sunday and Monday.
“Sunday and Monday, he’s going to go harder, longer,” Holland said.
Holland said Helm will be involved in some contact drills before the camp ends.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s got a history, for the last six months, and he’s obviously been working out off the ice,” Holland said. “There’s more at stake.”
Holland said the hope is that Helm doesn’t have any setbacks and continues to increase his training workload before the start of training camp.
“I’m hoping that, the first day of training camp in September, he’s in the scrimmage,” Holland said. “Obviously, if he’s not in the scrimmage, it’s not good.”
Otherwise, as I stated in the morning audio post, this is a...strange camp.
Between the fact that 39% of the players are returnees, down from a number that was in the 60's...
Given the fact that most of these camps last 8-10 days, but this only involves four days of two-a-day sessions--interspersed by a scrimmage and a full "off-day" for training camp ticket sales (the players are going on a field trip Saturday)--thanks to the lockout, and given that the time the players are spending with Tomas Stom and Andy Weidenbach is down from 45 minutes apiece to about 20, and given that Blashill's practices are 50 minutes at most, stretching and water breaks included...
To some extent, the players are learning more in a shorter period of time, mimicking both game situations and the kind of short-duration, high-tempo practices that Blashill holds in Grand Rapids and Babcock holds in Detroit.
To some extent, the off-ice stuff is even more important than the on-ice activities, and that's true to the point that the Wings had the players speak to a nutritionist and literally make them cook their own dinners on Wednesday evening as "fueling the machine" tends to get away from 18-to-22-year-olds who are living on their own for the first time.
But there may be an argument that this is something of a crash course, and that some of the subtleties involved in a longer and more involved camp full of longer and more involved sessions of skill development have been lost.
In terms of my observations, that's certainly the case. We're talking about a third less practice time over a third fewer days than usual, and it's frustrating to have to try to figure out what the hell so-and-so plays like when you're used to seeing these players for 20 hours and you end up getting 12.
In any case, today's team consisted of Helm and the rest of Team Yzerman, but not Jared Coreau:
#43 Darren Helm
#67 Rasmus Bodin
#80 Dean Chelios
#42 Martin Frk
#63 Phillipe Hudon
#64 David Pope
#76 Ty Loney
#73 Brody Silk
#39 Anthony Mantha
#62 Zach Nastasiuk
#86 Dominik Shine
#47 Alexei Marchenko
#77 Richard Nedomlel
#48 Ryan Sproul
#79 Ildar Telyakov
#28 Trevor Hamilton
#68 Jake Paterson
#34 Andrew D'Agostini
The team began their day with most of the coaches on the ice--Jim Bedard, his assistant coach(?), Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, assistant coach Spiros Anastos, assistant coach Jim Paek, Wings video coordinator Keith McKittrick, Chris Chelios and Tomas Holmstrom are all taking part, and skill development coach Tomas Storm and power skating coach Andy Weidenbach took charge during their sessions with the players, too--and they got down to business just before 8 AM.
Tomas Storm took the "red" team (Nedomlel, Frk, Telyakov, Bodin, Chelios, Mantha, Sproul) to the north end of the ice for skill drills, and and goaltenders Jake Paterson, Andrew D'Agostini and the "white" team headed down to the south end of the rink to warm up the goalies with Jim Bedard.
The players spent about 15 minutes with Bedard and 15 with Storm, with the "reds" and "whites" switching ends at the halfway point. The Storm drills repeated for the skaters, but the shooting drills became more and more complex.
Storm had brought his trademark tires and engaged his charges in the following adventures:
- Stickhandling with the puck directly in front of the players' bodies as they skated across the blueline;
- Stickhandling from the player's extent of their forehand reach to their backhand reach, and back, as they skated in two lines, first across the blueline and then through the tops of the faceoff circles;
- Then extending beyond their "natural" reach while stickhandling past tires spaced just a wee bit further out than the average player's wingspan;
- Adding a cross-over skating stride and tucking one's top hand into their upper body as they stickhandled;
- Then skating through a sort of 7-shaped set of tires, with the top of the 7 at the bluelines, as they skated first across the blueline and around the first tire, and then backwards to the second tire, and then forward to the third, where they shot on net (against a "shooter tuitor);
- Storm then asked players to skate in straight lines in 2 lanes from blueline to goal line, dropping to one knee...
- Dropping to one knee and then the other, repeatedly, all while stickhandling with the puck in front of the center of their mass;
- And then dropping to both knees and hopping back up;
- Back to the tires: go forehand to the first, backhand to the second, forehand to the third and backhand to the fourth tire, or vice versa;
- Spinning around the "L" part of the "7" tires, taking the puck at an extent-of-reach forehand position to tire #3 and extent-of-reach backhand to tire #4 before shooting on the net.
At the other end of the ice, the goalie drills were a little less subtle.
- Goalies first took shots from players receiving "passes" from coaches near the right half boards, and then the left;
- Goalies facing shots from players who shot from one side or the other of a stick laid horizontally 10 feet from the blueline (parallel to the blueline);
- Something of a "triangle" drill in which Bedard would pass the puck from the high slot to McKittrick at the goal line near either the goalie's blocker or glove side, with the player taking the puck from behind the net and skating out to a near-the-edge-of-the-crease area marked by a stick and a hockey glove, and taking a shot--all while the goalies had to track the puck and adjust their positioning accordingly;
- And eventually, while the goalies skated out to the top of the crease, went post-to-post, and THEN had to track the puck as it moved around the triangle;
- Players taking a pass from the low boards on the left or right wing near the goal line, skating out to the blueline, walking across the blueline horizontally and then firing a diagonal pass to a shooter at the left or right faceoff circle, ensuring that players who were accepting passes on the blueline had to receive them on their backhand half the time;
- "Triangle" drills in which the goaltenders had to come out to their blocker and then their glove side to face shots specifically aimed at those parts of their body.
After a water break 25 minutes in, the goaltenders were separated from the skaters so that Andy Weidenbach could give the players a set of power skating drills.
The skaters were my focus at the time, but I can best describe their work with Bedard and McKittrick to involve "edge work" of their own.
The goaltenders engaged in some T-pushes, pushing from side to side, but more regularly, they were asked to skitter from the faceoff dot up to its edges in a V or even a W pattern, dropping to one or both knees at the perimeter of the faceoff circle, and then coming back to their "center" position at the dot, where they would also be required to kick out a leg or drop to their butterfly.
That's a simple summary of a much more complicated set of drills, but V's, W's, a V bisected by an I, various permutations of drop-and-recover or skate-and-drop-and-face-the-top-of-the-w-and-recover, skate to the top and drop and recover and skitter back drills, all of it emphasizes skating, recovery and keeping one's body following one's head to some extent.
When Andy Weidenbach took over, the skaters took part in most of the following (generally skating from the far blueline to the goal line and sometimes back):
- 3 lines' worth of players skating with their arms all but flailing in long strides, empahsizing letting the "upper body" help propel the lower body;
- "C" cuts, as illustrated by Jiri Fischer, where the skaters push out their right or left leg in a "C" shape, first with the left leg, then with the right leg, then both legs, emphasizing keeping the upper body centered;
- "Slithers" where the players kept their legs together and "swished" their legs back and forth under them to propel them up the ice;
- 3-turn drills in which the skaters would glide toward center ice, spin to the left, glide to the blueline, spin to the left, and glide to the half boards and spin to the left before reaching the far goal line--and then repeating the process with right (clockwise) spins;
- At one point, Weidenbach pointed out that one's skate pointing outward during a turn (i.e. left skate during a clockwise turn, right skate counter-clockwise) can help push your body, and Fischer pointed out that when one's stick is one the ice, shoulders tend to level themselves out.
- That prepared the players for a new "edework" drill that I hadn't seen, where the three lines of players skated up ice in a big serpentine "S," with Fischer telling the players that when they came out of the "curves," they had to keep their torsos bent over as they were popping up and losing momentum with herky-jerky strides;
- The skaters then did a literal skate-to-a-spot-and-twirl, skate-to-a-spot-and-twirl, skate-to-a-spot-and-twirl drill, tucking one skate underneath their bodies like figure skaters;
- Weidenbach then added some of Storm's tires to the mix, asking the players to spin clockwise at the first tire, counterclockwise at the second tire and clockwise at the third tire, and the reverse was done as well;
- Then they faced first tires and then cones as they spun around them, keeping their bodies pointed at the obstacle around which they were skating as they circled it and then skated to the next spot (red line, blueline, half boards);
- Add in some backwards skating and you've got Weidenbach's drills done.
After a water and Zamboni break, Jeff Blashill took over.
- The players stretched, started off with some 2-on-0 drills skating in a big "S" from, say, the left side goal line all the way to the opposite "left side goal line," either going up the left wing or right wing.
- Then they added a third man as a "shadow" presenting "backside pressure";
- A full-ice drill was set up with three forwards skating against two defensemen, all the way "forward" to the right or left side of the ice, with a d-to-d and then d-to-f pass involved and forwards having to sprint back to their repositories along the goal line while the defensemen skated back to a group of defensemen standing at center ice;
- Then the nets were brought onto the side boards of the north end of the rink, and the players engaged in 5-on-5 "road hockey" games in which one team could do all it wanted to score and the other team had to "clear" the puck to the coaches near the blueline to regain possession, with Blashill emphasizing both competition for pucks and stick positioning, all while Blashill kept score.
And then things got wacky.
After the "road hockey" game ended, the "red" and "white" forwards were separated (and they changed "sides" halfway through)
- The forwards who worked through the neutral zone--where two nets were placed at the red lines--were asked to send shots in on their teammate, who would tip the puck down against an open net on one side and the "shooter tuitor" at the other. This was eventually assisted by Blashill and Anastos trying to cross-check players' backs;
- At the south end of the ice, Chris Chelios had defensemen accept passes from the half boards, the slot, or down low, and they would have to adjust their blueline positioning accordingly before either ripping a shot on a goaltender back in a traditionally-placed net or they had to walk laterally across the blueline or a stick placed paralell to the blueline before shooting. The defensemen were also involed in starting the play to the "shooter," so everyone was in motion;
- And at the north end of the ice, Tomas Holmstrom had 4 skaters pass the puck around the perimeter and either dump pucks wide for a net-front forward to retrieve and then fire the puck at the forward as he attempted to screen the goaltender.
- Holmstrom alternated the drill to involve plays originating off the half boards, going side-to-side down low, or receiving a pass from a coach in one corner and attempting to push it back to a blueliner, or in some cases, a high shooter.
The three drills were happening simultaneously, and it was incredibly, incredibly hard to keep up with.
For those in the stands, and the players, too. They did seem a wee bit sleepy thanks to their 8 AM start and they really did struggle with some of the drills because they were explained SO very quickly and then SO very quickly executed. There was no time to mentally recharge or refocus--next drill, next drill, iteration, iteration, go go go...
And I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Especially given that there's a scrimmage tomorrow, an off-day on Saturday, a full two-a-day on Sunday, and then an abbreviated last day's worth of practicing on Monday.
To some extent, the Wings are asking their players to absorb more info over a shorter period of time than at any previously-held summer development camp. It's almost like taking a taste of fifteen foods at a Dim Sum restaurant instead of having a full meal...
And that can be good, or it can fill up your brain with stuff that you may or may not have fully understood because you went through it all so very quickly.
The lockout is partially to blame for this, the Griffins' long playoff run is partially to blame for this, and the format is very different becasue the personnel both taking part in the drills and the personnel administering the drills are trying a completely new approach.
Is it going to stick better or worse than instruction spread out over a longer period of time and over more days and consecutive "learning" days?
I don't know, but I hope this "full immersion" process works for the players involved. After all, this is as much about challenging them mentally and physically as it is anything else, and this year they are being driven to the edge of their brains' performance envelopes like never before.
I had hoped to post some player observations but I cannot do so as writing this took me from a little before noon till just before the second practice, so I'll get some evaluations down later, and I will try to be briefer today per requests.
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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.