The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/10/13 at 05:30 PM ET
Updated 4x at 7:25 PM: My apologies for the lateness of this entry: somewhere in the middle of writing my evening report, the concourse at Centre Ice Arena began to fill with day hockey campers, and somewhere between the thirtieth and fortieth time I heard some song about Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and whose fault something was, captain fuzzy bear decided that he ought to go shopping for provisions and a longer extension cord lest he get agimitated.
In any case, I posited a boatload of interviews from day 1 of the Red Wings' development camp, but those who are better at transcribing took note of Darren Helm's comments about his health, including Michigan Hockey's Nick Barnowski, who spoke with Helm regarding his fitness level...
“It was a good first day,” Helm said. “I haven’t skated in two months and I think it was a good start.”
The plan is for him to skate at each of the camp’s practices, which run from today until July 15. He will not participate in Friday’s scrimmage.
“Nothing really bothered me,” he said. “I’m pretty happy after the way things worked today. I was nervous to get out there and see how I was going to do.”
Despite the talk of progress, Red Wings coaches will be taking it easy as far as Helm’s role on the ice. The six-year NHL veteran understands that going all out won’t solve anything.
“I didn’t put my head down or really go after it,” he said. “I just wanted to give it a good test today, to go at 70 or 80 percent. The plan for the rest of the week is to slowly work that up and the main goal is to get out and feel great and go home.”
It was a large step forward for Helm, who has been concentrating on rehabbing off the ice. After the playoffs ended when Detroit was eliminated by Chicago, he spent a week and a half at home, which he called a “good mental reset.” Injuries, notably this one and the torn tendons in his wrist he suffered from during the 2012 playoffs, have been sources of frustration for Helm, but he is trying to stay optimistic.
“It gives me confidence going throughout my summer and my training,” Helm said. “It gives me confidence to start skating more, pushing harder, working out with heavier weights, and that’s what I wanted to do when I came down here, see if I can take that next step.”
The Free Press's George Sipple, who duly noted that the origin of Helm's back issues remain a mystery...
Helm never has gotten a definitive answer about why his back pain has lingered for so long.
“There’s a few things that it could have been, could have added up to all this,” Helm said. “I don’t know if there’s an exact reason why this has happened. I’ve been to a few doctors that say you don’t always find out what the real reason for back pain is.”
Helm has continued with his rehab. He is working with weights again and hopes to continue getting stronger in preparation for Wings training camp. He was far from his fastest today, and for good reason.
That next step will not include taking big hits from a rising prospect. Helm wasn’t anticipating playing in a two-hour scrimmage scheduled for Friday.
“I don't think I'll take part in the scrimmage,” Helm said. “We'll see what happens Thursday. I've been off for two months, no point getting out there and start hitting at this point of the summer. It would be stupid.”
And that Helm was at least bemused by all of the attention...
Helm has talked about the frustration he felt at various points in the past year. For the most part, he was smiling while talking to reporters today.
When a reporter mentioned that he was smiling, Helm said: “You guys haven't seen one of these on my face in awhile. I'm feeling good and can't help but be excited.”
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner also noted that Helm must be feeling tremendous pressure to return given the comments that Mike Babcock and Ken Holland have made about his importance to the team:
“I put more pressure on myself to wanting to get back, to get playing,” said Helm. “I don’t know if there was that pressure (from the Wings). I definitely put pressure on myself last year to get back for at least the playoffs and that’s when I was getting kind of frustrated.”
Essentially, Helm missed all of last season. He played in just one game, spending the rest of the year on the sideline with his mysteriously damaged back. As frustrated as he has been, Helm realizes that he has to take it slowly.
“After my last setback, we decided that we were going to do it this way by taking extra time,” said Helm. “I’m just hoping that this extra time is the one (treatment) that does it. I might have put some pressure previously to rush back ... not rush back because I did feel good, but things didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. It’s gotta work out this time.”
It’s apparent that Helm desperately wants to be part of the Wings' lineup. He has been diligent during this rehab process even if it meant just resting for two months doing nothing. He has reached out to Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has suffered from back problems for years, and Zetterberg has helped Helm realize that the back is a tricky thing.
“Z always tells me that the hardest part is trying to find that line of whether it hurts or if it’s getting better, good pain or bad pain,” said Helm. “I’m still not a hundred percent sure where that is.”
For now, as Helm tries to figure out where his back is, he’ll remain positive and not take any contact during the Wings five-day Skill and Development Camp.
“I’m excited the way the first day went and I’m excited to see how the rest of the week goes,” said Helm.
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose managed to speak with Helm away from the scrum, via phone:
While staying away from the rink for nearly two months has obviously given Helm time to rest the injury, a recent return to his Winnipeg home also lifted his spirit and strengthened his mental outlook.
“At the end of the year nothing was happening. It felt like every day someone was asking me how I was doing,” Helm said. “I’d just tell them that I really didn't feel like talking about it. I still don't love talking about it, but I got to go home for a week. It was good to get home and hit the reset button and get my head back to where it needed to be. It was a long, frustrating year for me. Just to get those 10 days at home were nice. Now I'm ready to get back at it, get back on the ice. I feel a lot more positive with things, so I'm excited.”
Helm’s plan is to remain cautious during drills this week in Traverse City, as his primary goal is to be ready for the club’s main training camp in September. And it’s there that he’s looking forward to meeting Red Wings’ newcomers Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss – both agreed to free agent contracts with Detroit last Friday.
“I don’t know too much about playing against them with them in the East and us having been in the West,” Helm said. “You rarely ever see those guys so I don’t know what they’re like to play against, or with. It will be very exciting to get on the ice with them. Obviously, Alfredsson has been around for a long time. He’s a great player and you’d have to kind of living under a rock if you don’t know of him. I don’t really know too much about Weiss. He’s a good player and will work hard and battle. It’s going to be exciting to have both of them as additions.”
While he’s anxious to meet his new teammates, Helm was bummed to learn that Valtteri Filppula moved on, and Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner might not return.
“You never want to see guys leave and it’s too bad that things didn’t work out with us and Fil,” he said. “You become family and it’s kind of rare for my short period of time in Detroit to see players that have been in the organization and brought up and played having to leave. He was a great teammate, great friend and great leader on a great team. As far as the other guys, we don’t know what’s going to happen to them yet, so you don’t want to say too much about it. It would be tough to lose anybody, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Otherwise...The Free Press's Sipple offers more on Twitter...
I promise that I'll figure out how to Tweet photos from my phone tonight, because Sipple's got it down:
Hooked on Hockey Magazine's Kevin Sporka also Tweeted the heck out of the quips and quotes he received:
Lindenau does things differently, and that's a good thing as she gets insights that some of us don't...
I felt guilty following the pack today. VERY guilty. Especially in terms of missing the first sate for team Lidstrom, Nick Jensen's fight with Tyler Bertuzzi included.
But I assumed that you wanted to hear from Helm, and in all honesty, I needed to see him and hear his words for myself.
That's when you have to make hard decisions regarding the people you're covering versus yourself, and I'm sorry, but I knew that he'd be allowed to scoot from scrums because there's no point in subjecting him to, "How's your back?" questions every damn day, so Lindenau got the good scuttlebutt:
And then there was the fight...
I got into the locker room late for the sake of talking to Tomas Holmstrom (sorry, idol-worship in progress), so I missed Tyler Bertuzzi speaking to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan and Nick, stating that he cross-checked Jensen and asked him to fight, but he certainly looks the Andrew Shaw-style player's role, with a mullet and a significant amount of tattoos for an 18-year-old...
And I did at least hear what Jensen offered the media. Jensen kept saying that they were blessed to have the opportunity to be where they are and that these things just happen occasionally. I translated that as, "I think I'll lean on my faith to not say, 'That little rat bastard,'" but that's just my theory.
And let's see if these work:
I adored this, from WOOD TV8's Larry Figurski:
In "out-of-town" prospect news, if you will: The Kalamazoo Gazette's David Drew found out why Mike McKee, who will be heading to Western Michigan University this fall, is not participating in the Wings' development camp...
Freshman Mike McKee (D), Detroit Red Wings. The incoming blueliner was invited to Detroit's camp, but according to [WMU coach Andy] Murray he had minor surgery on his hand and did not make the trip to Traverse City. Murray said McKee will be ready by the start of WMU's season.
And Sudbury Northern Life's...Uh...Staff...Profiled Tyler Bertuzzi:
Bertuzzi’s enthusiasm for the game and his fierce competitive nature causes quite a buzz from opponents and fans. In a late regular season game in Sudbury, Bertuzzi was a wrecking ball and hero. He threw a ton of hits and was under the skin of nearly every foe. He also stepped up and scored two goals, including the game winner. He left a big impression for his family and friends who were watching their hometown boy put on a show.
“Every shift, I’m all heart and give my all,” he said. “I don’t let anything get in my way and play every shift like it was my last. I’ve always been this way. I’ve always had lots of energy. It’s not easy to do, but that is how I play and I’m not going to change.”
It is this genuine grit and guts that made Bertuzzi a high, and in many circles, surprising second-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings (58th overall) in the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He had no idea he was going to be selected early. Bertuzzi was watching the draft at home with family and friends. He was moments away from leaving to go for a boat ride with friends when Detroit came up and said his name. It was a moment that turned Bertuzzi upside down.
“It hasn’t sunk in fully,” he said. “It was a dream of mine growing up to be drafted. It’s amazing it became a reality. Now I have to train harder and keep pushing myself to my limits.”
Guelph general manager, Mike Kelly, had a phone pasted to the side of his head in the months and weeks leading up to the draft because of the buzz Bertuzzi created in the limited games he played during the 2012-13 season — he missed 25 games due to head and neck injuries.
“Tyler was the player we got the most calls on from NHL teams,” Kelly said. “He has the heart of a lion and is fearless. When the hockey gets tough, he rises to the occasion and plays his best. Away from the games, he is easy-going and light-hearted, but when the puck drops, he is nothing but serious. He’s not just about grit. He makes good decisions, has a good feel for the game and good hands. He’s not one-dimensional.”
Otherwise, in the interview department: As noted this morning, Wings coach Mike Babcock appeared on The Fan 590 to discuss the Wings' Hall of Fame inductees-to-be (Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios) and the additions of Alfredsson and Weiss...
And Kris Draper spoke to The Fan 590 about his former teammates' inductee statuses, too (Draper also spoke to the NHL on XM Sirius radio crew, but it's an auto-play clip):
Chris Chelios himself appeared on WGN 720's Steve Cochran show, and Chelios is really humbled by the honor...and it's amusing to listen to Cochran and his co-host ignore the fact that Chelios states that if he had to choose a jersey to bring to the Hall of Fame ceremony (he goes in as himself, not as a representative of one team over another), he'd bring a Team USA jersey to tick Canadians off. They think his, "I'm a Chicagoan" comments = "Blackhawk":
And Paul found a video of Jake Chelios discussing his father's status with ESPN Chicago. Jake is taking part in the Hawks' development camp; Dean's at the Wings' camp:
For the record, as you might imagine, the University of Wisconsin cheered a former Badger's induction, too.
And on the Daniel Alfredsson front, the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan reports that Sens owner Eugene Melnyk's got some $$ issues, and if you're interested, Sportsnet's Chris Johnston discusses the ways in which both Alfredsson's contract with Detroit and Jarome Iginla's deal with Boston are "cap-friendly" thanks to their over-35-years-of-age performance bonuses.
Quickie update: Just as I was finishing this up, Nick Barnowski posted his audio interviews on his website, Nick's Notebook.
Update: The Traverse City Record-Eagle's James Cook filed a report about Helm...
The 26-year-old Wings center was truly the veteran at the camp, where most of the other players are in their late teens and early 20s.
"I'm so used to being the young guy on the team," Helm said. "First day, everybody's a little nervous and excited to get out there. I felt the same way. I was nervous to get out there and see how I'm going to do."
Detroit general manager Ken Holland said the team will take it easy with Helm's progression. Helm said he probably wouldn't participate in Friday's scrimmage, but may take advantage of Saturday's off day to do some skating on his own.
"We're going to know more after four or five days," Holland said. "The question is how does he feel after he pushes himself. He's on the ice, and that's a good start."
And Michigan Hockey's Barnowski took note of Jiri Fischer and Chris Chelios's comments about the BIG crop of young defensemen who are turning pro with Grand Rapids this upcoming season:
Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen, and Alexei Marchenko, among others, impressed after taking to the ice for the first time at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City. The young defense group has Jiri Fischer, the team’s director of player development, encouraged for the future.
“Time will tell, but it’s pretty exciting,” Fischer said. “I’m really excited that they all want to learn.”
“Jensen’s a really good skater, a skilled player,” said Chelios, who works actively with both the Red Wings and Griffins during the season.
Like with Sproul and Ouellet, Jensen will also be turning pro, and at the age of 22, will carry three years of NCAA hockey experience with St. Cloud State with him to the pros. He was named WCHA defenseman of the year and a first-team All American while putting up 31 points en route to St. Cloud State’s first ever Frozen Four appearance. His style of play fits the way the Red Wings like to play the game.
When discussing Marchenko, Fischer commented on the differences the CSKA Moscow (KHL) defenseman will have to adjust to when making the jump to North America.
“Playing on big ice will be different from playing on small ice,” Fischer said. “For defensemen, coming to small ice and all of the sudden being forechecked a lot harder, having a lot less time on the breakouts because there is always somebody coming, it’s a little more hectic under pressure than it is in Europe.”
Chelios spoke highly of Marchenko.
“Just watching him last year, he plays like a man,” he said. “He really engages and asks a lot of questions which is a good thing.”
Update #2: Here's Chelios on WDFN's Matt Sheppard show:
Update #3: Ken Kal spoke to WBBL's Bill "Huge" Simonson on Monday...
And Ken Holland spoke to Simonson regarding the Wings' signings on Tuesday:
Update #4: Here's a better look at Coreau's mask:
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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.