The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/03/14 at 08:38 PM ET
Amongst this afternoon/evening's Red Wings news:
If you weren't already aware of this, the Red Wings and the NHL removed the grass at Comerica Park ahead of the Hockeytown Winter Festival, and today (via RedWingsFeed), Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea reports that time's come for the Wings and NHL to, well, get plantin':
The National Hockey League, along with the Detroit Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment, are splitting the cost of the new grass field that will be installed at Comerica Park in time for the Detroit Tigers season opener on March 31.
The cost and how it's being apportioned among the three entities hasn't been disclosed. Olympia is the entertainment management arm of the Ilitch family's business holdings, which include the Wings and Tigers.
New natural grass fields at major league ballparks range in price from $100,000 to $250,000, turf industry insiders say.
Shea continues, and in news that is also as obvious as grass is green, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offers a little more regarding today's news regarding Pavel Datsyuk's knee flaring up and Stephen Weiss's "setback"...
“Can’t play,” Datsyuk said of the lingering injury. “Issue with my knee. We’re looking day-to-day, hard to stay anything.”
Datsyuk’s status for Thursday’s game against Columbus is uncertain, and while the center’s injury is a concern, general manager Ken Holland said the club’s main focus right now is finding a way to win with the healthy players in its dressing room.
“Weiss had a bit of a setback today so we’re going to send him for some pictures, get some more information tomorrow,” said Holland, who was originally expecting Weiss to return last week for the Wings’ first game after the Olympic break. “Today was a bad day for him.”
Jakub Kindl's still out with a knee issue, too...
"He’s probably out for this week I would say,” Holland said. “He hurt his knee so he needs a few days here to heal.”
All of that being said (and the rest of Roose's article involves Martin Brodeur starting tomorrow vs the Wings and Johan Franzen's 1st star status--more on that in a minute...), the general manager and coach Mike Babcock don't plan on panicking at the trade deadline.
They're gonna see what they've got, mostly:
“I consider a hockey trade where you can get a player that’s going to be on your roster in September,” Holland said. “Because of where we are in the standings and because of the unknown with the number of our key players with regards to injury, it’s pretty difficult to step up and trade high draft picks and real top prospects in order to get short-term players when you’re not really sure about some key components of your team.”
For now, the Wings hope to build off of strong back-to-back road victories last week in Montreal and Ottawa as they advance into their condensed schedule. Currently occupying the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, Detroit has three games in the next four days as the club continues its quest to extend its playoff streak to 23 years.
“Guys here gotta be as fresh as can possibly be,” Babcock said. “I mean we had an Olympic break guys went to the Olympics and the other guys came back and had a few days off here. We’re ready to go, we’re excited about how we’re playing and we got a good club right now. We’re playing hard enough, we’re finding ways to win games so let’s just keep playing.”
The Free Press's Helene St. James also weighed in on the Wings' sticky deadline situation (Ehrhoff? Dunno what to think about that. Byfuglien, as floated by Winging it in Motown? Meeehhh...) due to Datsyuk and others' injuries...
General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press today that Pavel Datsyuk will see a fourth doctor Wednesday, in regard to an inflamed knee that has bothered Datsyuk since January. The first three specialists indicated that surgery was not needed, but neither medication nor rest is doing the trick. Datsyuk will miss Tuesday's game at New Jersey and is doubtful to play Thursday, when the Wings host the Colorado Avalanche, before which they will retire defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom's number.
If Datsyuk doesn't play Thursday, he is most certainly not playing Friday against the Devils, either.
The Wings already are without captain Henrik Zetterberg, who is out at least through the mid-April end of the regular season after undergoing back surgery late last month. Holland estimated that the Wings would have to make the Eastern Conference finals for there to be a glimmer of hope that Zetterberg could even play again this season.
And as such, with St. James reporting that Weiss is out for TEN days...
It's against all these injuries, then, that the Wings have to judge whether making a trade makes sense. There is no interest in adding a rental at the cost of a first-round draft pick. Livonia's Ryan Kesler would intrigue anyone, but Vancouver's asking price is two or three top young players and/or prospects, along with a first-rounder. Kesler, 29, is a top-six power forward and former Selke winner, and he has two seasons left on his contract, at $5 million per year. He also comes in with a significant history of injuries.
The Wings aren't going to ante up at the current asking price for Kesler — it'd cost some combination of Gustav Nyquist/Tomas Tatar/Tomas Jurco/Riley Sheahan, along with the Wings' first-rounder from last year, Anthony Mantha, plus the first-round pick in this year's draft.
No. *#$%@& that shit.
Adding Kesler without having Zetterberg and possibly Datsyuk available wouldn't put the Wings on a playoff run, wouldn't get them past Pittsburgh or Boston in the East. All in all, the Wings would appear to be better off hanging on to their young talent.
They'd also still need to find a top-pair defenseman, and blowing up the prospect pipeline to overreach up front sans addressing the fundamental flaw that is the team's inability to ice a minute-munching, point-producing, puck-moving and strong-skating defenseman not named Kronwall (though DeKeyser is on his way and Smith has his moments), well, that doesn't make sense.
For the moment, as the beat writers suggested this morning, the Nyquists, Jurcos, Sheahans, Tatars, this is their team, as it's Daniel Alfredsson's at the other end of the age spectrum...
“He’s one of those guys who when he gets going seems to be unstoppable,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “It’s a big positive, I think, for us to see that and hopefully he can keep it rolling.”
He assisted on both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Canadiens, including the primary assist on Gustav Nyquist’s winner with 27.3 seconds left in overtime at Molson Centre last Wednesday. The next night, Franzen collected his sixth career hat trick, and first since Nov. 8, 2011, in a lopsided 6-1 win against the Senators. Despite missing 27 games with a myriad of injuries, Franzen is fifth in team scoring with 12 goals and 28 points in 33 games played.
Holland and Babcock are crossing their fingers about the Mule staying hot:
“We’re going to need him clicking every single night,” Howard said of Franzen. “Having Pav and Z out there’s a lot more pressure on the guys up front but they have to find a way to put it in the back of the net and Mule has done a great job of that for us in the last few games.”
Now that Franzen appears to be fully recovered from his concussion, the Wings hope his five-point week is the beginning of a lengthy hot streak.
“Other guys we consider to be offensive threats aren’t with us,” coach Mike Babcock said. “There’s guys missing, there’s no question about it, but to me it’s about the guys who are playing and the guys are playing well.”
If you want to read Wings-Devils previews, the AP has already posted one, as has NHL.com, and Brodeur spoke at length with the Newark Star-Ledger's Rich Chere about his status as maybe starting in his last game for the Devils, while the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti discussed tomorrow's game with Devils coach Pete DeBoer:
The Devils know the situation they are in entering their final 20 regular season games.
They are three points behind Detroit for the final playoff spot in the East and the Red Wings have to games in hand. The Devils are also four points behind the Rangers, who also have 20 games left, but they are closer in terms of points to the Red Wings and happen to play them in their next two games, starting with Tuesday night’s at Prudential Center.
So, it’s pretty obvious Tuesday’s game is a very important one for the Devils’ playoff chances.
“We know that. I know that. You guys know that,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said today. “I don’t have much more to say. It’s no more important than last night’s (game) or the night before and no less important than the one after that. It’s that time of year.”
With Friday’s game in Detroit, the Devils have to chances to gain ground on the team in the closest playoff spot, but also two chances to lose ground.
“They’re all important, every game, but definitely playing back to back against the same team I think you can (make) a little bit of headway if we’re successful, that’s for sure,” said goaltender Martin Brodeur, who will start in net Tuesday.
The 28-20-and-12 Wings have 68 points, 4 behind the Leafs in the Wild Card race, but Washington also has 68 points, and the Blue Jackets, Devils and Senators all have 65.
With the Wings playing 5 games in 8 nights (and 3 in 4 this week)--2 against the Devils, 1 against Columbus, a Sunday matinee against the Rangers and of course Thursday's Nick Lidstrom Jersey Retirement Night tilt against the Avs--the Wings can either make hay or get themselves into trouble in a hurry (though almost every other team's played 62 games), and the team will close out the month playing games every other night from the 14th onward, so the Wings will end up going from 60 to 75 games between tomorrow (March 4th) and March 30th.
These next four weeks may tell the playoff-streak-extending tale.
Wrapping up the Wings-Devils angle, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness just posted a set of Wings quotes about Brodeur...
“I’ve played against Marty a couple of times, it’s always an honor when you look down at the other end of the ice and one of the greatest to ever play the game is standing there, it’s a pretty special moment,” said Jimmy Howard, who’s starting in goal for the Wings. “But at the same time you want to win. You’ve got to set all that stuff aside and try to find a way to win and try to stop just as many as he does.”
Brodeur, 41, holds numerous NHL records, including career wins, shutouts and games played.
“Lots of guys are good for a short period of time, but to do it as long as (he has) and to be a star as long as he has, I mean obviously real high-end,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “(Cory) Schneider’s played most of their games, he’s a young guy, an up-and-comer, and that happens to all of us, I mean someone else is going to end up with your job that’s just the way life is. But I mean Martin Brodeur has been a flat-out star and he’s stayed healthy.”
And Pleiness is...Well, I guess he's keeping score:
– Pavel Datsyuk won’t play Tuesday in New Jersey because of a knee injury.
– Daniel Cleary will miss at least a week a week with a knee injury.
– Jakub Kindl won’t play Tuesday due to a sprained MCL that he suffered on Feb. 3.
– Stephen Weiss suffered a setback in his recovery from a sports hernia.
Enter Joakim Andersson?
“Well he’s just got to be a guy who gets some pucks back, got to be a guy who wins faceoffs and plays well in detail and the rest will look after itself,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Just play and do what he does.”
KEN HOLLAND TRADE DEADLINE PHILOSOPHY REITERATION TIME! NOW!
“There are very few players like Stephen Weiss and Pavel Datsyuk that are available,” Holland said. “I also think if we qualify for the playoffs, we believe somewhere in that time frame Zetterberg will be back.
“Because of where we are in the standings and because of the unknown with the number of our key players with regards to injury it’s pretty difficult to step up and trade high draft picks and real top prospects in order to get short-term players,” Holland continued. “We’ve got players as good as those guys or better so when you look at the way our young kids have played, we sit out some veterans every night so we’ve got veterans up front, we got some veterans on defense and we’ve got some kids in the American League. It’s a long-winded answer of saying if there’s a hockey trade we’ll look at it but we’re not looking at top-end rentals for those two reasons: because of our place in the standings and because of the unknown about some of our top players.”
Now we're going to get into a discusison of subjective valuations of a different kind, first in the power rankings department, with ESPN's Katie Strang weighing in...
16. Detroit [record] 28-20-12 Last Week: 14 Even with captain Henrik Zetterberg likely out for the season after undergoing back surgery, the Wings keep fighting. Mike Babcock's injury-ravaged squad is still clutching onto a playoff spot in the East.
Win two games, get dropped two spots?
It gets weirder from here, and CBS Sports' Brian Stubits' rankings are only an island of sanity...
14 [Red Wings, up 4, last week 18] You'd never guess the Red Wings had a slew of players in Sochi with how strong they have looked since, winning in Montreal and then rolling in Ottawa.
Because either TSN's Scott Cullen hates the Wings, or he's just a gigantic...Power rankings list-milker (see: "I can make everybody upset thanks to a subjective list! What an easy column to write, talk about easy high hit counts! Ha ha ha!), because Cullen has consistently demoted the Wings after winning weeks, all damn season long, and that trend continues today:
This Week 24 Last Week 21 Detroit Red Wings
Four wins in the past five games puts the Red Wings in position to take a crossover playoff spot, but losing LW Henrik Zetterberg for the rest of the regular season and C Pavel Datsyuk to more knee troubles sure raises the level of difficulty for a team that has been battling injuries all year.
Key Injuries: C Stephen Weiss (groin), LW Henrik Zetterberg (back), D Jakub Kindl (lower body), C Pavel Datsyuk (knee).
Normally I'd get into an all-caps rage about someone like Cullen saying, "4 wins in 5 games? DEMOTE! Let them Wings fans squirm!" but this is just so *#$%@& predictable that it's sad. He does this all the damn time, knowing that it's the numbers that matter and not the commentary, and as such...
He's a great fantasy hockey writer, but his rankings are the most popular out of all of the NHL interwebs'...And they suck. Suck suck suck suck suck.
Speaking of inflammatory remarks, I have tried to be as neutral as a subjective blogger can be regarding the Red Wings' follow-on rink and its funding.
I noted that this past weekend's Detroit Free Press editorials regarding said funding are...complicated...And that Field of Schemes' Neil deMause tried to get a word in edge-wise, as did the Reverend Joan C. Ross, in a Detroit News editorial.
1. Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry weighed in with a moderate take...
[E]xcept for perhaps a new sports bar, there aren’t going to be any neighborhood economic benefits. Allen Sanderson, an economist at the University of Chicago, did a study a few years ago of the impact of sports arenas on cities. His conclusion: “If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter.”
To add to the absurdity, only a tiny fraction of those who attend hockey games actually live in Detroit. We know that’s the case for Ilitch’s other major league team, the Detroit Tigers. Red Wings tickets tend to be even more expensive, and only about three percent of National Hockey League players are black.
Regardless, the bottom line is this: In a city that doesn’t have enough cops, ambulances or street lights, the development authorities think it is a good idea to spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars to build an entertainment complex for a family worth more $3 billion. A deal from which the city will get nothing back.
I would like to know why this is not insane.
2. And Deadspin's Bill Bradley penned an article stating, "Detroit Scam City: How The Red Wings Took Hockeytown For All It Had"--which is actually an excerpt from a longer article on NextCity.com (but it's behind a paywall and Deadspin's isn't)-complete with a lovely little illustration of chunky white folks lining up in front of a bright, shiny new rink as the city literally burns around them:
Somehow, amid all that financial and institutional debris—which neglected to mention the oft-cited bits about the lack of very basic services and 58-minute average police response time in a city where less than half of the 88,000 streetlights work—there's still $284.5 million for a new hockey arena.
"This plan is deeply flawed," one resident said during a community hearing last month at City Hall. "That's arrogant to do that to a city that's bankrupt."
And that doesn't even include the land. On February 4, City Council voted 6-3 to sell Olympia and the DDA, who will own the arena, 39 vacant parcels for $1. An analysis of city records by the Detroit Free Press found that "several private landowners succeeded in netting millions for themselves by selling similarly situated land in the arena's footprint to Ilitch-controlled corporations." Rather than sell the land at market rate, the city is giving them the rest the same way you sell your younger sibling your old car—$1, but just for the title transfer.
Olympia Development's CEO Tom Wilson, without a hint of irony, called it a "once-in-a-generation" deal.
Jerry Belanger, who owns the Park Bar near the proposed new arena, voiced his displeasure with the once-in-a-generation deal. "I'm going to be taxed to buy [Ilitch] bars and restaurants that will be my competitor," he said. "He can't go toe-to-toe with me on a fair playing field. He can't win without public money."
After City Council approved the land transfer a man, in a scene that wouldn't have been out of place in the rafters at a hockey game, yelled, "The citizens of Detroit thank you for selling them out!"
At this point, all I want to do is to encourage discussion regarding the hope that the Ilitches won't have to be brought back to the City Council to officially agree to a "Community Benefits Agreement" to actually ensure that the rink and the $200 million in ancillary development will actually benefit the residents of the Cass Corridor, the Foxtown area and Midtown.
I don't believe that our critiques of diverting money that should obviously be spent on the city and state's residents (and the State's selling the bonds; the Downtown Development Authority's supposedly school-funding-sapping diversion of downtown business property taxes has existed for such a long time, and has been devoted to ONLY downtown business development for so long, that I believe bashing thereof doesn't reflect its realities) are going to change anything.
I'd rather see those of us who agree and those of us who disagree with the project come together to try to stick up for the community residents, the City, County and State and to make damn sure that what will surely be a lifetime-legacy-style project honoring an 84-year-old Ilitch pays its debts to every Red Wings fan who cares about the City and every person in that area to the hilt.
Trying to wrap this stuff up on a consensus-y basis, this is a *real Tweet* from the *real* Darren Dreger--and please beware of the fact that all of us are going to be chasing our tails over the next 50-some hours because so many fake Twitter accounts exist that you really need to go to the damn page and make sure that it's, say @DarrenDreger, @Real_ESPNLeBrun or @TSNBobMcKenzie instead of some impostor...
And regarding the Wings' youth (via RedWingsFeed), Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill spoke with Griffinshockey.com's Alan Cross regarding the defending Calder Cup Champions' resurgent play of late:
“I think over the course of a year and a half that we’ve been here together as a group, we’ve done a good job of playing on the road,” Blashill said. “It obviously presents different challenges, but there are positives you can gain from it from a team camaraderie standpoint. We know that there are going to be great challenges ahead of us, but we’re comfortable with it.”
Comfortable is right, as the team walked away with three consecutive victories on enemy ice last week, extending its winning streak to five games.
The Griffins currently hold a 17-7-2-1 away record and have earned two points in each of their last four games away from Van Andel Arena. To kick off the season, the Griffins earned a nine-game road point streak from Oct. 4-Nov. 8, which still holds up as the longest such streak of any team in the league. Looking back just a year ago, Blashill’s first turn with Grand Rapids yielded a 21-14-1-2 road record.
“What we talk about is getting six points out of every 10 in a five-game segment. We think that if you do that, that puts you in a playoff position and the rest takes care of itself,” Blashill asserted.
Mike Babcock's bald fraternal twin sounds exactly like his coiffed colleague when discussing his players' tasks at hand:
“We just have to get better. We’re giving up, at times, a few too many chances. We’re not creating enough O-zone time, so we need to do a better job making sure we don’t give up anything easy and a better job at breaking our puck out and regrouping our neutral zone transition fast so that we can spend a lot of time in the other team’s end,” Blashill said. “I’ve always been a huge, huge believer that the best defense is playing in the other team’s end, so we have to do a real good job of that here down the stretch.”
That's going to be true for the Red Wings as well, especially given their status as more thinly-spread team personnel-wise. Keep the puck as far away from your net for as long as possible and you're going to do better in the long run.
Cross your fingers, folks. We're in a for a wild ride, despite the pretty-bloody-certainly mundane deadline forecast.
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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.