The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/24/13 at 06:53 PM ET
I got into something of a Twitter tiff regarding the play of one Stephen Weiss, because I'm with the Free Press's Helene St. James regarding the fact that we've all ignored Weiss's status as having neither played in more than 17 games nor probably having returned to full strength--or confidence--regarding his surgically-repaired left wrist (perhaps exacerbated by the broken pinky he's apparently playing trough)--as factors in Weiss's incredibly slow and bumpy adaptation to the Red Wings' system of play...
But I cannot deny that Weiss, who's admittedly struggled to find his stride while learning Mike Babcock's incredibly strenuous-on-centers defensive system (as well as the Wings' puck possession system as opposed to the Panthers' dump-and-not-chase system from age 18-30), has struggled. Weiss has 2 goals, 2 penalty minutes and is a -6 over the course of 11 games played with the his second NHL employer, and the "by comparison" stats to the players he's succeeded aren't pretty:
Valtteri Filppula cooled off after a scintillating start, but Vincent Lecavalier's successor-but-not-successor's registered 4 goals and 2 assists over the course of 8 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning (and he's a +3), and as you might remember, Filppula signed with Tampa Bay for all of $500,000 more than the Wings will pay Weiss over the course of the players' respective 5-year deals...
Damien Brunner struggled with an "upper-body" (shoulder) injury, but the playe whose agent simply told the Wings that he and his client were "going in another direction" after rebuffing the $2.5 million contract the Wings offered him--the exact same contract he signed with the New Jersey Devils--has posted 3 goals, 2 assists and a -4 over the course of 8 games played with the struggling Devils...
And Jiri Hudler, who was plain old out the door for more money and more guaranteed playing time with Calgary two summers ago, has posted 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points and a +3 over the course of 8 games with the Flames.
The Red Wings' coach, management and players don't worry about the ones who got or wriggled away. Mike Babcock has attempted to help Weiss acclimate to the Wings' first-in-his-career new system of play, new teammates and new surroundings by sending Weiss to the 3rd line, telling him to focus on defense...
But the team rather desperately needs to get its supplementary scoring in gear, and Weiss is absolutely critical to kick-starting the players not playing alongside Datsyuk and Zetterberg (as Babcock suggested before and after the Wings' 6-1 loss to Ottawa).
Weiss told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he's aware of the team's and his own situations, and as such, #90 has higher expectations for himself:
“You want to be the best player on the ice every night,” Weiss said. “And sometimes when it doesn’t happen you tighten up a little bit. Even though you’re not trying to, you’re telling yourself all the right things and try not to think too much, but when you get out there sometimes that’s all out the window. It’s tough battling yourself trying to get out of your own way,” Weiss added.
Weiss was the second-line center the Wings coveted in free agency when it became apparent that Valtteri Filppula had priced himself out of their plans. Weiss signed a five-year deal on the first day of free agency at $4.9 million.
“The first thing you have to do when you come to a new place is you have to breathe, and you have to give yourself a break, and you have to spend no time thinking and spend all your time playing,” Babcock said. “That’s easy for me to say, but when you come in and get off to a good start and three bounce in off your leg, you get rolling and you relax. And when you don’t you pressure up.”
To try and jump start Weiss’ game, Babcock took him off centering the second line and added him between Daniel Cleary and Tomas Tatar on the third line over the last two games.
“Just look after defense and once he settles down the rest will come,” Babcock said.
He also took Weiss off the power play and added him to the penalty kill.
“I’m not going to worry about results,” Weiss said. “I’m just going to go out and play and try and be as loose as I can. I felt a little bit better that way. When you’re trying too hard and trying to do too much and wanting it so much sometimes that gets in your way. I think that’s been the case a little bit at the start of the season. I’m just trying to relax and not worry about results at the end of the night. That stuff will all take care of itself in the end.”
Weiss also told MLive's Ansar Khan, who duly notes that Babcock's pre-season expectation from Weiss was a 50-point season (and I still believe that this expectation is a realistic one), that he's not willing to use his "missed time" due to his wrist injury last year as an excuse:
"This falls on me,’’ Weiss said. “You have to realize you’re a good hockey player and you’re here for a reason.’’
Babcock was hoping Weiss, Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson would form a solid second line, enabling him to keep Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together all season. Datsyuk and Zetterberg have remained together but everyone else has been moved around frequently. Weiss has been flanked by Cleary and Tomas Tatar for most of the past two games.
The problem is, the Red Wings aren’t getting much offense from anyone other than Datsyuk and Zetterberg. They have scored only three goals in their past three games and are averaging just 2.27 goals per game, 23rd in the NHL. That’s worse than last season, when they averaged 2.54 goals per game.
“I don't think you can evaluate our offense playing like we were,’’ Babcock said following Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to Ottawa. “Eventually we're going to have to start scoring some goals and it's got to come through something besides our power play and 13 and 40 (Datsyuk and Zetterberg).’’
Babcock has played Tomas Tatar the past two games after scratching him the previous six. Tatar has no points but has offensive upside. It could be only a matter of time before Gustav Nyquist is recalled from Grand Rapids. However, he is out for this weekend with an injury.
Alfredsson said the solution to their offensive problems is in the room.
“We have what it takes to score more goals and create more offensively, there’s no question,’’ Alfredsson said. “When you don’t score you better make sure you don’t let in a lot of goals.’’
That’s what Zetterberg said his team must focus on, after allowing six and five goals in two of the past three games.
“If you let in two, it's fine,’’ Zetterberg said. “But it all starts with the defense. We can't let in this many goals and think we're going to score seven to win a game.’’
In the Wings-Senators tailings department, Fox Sports Detroit belatedly posted a clip of Alfredsson speaking with the media after the game...
As I noted in the Wings-Sens wrap-up, NHL.com, the Wings' website and the Senators' website hadn't posted photo galleries as of the middle of the night, but today, NHL.com, the Wings' website and the Senators' website posted 42, 42 and 39-image galleries, respectively;
If you wish to read Jason Spezza speaking about his 2-goal performance against the Wings with the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch (the CBC's Tim Wharnsby wondered aloud whether Spezza was "sending a message" to a possible Canadian Olympic coach in one Mike Babcock), Bobby Ryan talking about his performance with the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan, who's super pumped up about the Sens' win, or Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika following Craig Custance's trajectory from the mid-day news post in talking about Ryan's performance, as part of Cotsonika's every-week-must-read Three Periods column, enjoy;
This quip from the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch (as noted to a lesser extent by the Ottawa Citizen's Allen Panzeri) s worth mentioning:
Clarke MacArthur got a chance to thank Daniel Alfredsson personally for all the bad luck. The cameras in Detroit caught the Senators winger having a chuckle with the former Ottawa captain before the puck was dropped for a faceoff in the first period of the club's 6-1 victory over the Red Wings Wednesday at the Joe Louis Arena.
"He said, 'Hey Mac, how are you?'" said MacArthur Thursday. "I said, 'I've been better. They gave me your stall in Ottawa and I haven't scored yet.' He said, 'They'll come.' So it was pretty funny."
MacArthur, who hasn't had a goal in the first nine games of the season, hasn't lost his sense of humour.
"I've never had a start like this," said MacArthur. "I've had close to 30 shots on goal and it's one of those things where I can't let it break me down. I've got to keep going and do the other things right. I'm going to have to get one to go off my moustache to get me started this year. I'll pretty much take anything I can get."
Also of Red Wings-related note: I can't embed it, but Mickey Redmond did speak with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Drew Lane on Tuesday;
Via RedWingsFeed, the Saginaw Spirit posted something of an online version of "Wingspan," and the first half of the 24-minute episode of "The Spirit Insider" focuses on Wings prospect and Spirit goalie Jake Paterson;
If you're heading to tomorrow night's Plymouth Whalers game, they'll be entertaining Zach Nastasiuk and the Owen Sound Attack at 7:05 PM;
In interactive news, from the Wings:
As you know, I'm no fan of power rankings, but here's The Hockey News's Rory Boylen's list-related take on the Wings' play of late:
14. Detroit ([last week] 9): The Wings lost three of four games since our last Power Rankings because the offence dried up. The return of Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves will go a long way to helping gut overall depth of this squad, which is its main strength.
And we'll end on a slightly whimsical note, at least by my standards, as The Sports Forecaster's "Fantasy Spin" has this to say about the Red Wings' blueliners:
DETROIT'S DEFENSIVE DEPTH: The Red Wings have dodged a major bullet with No. 1 defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who recovered from a mild concussion well before he was expected to do so. That's great news for a Detroit team that recently lost Kronwall's defense partner Jonathan Ericsson (upper body, IR) for the foreseeable future. Kronwall also has facial injury that he's dealing with. As a result, Detroit's younger defensemen such as Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff should see increased minutes and responsibilities in the coming weeks. Look for one of them to emerge as a good fantasy sleeper, especially the one who emerges as Ericsson's replacement next to Kronwall--with DeKeyser the favorite to take over that role. Smith may have more upside than DeKeyser, but the latter is steadier and better suited to the Wings' puck-possession style.
DeKeyser being "steadier" than Smith. No *#$%@& shit, buddy. I keep on hoping that Smith--who looked fantastic offensively alongside Niklas Kronwall, but committed the usual number of goal-surrendering defensive mistakes--will get his game in order, but I really do fear that the Wings are getting to a point that players like Xavier Ouellet and Adam Almquist are making enough of a hard push--with Ryan Sproul, Alexei Marchenko, Nick Jensen, stay-at-home defensemen in Max Nicastro and Richard Nedomlel and the unsigned Ben Marshall and Mattias Backman serving as enough of a a "push" and enough "depth" that Smith is running out of time to sort himself out.
Sooner or later, the Wings are going to decide whether to fish or cut bait with a player who seemingly can't or won't learn to play simpler, safer and more efficient hockey instead of making dashing, daring and dangerous gambles, and I really do wonder if Smith will be the defenseman-goes-the-other-way centerpiece of a trade to bolster the Wings' top four with a more veteran presence later this year.
I'd rather see Smith succeed here, personally, but that's just me.
Update: The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a photo gallery from their 2013 Pups and Pucks Walk with MacKenzie's Animal Sanctuary, and it's heavy on "AWW" factor. I love this picture of Will Coetzee with his dog and his wedding-bet-with-his-fiancee beard:
Image courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins
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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.