The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/01/13 at 10:09 PM ET
The Red Wings begin their 2013-2014 regular season campaign when they host the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night (8 PM EDT, NBCSN only), and the season must be near if Mike Valenti and Terry Foster are asking fans whether the Pistons or Red Wings are "more intriguing."
Building upon the overnight report and today's pair of practice posts, we haven't witnessed avalanches of season previews as much as we've witnessed a slow cavalcade of preview-type stories, and while most of you won't see Fox Sports Detroit's network season preview until 6 PM EDT on Friday, when it precedes the Wings-Canes pre-game show, FSD helps tide us over with a 20-minute season preview presented by Art Regner, Dana Wakiji and Chris Osgood:
And yes, I know that Chris Chelios's Red Wings Cup pick on Fox Sports Live is getting universally panned, but as a rebuttal, I provide a thought from my pal Nick Barnowski, who was watching the Chicago Blackhawks' banner-raising:
And to the booth Eddie Olczyk went to cover the Blackhawks-Capitals game...
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness may or may not build upon his interview with Daniel Alfredsson (DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose posited a similar article, and, via RedWingsFeed, the Ottawa Sun reports that Senators goalie Robin Lenher bought Alfredsson's former abode) with some season preview-type stuff this evening, but he chose to get down to brass tacks in a hurry on his Red Wings Front blog...
Playoff prediction … Wings over Blackhawks in finals
Eastern Conference finals: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh (Wings in six)
Western Conference finals: Chicago vs. Los Angeles (Blackhawks in seven)
Stanley Cup: Detroit vs. Chicago (Wings in seven)
This doesn't necessarily fit into the "season preview" narrative, but I'm glad that MLive's Ansar Khan asked the Wings' players about the recently NHLPA-approved implementation of hybrid icing...
“Hopefully, now we don’t have to deal with an injury, even if it’s one injury a year,'' Niklas Kronwall said.
His defense partner, Jonathan Ericsson, added, “There’s a few times where you get tripped or something like that right by the goal line. They’re coming at you with a lot of speed, so you can get injured. This (rule) is a good thing, I’m sure.''
Brian Lashoff played with it in the AHL during the regular season, but not the playoffs, as Don Cherry of all people pointed out on Tuesday evening:
“It kind of eliminates that fear of running into the boards, but it’s still a competition to get to the partition or the dot first,'' Lashoff said. “I don’t think it was something that necessarily changed the game too much. It’s still nice to have that race to the puck, but as a D-man it’s kind of nice to have it done further away from the boards.”
The coach likes it, too...Mostly...
“The only thing I don’t like is when (the puck) is rimmed, because (linesmen) can’t figure out how the heck it works on that rim,'' Babcock said. “You’re supposed to be racing to beat your guy and then you beat your guy and then it rims around here and you’re on the wrong side of your guy because it’s rimmed over here.''
But, he added, “The way I look at it is no one’s getting hurt, so that’s a good thing.''
But Daniel Cleary told Khan that he'd rather see European no-touch icing, and that it's his ilk who will end up deciding whether defensemen are hurt in "races" for the puck that aren't blown dead:
“As a forward I would never go back and have incidental contact,'' Cleary said. “If I see he's got a step-and-a-half on me, I let it go. The onus has to fall on the forwards.''
Heading back to the "season preview" category, Khan also spoke with Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, as well as their teammates and coach, about their status as constituting two thirds of the new second line with Johan Franzen...
“It should be set up good,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “Weiss has turned himself into a really good two-way player. Alfie can shoot the puck and Mule’s a big, big man that can skate and win battles down low and find people with the puck. It has all the ingredients of a line, but you have to become one.''
Said captain Henrik Zetterberg “A good combination. Weiss is a smart centerman who works really hard. Then you have Mule; big, strong on his feet and a good shot. And Alfie has a good slapper and is very smart.''
“I think his puck-possession and his intelligence are what separate him from other guys,'' Weiss said. “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.''
Alfredsson has a tremendous one-timer, a much-needed right-handed shot at the point for the first power-play unit. He was average during the regular season, with 10 goals and 26 points in 47 games, but was at his best in the playoffs, with 10 points in 10 games.
He turns 41 on Dec. 11, but Zetterberg said, “He’s one of those guys who can keep playing as long as they want; it has nothing to do with age. Nick (Lidstrom) was the same.''
Mikael Samuelsson's take on Weiss, as Samuelsson played with Weiss two seasons ago...
Mikael Samuelsson, Weiss' teammate in Florida for parts of two seasons eight years apart, said, “In my mind he's almost carried the Panthers. He's underrated. I don't know if everybody realizes that, but hopefully we see it.''
And, well, Weiss's take on his role:
“I’m going to play my game and understand there are guys here that have been there and done that and are the leaders on this team,'' Weiss said. “In Florida I felt like if it wasn’t me on every given night we were going to have a tough time winning. Here, there is more balance of scoring and guys that can get the job done. Hopefully, I can turn my game up a notch and it’ll only help these guys out.''
This quip from the CBC's Elliotte Friedeman (30 Thoughts is back! Yay!) comes from an interview he conducted with Weiss...
11. Brett Connolly, Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin, Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk are disappointed right now, but should listen to Stephen Weiss, who just signed in Detroit. After seeing how prepared the Red Wings' young players are for the NHL, Weiss said, "In Florida...a lot of times the young guys come up, they come to the big time right away and maybe they're not as ready. Maybe I wasn't as ready as I could've been at 19...You can see it [in Detroit] with these kids, they're big and strong and ready to be pros now."
15. Back to Weiss, on his biggest adjustment in Detroit: playing man-to-man defence after a lifetime of zone coverage. During an exhibition loss to Pittsburgh last week, he said he was "looking to play the zone and then thought, 'Wait a minute, I gotta find somebody here.'"
16. His stall is right next to Henrik Zetterberg's. The captain requested Weiss replace the departed Valtteri Filppula. "For a new guy coming in, who signed for five years, it might be a little easier if he sits next to me. We can go over things: plays and whatnot," Zetterberg said, adding he wanted Alfredsson next to Joakim Andersson. "You need to try and mix up the Swedes a little bit. I think it made more sense to have Weiss there than Alfie." (Thanks to Bill Roose, who got those quotes for me.)
6. The roster juggling is underway, although it will ease slightly for some teams now that wounded bodies can be put on long-term injured reserve. That can create cap relief for stressed-out teams. "You are going to see some abuses this year," predicted one capologist. The reigning LTIR champion is Philadelphia, which has used this list almost every day since one-time Sharks defenceman Mike Rathje's career cut short due to nerve damage in 2006-07.
26. The NHL's hockey operations department has modified how it will enforce the "jersey tuck" rule. If the sweater tucks while a player is skating, there will be no warning/penalty providing it was untucked at the beginning of a shift. That eases one of the bigger complaints, while allowing to league to pursue players who deliberately flout this crackdown.
28. Mike Babcock gave a short lecture to some minor hockey coaches before last Saturday's exhibition game in Toronto. (He was with assistants Tom Renney and Bill Peters.) He opened the speech with two great pieces of advice: "It's a cop out to say I'm a volunteer, so it's okay to not be prepared," and "Your job is to make sure [your players] loved the game more after you're done with them than when you started."
And if you didn't see it, We All Bleed Red posted the Friedman-Weiss interview from this past weekend's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, and it is fantastic:
Back to the preview-y stuff, via RedWingsFeed again, WDIV's David Bartowiak Jr. posted a Wings preview...
2013-14 Red Wings roster has depth up front
The Red Wings have been busy putting together their final roster which includes newcomers Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Both were offseason acquisitions expected to give the team more experience and depth up front. Meanwhile, Gustav Nyquist has been assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins while Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves have been put on long-term injured reserve. Jordin Tootoo also is on the IR.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi, Joakim Andersson, Cory Emmerton, Drew Miller, Daniel Cleary (who resigned to a 1-year deal in early September) and Mikael Samuelsson round out the offense.
Defense includes young prospects, talented veterans
The defense will include rookie stud Dan DeKeyser, a Macomb Township native, who flashed signs of poise and strength with the puck before injuring his thumb in the playoffs last season. The top pair will be veterans Jonathan Ericsson and Nicklas Kronwall.
Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith round out the starters on the blue line. Brian Lashoff, 23, is back on the roster and so is 20-year-old newcomer Xavier Oullet, who was drafted 48th overall by Detroit in 2011.
Jimmy Howard has plenty of support
Jimmy Howard will be starting in net. No surprise there, but he likely will be backed up by Jared Coreau and/or Petr Mrazek -- who is in Grand Rapids for now -- while Jonas Gustavsson is on the IR.
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke with the Maple Leafs and Penguins of all people about the Wings' move to the East...
“I don’t think that you can say that they don’t play a tough brand of hockey,” said Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, whose team will be housed in the Atlantic Division with Detroit, Ottawa, Florida, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Boston. “I’ve played a lot of games and coached a lot of games against the Red Wings in the Western Conference and they match up well any way you want to play it. Toughness isn’t always about fighting. I think there seems to be a misrepresentation about what team toughness is. Team toughness means to take a check to make a play. Block a shot. Get in the way of people in the tough areas of the ice and earn your space. And they do a good job of that.”
Detroit newcomer Daniel Alfredsson, an Eastern Conference player with Ottawa for the first 17 seasons of his NHL career, doesn’t buy the theory that the East is the tougher side of the league.
“I hear a lot of people think the East is more physical and I thought the West was more physical,” Alfredsson said. “This team will do well in the East. It’s a way better travel schedule. The puck possession game is a different style and a lot of teams haven’t seen them as much, so hopefully, especially early on when people haven’t scouted us as much, we can take advantage of that.”
The team in the East that’s recently faced the Wings the most, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who battled Detroit in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009, are certain that Detroit’s arrival to the East will ramp up the competition level.
“They’re a really good team,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “There’s obviously a lot of history there between these two teams and I think now, even more of a rivalry will develop with the more times we play them. It should be fast games with a lot of skill and a lot of intensity.”
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury shared his captain’s opinion of what Detroit will bring to the East.
“It’s definitely going to be fun,” Fleury said. “There’s a real rivalry after the playoff series we’ve had. This is a fun place to play and they’re always a good team.”
While Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji spoke with the Wings about their move:
"We're going to do less traveling," defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "I think everyone in here is really excited about it, playing some new teams, too. I think that's really good for all the fans. Good for us, too, because it's not that fun to play the same team over and over and over again. I think everyone's looking forward to it."
There's some belief that the Wings will have a hard time adjusting to the Eastern Conference because those teams play a more physical style. Or do they?
"It’s tough to compare," said Daniel Alfredsson, who spent his entire career with the Ottawa Senators before coming to Detroit. "A lot of people think the East is more physical, and I thought the West was more physical. So I don’t know what’s true. It’s pretty even then, I guess. This team will do well in the East. It’s way better travel schedule, puck possession, a different style and a lot of teams haven’t seen them as much.Hopefully, especially early on when people haven’t scouted us as much, we can take advantage of that."
Babcock pointed out that the Wings have to learn 14 teams while the Eastern Conference teams need to learn only a couple, the Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.The Wings played Eastern Conference teams 18 times two seasons ago and went 10-7-1 in those games.
"I think we're gonna be fine," Babcock said. "That assessment on video, that's all fun. But the reality is, when you start playing them head to head is when you learn about them."
Because of the salary cap, the Wings are no longer perennial Cup favorites, but they are expected to reach the playoffs for the 23rd straight season.
"We want to compete for the division, we want to make the playoffs," Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "It's a parity league, and I don't know that there's many teams dramatically better than any other teams. There's so many teams that are so close. You know, with 10 games to go in the season, it's going to be a race for the division, a race to make the playoffs, a race for home ice. We want to be in the thick of those races."
Even at age 35, Pavel Datsyuk is still one of the best two-way forwards in the league.
“Some days it hit me, but I don’t want to start thinking about age,” Datsyuk said. “I’m thinking about how I change my (driver’s license) to be younger.”
Datsyuk, who signed a three-year extension for $22.5 million this offseason, sits next to Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm in the locker room. Both are 26 years old.
“They keep me younger,” Datsyuk smiled. “Right now I’m like oldest player on the team.”
Datsyuk is actually the fourth oldest on the team, behind Daniel Alfredsson (40), Todd Bertuzzi (38) and Mikael Samuelsson (36).
“He’s not 20 anymore,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re still young enough I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Your window of opportunity as an athlete, if you’re going to be the main players, is only so long. That gets shorter. If you’re going to be a secondary or third-tier player you can do that until you’re 42. To be the main guys, driving the bus, time runs out. That’s just the way it is. That’s life.”
Speaking of that transitional process, the Wings received a solid plug from the New York Post's Larry Brooks, penning his first slate of power rankings...
8. Red Wings: The NHL’s shining example of a winning culture elevating a team’s talent.
In the Twitter department...
More immediately speaking, while the Buffalo Sabres were naming Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott co-captains, the Wings practiced with the following lines, per Khan--and these names change now that the Wings demoted Coreau and Ouellet and recalled Mrazek...
Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen-Stephen Weiss-Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Cleary-Joakim Andersson-Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Tatar and Jordin Tootoo and Darren Helm, both on injured reserve) are the extras.
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser-Jakub Kindl
Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith
Brian Ladhoff-Xavier Ouellet (extras)
Cory Emmerton spoke with the Free Press's Helene St. James about remaining with the Wings for the present moment...
"It was probably the most eventful uneventful 36 hours ever," Emmerton said today. "It seems like a lot was going on, but nothing really was. It was, obviously, pretty stressful, but I think you become a stronger person, player, just by going through something like that. You don't really wish it upon anybody, but it was a little adversity — nothing wrong with that."
The Wings pegged Emmerton as expendable during the weekend, exposing him on waivers, where another team could have put in a claim by noon Monday. When Emmerton went untouched, plans were to send him to the minors.
Then, late in the afternoon, forward Patrick Eaves called general manager Ken Holland. Eaves said his sprained knee will keep him out at least three more weeks, making him eligible for long-term injured reserve. That created salary cap room to keep Emmerton in Detroit — but who knows for how long?
"He's going to be better this year than he was last year because he's stronger, and yet he's another guy — grab your piece," coach Mike Babcock said. "You don't want to play in the minors, you've got to grab your piece."
Emmerton said he doesn't think about the fact that he could be sent down at any moment, because what's the point? "I just want to play hockey," he said. "That's my focus. The rest of it will take care of itself. So long as you do what you can, personally, stuff has a way of figuring itself out."
For now, at least, Emmerton has a job centering Drew Miller and Mikael Samuelsson. That position could become precarious if Darren Helm shows signs of a comeback over the next three weeks. He, too, will start the season on LTIR. The Wings had an excess of three forwards heading into Monday's deadline to cut the roster to 23 and solved it by putting Helm and Eaves on LTIR and sending Gustav Nyquist, who didn't need to clear waivers, to the minors.
Being put on waivers Sunday "was a little surprising," Emmerton said, "just for the fact that we were down a centerman, but they were trying to figure out what to do."
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose spoke with the Wings about the excitement of opening a new season...
“It's always a fun time of year,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “Pretty much all 30 teams think they have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. There is that excitement, especially in this dressing room, seems to have a little bit of a hop in everyone's step, everyone seems energized. Looking forward to getting started and thankful we get to do it at home.”
Moving to the East will rekindle rivalries with old foes like the Maple Leafs and Canadiens while allowing travel will be much more conducive for extra player rest, opposed to playing in the Western Conference where the Wings were often required to cross three time zones.
“Those things are all exciting. I think change is exciting and you want to embrace it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “This is a new opportunity for our team. Instead of one Original Six team we get to play against four others so that’s a positive, positive thing for us and the players really like that. The travel is going to be way better. Fans are going to get to see us easier and as coaches we’re going to get to pre-scout at seven at night instead of 10 at night which is kind of nice. When you put it all together it’s a positive thing.”
Another positive for the Wings is the addition of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. With them, the Wings believe they have must-needed scoring throughout the lineup that will make life miserable for Atlantic Division teams.
“I think everyone's excited for the season. First and foremost we get to play hockey, compete,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “Our team feels on the ice, with the additions of Alfie and Weiss, the growth of the young, getting (Darren) Helm healthy, all positive things. The Winter Classic, the Olympics, it's an exciting year for everybody. The biggest thing for our team, we look good on paper, we have good depth, good team, we have to execute on the ice. I'm looking forward to playing these new teams more often. It'll be great for everybody involved, the fans, the media, just a different look.”
It’s definitely going to be a unique season for the players, especially next month when HBO returns to chronicle the Wings with unprecedented access to the team for 8 ½ weeks leading up to the Winter Classic game against the Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. But all in all, the players are looking forward to the chance.
“It’s a lot of fun stuff, stuff you look forward to,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I actually think it’ll make the season a little easier. You won’t have some months where you’re just going through the motions. You have the Winter Classic, ‘24/7’ will be around here, the Olympics and right after that you have the playoffs coming. Having the Olympics and Winter Classic I don’t see as a negative thing, it’s all positive. It’ll be easy to go through the whole year. It’s exciting. Just going to the East, going to different cities and seeing different teams is going to be real exciting. It’s not the same old thing. It feels new. You have extra energy, you want to go and play these new teams. It’s going to be easier to prepare for games.”
The last time the Sabres visited Joe Louis Arena was Jan. 16, 2012, when the teams were in opposite conferences – though Detroit and Buffalo are separated by just four hours. Now, they're both in the Atlantic Division, though pretty much complete strangers currently.
"Until you play them yourself and see how you match up, you don't know for sure," Babcock said about how the teams compare.
Lest I forget, I'll be missing this due to ferrying the mom to an appointment, but you shouldn't miss it if you're able to watch it:
The Griffins want me to show you their promotional schedule, too (click to embiggen):
Speaking of the Griffins, DetroitHockey.net's Clark Rasmussen reports that the Griffins have shuffled jersey numbers:
The team originally shuffled things around when camp began. Included in those changes was Marek Tvrdon losing his #16 to Xavier Ouellet and taking the #13 that had belong to Gustav Nyquist. With Nyquist back in Grand Rapids, he reclaims #13 and Tvrdon takes #39, worn last season by Jan Mursak and assigned to Travis Novak in camp.
Coincidentally, Nyquist originally claimed #13 from Mursak, who took the #39 he was assigned in Detroit when he returned to the Griffins alongside Nyquist last season.
Richard Nedomlel switches from #45 to #42, after having been assigned #41 at the end of last season.
The only other switch is that Nick Jensen, who did not skate at camp while injured, drops from the #48 he was assigned during the Griffins' Calder Cup run to the #14 vacated by Chad Billins' departure for the Calgary Flames' system.
One curiosity is that Kevin Lynch is no longer listed on the Griffins' web site. Lynch was assigned #25, the number worn in Detroit by Cory Emmerton, who cleared waivers on Monday and was expected to be assigned to Grand Rapids. Emmerton's old #8 is worn by Willie Coetzee, so it could be that Lynch was set to change to accommodate Emmerton. Alternately, Lynch could have been assigned to the Toledo Walleye and it hasn't been announced yet.
And after going grocery shopping, I've still got an overnight report to pen. It'll be spare, but I hope you don't mind me getting this stuff out early.
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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.