The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/28/14 at 06:26 PM ET
Updated with a Mattias Backman interview at 7:32 PM:
So Tomas Tatar has been signed to a 3-year deal at an average value of $2.75 million per season (that particular blog entry's been updated with quips and quotes, and it's a solid "bridge" contract for someone who will, per Winging It in Motown, remain a restricted free agent after this deal expires), the Red Wings expect to have no issues re-signing Danny DeKeyser, as DeKeyser told Fox 17 and Ken Holland told MLive's Brendan Savage...
"I don't see any problem," Holland said. "We're going to want to get him signed. I talked 3-4 times with his camp in June and a little bit shortly after the draft. We haven't talked in a little bit. But again, I'm motivated to get him signed. I think Danny wants to get signed. Once you get into early July, everybody's focus is free agency for a couple of weeks. Going forward, now we can find a solution. I'm confident we can get him done."
And with--as Savage noted in an earlier article--22 players signed, the Wings now have $5.27 million in Capgeek-estimated cap space, which should be enough money to re-sign DeKeyser (I'd estimate that DeKeyser's going to get a $2.5-3 million deal, but the Free Press's Helene St. James believes that DeKeyser could get a Quincey-like $4 million AAV deal) and possibly give this guy a decent base salary:
Holland said a decision on the status of Alfredsson, who battled a back injury last season, won't be made until he begins skating a couple of weeks before training camp begins Sept. 19 in Traverse City.
Savage and the Free Press's Helene St. James also revealed why Wings assistant GM Ryan Martin told the Free Press's George Sipple that the team's not looking to add an advanced statistics guru at the present moment:
So Mike Babcock has to find an assistant coach and an assistant coach/video coach, and Jeff Blashill has to find a pair of assistant coaches to replace Spiros Anastas (heading to the University of Lethbridge) and Jim Paek (heading to Korea to help the national team qualify for the 2018 Olympics).
[edit/update: I can't state how absolutely essential McKittrick's presence was--he's been the man who's coordinated Babcock's video scouting of other teams and their top players, his assessments of his own players, the team's examples of how to execute plays and how NOT to execute others, and he served as an assistant coach as well...Learning that he's leaving at such a late date is a particularly sticky wicket /end edit]
That's a significant number of bodies to recruit in mid-July. I know that the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reported that Paek will take part in the Grand Rapids Griffins' youth camp this week in GR--and the Griffins are covering it presently...
But then Paek's gone after 9 years in GR, and I can't overstate the amount of work that Babcock, Blashill and the Wings' management will have to "put in" finding the right voices and the proper personality "fits" behind both teams' benches. The next month will involve the requiste amount of golf in Vernon, BC for Ken Holland, Tyler Wright and Jeff Finley, but all three will be exchanging calls, texts and emails with their pals in the coaching fraternity, and the same's true for Ryan Martin, Kris Draper and a pair of head coaches who will be spending a little less time "at the lake" than usual.
I don't know whether Babcock knew that he was losing Renney and McKittrick (who's most likely joining new Winterhawks coach Jamie Kompon as an assistant, and hey, at least he'll be coaching Dominic Turgeon) when he hired Tony Granato, but I was very happy that Babcock went the conventional route in hiring an "experienced NHL coach" over an unproven "new voice."
Today, Granato spoke with the Windsor Star's Bob Duff regarding his new endeavor:
As an opponent, both on the ice as a player with the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks and as an opposing coach with the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins, Granato always viewed the Wings as a stern test.
“I know that they would always be prepared, probably as prepared as any team in the league,” Granato said. “I think they’ve got a tremendous work ethic and the system in place that Mike’s put in and has been part of for a long time shows the consistency and that when you do have situations whether it be injuries or tough parts of the schedule, you find a way to win and be competitive. And that’s what they’ve been able to do. I respect the fact that (Babcock) was able to get the most out his players, consistently find ways to get the most out of who he has and the other thing is they play the same way. The Detroit Red Wings play a system and brand of hockey consistently through the years that’s tough to play against every night. Systematically sound and from that perspective I think the way Mike is able to get the most out of his players and personnel is something I’ve admired about him and also the organization.”
Granato will oversee the club’s penalty-killing and defence and is on a one-year contract with a club option for a second year.
This is intriguing...
“I think everybody knows what Mike’s position is,” Granato said, referring to the fact that Babcock is in the last year of his contract with the Wings. “I’m in a position where I hope Mike soon signs a longer term extension and I hope I’m able to do the same thing.”
He views the Wings job as a dream opportunity.
“When the Detroit position came available, I looked at the team, I looked at the staff, I looked at the management team led by (GM) Kenny (Holland) and ownership (of the Ilitch family),” Granato said. “This is a premier organization and I wanted to be part of it. I’m lucky it became available when it did and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”
Duff continues, and now Babcock needs to find another Granato.
In Grand Rapids, Justin Abdelkader was indeed taking part in the Griffins Youth Hockey Camp, which will run until August 2nd, but he wasn't talking about coaching kids when WZZM 13 asked Abdelkader about his work with a Grand Rapids physiotherapist who's helping athletes recover from concussions:
[A] Grand Rapids physical therapist thinks concussion therapy needs to go one step further and her new approach attracted the attention of Detroit Red Wings player Justin Abdelkader.
"I started playing hockey when I was four." Justin Adbdelkaer skated his way from a backyard ice pond to a major ice arena. "Hockey is a game that's definitely the fastest game out of any of the sports." And one of the most physical. "It never feels good to get hit pretty hard."
Last December, Justin took a good one. "I kind of was off balance. I fell to the ice. It took me a sec to regroup and get my feet under me."
He was out of the game for a week and while his brain showed no signs of injury, other parts of his body did. "I was out of alignment. My back and my neck was a big thing too, just from the hit."
He was suffering from post-concussion injuries. "If you had something that was so hard that is caused a concussion, something had to absorb all that shock," says Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, the owner of Generation Care in Grand Rapids. She's taking a new approach to concussion therapy. "We look beyond just the head injury."
A licensed physical therapist, Lookabaugh-Deur watched the clip of Justin getting hit, then went to work. "we did some things with a little repositioning of his jaw."
And that little adjustment gave Justin big relief. "I didn't even realize how sore it was until she did that and she kind of moved a few things around and when she was done she put her hand on the same spot and it was amazing the pain was pretty much gone away. And within days my head was even feeling a lot better."
The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner spotted Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan on the ice at the Griffins' Youth Camp this morning...
And Wallner spoke with Grand Rapids Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan regarding his professional hockey-playing present and future:
In the Griffins’ Calder Cup Trophy season of 2012-13, Hoggan played every game. He had 45 points (20-24-45) in 76 games in the regular season and added another 12 (5-7-12) n 24 playoff games. Last season, Hoggan was limited to 59 games with 31 points (14-17-31) as he battled nagging injuries and also voluntarily sat out numerous games when the team exceeded the veteran-player limit. He played in 10 playoffs games and scored four times (4-1-5).
Hoggan knows the clock is ticking, but the competitor in him also looks to cheat Father Time.
“I know in re-signing for two years last year they were saying, ‘Well, you’re going to be 36, so maybe we’ll just do a one and one,’” he said of contract negotiations. “I said, no I really want that second one.
“I’m kind of out to prove I still can do it. That’s one of the things that keep me going. The fear of it ending is another thing. I want to play as long as I can. Somebody told me that your body will tell you when it’s over. Obviously, your production and performance goes down, that speaks for itself. But I’m still enjoying it and that’s key for me.”
Last year's slate of promotions to Detroit--and the slate of cap-compliance buyouts--will allow Hoggan to both mentor the "next generation" of Wings prospects while returning to a regularly-utilized role:
In the offseason, Brennan Evans re-signed with the team, joining returner Nathan Paetsch to form the veteran nucleus with Hoggan. Veteran newcomers are forward Andy Miele and center Kevin Porter, a former teammate of Hoggan’s two seasons in San Antonio.
He also looks forward to seeing more of the young prospects, including Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou.
“You start to see some of the others guys graduating and moving on and it’s like OK, is the cupboard going to be bare,” Hoggan said. “But the Red Wings do such a good job of drafting and finding new players that you look forward to working with them and do your part to help grow them and encourage them.”
In the prospect department, extended family version: Hockey's Future's Chapin Landvogt surveyed the Swedish prospects drafted this past June in Philadelphia, but he doesn't focus on Christoffer Ehn or Axel Holmstrom. Instead, he mentions one of Holmstrom's undrafted teammates:
Of great surprise to some in the community was that Skelleftea defenseman Sebastian Aho didn’t hear his name called by any of the 30 NHL teams. His size is the biggest question at the moment as he only comes in at 5’9” and 170 pounds, but he did have a season to remember, spending 34 games taking a fairly regular shift with SHL champion Skelleftea after having been dominant in the U20 junior circuit. If his development continues in the manner it did this past season, then there’ll be no way of getting around him next summer, when one of Finland’s top ranked youngsters, also named Sebastian Aho, will first be draft-eligible.
In June, the Chicago Wolves, the St. Louis Blues' AHL affiliate, signed Jake Chelios to an AHL contract, and today, the ECHL announced that Dean Chelios, who attended the Wings' summer development camp, has left the Toledo Walleye to sign with another ECHL team:
The Indy Fuel announced that they have signed rookie forward Dean Chelios for the 2014-15 season.
The Fuel are the ECHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League and the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.
The son of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios, the 25-year-old, appeared in eight games with the Toledo Walleye at the end of the 2013-14 season following the conclusion of his collegiate career.
In four seasons at Michigan State, Chelios tallied 53 points (22g-31a) and 80 penalty minutes in 139 games played from 2009-14 in CCHA and Big Ten Conference play. Prior to his time with the Spartans, Chelios spent three seasons in the junior ranks with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and Chicago Steel from 2007-09. In his final junior campaign, Chelios scored at a better-than point-per-game pace notching 53 points (19g-34a) in 49 games for the 2008-09 Steel.
In a different kind of "extended family" set of news stories:
1. Per Pro Hockey Talk's Ryan Dadoun, if you find yourself in Los Angeles on September 14th, the Kings' "Hockeyfest" will include a game in which Kings alumni (including Luc Robitaille and Ron Duguay) will battle a set of "Russian Stars" (whose roster will include Slava Fetisov and...Tony Esposito?), but the price is very high, $150 per person;
2. Plymouth Whalers director of communications Peter Krupsky also penned a list of all-time Whalers alums as part of the lead-up to the team's 25th anniversary, and he spoke glowingly of Stephen Weiss:
Red Wing fans haven’t seen what Weiss can do, yet. With 223 points for Plymouth (11th on the all-tine list) in his career, Weiss was consistently good.
I hope Weiss impresses us all...
In charitable news, via Twitter:
(I don't have any "cocktail attire," so I don't think I'd be allowed to go if I could afford it. And I doubt that a cocktail party involves someone who knows how to make a good Shirley Temple for the alcohol-allergic)
And finally, I hate to pull an Eklund-style "More to Come," but I was about to translate Corren.se's Andreas Pettersson's interview with Wings prospect Mattias Backman when the Tatar contract news broke, so I'm going to get to that presently. You may or may not get anything out of their video interview with Backman, but it's six-and-a-half minutes long...
Backman looking forward to his adventure
Ice Hockey: This fall, it's finally time for Mattias Backman. Time for the big adventure. The dream of moving to North America will take place, and he'll get his chance to earn a spot in the world's best hockey league, which is his biggest goal.
And not just any team in this case, but the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. And the Linkoping native is ready for the challenge.
It's a sunny afternoon. The sun's almost at the top of the sky when Corren steps into the patio at the Backman family home in Vidingsjo. We can't ring or go in through the front door--the staircase has just been freshly-painted, and there's a note asking us to walk around back.
Mattias shows up, his mood seems to be good, and we settle down in the shade under the porch awning. His cat, Alice, visits as Mattias takes a seat on the sofa.
Mattias is gearing up for the biggest adventure thus far in his career, but from the outset, there was never much hope that he'd be playing games in the NHL.
"I never thought that I'd be drafted, actually. I hadn't talked to many teams at all, so I didn't have big hopes."
But in the summer of 2011, he received news that changed the direction of his hockey career.
"I was at our cottage in Bestorp, and was following the draft picks on my phone, and the coverage was bad, but I tried to follow the first round. The rest of the rounds took place the day after, and I knew some friends would be picked, but in the end, when I was drafted, it was a bit shocking, but it was cool as hell."
He was selected in the 5th round, 146th overall. In the same draft, Jonas Brodin and Mika Zibanejad were drafted, but no players were selected from Linkopings Hockey, just Mattias.
This fall, he's moving to Michigan, either to Detroit or Grand Rapids.
Does it feel real to you?
"Yes, but I have to make it after all. I've had some time to think a little, clearly it's huge, but I'm trying to not make it bigger than it already is, just to view it as a fun thing."
Currently, Mattias is living at his parents' home in the village of Vidingsjo. The street outside the house is where it all began, this is where his career started around 20 years ago, when he played street hockey in and out with his neighbor and teammate, Claes Norden.
"I'll have to thank my dad and grandfather, they were the ones who took me to the rink when I was two. I could hardly talk, but I already wanted to play hockey. I started first with skating, and then the kids' league hockey school, and it just rolled along."
How does it feel to live at home again?
"It's a bit of a hassle to move home (laughs), but it's also beautiful. I actually already bought an apartment in Linkoping, but it's being renovated so I'm living at home temporarily. It's both good and bad, to get served and serve," says Mattias, and he smiles.
When his career took off, he had to opt out of soccer to bet everything on hockey. And it's been good for Mattias. In 2012 he won the Under-17 World Junior Championship, but his greatest moment as a hockey player was the World Junior gold medal that year.
"The Under-17 championship was huge, but it can't even compare. The Under-20 gold was fantastically fun, to win with some of the players I grew up with and played with as a youngster."
His 3-year contract with the Red Wings was signed for the 2013-14 season, but he was loaned to Linkopings Hockey Club. Mattias has completed a successful season, and he was the best in terms of plus-minus in the SHL.
"It was both me and those who thought that I should remain and continue to grow. I got a lot of confidence and got to play a lot."
After LHC was beaten in the semifinal against Skelleftea last year, Mattias went to North America and played in the playoffs for Detroit's farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
"I got 12 or 13 games in the playoffs. I played a lot, including on the first power play unit and stuff like that. I got huge confidence there, and it went very well for me, it was very fun."
The 21-year-old's humble. It seems like he has his feet on the ground and doesn't want to dream himself too far away.
"I've always said that I didn't want to be in a hurry to go over. It's foolish to stress over it, it's me who's deciding and knows what's best for me. But now I feel that it's time to go."
September's the time. He'll go to the USA and Traverse City, where Detroit holds its rookie camp.
"Then the best players will stay and those who aren't good enough will be cut. We'll see if I hang in, or whether I play in the AHL."
"I don't really know what will happen, which team I will play for. I can't have too high expectations, that I should play in the NHl right away, that's very tough. Everyone is superb, so I have to perform at my best all the time if I'm going to be there. And you've got to see long-term, it might be good to play in the AHL, too, to learn the game and to grow into it. I don't see it as a disadvantage to play in the AHL, absolutely not."
"You can see how the Detroit organization has worked for the apst couple of year,s they've always schooled their players in the AHL for at least a year or two.
The Red Wings' farm team, the Griffins, play in Grand Rapids. The city is also in Michigan, about 250 kilometers from Detroit.
"It's one of the better cities in the AHL, I've heard. I really liked it there, lived only 200 meters from the rink. The town's about the size of Linkoping, about 300,000 residents. A big small town in the USA, but with lots of restaurants, beautiful people and a great team."
He's aware of the fact that it's far less glamorous to play in the AHL than the NHL.
"In the AHL, travel is by bus, there's very little air travel. In the NHl teams have private jets but in the AHL it's on the bus all the time, and you have to be tough."
That the season will involve at least 30 more games than he's used to in the SHL doesn't worry him.
"There will be a little more travel and all of that, but I think it will be fun to get to play more games, that's what you want."
Mattias signed up before a U.S. adventure on the West Coast, abroad with his family, and he's now home in Linkoping.
"I have about six weeks left at home, so it will be with my pals and so on. I'm just trying to have a great summer, and I'm also training hard."
How does it feel to leave Linkoping?
"I'll miss my friends, feeling secure and obviously my family, but I think it will be nice to go over, take the next step and see how far it can go, and it's enough to know that I'll be coming back home in the summer."
How much will you miss the fitness center at Vidingsjo?
(Laughter) "Not so much, in fact there have been some pretty terrible moments, I have to say."
Do you feel like you're ready to go?
"I can't sit and say so here and now, it's difficult. You never know, but somehow you still have to feel that you want to and that you're surely going to try to feel ready, but I've lived here all my life."
Finally, how long will you stay in North America?
"Of course, I'd love to stay there for my whole career, that's the goal. But I haven't thought about more than two years, then we'll see what happens," says Mattias.
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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.