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Red Wings evening news: on Datsyuk, free agents, Holland’s ‘thoughts,’ Griffins and goalie pads

Prior to "Babcockgate," the Free Press's Helene St. James delivered a pair of scoops regarding the Wings' free agents-to-be and the state of Pavel Datsyuk's knee, and today, the rest of the beat writers caught up.

Regarding the latter matter before the former one, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirmed that Datsyuk probably won't need surgery to repair his wonky left knee...

"Doctors don't prescribe surgery when there's no discomfort or pain," general manager Ken Holland said. "Right now, Pavel isn't experiencing any discomfort or pain. I don't know what will happen two weeks from now, but if nothing else changes he will not have surgery."

Datsyuk said after the Game 5 loss in Boston, which eliminated the Red Wings, that his knee was progressing well and he was optimistic he wouldn't need surgery.

Datsyuk, 35, had 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 45 games this season. He had a team-leading three goals and five points in the series loss to Boston.

Datsyuk has already started his offseason workout routine.

"Earlier than normal," Holland said. "We wanted to see how he felt before he headed back (to Russia). He's pushing it pretty hard."

(it's going to be difficult for Datsyuk to head back to Yekaterinburg given that newborns don't take halfway-around-the-world trips very easily)

As did MLive's Ansar Khan...

“Right now I don’t think he’s having surgery,” general manager Ken Holland said on Tuesday. “(Coach) Mike Babcock introduced him to a (trainer) we respect. He’s pushing hard and we’re monitoring. If nothing changes, he won’t have surgery.”

Datsyuk experienced pain in his left knee for the better part of the second half of the season, causing him to miss 30 of the final 40 regular season games. But he felt much better after returning late in the season.

“At the end of the year he had no pain,” Holland said. “The doctors said they can’t recommend surgery if the patient doesn’t have pain. The hockey people felt he had quickness to his stride (in the playoffs). As we go along, if he has no discomfort or pain we’ll do no surgery.”

But Khan offered a slightly different take on the Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be, reporting that the Wings will reassess everybody's status before determining whether to tender contract offers to at least David Legwand, Kyle Quincey and Jonas Gustavsson until the team's held more internal discussions and prepares to make contract offers in June (though it still sounds like all three, as well as Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson, are g-o-n-e gone):

Among their UFA forwards, Daniel Alfredsson, 41, appears the only one who might be offered a deal. He will take a few weeks to decide if he wants to play another season.

“He needs time to determine if he’s got the passion and desire to play again, if his body will let him do the things he wants to do,” Holland said. “I told Alfie we’re not making a decision until the middle of June. There’s lots of time.”

The Red Wings have five defensemen signed for next season (Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff) and another (Danny DeKeyser) who is a restricted free agent and will be signed eventually.

They also have prospects Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko, one of whom could realistically make the team next season.

Kyle Quincey, a UFA, probably will sign elsewhere.

In goal, the Red Wings must decide if they want to offer Jonas Gustavsson a contract, explore a market that has several back-up options or promote Petr Mrazek.

“I told Legwand, Quincey and Gustavsson we’re going to take time to have internal meetings,” Holland said. “In late May or early June I’ll reach out to their agents to let them know if we have a contract offer."

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff chose to re-examine Alfredsson's locker room clean-out day comments in an attempt to assess #11's priorities...

“There’s a lot of factors that play in, mentally, physically and family,” Alfredsson said. “I still love the game, there’s no question about that. At the same time, you’ve got to end it sometime.”

Recently-named Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden skated in 20 NHL seasons before hanging up his skates for good in 2008. He remembers how much that ultimate decision to give up the game weighed on his mind.

“I know for myself, after 20 seasons, mentally it was just harder to get your head around what it takes (to keep playing),” Linden recalled. “I think that ultimately there’s the physical aspect of doing it and the physical commitment in the summer to getting prepared, but there’s also a mental side, the toll it takes.”

That’s what drove Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom to call it a day in 2012 and Alfredsson readily admits that’s an element of his decision that will play a very significant role in the outcome.

“It comes to a point where you know you have to put the work in during the summer or you won’t have any fun in the winter,” Alfredsson said. “And if that work in the summer becomes too much of a load and a time commitment, then you know it’s time. That’s one of the things I’ve dealt with the last few years. Do I have it in me to put that work in and not just do it because I want to do it? It’s got to really feel like it’s something that you’re excited to do again. That’s a tough one.”

In terms of numbers, there seems no reason for Alfredsson to walk away. His 18-31-49 totals led the Wings in scoring.

Though Duff did add this from Ken Holland into the mix:

“He needs time to determine if he’s got the passion and desire to play again, if his body will let him do the things he wants to do,” said Detroit GM Ken Holland, who met with Alfredsson late last week to discuss his future.




Otherwise, at the NHL-ish level, Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser took part in Team USA's 3-1 win over Germany in a World Championship warm-up game (the tournament begins on Thursday in Minsk, Belarus), and MLive's Brendan Savage took note of their contributions...

Detroit Red Wings Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser helped the United States beat Germany 3-1 Tuesday in an IIHF World Championship pre-tournament game in Minsk, Belarus.

Neither figured in the scoring.

Abdelkader had a minus-1 rating and DeKeyser picked up a minor penalty.

Amongst the CBC's Elliotte Friedman's "30 Thoughts":

23. Like how both Ken Holland and Mike Babcock raised the bar for the Red Wings, saying the goal had to be more than just extending the playoff streak. It's transition time for Detroit. The organization will benefit from the experience their young players received this season, but Holland says a major question now will be if they can ease the wear and tear on Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, just like those two did a few years ago.

24. "One of the reasons Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios and some of our other veterans could keep playing was Datsyuk and Zetterberg took bigger roles and kept them going," Holland said. "[Gustav] Nyquist, [Tomas] Tatar and [Riley] Sheahan... Can they carry us on nights when Zetterberg and Datsyuk are not scoring?" Datsyuk played 20:16 per game. Zetterberg averaged 17 seconds more. If Detroit could get that number down two or three minutes per night, the organization would be very happy.

25. As for the next group of prospects, Holland indicated defencemen Mattias Backman and Xavier Ouellet may be NHL-ready. But QMJHL scoring sensation Anthony Mantha appears headed to the AHL, and it would be a surprise if they'd want goalie Petr Mrazek limited to 25 games backing up Jimmy Howard. Can't see Detroit offering Jonas Gustavsson more than a one-year contract, though. Might have to look elsewhere if he wants longer term.

26. One subject Holland politely refused to discuss: compensation for losing your employees to other clubs. (He will not allow contact with AHL Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who would be a big-time contender for open NHL jobs.) This is a big issue for several teams who strongly believe you shouldn't lose good people for nothing. This practice ended in 2006, when commissioner Gary Bettman had to negotiate Peter Chiarelli's move from Ottawa to Boston because Senator owner Eugene Melnyk was mildly unhappy with the whole thing. Bettman ended this.

27. However, according to several sources, there is a movement to create some kind of draft-pick compensation. And it appears support is growing. Don't be surprised if it's on the agenda for the GM meetings at the Stanley Cup final. From what I understand, Bettman told the GMs at the last get-together he wouldn't consider any proposal that left room for interpretation. As mentioned, Holland, who has lost several critical staffers in the past few seasons, wouldn't discuss it. But word is we are talking about a relatively high pick (although not a first-rounder) and the team losing the selection would have a multi-year window to give it up. (Usual disclaimer: No one quoted in this blog is used as an off-the-record source.)




In the prospect department, via RedWingsFeed, the Grand Rapids Griffins won't open their second-round series against the Texas Stars until Thursday, but GriffinsHockey.com's Alan Cross penned a profile of the soon-to-be-turning-pro Andreas Athanasiou...

The Woodbridge, Ontario native made an immediate impact upon his arrival in Grand Rapids, despite playing in just the final two games of the regular season. In the team’s home finale on April 18 versus Lake Erie, Athanasiou earned his first professional assist in his first professional game. The next night, the Griffins closed out their regular season with a rematch against the Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena, where Athanasiou upped the ante and scored a goal and an assist.

The up-and-coming forward’s efforts were enough to earn the trust of Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill, who has opted to utilize Athanasiou in all four games of the Griffins’ playoff run thus far. The 19-year-old potted an assist in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Abbotsford Heat and finished the round with a plus-three rating, in addition to seeing a significant amount of ice time on a team already stacked in terms of experience and capability.

“I think just getting the opportunity from Blash has been great,” Athanasiou said. “Obviously, if he tells me to do something, I’m going to do it. He’s been teaching me a lot every day. He’s been giving me little things to work on. “

Detroit’s third choice, 110th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Athanasiou has been reunited with two other of Detroit’s 2012 draft picks, goaltender Jake Paterson and right wing Martin Frk. While Paterson was recently assigned to the Griffins following the conclusion of his season with the Saginaw Spirt, Frk has been in town for the duration of the season, save for a brief month-long foray into the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye in November.

“I’ve played against Jake my whole life, so I’ve always known him,” Athanasiou recalled. “He’s my age, and we played in the same minor hockey league system (OHL). Frky, I’ve been through the prospects stuff with him. I’ve always kept in touch with them.”

Paterson’s role has largely been one of observance, collecting valuable first-hand experience while Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum keep the Griffins’ cage locked down.

Frk has played in 50 regular season games with the team in his first professional season, and he collected three goals and nine assists along the way. After three highly-productive years with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads from 2010-13 in which he posted 163 points (73-90—163), Frk has endured an uphill battle in adjusting to the AHL. He didn’t earn his first point with Grand Rapids, an assist, until January 18 versus Abbotsford. From there, his contributions came more regularly as he began to find his groove.

Contrary to Frk, Athanasiou hasn’t seemed to experience any major-league jitters as indicated by his rapid productivity. His blazing-fast speed and creative stick-handling are things of marvel, and he’s assisted by a spirited personality that drives his passion to succeed.

The Griffins' YouTube channel posted another episode of "Off the Pipes With Piper"...

For what it's worth, Sault This Week's Randy Russon reports that Wings prospect Colin Campbell took part in Lake Superior State University's awards banquet last week...

And the Canadian Press reports that the Ontario Hockey League chose to name Erie Otters forward Connor Brown its MVP, and as such:

Brown is the OHL's candidate for the Canadian Hockey League's player of the year. He'll be up against Sam Reinhart of the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice and Anthony Mantha of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Val-d'Or Foreurs.

The winner will be announced May 24 during the MasterCard Memorial Cup in London, Ont.

If you want to keep score at home, you can follow Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs' Game 3 battle against Baie-Comeau here, and Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm's Game 3 tangle against North Bay here (both teams are battling for their respective leagues' championships, and the series are tied 1-1);




And in the "Business of Hockey": Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea profiled Ilitch Holdings' new director of corporate communications...

Ilitch Holdings Inc. has a new top spokesman: Doug Kuiper.

He replaces John Hahn as the vice president of corporate communications for the $3.1 billion management services company for the various Ilitch family businesses that include the Little Caesars pizza chain, the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, and MotorCity Casino Hotel.

The hiring was announced Monday in a statement issued by Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings.

As part of his new job, Kuiper also will handle communications for the $650 million hockey arena district project the Ilitches have under way in downtown Detroit.

Kuiper most recently was chief marketing officer for Detroit-based cloud-computing business Covisint Corp., which was spun off from software maker Compuware Inc. last year.

He also spent 14 years in marketing and communications at Compuware, which bought Covisint in 2004. Prior to that, Kuiper was public relations director for the psychiatry department at Wayne State University’s school of medicine.

Kuiper earned his undergrad and graduate degrees in English from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, respectively, Ilitch Holdings said.

“Doug is a highly experienced communications and marketing professional who has successfully managed communications for a high-growth business with an increasing presence in Detroit,” Chris Ilitch said in a statement. “His experience and deep roots in Detroit’s business community align well with our future development work and other growth within our businesses, and we’re very pleased to add him to our team.”

Michigan Radio discussed Joe Louis Arena's future...

Now that the Detroit Red Wings are going to get a new home in 2016, Joe Louis Arena seems destined for the wrecking ball.

And that is focusing fresh attention on Detroit's riverfront, as the city searches for a new use for that riverfront site.

There could be some valuable lessons Detroit could learn from Buffalo, which is doing more than just about any Great Lakes City to reconnect with its waterfront after generations of industrial abuse and neglect.

Writer Edward McClelland spelled out the story of the ongoing process of reclaiming Buffalo's waterfront in a story for Belt Magazine. He joined us to discuss what Buffalo is doing, and what Detroit could do.

And I was surprised to see this posted on The Goalie Guild:

Editor’s Note: Late last week, we received an e-mail from Warrior Hockey regarding Jonas Gustavsson and a goal he allowed against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We asked for their permission to publish this letter verbatim in order to help them get their message out to all of our readers and followers. We appreciate them taking the time to reach out to us regarding the G2 leg pad, and thank them for allowing us to publish the same e-mail on our website.

From Neal Watts of Warrior Hockey:

I just wanted to write you on the topic of the recent game winning goal scored by Milan Lucic against Jonas Gustavsson. As you know there has been some chatter online that Gustavsson’s G2 Leg pad didn’t perform properly on that play and let him (and his team) down. As soon as we saw that goal, we in the Warrior Goalie R&D team were anxious to figure out what happened with Gustavsson’s pad on that play. We were all over the video of that goal to try to understand how his leg pad could have ended up in that face down position.

I’ve attached a still frame sequence of how that play unfolded. I feel it shows pretty definitively that Gustavsson’s pad didn’t malfunction in anyway. If you look at the positioning of his leg and skate, it shows pretty clearly that he kicked his leg backwards and planted his knee on the ice with the pad face down. His toe was pointed down when his knee contacted the ice. With all his weight planted on his knee the pad could only remain pinned face down, even when he rotated his skate and leg into the more conventional butterfly position.

I don’t think it’s surprising that Gustavsson made this movement with his leg. It was a desperation move to cover Lucic. His defence had left him high and dry. You can see as the play starts that Gustavsson adjusts the position of his left leg from a wide stance to a narrow stance(frame 2 in top sequence) just before Krug passes the puck. I’d guess this is to cover his five hole for a shot from Krug. But once Krug passes, Gustavsson is kind of screwed. He is not in a good position to quickly transition into a butterfly to cover the top of the crease. His shoulders and hips are still squared to Krug. All he really has time to do is kick his left leg back, which he did. He doesn’t rotate his shoulders and hips until well after his pad has planted face down on the ice.

We don’t want to make a big issue of this, but at the same time this is a product that we have worked very hard on and believe in, and we don’t want to see it maligned because of a misunderstanding of what actually happened on that play.

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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.


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