The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/06/14 at 06:58 PM ET
Amongst this evening's Red Wings-related news stories (the Wings didn't practice today; they'll do so tomorrow before kicking off a stretch of 3 games in 4 nights and 4 in 6):
1. First and foremost, if you're watching the out-of-town scoreboard, the Columbus Blue Jackets are hosting the Islanders--between the time I started writing this entry and the time I submitted it, Columbus took a
2-0 first period 3-0 second period lead--and Tuesday's opponent, the Buffalo Sabres, are playing in Philly (with the Sabres set to possibly regain the services of Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart, Drew Stafford and Torrey Mitchell on Tuesday, per the Buffalo News's Mike Harrington). Columbus had 85 points to Detroit's 88, and Columbus is playing their "game in hand" tonight (their 78th game), but the Blue Jackets already own more total wins (39 vs. 37) and Regulation-or-OT wins (34 vs. 32).
Barring Blue Jackets loses in their final four games against Phoenix, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Florida (the Wings' last four games involve the Sabres, Penguins, Hurricanes and Blues), the Wings will have to "win out" on points.
The New Jersey Devils are now 4 points behind the Wings, too (with fewer total wins but more ROWs), after winning on Saturday (3-1 over Carolina) and posting a 4-0-and-3 record over their past 7 games, and that complicates things slightly.
For what it's worth, Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski suggests that the Wings have a 63% chance of earning the first Wild Card spot and a 27% chance of earning the 2nd Wild Card spot (i.e. a 90% chance of making the playoffs) via SportsClubStats, but before you simply say, "Yay, even if the Wings lose their final four games, there's a 90% chance that they'll make the playoffs!" that's not necessarily how things work.
SportsClubStats' creator, Ken Roberts, admits that his algorithm isn't perfect, and he offers 3 caveats while explaining how his website works:
- The algorithm does not know about things like trades, injuries, and matchups. It does not know that a team has started believing in themselves.
- "Out" does not necessarily mean mathematically eliminated. It just means in the millions of times I played out the season the team never made the playoffs. Likewise for "In".
- The code could have bugs. The nice thing is the numbers are broken down such that bugs don’t stay hidden long. If you find a new one I’ll buy you a beer. Domestic. Milwaukee’s Best, Schaefer, something like that.
Roberts explains how his website's algorithm works:
It knows the season schedule and scores for past games. As games are played it grabs the new scores from the internet (or gets scores sent in from fans) and simulates the rest of the season by randomly picking scores for each remaining game. The weighted method takes the opponents record and home field advantage into account when randomly picking scores, so the better team is more likely to win. The 50/50 method gives each opponent an equal chance of winning (or tying if the sport allows it) each game. When it’s finished "playing" all the remaining games it applies the league’s tie breaking rules to see where everyone finished. It repeats this random playing out of the season millions of times, keeping track of how many "seasons" each team finishes where. Finally it updates the site with the new results for you to read with your morning coffee.
The story: The Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets or New Jersey Devils technically could end up with a top-three seed, particularly one of the last two if the Philadelphia Flyers don't turn around their four-game winless streak. However, the realistic look is that those three, plus the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals are competing for the two wild-card spots.
Subplot: Led by younger players Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Danny DeKeyser, the Red Wings have made an impressive late charge to get in position to continue their playoff streak to 23 consecutive seasons.
Subplot II: If the Capitals miss the playoffs, it could prompt major changes. GM George McPhee and coach Adam Oates could be vulnerable. The roster, particularly the defense, could be revamped.
Subplot III: Toronto coach Randy Carlyle might be fighting for his job as well. GM Dave Nonis inherited Carlyle, and it seems likely the coach would be dismissed if the Maple Leafs don't make the playoffs. They give up more shots than any team in the NHL.
What we know: Three of Toronto's last four games are against non-playoff teams. The Blue Jackets' last three games are at Dallas, Tampa Bay and Florida. The Devils play three non-playoffs before finishing up against the No. 1 overall Bruins.
Injuries: Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier is out three weeks, meaning James Reimer is in net for the rest of the regular season. Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin and winger Nathan Horton are day-to-day. Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg could start skating next week, but he's still far from ready. Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique are out for the Devils, who can't afford to be missing significant offensive contributors. They have the weakest offense among the wild-card contenders. Washington's Mike Green left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury.
Prediction: Detroit finishes seventh and Columbus places eighth.
And as the Pensblog's "The Confluence"--a former Kukla's Korner's bloger--noted, you can be sure that pundits will write off the "paper" match-up between Crosby, Malkin et. al. and the Wings, but
In terms of this evening's directly-Wings-related news, I'd actually like to start by re-posting the "lede" article used in the Wings-Canadiens wrap-up: As the Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson noted, Pavel Datsyuk is OK with the Red Wings having to all but "win out" to make the playoffs, but after spending 3 of the past 4 seasons doing so, and with a 3-year contract extension set to kick in with a $7.5 million cap hit next season (and $10 million in real-world salary for the 2014-2015 season), Datsyuk and his teammates want to flip the script:
“If you ask me if I like it, it’s no. I don’t like this one. But it’s life and we need to go through it,” said Datsyuk, playing his second game back after missing 16 games with a suspected knee injury. For us the last four games, it’s the second season in a row they’re like playoff games. It’s better for us that the playoffs start early. We’ll be ready when the real playoffs start.”
When asked if knowing the Wings had done the trick last season gave him encouragement this time around, Datsyuk said: “Yeah, but I don’t want it to be our habit.”
Datsyuk played 17:41 Saturday night and scored the Wings’ first goal of the night and his first since Dec. 30. He played 17:45 in his return for the win over the Buffalo Sabres Friday night.
“I feel much better than (Friday), so now I just try to pick up more pace each shift. I feel better,” he said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock also shot down any rumors that Henrik Zetterberg's jump-started his comeback--Zetterberg isn't scheduled to begin skating on his own until sometime this upcoming week...
Babcock said it was unlikely captain Henrik Zetterberg, out after back surgery, would be able to return for a regular season game.
“No, I haven’t even seen Hank around the rink that way for practice, so I don’t think so. The way I look at it is we’ve got to find a way to get in with the group we have.”
And both Datsyuk and Babcock weighed in on #13's performance and/or conditioning while speaking with MLive's Brendan Savage:
"We were a little bit slow to start in the first period and we came back in the third," said Datsyuk, whose goal was his 16th in 41 games this season. "Looked like more emotion to try and score winning goal."
Coach Mike Babcock liked what he saw from Datsyuk – at times.
"I thought Pavel got better in the second half," Babcock said. "I didn't think he was very good early. But I thought he was better in the second half. Anytime you bring good players back, as good as they are to have back, it disrupt things, your power play and that. But I thought our power play got going. Let's face it, we had the puck a lot and we didn't find a way to win, that's all."
Datsyuk's wonky left knee looks OK thus far--Datsyuk's stick is still off the ice a little too much for Pavel Datsyuk when he's pivoting or stoppping and starting, but he's skating pretty fluidly--but #13 does look like someone who's barely worked out save aggressive physical therapy on his right knee for the past three weeks. Even last night, he was bumped off the puck and checked by opponents surprisingly easily, and he just seemed to be getting back into the pace of the game in the 3rd period of last night's game (when he switched from a strangely white-taped CCM Tacks stick to his customary black-taped stick).
If you missed the update, the Wings spoke with Savage regarding their playoff push...
According to Kronwall, the Red Wings can draw off last season's hot finish as they attempt to make the playoffs for a 23rd straight season and extend the longest active postseason streak in the NHL.
"I think so, just the experience of going through it," Kronwall said after Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. "Our younger guys are one year older, they've already been through it. They know more of what to expect. Just go out and find a way to get the job done. It's all about getting two points every night."
Although the Red Wings are still without captain Henrik Zetterberg (back) until at least the second round of the playoffs – should they get that far – and their lineup features four rookies, the team they put on the ice against Montreal had 13 players who went through last season's playoff push.
They're hoping that experience pays off.
"First of all, we have a really good leadership," said goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who made 32 saves. "Now Hank's out but we have some other guys who have been around for a long time and they know what to do in those kinds of situations. And the young guys play fearless. They're excited and they give the rest of us a lot of energy. I feel that lately we've been playing good, too. We've been getting a lot of points. We just have to bounce back and keep this going."
Though the coach isn't keen on his players' theories...
"I don't even remember last season," Babcock said. "We've got a new group this year. I'm not a big believer in carryover from year to year. You forge your own way each and every year. We got to be better than we were tonight. We want to get on a good run here where we play hard. I don't think there was a problem with our energy or our commitment to working hard tonight. We didn't execute well enough with the puck. We flipped it out a couple times, they got it and shot it in our net."
"Obviously, it was exciting at the time," Glendening said. "It was in the middle of a comeback there. You know, the excitement quickly faded. We needed those two points and it's frustrating to lose a game like that."
Glendening was upset with the way the game turned out, though he, like his teammates, chose to not bite regarding the Canadiens' controversial 4-3 and 5-3 goals:
"Coach talks about focusing on details a lot and I think tonight we kind of got away from that," Glendening said. "Whether it was the excitement of the building, the excitement of the game or just kind of the loss of focus, I'm not sure. You know, I thought there were too many times when we lost focus and, you know, that cost us in the end."
Teammate Drew Miller had regularly been telling Glendening "tonight's the night" before games recently and Glendening hadn't been shy about discussing the goal slump.
"I think I talk about it more because I want to score," said Glendening, who also has six assists. "I've never been known as a goal-scorer but it's still frustrating when the goal never goes in. I get a lot of Grade A opportunities and to not be able to find the net is frustrating."
Although he was hoping to see action with the Red Wings at some point this season, he wasn't planning on become a regular in the lineup for a team that's battling for a playoff spot. But injuries gave him an opportunity and Glendening didn't waste it.
I love this quote:
"To start in Grand Rapids and see where I go, that was my initial plan," said Glendening, 24. "Like I said, I've been fortunate with the opportunities, whether it's get a game or get some preseason games, everything has been a neat opportunity to learn from and get better. (The younger Red Wings) were all given ample opportunity to play and be put in some big spots. I'm sure you'll be reading about other guys' contracts soon."
Here's his goal:
As noted in the overnight report, Ken Holland both spoke with the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa regarding the reasons why the team extended Glendening, and Holland and Babcock spoke with the Journal de Montreal's Jean-Francois Chaumont about Gustav Nyquist's blossoming into a goal scorer--as well as the team's decision to demote Nyquist to the AHL for a reason Babcock simply described as "money."
This evening, the Hockey News's Josh Elliott praises Nyquist as the poster boy for the Wings' developmental system's success, though I think you and me might argue that Nyquist's own willingness to accept his repeated demotions like a true professional, buying into the belief that he would eventually succeed if he bought into the Wings' patient approach, may be as much to credit for Nyquist's success as any of the work the Wings did to foster the scoring potential of a player who's clearly a very mature young man and very mature professional athlete on his own:
Nyquist has been arguably the most important player for the Red Wings this year, and even though he hasn’t played a full season, you could argue he deserves some Hart Trophy consideration. He scores at better than a goal every two games and, at 24, shows all the poise of a seasoned vet. He’s already appeared in parts of two seasons with the Wings, but this season he’s proved himself ready to graduate from the American League’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
Twenty-three straight playoff appearances certainly puts butts in seats and dollars in ownership’s pockets, but that also makes it hard to stock the cupboard with top-level talent at the draft.
And sure, the Wings have found plenty of late-round gems at the draft table – 6th-rounder Datsyuk and 7th-rounder Zetterberg among them – but the work doesn’t stop once those players are in the organization. Where many top 10 selections get thrown into the NHL on not-so-good teams while they’re still teenagers, the Red Wings keep their picks in the minors and let them come along slow.
That lets the organization hammer home the Red Wings Way: you earn your place, work for the crest on the front of the shirt, and are eventually rewarded with a full-time gig on the big team.
It also lets Detroit GM Ken Holland keep his salary cap structure under control. Imagine if 24-year-old P.K. Subban came up in the Red Wings organization? Sure, he probably would have cracked the lineup at 21 or 22 – you can only keep talent like that up your sleeve for so long – but would he be pressing the team for $8 million per year as an RFA this summer, as he will almost certainly do with the Montreal Canadiens? Probably not, because in Detroit, the proven vets get the most money.
Where teams like the Edmonton Oilers are paying young talent based on potential (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will soon join Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle at $6 million a year), the Wings keep their guys in the minors for much of their entry-level deals, then get them on affordable second contracts that don’t throw the cap structure out of whack. That lets Detroit sign its veteran leaders like Datsyuk and Zetterberg to long-term deals, while encouraging the younger guys to put in the work to someday reach that point themselves.
Is the Red Wings model perfect? Certainly not. The Stephen Weiss UFA contract has been an unmitigated disaster (four points in an injury-plagued 26 games), but with the rest of the team’s contracts relatively low, Holland has more latitude for such mistakes.
I don't know about you, but I'm hoping that Holland spends his time drafting and developing and defers free agent decisions to the rest of his management team after the past couple summers' worth of activity or the lack thereof. Ditto for deadline trades, I suppose, but the GM, assistant GM (Ryan Martin), special assistant to the GM (Ken Holland), the pro and amateur scouts and the coaching staff know much more about the team's master financial and personnel plans, as well as their short and long-term roster predictions, than we do.
That's why they're paid to make the decisions that people like you and me critique.
[Edit/update: You and I have every right to critique, criticize and lament the coach and management's decisions, but I also think that it's important for us to understand--if not respect--the fact that these gentlemen are genuinely attempting to make decisions which they believe serve the best short and long-term interests of their team.
You look at the Jarnkrok trade for example, and while it's not my favorite deal, especially if Legwand walks this summer (and he may do so), Holland and Babcock were incredibly adamant that they felt the team simply couldn't allow the Wings to not have the best possible opportunity they could give the team to possess the personnel necessary to make the playoffs, and with Glendening, Sheahan and Emmerton as the team's only healthy assets at the time--and, apparently, Jarnkrok seeing Sheahan and Glendening in Detroit and thinking of heading back to Sweden because he didn't believe he fit into the team's future plans--Holland and the management team and Babcock and the coaching staff felt that acquiring Legwand might be the difference-maker between making the playoffs and going golfing on April 14th.
I don't agree with the trade right now, but I understand that the management and coaching staff chose to make the move believing that the trade would serve the Wings' present and future needs, and I respect the fact that the trade was made with the team's best interests in mind. /end edit]
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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.