Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Flames wrap-up and overnight report: desperate times

The Detroit Red Wings are in trouble, and the only people that can help the Wings are the players who don red and white jerseys every night.

After dropping a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Flames--the Wings' third straight loss against Calgary--the 20-16-and-7 Wings (having played 43 games and possessing 18 Regulation-or-OT Wins) have 47 points and sit in 9th place in the Western Conference, 2 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets (21 wins, 16 ROWs, 44 games played, and Columbus defeated Anaheim 3-2 in OT on Wednesday evening), 2 points ahead of the Dallas Stars (21 wins, 19 ROWs, 42 games played, and Dallas hosts Vancouver on Thursday) and 4 points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes (18 wins, 15 ROWs, 42 games played, and if the Coyotes lose to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, St. Louis would jump from 50 to 52 points, and would essentially be out of reach).

Again, long story short, especially if the Blues defeat the Coyotes this evening, there are 4 teams battling for 1 playoff spot, and the Wings do not own that playoff spot at present.

The Wings boarded Red Bird III to head to Vancouver and take a day off ahead of preparing for Saturday night's Hockey Night in Canada game against the Canucks, and with 5 games remaining--in Vancouver on Saturday, at home against Phoenix on Monday the 22nd, at home against Los Angeles on Wednesday the 24th, at home against Nashville on Thursday the 25th, and in Dallas against the Stars on Saturday, April 27th--the Wings can probably make the playoffs "without help" if they earn 8 points (and hit 53 on the season), but that means taking four of five.

As was the case in the Wings' 5-2 loss to Calgary on February 5th and especially their 5-2 loss to Calgary on March 13th, the Wings' wounds were largely self-inflicted, and as usual, the Wings either couldn't or wouldn't score enough or threaten Miikka Kiprusoff's sightlines regularly enough (the Wings fired 38 shots on Kiprusoff and sent another 32 attempts wide or into Flames players) to assuage for their defensive gaffes.

I know my opinion is unpopular in this regard, but I believe that the Wings are at a point where the coaching staff can only do so much. By the 75-game mark in an 82-game season, rotating a new coach every day wouldn't resonate, because the players are banged-up, mentally and emotionally tired and are like a bunch of schoolkids in early June, thinking about the summer vacation that is playoff hockey. Babcock, Tom Renney and Bill Peters are doing what they can in terms of tweaking personnel, changing lines and adjusting ice time, but down the stretch, it really is on the players...

And they haven't delivered. Perhaps because, as TSN's Jamie McLennan strangely noted, it's not Nicklas Lidstrom's outlet passes that the Wings can't seem to live without, but instead, it's Tomas Holmstrom's crease-crashing, goalie-screening, rebound-retrieving skill set that none of the Red Wings' remaining veterans or young players seem to possess.

As such, this team rarely recovers when it gives up the game's first goal, and it incredibly rarely scores more than 2 itself.

The fact that Miikka Kiprusoff played as he's always tended to play against Detroit didn't help, and while we're gonna skip the fluffernutter--you may read the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank's story about the "Kipper Kid" returning to the Saddledome, or Mike Vernon's take on Kiprusoff's future via conversations with the Calgary Herald's George Johnson and the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson on your own, and the same may as well be said for the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis' ode to Kipper...

The Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak ties Kiprusoff's fantastic performance (gah, I hate saying that out loud) into the game's narrative...

It took some wild and wacky third-period goals to drum up the victory for the hosts. With the score tied at one apiece through 40 minutes — Lee Stempniak scored for the hosts, and Gustav Nyquist replied for the visitors — Steve Begin played offensive hero by twice taking advantage of glaring puck-handling miscues by Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

First, Begin was on the spot to whack at a loose puck in Howard’s feet when the netminder figured defenceman Jonathan Ericsson had taken it from him. Second, Begin simply stole the puck from Howard while he was behind the net and netted a shorthanded tally.

“Guys think I cut a deal with the goalie on the other side, but just lucky bounces. It’s weird,” Begin said. “Usually, you’re not supposed to go behind the net, but I thought I had a chance to create something, and I ended up with the puck on my stick, and it ended up pretty good.”

Then, whether Howard’s antics were contagious or it was a tribute to old friend Vesa Toskala, Kiprusoff had a miscue of his own to help the Wings pull within one late in the affair.

Kiprusoff completely misplayed Johan Franzen’s dump-in from the neutral zone and watched it bounce in front of him and into the cage.

“I was matching that with my second goal, hoping he’d feel a little better after that,” Kiprusoff said. “As a goalie, we didn’t shoot in the second period, so it’s not the easiest game. For me, they were shooting more and more because we had the lead.”

Kiprusoff continued while speaking to the Calgary Herald's George Johnson:

The glove shot up, in the blink of an eye, like Superman catching a silver bullet between his fingers or Brooks Robinson moving effortlessly to snare a liner down the third-base line. Just in the nick of time. Just like old times.

“Yeah, it felt good,” admitted Miikka Kiprusoff. “Especially after I made it . . . a little more interesting at the end there.”

That spectacular save off Detroit defenceman Jakob Kindl, with 16.6 seconds remaining, the Red Wings’ net empty and Curtis Glencross taking up space in the penalty box, saved the day in a 3-2 Calgary victory that leaves Detroit’s precarious playoff hopes still hanging in the balance. On a night the Flames were officially eliminated from post-season contention — as if there was any doubt — Kiprusoff was in vintage form, in what may very well be his second-last appearance as a Calgary Flame at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

...

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” said Kiprusoff. “I think the crowd has been great for me since I came here and again tonight was a pretty nice feeling in front of them. It means a lot.”

...

Outside of that crazy Johan Franzen backhander from just across centre that skipped behind him at 12:53 of the third period (that “interesting” moment Kiprusoff mentioned earlier), the silent Finn was exemplary to sensational. He has, of course, become accustomed to battening down the hatches when confronted by the relentless tempest the Red Wings can conjure up. He withstood another storm Wednesday, 36 saves in all.

“They’re always a pretty smart road team. And there’s always traffic. It’s always tough against them.”’

With his future as a Calgary Flame very much the topic of conversation, the 36-year-old franchise puck-stopper made Wednesday a night to remember. Friday he starts again, against the Anaheim Ducks.

“I’m aware of that (the speculation). I’m not gonna lie. With everything that’s going on. I haven’t played in a few games, and I haven’t win lately, so I was (motivated) by that, too.”

So the Flames played the spoiler's role to a tee, as the Canadian Press's recap suggests...

"We always say when you work hard, things somehow (are) going to turn for you," Begin said. "I guess it happened tonight not once, but twice."

Begin took advantage of a pair of blunders by Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to score his third and fourth goals of the season.

"The guys think I cut a deal with the goalie on the other side," Begin said. "Two goals, two similar ones. I can't really tell you what happened. I was just chasing the puck and it ended up on my stick. It's always good to get those goals."

Lee Stempniak also scored for the Flames (17-22-4), who won all three games they played against the Red Wings this season. Despite the win, the Flames were officially eliminated from playoff contention when the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday.

Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen scored for the Red Wings (20-16-7), who had gone 2-1-2 in their previous five games. Detroit fell to ninth spot in the NHL's Western Conference by virtue of the Blue Jackets' win.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 36-of-38 shots he faced in the Calgary net to record his first win since he making 36 saves in a 3-2 win at home to St. Louis on March 24. Joey MacDonald had started the previous three games in net for the Flames. After being named the game's first star, Kiprusoff was given a loud ovation by the appreciative fans in attendance at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"Tonight it was a pretty nice feeling to play in front of them," Kiprusoff said. "As a player, you really appreciate that. It makes your job so much easier when the crowd is behind you."

And the Flames' website's Torrie Peterson added significant figures to the mix...

9: Hits thrown by the Flames in the first period. Matt Stajan and Curtis Glencross led the way with two each. The Red Wings had just three hits credited to them.

...

2: Tallies off of Steve Begin's stick. The gritty veteran now has nine goals this year.

...
36: Saves by Miikka Kiprusoff.

While Aaron Vickers offered some rather obvious "Inside the Game" statements:

GOAL OF THE GAME: After taking a drop pass from Stempniak, Baertschi spun and quickly sailed a pass slightly behind Sarich. Forced to spin to receive the pass, Sarich fired a shot on net kicked out by Howard onto the stick of Stempniak, who buried the rebound at 13:28 of the first period.

SAVE OF THE GAME: With just 16.6 seconds remaining in the game and with Detroit on a 6-on-4 advantage, Kiprusoff came out to challenge Kindl alone in the slot, who uncorked a howitzer that the Flames goaltender flashed the leather on -- the most spectacular of his 36 stops.

TURNING POINT: Begin's second gift at 12:53 gave the Flames a two-goal lead and served as the eventual winner over the Red Wings.

Vickers also penned NHL.com's recap, and it's here that we'll shift from the Flames' perspectives to those of the Red Wings' coach and players:

"You guys follow hockey and watch hockey for years and you never see two of those plays in one game – never mind one year," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. It's not like we don't work on it all the time, your goalie-D exchange, it just happens to end up in your net. You can't outscore the mistakes like that."

The loss -- coupled with an overtime victory by the Columbus Blue Jackets -- drops Detroit out of a playoff spot and into ninth in the West. The Red Wings have a game at hand over the Blue Jackets.

"You've got to win your way in," Babcock said. "You can't watch your way in. You've got to win your way in. We take a lot of pride in being a real competitive team. I think we've been competitive this year. We're not at the level we've been in the past for sure, but we've competed hard. I thought we competed hard tonight, but we didn't start on time and we made a couple mistakes."

No shit, Sherlock.

With the puck tangled in Howard's feet behind the net after a miscommunication with defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, Begin bounced the puck off the Detroit goaltender and into the back of the net just 2:28 into the third period for a 2-1 lead.

"It's just an unfortunate break. It's no one's fault," Howard said. "[Ericsson] said it handcuffed him a little bit. The third one, it's a total mistake by me."

After Kiprusoff robbed Pavel Datsyuk on a one-timer and Henrik Zetterberg's rebound attempt at 8:16, Begin extended Calgary's lead on his second gift from Howard. Retrieving a dump in with the Detroit on the power play, Howard went and fetched the puck behind the net. With Begin pressuring him and no defensemen to outlet a pass to, Howard fanned on his attempt to ring it around the boards. The Flames forward scooped up the puck and calmly wrapped the puck around into the net.

"I made a mistake on the third one, simple as that," Howard said. "Last time I checked I'm human. It was a tough one tonight because it was the game winner."

If I may air some frustration: you're paid to be superhuman, Jimmy. You didn't get any help, but you're paid to be superhuman on nights like Wednesday.

In any case, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted (quote-less recap penned as well, as usual), the Red Wings tried to not linger too long upon their near-ridiculous streak of bad luck, be it earned or unearned...

“They didn't even score the goals,'' Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It was almost like we scored for them.''

...

“Obviously, the exchange between E and Howie is a tough one for us,'' Babcock said. “And the last one, I assume, (Brunner) thought it was going to get rimmed to Howie and (Quincey) thought the same thing. Howie thought he was in a bad spot with it dribbling towards him. It’s a big mistake.''

Johan Franzen cut the deficit to 3-2 with 2:42 to play on a backhand dump-in from the neutral zone that took a weird bounce and eluded Kiprusoff.

The Red Wings, who got a second-period goal from Gustav Nyquist (12:31), had some quality chances in the third, but fell short. Going 0-for-5 on the power play didn't help.

“I think we shot ourselves a little bit in the foot,'' Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We came out really flat. They were winning all the 50-50 battles. It takes a period before we wake up, and after that we played well, but once again can't capitalize when we have our chances.''

Said Howard: “It's a tough thing to swallow, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I got to forget about this and get ready for Saturday in Vancouver.''

And while Babcock offered a "that's the facts"-style statement about the "win your way in" method to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

"I deal in realism and facts and the facts speak pretty clearly," coach Mike Babcock said. "It's urgent for us. You have to win your games, you can't watch your way in, you have to win your way."

The Wings' captain got down to brass tacks...

"If you take away the first period tonight, we have been playing pretty good lately," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "But we have to get points. We can't just play good and not get points. We have to get two-pointers."

As did his alternate captain...

"Our start was unacceptable," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

And so did Babcock, at least when he was talking about the team's power play...

"When you're 0-for-5 on the power play and give up a shorthanded goal, that's a tough night for you on the PP," Babcock said. "We had some real good looks at the end, but the goalie was playing well at that point."

And, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted, the Wings' crappy starts over the past...Month?

"I thought we'd have better jump tonight right from the get-go," Babcock said. "I didn't think we skated at all, besides Andersson's line. That was our best line early and we didn't have a whole bunch of other guys going."

The Wings are just too content to be steered to the side boards by their opponent and too content to skate up ice only to endlessly loop back, back and back some more, surrendering superb scoring chances for the sake of looking for a passing play or a point shot so very regularly that I wonder whether the overworked Kronwall, Jakub Kindl or Jonathan Ericsson (he of the ever-dangerous, "Hmm, this is a risky situation, pinch or stay back and cover the outlet pass...Pinch!" play that leads to so many odd-man rushes) might be better-served to throw up their hands in disgust and say, "We can't do the shooting for you 100% of the time!"

But there's so much more going on that makes me believe that this team is beyond coaches' help, whether it's the fact that the forwards are both so back-pass happy that it's silly or the equally bizarre fact that the forwards tend to cheat so severely toward offense that we're seeing Wings defensemen, trying to start play from behind their net, being chased out of the "pocket" below the goal line like never before, or forced to throw the puck away because there are no wingers available to pass to (have we ever heard the Wings' defensemen or goalies yell, "Wheel, wheel, wheel!" before this season?)...

Or the fact that the defensemen are playing so simply dead-level in terms of their orientation and five feet too wide apart laterally to stagger back or squeeze together to prevent so many of those short-handed and even-strength breakaways heading toward Howard...

Or the fact that the power play drop pass at center ice seems to be the only way the forwards believe they should skate through the neutral zone at even-strength--with everyone standing still save the one puck-carrier launching himself into 4 or 5 opposing players stacked up at the blueline...

Or the fact that forwards shoot at the net and turn away from it, turn toward the boards to regroup instead of charging after pucks to chase down rebounds, or the fact that Valtteri Filppula no longer gives up 10 or 15 feet of space inside the blueline to peel back and make that inevitable pass, but instead, that he's giving up eighty or ninety feet of ice before skating back into his own zone to send the puck toward a stunned defenseman or even goaltender...

Or the fact that even Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are pulling the Todd Bertuzzi-esque, "Well, if I skate around the outside of the defenseman with one hand on my stick, I'll surely get to the inside somehow" lazy net-drive that leads to nowhere, or that even they are passing up fantastic opportunities to shoot to make the perfect pass on such a regular basis that Johan Franzen and the now-exhausted Damien Brunner look like players with only one target in the opposing netminder's crease by comparison?

Late in the season, most hockey teams have built up so much momentum in terms of their trajectory and in terms of their good and bad habits that it's almost impossible to stop the runaway train from drifting to the left, to the right, or off the rails, and in so many ways, neither the coaching staff nor its best players seem to have the pull necessary to pry the Wings away from that rail bridge that has no middle, right at the intersection of Playoff Canyon and the Golf Course Gultch below.

So what are the Red Wings this season? A team that has yet to establish its post-Lidstrom and perhaps more importantly post-Holmstrom identity, a team whose young players, as exciting as they might be and as promising as they might appear to you and me, may not have been ready for prime time, a team that, from the outset, was doomed by both injuries...

And the simple inability to have seven months and 82 games' worth of regular season to find its form, its content, its composition and its flair, panache, poise, swagger, and, most importantly, the health that was designed to bring veterans and established players into the mix that were supposed to ease the transition to the post-Lidstrom, post-Holmstrom, post-Stuart team.

In the end, perhaps this team really has missed Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi, and even a healthy Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jonas Gustavsson more than we know, and perhaps its only remedy is something neither the team, its coaches, its management or you or I have in another full season to determine which personnel voids it can fill from within and which pressing issues (another goal-scoring forward with a nose for the net, a top-pair defenseman to spare Niklas Kronwall from playing 25-27 minutes a night and a reliable back-up goaltender) it needs to fill from the free agency, cap compliance buy-out and trade markets.

There are many people who will tell you today that the Wings will be better-served by the massive personnel changes that would theoretically follow a playoff-less spring.

Don't tell that to the players, or the coach, or fans like me, who've been around long enough to know that this team's management has never made wholesale changes for the sake of making changes.

As such, per St. James:

"We're shooting ourselves a little bit in the foot," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We're coming out really flat tonight. They were winning all the 50-50 battles. They basically dominated the first period. It takes a period for us to wake up, and after that, we play well, but once again, we can't really capitalize when we have the chances."

With Columbus winning at Anaheim, the Wings dropped into ninth place, but they have a game in hand and have two more regulation or overtime victories than the Blue Jackets.

"The facts speak clear, in that this is an urgent moment for us," coach Mike Babcock said. "You've got to win your way in. You can't watch your way in. You've got to win your way in. I thought we competed hard tonight, but we didn't start on time, and we made a couple mistakes."

The Wings can't afford any more mistakes, which is scary, because hockey is a game of mistakes, and it's a game in which those who prey upon others' mistakes are rewarded.

And this year's team is nothing if not mistake-prone as opposed to mistake-predatory.

As Zetterberg told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, Miikka Kiprusoff may have played "heroically," but the Wings greatly aided "Kipper's" cause during his swan song and fond farewell:

“He was good, played real well, made some key saves,” said Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, of Kiprusoff, who made 36 saves to earn his first win in his last seven starts.

“But still we had our chances,” Zetterberg said. “We should be able to get more than two past him.”

Multimedia:

Highlights: TSN, which aired the game in Canada, posted a 2:13 highlight clip;

Sportsnet posted a 1:04 highlight clip;

And the Red Wings website's highlight clip is at least narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:

Post-game: The Flames' website posted clips of Steve Begin, Lee Stempniak, Miikka Kiprusoff and Flames coach Bob Hartley speaking to the media after the game, as well as a clip of "sights and sounds" from the affair;

Via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports posted Trevor Thompson's interview with a shell-shocked Gustav Nyquist after the game...

TSN posted a 4:51 clip of post-game reaction from both sides, including Jimmy Howard, Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Babcock from the Wings, Bob Hartley and Miikka Kiprusoff;

TSN's "That's Hockey 2 Night" Steve Kouleas and Jamie McLennan duly noted that the Wings desperately miss Tomas Holmstrom's net-front grit;

The Calgary Sun embedded a clip from Hartley's presser in its recap;

And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Jimmy Howard...

Henrik Zetterberg...

And coach Mike Babcock speaking with the media after the game:

As such, Babcock's game-day presser, the Wings' game-day preview (starring Jimmy Howard) and E.J. Hradek's praise for Ken Holland all seem bitterly ironic.

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 27-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 15-image gallery;

The Calgary Herald posted a 13-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted 6 images from the game;

MLive posted 6 images from the game;

ESPN posted a 37-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted 26 images from the game in its Wings gallery;

And NHL.com, the Flames' website and the Wings' website posted 26-image galleries.

Statistics:

Shots 38-17 Detroit overall.
Detroit was out-shot 10-8 in the 1st period but out-shot Calgary 11-2 in the 2nd and 19-5 in the 3rd.

The Wings went 0-for-5 in 7:29 of PP time and gave up a shorthanded goal; the Flames went 0-for-1 in 59 seconds of PP time but scored a shorthanded goal.

Jimmy Howard stopped 14 of 17 shots; Mikka Kiprusoff stopped 36 of 38.

The 3 stars were picked by The Fan 960, and they were Gustav Nyquist, Steve Begin and Miikka Kiprusoff.

The Wings' goals: Nyquist (3) from Andersson (5) and Cleary (5);

Franzen (10) from Quincey (2) and Smith (7).

Faceoffs 27-27;

Blocked shots 14-8 Calgary;

Missed shots 18-8 Detroit (total attempts 70-33 Detroit, with Detroit firing 38 shots on Kiprusoff and another 32 wide or into Flames players);

Hits 18-7 Calgary;

Giveaways 15-9 Calgary;

Takeaways 7-6 Calgary.

Individual stats,TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-8 (53%); Zetterberg went 6-and-8 (43%); Andersson went 7-and-7 (50%); Emmerton went 3-and-2 (60%); Abdelkader and Nyquist won their only faceoffs; Brunner and Franzen lost their only faceoffs.

Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 8 shots; Brunner had 7; Datsyuk had 4; Nyquist and Filppula had 3; Kindl, DeKeyser and Franzen had 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller and Quincey had 1.

Blocked attempts: Kronwall hit Flames players 3 times; Quincey, Ericsson and Andersson had 2 shot attempts blocked; Smith, Cleary, Nyquist, Eaves and Filppula had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Nyquist and Franzen missed the net 3 times; Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Filppula missed the net  2 times; Kindl, Abdelkader, Eaves, Zetterberg, Andersson and DeKeyser missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader had 3 hits; Cleary had 2; Kronwall and Franzen had 1.

Giveaways: Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Filppula, Ericsson, Kronwall, Andersson and obviously Howard had giveaways.

Takeaways: Zetterberg had 2 takeaways; Abdelkader, Nyquist, Emmerton and Filppula had 1 takeaway.

Blocked opponent shots: Quincey blocked 3 Flames shots; Kronwall blocked 2; Emmerton, Ericsson and DeKeyser blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Danny Cleary was tagged with the Wings' only minor penalty.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall finished at -2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Eaves, Miller and Emmerton finished at -1; Smith, Nyquist, Brunner, Andersson and Franzen finished at +1.

Points: Nyquist and Franzen scored goals; Smith, Cleary, Quincey and Andersson had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 26:06 played; Zetterberg played 24:29; Kindl played 22:25;

Datsyuk played 20:51; Ericsson played 19:18; Filppula played 18:42;

Quincey played 17:54; DeKeyser played 16:57; Franzen played 16:16;

Brunner played 16:09; Cleary played 15:44; Nyquist played 15:26;

Smith played 15:22; Abdelkader played 14:56; Andersson played 13:30;

Miller played 9:02; Emmerton played 8:15; Eaves played 7:44.

In the prospect department, if you missed it, the Grand Rapids Griffins posted their weekly release (they host the Peoria Rivermen on Friday and then play in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters on Saturday and in Chicago against the Wolves on Sunday, concluding their regular season) and a photo gallery of Teemu Pulkkinen practicing with the team;

Ditto, from RedWingsProspects on Twitter:

Sproul spoke to the Sault Star's Peter Ruicci about the news:

“I'm very excited. It would be amazing to win it,” said Sproul, who joined the American Hockey League's Grand Rapids Griffins when the Hounds playoff run ended with a 4-2, opening-round series loss to the Owen Sound Attack.

The Griffins are the top farm team of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, who selected Sproul in the second round (55th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

“To be a finalist is an incredible honour,” said Sproul, who led all OHL defencemen in scoring this season with 20 goals and 46 assists, good for 66 points in just 50 games.

He also added two goals and three assists in six playoff tilts.

“To be recognized along with the other top defencemen in the league is great,” Sproul added.

The list of finalists also includes: Ryan O'Connor (Barrie Colts), Scott Harrington (London Knights), Dylan DeMelo (Mississauga Steelheads), Matt Petgrave (Oshawa Generals) and Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia Sting).

RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest also penned a prospect report discussing the Wings' remaining playoff-playing prospects in Major Junior Hockey, and according to Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager, the Alan Quine's Belleville Bulls will begin the OHL's Eastern Conference Final at home against Andreas Athanasiou's Barrie Colts--on a 200'x100' rink instead of a 200'x85' one;

In the USHL, on Tuesday, Mike McKee registered an assist as his Lincoln Stars lost 3-2 to Sioux Falls in their playoff opener, but McKee also registered an assist in Lincoln's playoff-tying 4-0 win over Sioux Falls on Wednesday;

And James De Haas and the Penticton Vees will attempt to tie their BCHL final against the Surrey Eagles tonight in Game 4;

And that's it. Other than perhaps hearing about Jordan Pearce's fate, until the World Championships begin with Calle Jarnkrok playing for Sweden, it's the Griffins, the Quine-Athanasiou OHL semifinal, Xavier Ouellet's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada battling Baie-Comeau in one QMJHL semifinal on Friday and Martin Frk's Halifax Mooseheads tangling with Rouyn-Noranda in the other QMJHL final, McKee, De Haas, the end.

 

Red Wings and Flames notebooks: I genuinely despise the Alanis Morissette definition of irony. The, "Oh, ha ha, isn't it amusing that difficulty has befallen you!" bullshit.

And while I think that the Calgary Herald's George Johnson is one of the better writers and reporters in the hockey universe, the fact that he talked to Danny Cleary about the Wings' playoff streak being in jeopardy is incredibly "ironic" in the Alanis sense of the term:

“We don’t want to let that streak end,” Dan Cleary, eight years a Red Wing, is saying the morning of Game 43 of this uncharacteristically-anxiety-filled, lockout-shortened Motor City campaign. “We don’t want to let it end on our watch. On Hank (Henrik Zetterberg)’s watch, him being the captain. It’s another driving force. There’s a lot of pride in this room, for sure.”

To put Detroit’s longevity feat in perspective: Sid the Kid was Sid the Tyke in the spring of 1990, all of two and a half years old. Stevie Y was captain of the Wings then and Rick Zombo played the most games on defence. Coach Jacques Demers used four goaltenders — Tim Cheveldae, Glen Hanlon, Sam St. Laurent and Greg Stefan — and still the Winged Wheel wound up ninth in the Clarence Campbell Conference, five points shy of the L.A. Kings.

That summer, they DRAFTED Nick Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov. So yes, we’re scrolling back a ways. Since then, the Wings been the gold standard for every NHL organization.

We’ve simply come to accept them being involved in the playoffs, putting an authentic Stanley Cup contender on the ice, as a matter of course; a given. Yet readying for the bottom-feeding Calgary Flames on Wednesday morning they found themselves tied with the who-in-blazes-do-they-think-they-are Columbus Blue Jackets for eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Jagr-less, Morrow-less Dallas Stars hovered an uneasy two points adrift.

Usually we’re not discussing not ‘if’ but ‘who’ in terms of post-season for the Red Wings. So this is indisputably an unfamiliar, precarious position for GM Ken Holland and Co. to find themselves in.

“There hasn’t been any panic, that’s for sure,” emphasized goaltender Jimmy Howard. “But there is a sense of urgency. We’ve been playing with that the last several games and it’s going to be no different tonight. The guys who played here before us set the bar real high. That’s a good thing. In Detroit every single year, it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, and make a run towards the Cup. Those standards, even though they’re high, they’re something for us a team to have a common goal.”

If this current fight to actually slide into the playoffs has done anything, it’s reinforced how ridiculously well the Wings have been run for over two decades. Through changing times, financial landscapes, personnel turnovers and trends, they’ve been the constant.

The Globe and Mail's Alan Maki spoke to the Wings' personnel about their precarious position, too:

"When you get 125 points and you drop the puck in the first round [of the playoffs], there’s pressure,” head coach Mike Babcock said prior to Wednesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. “Now, the pressure on us is to maximize our potential and be as good as we’re capable of being. I think we’re where we should be, to be honest with you. I think we’re battling hard. I’ve heard all year we’re not consistent. We are consistent. You go through each month we’re one game or two games over [.500] each month. This is what we are.”

The Red Wings’ metamorphosis is especially evident in goal. Although the team has had good goalies in the past, it chose not to go long term or overpay for the position, instead using its money for pivotal players up front and on defence. On Tuesday, Detroit announced it had signed goaltender Jimmy Howard to a six-year contract extension worth $31.8-million (U.S.). Again, Babcock says, the signing was predicated by what the Red Wings have become as they fight for the playoffs.

“[Howard has] worked hard every day in practice, been a team leader for us on the ice, that’s made a huge difference. The other thing is, our team is not like it once was,” Babcock explained. “We could get by with very few stops, now we need stops. Our goaltender has to be better for us to be successful.”

Howard has kept Detroit in the hunt with three shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.31. Knowing the No. 1 job is undeniably his, and knowing what the Red Wings have accomplished since 1990, including four Stanley Cup wins, Howard believes there is enough motivation for the team to extend its record playoff streak to 22 seasons.

“There hasn’t been any panic, that’s for sure. But there is a sense of urgency,” he said. “The guys who have played before us have set the bar real high. It’s a good thing. In Detroit, every single year it’s [been]: make the Stanley Cup playoffs and make a run for the Cup. So those standards, even though they’re high, it’s something for us as a team to go after.”

...

“The way we’re approaching it? We’re in the first round [of the playoffs] right now,” defenceman Kyle Quincey said.

The Wings' press corps descended upon Joey MacDonald, and given that Jonas Gustavsson's struggled so mightily while MacDonald's found a home in Calgary is also Alanis ironic. As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted:

MacDonald sat on the bench as backup to Miikka Kiprusoff in the Flames' 3-2 victory over the Wings Wednesday, but MacDonald has outplayed Kiprusoff at times this season, going 7-7-1 with a 2.91 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. He's possibly earned himself an extension with the Flames, especially with Kiprusoff expected to retire, and at the very least has made a case for another NHL team to give him a chance.

MacDonald, 33, would've liked that team to be Detroit. He said it was "disappointing" to leave.

"I know I belong there," he said. "Things went kind of downhill when they signed Jonas there in July. But, I look back now, I've played 18 games. If I was there, I wouldn't have played that many games. I'm in a contract year. It worked out to the best."

It didn't work out so well for the Wings. After spending the first month nursing a pulled groin, Gustavsson has struggled to the point he's gone 2-2-1 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. He hasn't played since entering the March 31 game against Chicago in relief of Jimmy Howard.

MLive's Ansar Khan also spoke to MacDonald...

“It's disappointing. I spent a lot of time there. I know I belong there,'' MacDonald said. “Things went kind of downhill when they signed Jonas. But, it's the way it is. I look back now, I played 18 games already. If I was there, I wouldn't have played that many games. It's a contract year. It worked out in the best. Great bunch of guys here and I like it a lot. I think there's a bright future here. Hopefully I'll be a part of it.''

MacDonald dressed as Mikka Kiprusoff's backup Wednesday against the Red Wings.

Kiprusoff is expected to retire after the season, and the Flames don't have any goalies besides MacDonald who appear NHL-ready. MacDonald's chances of getting an offer from Calgary appear to be good.

“I didn't play in 11 months; coming in I didn't know how my back was, that was always on my mind,'' MacDonald said. “Now I'm getting a chance to play. Things are going good. My game's probably the best it's been in a long time. I would love to stay here. Hopefully, it'll work out but if not hopefully I'll get an opportunity somewhere else.''

And here's Alanis irony in triplicate: Kyle Quincey ended up even on the night because he was on the ice for Franzen's one-hopper, but he certainly didn't do that much to assuage for his and Damien Brunner's part in the second Begin goal. As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted before the game, however, Babcock believes that Quincey's played the best out of the group of players battling for the 5th and 6th spots on the Wings' defense in Quincey, Brendan Smith, Ian White, Brian Lashoff and Carlo Colaiacovo:

"Things haven't gone as good this last little bit, and he found himself out of the lineup for a couple of games," Babcock said. "We think he's capable of playing every day and being important for us. That's why he went back in here."

Quincey originally wasn't going to be in the lineup, but that changed after he stood out during Tuesday's practice. "Our guys that were supposed to be scratched worked real hard and competed real hard, and he was the hardest worker of that group," Babcock said. "That tells me something right there."

Babcock has nine defensemen available and has rotated a handful. He doesn't want that to continue. "I want the guys to know they're playing every day," he said. "I want them to earn their chunk of cheese and hang onto it."

Several names are set: Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. Newcomer Danny DeKeyser has impressed with his mobility and willingness to go get the puck. Brendan Smith has had some rough outings recently, but he's a good puckhandler. The other options are Quincey, Colaiacovo, Ian White and Brian Lashoff.

Quincey is determined to secure a spot, saying, "I have to focus on -- don't try to do too much. I think that's what got me in a little bit of trouble in Chicago. Just be solid, simple and not try to do too much."

Alanis irony times 4? The Windsor Star's Jim Parker posted a few more quips from Ken Holland regarding Jimmy Howard's contract extension:

"This deal, for us and I think for Jimmy, gives him security, it gives us security (and) stability. In the next year, we're going to wake up and it's going to be a good cap number, a fair cap number in relation to what the other people in the league are making."

Detroit's second-round pick in 2003 out of the University of Maine, the six-foot, 220-pound Howard spent the majority of his first four pro seasons with the club's American Hockey League team in Grand Rapids before taking over the No. 1 job in Detroit in 2009-10.

"Being a former goaltender myself, I believe 28 to 32-33 are your prime years," Holland said. "When you factor in the experience and knowledge that you need to be at your peek, prime years, he's just coming into them."

The good story of the morning? Justin Abdelkader is playing well, and he's earned his praise from coach Babcock, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted...

"Abdelkader, for me, has gone from being a fourth line center to playing with Pavel every night and tied with (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Johan) Franzen and (Daniel) Cleary for goals,” said coach Mike Babcock when asked who the Red Wings’ most improved player has been this season.

Following a very slow start to the season, Abdelkader has found his niche with Datsyuk. The former Michigan State standout has scored a career-high nine goals while maintain his physicality on the forecheck. He leads the team with 104 hits, which ranks 10th among Western Conference forwards.

“In a regular season that’s a 20-goal season,” Babcock said, following the Wings’ morning skate at ScotiaBank Saddledome on Wednesday. “That’s a home run for him. He’s an every-dayer, he plays every night. So when you add that altogether I think he’s been the guy.”

...

“The reason that he gets to play with Pav, is Pav likes him,” Babcock said. “He gets him the puck back. He’s at the net and gets out of the way. He’s not confused with what his role is. Lots of people think you should have another real skilled guy playing with (Datsyuk), well that’s Zetterberg or that’s Franzen. But it’s not three guys who want the puck. There’s no puck. Pav wants it, and he wants somebody to give it to him. That’s what Abbie does.”

As did the Free Press's St. James...

Abdelkader is succeeding in the role last held by Tomas Holmstrom: Going into corners, digging out the puck, getting it to Datsyuk, or maybe Henrik Zetterberg, sometimes even Johan Franzen, and then going to the net.

"It's been a lot of fun," Abdelkader said. "I thought I was going to be playing more center this year but kind of got bumped to the wing and I've gotten accustomed to playing there. I enjoy it. It allows me to be in on the forecheck and be down low more. And obviously playing with Pav, or Mule or Z, whoever it is, they're all tremendous players."

Babcock long has preferred to have Abdelkader play wing, because Abdelkader's strengths are his physicality and his skating, not so much his vision.

"Some guys see it all," Babcock said. "Some guys don't. So in this league, to be a center, if you want to be a point-producer, you've got to be able to see things. You've got to be able to make the people around you better."

...

It was on the Wings' first trip to Western Canada, last month, that the offense started coming: Two goals in a game at Vancouver, earned by being in front of the net. One went off a foot, the other, Abdelkader's chest. Both times, the puck was shot by Datsyuk. As much as Abdelkader knows he's not counted on for offense, it's nice to have those numbers next to his name.

"It was tough coming from the lockout and not playing, it definitely hindered me," he said. "But once I got my legs going, even though I wasn't scoring, I felt I was doing a lot of good things. I thought eventually the pucks would start bouncing my way. Just get one off my foot, one off my shoulder, sometimes that's all you need, to see a puck go in the net once in a while. When I first started, I just wanted to keep my game simple, and play the way I play, which is physical and being in on the forecheck, skating, and being in front of the net It's been nice to be rewarded with some goals. Hopefully I can be a complement to Pav and how he plays."

The Detroit News's Kulfan noted Babcock's praise for Abdelkader as well, as did MLive's Ansar Khan, who added the following quip:

Babcock seems to think [{Jakub] Kindl, the young defenseman with four goals, 13 points and a plus-13 rating, is a close second.

“Kindl’s got a real good skill-set,'' Babcock said. “For him to be what he’s capable of being, he’s got to be every day. Media like you if you’re good offensively and coaches like you if you’re good defensively. So let’s see if we can’t get both groups liking him.”

He's right. Kindl's been very good, as has Abdelkader. Maybe if the Wings had two Abdelkaders and

Otherwise, St. James noted that Todd Bertuzzi may or may not return at some point this year...

Todd Bertuzzi strode into the visitors' room and let out a colorful expression, emphasizing just how hard he's pushing himself. He'd been on the ice 90 minutes at Saddledome, where tonight, his Detroit Red Wings take on the Calgary Flames -- without Bertuzzi. The forward hasn't played since Feb. 7, but it's looking better and better that he might yet squeeze into another game.

"We'll see," coach Mike Babcock said. "Any time you miss the whole year, it's hard. The other thing about it is, we need to win games. So do you play a guy who hasn't played all year? Those are good questions. We'll answer them when he's ready."

Forward Mikael Samuelsson (chest muscle) didn't join the optional morning skate until most of the regulars were coming off. Darren Helm isn't even on the trip, because the last time he flew back and forth to western Canada, sitting on the plane for so long tightened up his back. General manager Ken Holland said Helm is skating in Detroit, but after numerous instances of hoping Helm might be back soon, only to see him have a setback, there's little optimism that Helm will play again this season.

Among the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notes:

Best line: The best line during Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Calgary for the Red Wings? Joakim Andersson centering Gustav Nyquist and either Damien Brunner or Daniel Cleary during the evening.

Andersson set up Nyquist for a tying goal, and the line consistently pressured the Flames, on an evening not many Red Wings forwards could do so.

"That was our best line," Babcock said. "We didn't have a whole bunch of guys going."

This much irony, from the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson, I like:

When Flames GM Jay Feaster jetted to Toronto the day after trading Iginla to make a pitch to D Danny DeKeyser, some wondered if he just wanted to get out of town. Not the case. In fact, Feaster had long been courting the undrafted defenceman, who, instead, signed with his hometown Red Wings after three seasons at Western Michigan. “They were watching me for a couple of years, and I met with Jay about a year-and-a-half or two years ago,” DeKeyser said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “They showed a lot of interest, and I really appreciated that. They were nothing but class the whole way. Even after I made my decision, I called them, and they were all class.”

If it makes you feel any better, the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher believes that the Canucks must avoid playing the Red Wings for three reasons...

Detroit of course is another team in the same boat to a large degree. While they certainly don’t present the overall physical threat to the Canucks’ well being that the Blues might, they are even further away when it comes to travel and they present two of the worst menaces in the game of hockey in Jordin Tootoo and Niklas Kronwall.

Again, Vancouver could easily win a series against Detroit despite the fact their record hasn’t been good against them, but having traveled all those miles and having lost at least one and more likely two players to these respective thugs, who needs that matchup? You’d be better off against Chicago the first round, although obviously that’s not likely to happen. You may not win that series and certainly wouldn’t be the favourite, but you’re supposed to have an edge in goal and at least the Hawks aren’t likely to cut a swath through your thin roster.

One more time, if you have the lawn space to accommodate a $7,000 Nicklas Lidstrom or Kris Draper bobblehead, CBS Detroit's radio stations are holding a contest which would allow you to win one of 'em...

And finally, I'm not sure how much of me you'll see or hear today. As I'm writing this, it's 4:22 AM, and I'm scheduled to get up in three-and-a-half hours, drive the mom a hundred miles round up to a trusted family physician who's worth the trip, and then to get back around...Noon EDT. Given that the Wings won't practice today, given the hubbub surrounding Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada game in media-saturated Vancouver, and given that I started writing this when the Wings-Flames game ended just before midnight EDT...

Something tells me that this sleep-deprived blogger's gonna lay low and let my dear readers vent away at the frustration toward their beloved team...It's a frustration that I can assure you I share. Writing this, regardless of all the other awful shit that's going on in the world, was still incredibly painful, and while I've been a Wings fan for over 20 years now, I can tell you truthfully that this season's been as hard to take as those early-90's days before the team established the identity Scotty Bowman and a bunch of Hall-of-Famers stamped upon them.

That legacy lives on, but this team's personnel--and its personnel to come--seems likely to need more than 48 games' worth of hockey to reestablish its fundamentals and to create some new ones, and while sports is just watching a kid's game, and this job is covering a kid's game for 60-plus hours per week, it's really hard to be a Wings fan right now.

I guess we've got to keep the faith, even if it is riddled with very valid doubts, and even if it is difficult to not simply despair the 50-50-or-60-40 proposition that is the Wings cleaning out their lockers on Monday, April 29th and scattering to the World Championships and their offseason homes minus a playoff run.

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HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/18/13 at 10:42 AM ET

Yes.  You should.

It’s called heart, determination.  Play till the whistle blows. 

it’s called character.. duty.. responsibility.. take your pick, don’t give up though.  First part of being a civilian they make you get rid of when you join the military is that give up mentality.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 11:04 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Totally disproportional comparison, but would we ever know who Dominik Hasek is if he bowed to the “laws of physics”?

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 11:06 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

These are growing pains for a young team.  I get it.  But this team has had complacency issues for four years now.  Not to mention, every team knows our play book.  Tomas Holmstrom was a great player, don’t get me wrong, but he did more damage to this team than good as the years went on.  When he was here the team suffered from momentum killing waived goals and constant phantom penalties.  Now that he is gone we see a team that knows no other style of offense than point shot deflections.  These forwards have lost all sense of how to grind, forecheck, shoot, and crash the net.  They stay along the perimeter because that’s all they had to do in the past…. gain the zone, let Homer get set up, pass to the point.  And now that Homer isn’t around to screen matters are worse.  Defenses don’t have to spend as much time keeping Homer out of their crease, and they can spend more time separating our under sized forwards from the puck.

As I said in the other thread,  I have four words for the Wings at this point: Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres.  Sometimes a coaching change is worth it for its own sake, especially when you have several teams that know exactly how to attack this team… *cough Todd McLelland* *cough San Jose Sharks* *cough cough.*

I can deal with rookie mistakes, that’s part of life.  I can blame the horses for being complacent, sure, they’re professionals and there is no excuse for sandbagging it.  But it’s the bad habits this team has developed that kills me.  That’s on coaching and a GM that hasn’t broken up a group of forwards who’ve been enabling each other’s bad habits for years.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/18/13 at 11:00 AM ET


+19

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 11:09 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

Tootoo, I beleive he has been more or less ineffective this season.  He has not justified his salary.

I completely disagree with that.  Besides Z and Datsyuk, a name another forward on this team who more consistently brings his A game than Tootoo.  He has done exactly what he was brought on to do.  And as I said in the LB yesterday, the idea that Tootoo has to sit for the sake of Eaves and the rookies getting playing time rather than benching Cleary, Filpulla, or Abdelkader is appalling to me.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/18/13 at 11:09 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

That’s so weird, because my shoulders don’t make noise.  Howie must be a fuching X-man.
Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 09:54 AM ET

You young whipper snappers, always bragging about your well oiled joints

Posted by Hootinani on 04/18/13 at 11:15 AM ET

Avatar

Maybe sign a REAL NHL backup?

It has nothing to do with the backup.  Babcock doesn’t play backups or young players until he is forced to.  The only reason MacDonald (or Osgood) played any amount of games last year was because of injuries to Howard.  Babcock doesn’t seem to understand that goalies need days off and that rookies need to be given playing time in order to improve at the NHL level.

If a guy doesn’t come out and prove himself to be a Vezina or Calder candidate in his first game he gets shuffled to the back of the deck and forgot about.

Sure, Nyquist and Andersson were their best forwards last night, but they weren’t the best players on the ice Jan 22nd or Feb 9th respectively so they won’t get proper ice time this year.  Better luck next season, fellows.  Of course, when next season rolls around and they don’t prove themselves to be Hart candidates in the pre-season, Detroit will go out and sign Jari Kurri and Igor Larionov to take their roster spots.

It’s also worth considering the possibility that there is something fundamentally cancerous with a team that needs to be led by rookies at crunch time like this.

There’s nothing cancerous about the fact that, since the team isn’t deep enough, Babcock has played Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall too much, thus exhausting them by this time in the season.  Same goes for Howard.  He played 60+ games in his first two years, 57 last year (and only didn’t play 65+ because he was injured) and is on pace for what would be 70 if this were a full season.  They’re way overplayed because Babcock won’t play younger guys or backups.

Sometimes you add by subtraction as well.  There’s a couple teams really benefitting from clearing out their roster a bit.  Rotating 9 D is pathetic and sure as hell isn’t going to help find any chemistry between D partners or between D and F’s.

Absolutely.  Especially in a year like this when guys who have been forced to step in or step up have done so.  Ericsson, Kindl, Lashoff have all shown that they’re better than most poeple thought they were because they were forced to show what they have.  If you want someone to take that last D spot then you have to make him play for it, you don’t give one guy a game to prove himself, then give another guy a game, then give another guy a game.  Give the spot to one guy and make him lose it.

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 11:20 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

Of course, when next season rolls around and they don’t prove themselves to be Hart candidates in the pre-season, Detroit will go out and sign Jari Kurri and Igor Larionov to take their roster spots.

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 11:20 AM ET

Ok that made me spit out my coffee.  That was hilarious. +19

There is also a part of me that wants to see Igor lace em up again.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/18/13 at 11:24 AM ET

Avatar

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 11:01 AM ET

Yeah, people reallllllllly need to get off the “trade/buy out Franzen” train.  What could the Wings get for Franzen that would make them better?  The whole idea of wanting Holland to sign or trade for a top six winger is that the Wings don’t have enough of those, so trading away one of the only top six wingers we have isn’t going to solve anything.

Trading him away for less than he’s worth or paying him $15M to become an opponent just because he’s streaky are not reasonable actions.

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 11:25 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

This team has so many holes to fill it’s scary. There’s so much lack of heart on this team it’s scary. These guys are playing hard and passionate:
Pasha, Zetterberg, Nyquist, Emmerton, Andersson, Tootoo (gets sat for unknown reasons), Abdelkader (at least he tries/ should be on 3rd or 4th line), Brunner (he’s running outa steam), DeKeyser, Kronwall (he’s at least trying).
Those are the positives.
Lashoff and Smith I think will be okay. They’re tired/young. They at least bring some passion. Ya know Helm brings it. He just needs to get his ass back. Healthy. Tatar will be up full time. Maybe Sheahan?
The rest of these guys can eat a veiner as far as I’m concerned and the free agent pool this summer doesn’t look very good and I don’t see us having much in trade assets so I’m not feeling too good about the near future. I don’t know what an agressive GM could do with this team this summer so imagine how confident I’m feeling about a conservative one who’s time has passed, IMO.
My poor liver can’t take much more….

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/18/13 at 11:27 AM ET

Lenny's avatar

This team is stale, and the blueprint to beat them is out there and plain as day to everyone. Pressure the defence and box out the forwards. This team thinks it can outskill these teams with less “talent” but that ship sailed back in 09. Franzen being chased for a lifetime deal over Hossa was the first push in this team falling off the competitive cliff. Kenny has so lost his touch that hes handing out NTC’s to players that were in the bottom 6 in 08 for his top six 5 years later. Kenny thinks filling the void left by LIds, Stuart and Raffi can be done by comittee and i guess that means 8 bottom 6 dmen.

Posted by Lenny on 04/18/13 at 11:33 AM ET

Mandingo's avatar

What could the Wings get for Franzen that would make them better? 

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 11:25 AM ET

Out of his contract.

Devil’s advocate time…

People always talk about Franzen’s cap hit of $3.95 million being decent for his production - and it is -  but is it going to be decent for his production when he hits 35 in two short years? We have this guy till he’s 40.

That cap hit isn’t going to look so good when his production drops off the table, which, given his overall work ethic, penchant for injury, and game-to-game engagement, almost certainly will happen, and sooner rather than later.

Franzen’s trade value will never be higher in the future than what it is now.

I think the above argument is legitimate. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that cap hit stays a good value as long as he’s with the team.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 04/18/13 at 12:10 PM ET

Avatar

Out of his contract.

And into what?  If they get rid of him then that’s another top six winger to add to the list of needs, and they’re not going to sign a regular 25+ goal scorer for what they’re paying him.  If they buy out Colaiacovo and Samuelsson they’ll have a crapload of cap space to play with, so adding another $4M to the heap as well as creating another top-six hoe isn’t beneficial.

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 12:49 PM ET

Mandingo's avatar

  Out of his contract.

And into what?  If they get rid of him then that’s another top six winger to add to the list of needs, and they’re not going to sign a regular 25+ goal scorer for what they’re paying him.  If they buy out Colaiacovo and Samuelsson they’ll have a crapload of cap space to play with, so adding another $4M to the heap as well as creating another top-six hoe isn’t beneficial.

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 12:49 PM ET

Legitimate point, but to make that argument you have to be willing to accept the fact that you’re likely going to be paying a sack of potatoes $4 million a year for the last 3-5 years of his contract.

Close your eyes and try to imagine what Johan Franzen’s game is going to be like when he’s 37. Frightening, isn’t it?

Just to be clear, it’s never been about the cap hit for me, it’s been about the term. I’ve said that since day 1.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 04/18/13 at 01:22 PM ET

Avatar

Just to be clear, it’s never been about the cap hit for me, it’s been about the term.

Yeah, I know, and I agree that the term does suck.

Thing is, I’d rather not get rid of one of the only scoring threats the Wings have while he’s still producing (even if he’s incredibly streaky and frustrating) because of what he might (and yes, probably will) be like in a few years.

Hell, in five years he’ll be making much less than his cap hit and he could be shipped off to the Islanders or someone else who is struggling to make the cap floor.

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 01:39 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

Also, ideally, building a better team is not trading your 75 cents for a dollar. Is trading your quarters for a dollar, so you can have 1.75.

hey Herm, I don’t know how math works down on that continent…but up here no matter what you trade for a dollar, you end up with a dollar.

wink

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 01:57 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

trading away one of the only top six wingers we have isn’t going to solve anything.

were Franzen actually playing like a to six forward, I’d agree…

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 02:00 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Franzen is one of the few players that I think a coaching change MIGHT help. I really think most of his issues are his knee is probably still tore up. He hasn’t been the same player since that injury.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/18/13 at 02:11 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

hey Herm, I don’t know how math works down on that continent…but up here no matter what you trade for a dollar, you end up with a dollar.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 01:57 PM ET

Yeah I think I know what you were trying to say Herm, and I agreed with it.  But that post was confusing.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/18/13 at 02:18 PM ET

OnlyWings's avatar

It has nothing to do with the backup

My point was not made well during my rant.  At this time Gustavsson can not be relied upon to play one of the back to back games and give the Wings a chance to win.  A good backup would at least be able to play one of the back to back games.  So I still think we need a different backup especially with the lower scoring style and the young D the Wings have.

Just a lower priority on my off season wish list.

Posted by OnlyWings on 04/18/13 at 02:20 PM ET

Figaro's avatar

Franzen proved again last night that he can still hit from anywhere on the ice when he wants to. smile

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/18/13 at 02:29 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Yeah I think I know what you were trying to say Herm, and I agreed with it.  But that post was confusing.

I’m definitely not Bill Simmons.

To clear up, or to confirm what you’ve got, I mean that trading a 1st liner (Franzén, in the example) for a better 1st liner (Nash) is useless, because then you’ll have a 3rd liner (Miler) on your second line.

Ideally, you trade your surplus of 3rd liners (Miller, Eaves, Filppula) for Nash, so Franzén gets demoted to the 2nd line. This way, you improve the team’s top line and have some depth. Lateral moves don’t make much of a difference.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 02:49 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

He hasn’t been the same player since that injury.

I don’t think it’s all physical. Look at the video on the LB yesterday, and then look at the play Mick pointed out on yesterday’s game.

They were both identical, Franzén coming from the right boards, cutting to the middle and having open space to shoot.  Three years ago? Slapshot. Yesterday? Pass to behind the net.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 02:55 PM ET

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I completely disagree with that.  Besides Z and Datsyuk, a name another forward on this team who more consistently brings his A game than Tootoo.

I agree with this.  Tootoo has brough his A game in every game he’s played in.  Problem is I think his A game is ineffective.

Posted by cochy on 04/18/13 at 03:17 PM ET

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were Franzen actually playing like a to six forward, I’d agree…

Not sure why you all are still upset at Franzen.  he’s the only player scoring consistently in the last 10 games.  Open your eyes, he’s looked good doing it, too.  And the term is long, yes, but I don’t mind it at that cap hit since the cap (after next season) is going to go up and up—perhaps even skyrocket.  By the time Franzen’s done, $4 million will be the league average salary or very close to it.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/18/13 at 03:52 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

The timing of the Howie resigning was bad.

No question about it. Kenny’s been burnt before by signings, he should have been more judicious of when Howard’s happened.

June sounds reasonable.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 04/18/13 at 04:28 PM ET

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were Franzen actually playing like a to six forward, I’d agree…

Third in team scoring, 8 points in the last 8 games.  On pace for 29 points in 41 games, that puts him right on the cusp of 60 points in a regular season.  What, are those not top six numbers?

At this time Gustavsson can not be relied upon to play one of the back to back games and give the Wings a chance to win.

I know what you’re saying, I was just saying that at least part of the reason Gustavsson can’t be relied upon now is because he wasn’t given a chance at a tme during the season before each game became a must-win.  He’s never going to set the world on fire, but he’s not as bad as his play has been this year.  He was better in Toronto on a consistently non-playoff team.

It actually seems like the worst thing that could’ve happened to Detroit was to develop a goalie as good as Jimmy is.  He’s been a workhorse for going on four seasons and now they’ve learned not to be patient with their backups because if the backup has one bad game they can just lean all the organization’s weight on Jimmy.  They don’t have to acquire a goal-scoring top six winger because Jimmy’s got a low GAA.  They don’t need to improve their D because they’ve got jimmy to pull their asses out of the fire on a nightly basis.  They don’t need to play the backup consistently because Jimmy can play nearly 70 games a year.

Posted by Garth on 04/18/13 at 04:36 PM ET

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Garth
He was chronically injured when every game was not a must win.

Posted by teldar on 04/18/13 at 09:50 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

I agree, Herm. It isn’t physical entirely. His speed suffered. He’s economical in his movements (a nice way of saying lazy/loafing), but he’s way snakebit. He’s overcautious and tries to hide on the ice. That center ice backhand was a fluke of a bouncing puck and a kinda washed out goalie not having his full gameface on.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/18/13 at 11:59 PM ET

Avatar

He was chronically injured when every game was not a must win.

With the exception one missed game he has been healthy for two months.

Posted by Garth on 04/19/13 at 08:35 AM ET

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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.