The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/31/13 at 02:39 PM ET
Updated 4x at 3:57 PM: If there is any "good news" about the fact that the Detroit Red Wings took their team picture and cleaned out their lockers today, facing the media for the last formal "locker stall scrum" time this season and looking toward the future, it is this:
The Red Wings summer will be incredibly short for both a roster of largely banged-up players and the team's management (see: the draft takes place on June 28th and free agency begins on July 5th), and 21 years after the 1991-92 Chicago Blackhawks sent Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov's Wings a message about how far the promising team had come--and how far the team had to go in terms of reinforcing its youthul core to build a perennial Stanley Cup contender--by sweeping Detroit, this younger, less star-studded team took a Hawks team as stacked as it was in '92 to 7 games...
And it heads to the Eastern Conference in at least shape in terms of its decent salary cap situation, knowing that the Bruins, Penguins and the left-behind Blackhawks and Kings will all play into the second week of June, and the Stanley Cup Finalists will find themselves at a huge competitive and cap disadvantage as their players will have all of two to two-and-a-half months to recover from their injuries and for their respective management cores to deal with what is at least a cap clusterfuck for Chicago and "not having enough cap space to keep everybody" for Los Angeles, the dastardly Penguins and the new division-rival Bruins.
I know that none of that matters today, however. While the Wings may be in "fine" shape going forward, even though it's highly unlikely that they'll address their needs for both a big, net-front-standing, goal-scoring forward and a top-three-to-four defenseman given the players the team needs to re-sign (UFA Damien Brunner, possibly UFA Drew Miller, and definitely RFA's Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson) and the players the team seems to be banking on returning from injuries in Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and--bizarrely--Mikael Samuelsson...
The roster crunch the team faces means that some players won't return and others will have to be traded by the last day of training camp (i.e. the evening after the last exhibition game), when the Wings will have to meet a 23-man roster limit and no longer exceed the salary cap by 10%, and the fact that the team's total playoff roster included 26 players (sans the Grand Rapids Griffins-assigned, one-way-contract-owning Brian Lashoff, certain NHL graduate Tomas Tatar or at least potential NHL job-pusher-for-er Calle Jarnkrok, or any other of the Griffins' players who may surprise us this fall) means that we can probably expect the Wings to exercise a cap compliance buy-out and probably clearing its crowded blueline and forward ranks by making a trade or two--although, again, it's more likely that the team will hang onto its players until training camp and the exhibition season, when players can determine who stays and who goes via their play as opposed to the team's estimations of their worth.
And none of what I've just said makes it any easier to admit that the Wings will be six years removed from their last Stanley Cup championship next spring, and that they will all but assuredly be taking part in the second year of a "rebuilding on the fly through a forced youth movement" plan while one of the remaining playoff teams can boast the kind of two-Cups-in-a-short-time pedigree that Detroit's fans used to assume was as normal as normal could be.
Six years is long enough. Too long. And I don't know if next year's team will be a Cup contender, but within the next season to two sesons, I believe that we Wings fans should expect the team to return to its, "Unless we make the Conference Finals, our season didn't last long enough" standard.
As stated in the overnight report, the Wings' players will still give some interviews after today--we should expect another week to ten days' worth of every-day Wings stories filtering in as the beat writers empty their digital voice recorders--and they'll engage in exit meetings with the coaches, management and training staff (some will receive treatment for injuries and off-season work-out prescriptions, and others will book off-season surgeries); the leadership group's comments will be taken into account as the front office, coaches, pro and amateur scouts gather for a pre-draft, pre-free agency powwow ...
And slowly but surely, the players will leave town for their off-season homes, leaving the coaches and management with another month's worth of hard work, and then the summer development camp to attend...
While you and I face what will seem like an incredibly long June, July and August waiting for the Wings' players to return to Troy and then Joe Louis Arena for informal practices in late August, ahead of the team's prospect tournament and training camp in early September.
The Wings are going to have a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason and making it tougher was four players that started in Grand Rapids will be in the NHL in 2013.
“Players are pushing for jobs,” Holland said. “It becomes a numbers game. You can only carry 23 skaters.”
The four players are forwards Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar and defenseman Brian Lashoff.
“It's about building a program, drafting and developing,” Holland said. “We'd probably like a little change, but that change has to be out there.”
And the team will be in good shape with the salary cap according to Holland.
“Our players will eat up a lot of cap space,” Holland said. “A lot of things happened to help us move forward and evolve. How do we become a little better, a little different? How so we score a little more? Part of it is internal. We've got to get Darren Helm healthy,” Holland continued. “The third-line center is an important part of any team. If you can put Helm in the three-hole and Andersson or (Cory) Emmerton in the four, you're a little deeper.”
This is "post 1" because articles and videos from today are more likely to hit later this afternoon and/or in the mid-to-late evening (if not overnight)--but we'll find out whether what the Wings' players, coach and GM have to say is full of cliches or in fact involves blueprints for the team's off-season moves sooner than later.
Strangely enough, the fact that today was the "media day" for the Detroit Grand Prix significantly reduced the number of scribes attending locker room clean-out day. Take that for what you will.
Here we go...
Typical end-of-the-season, make-'em-sign while-they're-here stuff.
And no, there's been no news that I'm aware of regarding the team's end-of-season equipment sale as of yet.
Via RedWingsFeed, you may enjoy Sportsline's best-of-the-second-round playoff .GIFs on your own, RedWingsFeed also sends us to a Saginaw Spirit press release in which the team states that Jake Paterson will be taking part in a Hockey Canada-sanctioned goaltending camp, and as an FYI, Pavel Datsyuk has advanced to TSN's Play of the Year Semifinals...
Also as an FYI:
And let's all be surprised that Puck Daddy's Red Wings Eulogy is...Both stupid and boring at the same time.
Somewhat ironically, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner'scolumn about the Grand Rapids Griffins' contributions to the Wings' cause hit the web at the same time Holland made those comments....
Defenseman Brendan Smith
With Red Wings: 34G, 0-8-8, plus-1, 36PIM
With Griffins: 32G, 5-15-20, plus-9, 49 PIM
The Griffins were lucky to have him while they did. The lockout kept him in Grand Rapids, where his play was decent. He was recalled to Detroit on Jan. 13 before the final paperwork on the lockout was completed. He never returned. He had a couple shaky moments in the playoffs with the Red Wings but is counted on for the future.
Center Joakim Andersson
With Red Wings: 38G, 3-5-8, plus-2, 8 PIM
With Griffins: 36G, 10-17-27, plus-1, 55 PIM
Andersson was enjoying a decent – but not spectacular – season with the Griffins when he was called up Feb. 8 after Todd Bertuzzi went down with a back injury. In what was a bit of a surprise, he stayed the rest of the season and playoffs with the Red Wings, working the fourth line and gaining a reputation for his hard work. He was returned to the Griffins on Wednesday for the rest of the playoffs.
Forward Tomas Tatar
With Red Wings: 18G, 4-3-7, plus 2, 4 PIM
With Griffins: 61G, 23-26-49, plus-8, 50 PIM
Tatar, once the youngest prospect on the Griffins, reached Detroit after a one-year absence, and made the most of it. He was comfortable from the get-go in a one-month period from early February to March. With a two-way contract, however, Detroit was in position to return him to Grand Rapids where he has remained. He has been the Griffins’ most effective scorer – and probably overall player – since. The fourth-year member of the Griffins has a team-high 13 points (9-4-13) in the postseason so far.
Forward-center Gustav Nyquist
With Red Wings: 22G, 3-3-6, plus/minus 0, 6 PIM
With Griffins: 58G, 23-37-60, plus-10, 34 PIM
The biggest surprise when the lockout end was Nyquist wasn’t recalled. But with injuries in Detroit, the second-year pro had four brief appearances with the Red Wings before he stuck March 20. He played especially well in the playoffs with two goals and five assists. He was among the league scoring leaders in the AHL when he left. Detroit returned him to Grand Rapids on Wednesday for the rest of the playoffs. It may be his last appearances with the Griffins. He has a good shot sticking with the Red Wings next season.
Defenseman Brian Lashoff
With Red Wings: 31G, 1-4-5, minus-10, 15 PIM
With Griffins: 37G, 2-4-6, plus-6, 23 PIM
Another case where injuries in Detroit opened the door unexpectedly early for Lashoff. He was recalled at the end of January after injuries to Carlo Colaiacovo, Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson. Of note, Lashoff scored his only goal in his first game with the Red Wings, but more notably was he signed a three-year extension on Feb. 25. Lashoff started the playoffs in Detroit, but he was sent to Grand Rapids on May 10 where he’s been steady in the playoffs.
The Griffins posted a game-day interview with Nyquist and Andersson, too:
And OH THANK THE GODS:
Hopefully when he's 45...
And here's the Free Press's Helene St. James on Datsyuk:
Pavel Datsyuk was on his way out of Joe Louis Arena on Friday when he stopped to deliver a piece of news that indicates he'll be milling about the Joe for years to come. Seemingly ending speculation he will return to his native Russia when his contract expires at the end of next season, Datsyuk said he wants to stay in Detroit.
"I would love to stay," Datsyuk said. "It's what I hope."
There'd been a good deal of chatter that Datsyuk, 34, would go back and play in the KHL, especially after he played there last fall during the lockout, and came back to the NHL speaking of how much fun he'd had playing before friends and being close to his nearly 11-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who returned to Russia and Datsyuk and his wife divorced a few years back.
Nyet, said Datsyuk.
"It was fun to be home," Datsyuk said, "but it was one home to another home. I hope we agree and I sign a new deal."
The Wings will get it done: Even a middle-aged (in hockey parlance) Datsyuk is better than 90% of the players in the league. General manager Ken Holland said he plans to reach out soon to Datsyuk's agent, though no extension can be signed until after July 5, because CBA rules dictate a potential unrestricted free agent can't be re-signed until the final year of his deal.
Here's Wakiji's article on Datsyuk:
"I hope we agree and I sign more after my year," Datsyuk said after the Wings cleaned out their lockers Friday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. "I would love to stay."
Datsyuk enjoyed playing in Russia's KHL during the lockout, which fueled speculation that he would return there after his contract expires after next season.
"It's fun to be home, but one home to another home, it's when you play too much here, it's nice to come back home," Datsyuk said.
Datsyuk, who turns 35 this July, considers Detroit his other home. But Datsyuk did say down the road he would like to play in Russia again.
"This is my goal but you never know how it goes," Datsyuk said. "I would love to finish back in front of my friends, fans in Russia. I hope I be in good shape."
Update #2: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's updated Datsyuk article:
“(Media) asked me and just I answered it's fun to be home (in Russia),'' Datsyuk said. “But (he left) one home to come to another home (here). When you play too much here, it's nice to come back home (to Russia). I hope so we agree and I sign new deal.''
General manager Ken Holland said he plans to talk to Datsyuk's agent, Gary Greenstin, in the next few weeks. Datsyuk can't sign a new contract until July 5.
Asked how long he'd like to remain in the NHL, Datsyuk said, “My time is too long, you never know. Hockey now is so competitive, so aggressive game. You never know. But I'm looking forward.''
He was encouraged by the team's playoff run and growth of many young players. He believes the future is bright.
“My optimism is always on the top,'' Datsyuk said. “This is how we can play. We played together. I like it. We don't have too many Nick Lidstrom, (Steve) Yzerman or (Sergei) Fedorov, but we play together and it's a good year for us. I'm looking forward to keeping same team, kind of, and doing the same next year.''
He still would like to play in Russia one day.
“This is my goal, but you never know how this go,'' Datsyuk said. “I would love to finish (in Russia), give back to my friends and fans in Russia. I hope so I'll be in good shape (then).''
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's penned an article about Datsyuk...
"I would love to stay," said Datsyuk, 34, who can sign an extension beginning July 5. "Yeah, I hope we agree and we sign a new deal. I hope we agree and I sign for more (years)."
Datsyuk, who played in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League during the lockout and enjoyed the experience, has said would like to conclude his playing career in the KHL.
"This is my goal (to finish in the KHL), but you never know how it goes," Datsyuk said. "I would love to finish (in the KHL), give back to my friends and fans in Russia (while) I hope I'll be in good shape."
But it sounds as if Datsyuk would like to play for few more years in the NHL.
"My time frame (is probably) too long, but you never know," Datsyuk said. "You never know. Hockey is so competitive, so aggressive, you never know about that."
Datsyuk's agent Gary Greenstin and general manager Ken Holland are expected to talk next week.
And here's Michigan Hockey's Micahel Caples' clean-out-day article:
“I think there’s mixed emotions,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said during locker room clean-out day at Joe Louis Arena. “We had a good run here in the playoffs and last two weeks of the regular season. It would be nice to still be playing, and we were really close to doing that. Being up 3-1 against Chicago, playing Game 7 overtime, we were right there, too, to play in the Conference Final. I’m proud of our guys for what we’ve done. A lot of young guys came up, played good. We went through a lot of injuries this year, guys came in and played well. Definitely looking forward to next year.”
The Wings, who extended their playoff streak to 22 consecutive seasons and also eliminated Anaheim, the No. 3 overall team, during the first round, saw a steep learning curve for a young group of players pay off down the stretch.
Veteran forward Dan Cleary, whose return is one of the question marks of the offseason, raved about both the fan support during the lockout-shortened season, and the play of youngsters Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Damien Brunner and Clay Township native Danny DeKeyser.
“The fans support we had this year late in the season and in the playoffs was probably, maybe the loudest, most boisterous we’ve had since I’ve been here, personally,” Cleary said. “It was amazing, the treatment that we got, how they responded. I thought as a team, we really came together. We’ve got great leadership here on this club and we got a great injection of youth. It’s great to see with Andy, Ny, Bruns, Danny DeKeyser’s going to play in this league until he wants to quit. We had a great goalie, great pieces to build off. I think as a team we should be real excited for next season. Everyone should be excited. Work hard in the summer and get back to where everyone expects Detroit to be.”
Andersson and Nyquist, who both returned to Grand Rapids yesterday to help the Griffins in their AHL playoff run, combined for 10 points during the Wings’ two playoff rounds. Meanwhile, Brunner (now an unrestricted free agent) tied Cleary for third in team scoring with nine points in the playoffs, behind only Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
Justin Abdelkader said the pain and frustration of the Wings’ Game 7 defeat will only serve as motivation for the young Red Wings to work harder over the offseason.
“I think it can definitely help with a group like us, a young group,” the Muskegon native said. “We’ve had so much turnover and then with injuries this year, it can only help with our experience and kind of give the guys some extra drive and passion going into the summer, and get ready for next season. Camp is moved up a week, and with us going into June here, it’ll be a quick summer. Guys will work hard, train hard, and get excited for getting back here in the fall.”
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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.