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Red Wings mid-day news: Holland on Babcock and Mantha, an old yarn and draft uncertainty

Amongst this morning's crop of Red Wings-related news stories:

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness posted an article which complements MLive's Ansar Khan's Babcock-Blashill-re-signing report quite nicely, discussing Ken Holland's plans regarding the Red Wings coach's future while reiterating significant comments made during locker room clean-out day:

“I wouldn’t categorize our talks as formal negotiations, just because how our relationship is,” Holland said during a phone interview Friday. “I’d like to get him signed to an extension. It might take 10 minutes, it might take two months.”

The two will be in contact beginning next week during their pro scouting meetings and then see each other again at the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Holland said the two have spoken briefly since the season ended, but have not met or talked for an extended period of time.

Babcock just wrapped up his ninth season with the Wings and has compiled a regular season record of 415-198-91. He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him roughly $2 million a season.

“If he wants to go into the last year of his contract and play out his option that’s his prerogative,” Holland said. “I don’t know if he wants to stay or doesn’t want to stay, but I think he’s happy here.”

Pleiness continues with the aforementioned context-adding, and We All Bleed Redd on YouTube happened to post a pertinent clip (a short one, no less) from the Memorial Cup, when Holland addressed Anthony Mantha's chances of making the team out of training camp:




In "present-day" news...




In the "past tense," Stan Fischler spins quite the yarn about a former Wing in an article published on the Hockey News's website...

Alec Connell was exceptionally good at stopping pucks for the Detroit Falcons (later Red Wings) in 1931-32. Whether he could blunt lead bullets was another story.

Connell, who once had six straight shutouts in 1927-28, is less, but still notably, remembered as the only hockey player to cause Manhattan’s police riot squad to be called out. That was because the mob nearly took over Madison Square Garden one night in 1932, all because of a disputed overtime goal that had big-time playoff implications for the New York Americans.

This was when the Amerks shared MSG with Gotham’s other NHL team, the Rangers. Unlike Lester Patrick’s well-behaved Blueshirts, the Star-Spangled Skaters proved to be the Gashouse Gang of hockey. Their owner, and Mob boss, William ‘Big Bill’ Dwyer, was a convicted felon who’d been the state’s most notorious bootlegger during Prohibition. He surrounded himself with a scary gang to protect him and his liquid interests. These gangsters included such notorious figures as Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Legs Diamond and Frank Costello, who would people the Garden on hockey nights as Dwyer’s guests. Better still, one of Big Bill’s gunmen, known around MSG as ‘Big Nose Harry,’ also happened to be one of the Garden’s goal judges at Amerks home games. With one finger, he lit the goal lamp and with the other hand, he packed his heater, facts that were neither in the Americans guide and record book nor Connell’s brain at the time. Otherwise, an astute Connell would have acted with more revolutionary decorum after Americans defenseman Mervyn ‘Red’ Dutton rang a shot off the goal post in overtime.

Had the rubber crossed the red line it would have put the Amerks in the playoffs. But referee George Mallinson knew the puck never went in, as did everyone else in MSG with the significant exception of the Dwyer Gang and Big Nose Harry. Doing his duty for Big Bill and the Americans, he pressed the goal button. A second later, Mallinson waved off the goal and all hell broke loose. Big Nose Harry screamed at the referee and Connell with a variety of invective until Connell skated behind his net to have a few words with Dwyer’s sluggo. That could have been Connell’s first mistake. The second could have cost him his life.

Face to face with the goal judge at the chicken wire fence, the Detroit goalie delivered a since-legendary jab. “I punched him right on the nose,” Connell said, “and the blood started to run.”

Connell admitted as much in Bill Roche’s The Hockey Book. Had Connell realized who he’d socked, he’d have started running as well, and a lot faster than the blood. “I didn’t know who he was,” Connell said, “but the Garden people did.”

And Fischler continues...




I really enjoyed having some draft talk take place in the overnight report, and in another "convenient" turn of events, NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale prefaced the draft scouting combine's final day by speaking with the Red Wings' former director of amateur scouting.

Morreale had an interesting conversation with now-Dallas Stars director of scouting Joe McDonnell, and he pours some fuel on the, "I don't know where players are going to end up in this draft" fire (yay Ehlers fans):

"This is the toughest draft to gauge that I've ever been involved in," McDonnell told NHL.com. "Guys that maybe are tenth on your list, could go No. 30 or vice versa. It's not a big gap, like some years where it drops off. It's pretty close all the way through and I think it's just going to sort itself out at the draft table once teams start taking different players. You just hope something you have falls to you."

McDonnell went on record to say that defenseman Aaron Ekblad, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 Draft, is probably the top defenseman available. The veteran scout is a big believer in building from the goal line out and top defensemen are hard to come by in any draft.

Last year with the Red Wings, McDonnell had right wing Valeri Nichushkin ranked third on his wish list. The Red Wings didn't select until No. 20 last year and, wouldn't you know it, the Stars ultimately tabbed the Russian-born standout with the No. 10 choice. The general consensus among scouts was that Nichushkin slipped that far in the draft because of the possibility of him returning to the Kontinental Hockey League.

"I remember sitting at the Red Wings draft table last year and [Holland] turning to me and saying, 'Do you think Dallas is going to take [Nichushkin]?' I said, 'If it's not Nichushkin I'd be shocked.' So they took him and it was a great pick. Everyone knew the 'Russian Factor' was the reason he fell to No. 10 but you have to do your homework and if they're already playing over here that's one thing, and if he doesn't you need to do the research. Dallas did their homework and got Val and it has certainly worked out."

McDonnell said the 2014 NHL Scouting Combine once again provided a great opportunity to learn more about the top prospects, particularly during the interview stage.

"It's important to find out if they can at least put a sentence together," McDonnell said with a grin. "Seriously though, I know they can do that. We're just sizing the player up when he comes to our door for the interview; shake hands with him and you immediately get an idea who you might be dealing with. There were actually a couple of real surprises for me. I'm not going to name names but I thought they looked small on the ice and when they came to the door I thought, 'Wow, this kid is way bigger than I thought he was.'"



And I want to get this out of the way immediately: It is my hope that the Red Wings find a top-four defenseman to stabilize the defensive core, be he Niskanen or Boyle or Ehrhoff, but after that, I would much rather see the team make no attempt to sign a forward of any kind.

With Mantha lurking, Ferraro and Callahan out of waiver options, Weiss an unknown quantity and Tatar, Jurco, Sheahan and Nyquist having learned quite a bit by getting the snot checked out of 'em by the Bruins, I would be very disappointed if the Wings spent $7 million on a player I call the "Modern-Day Ray Sheppard." A certain Thomas Vanek made the following comments to NHL.com's Apron Basu during the Montreal Canadiens' locker room clean-out day, and they didn't sell me on his character at all:

Auf Deutsch to the Austrian forward: Nein, danke.

Vanek is the kind of guy who can score 25 goals if you've got a speedy center feeding him passes, but after two solid seasons in Buffalo, he bounced around this past season, was decidedly a disappointing rental for Montreal, and he and his Austrian Olympic teammates got drunk in a late-night party prior to the team's loss to Latvia.

The more and more I watch Vanek play and hear Vanek speak, the more I believe that he's an, "It's all about me" player, and that's a major turn-off.

The Wings have to figure out what Weiss can realistically give them, if they want to add grit, Ferraro and Callahan want to steal jobs...

And in all honesty, with Pulkkinen, Mantha and the lesser lights in Athanasiou, Frkand Tvrdon eventually hoping to graduate to the big club--with Pulkkinen and Mantha "relatively close"--this is a very big year for Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader, because Riley and the Slovaks, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Nyquist, Weiss, Glendening and--should he return--Alfredsson represent 10 slots with some job security, and if jobs are to be "lost," I look at Miller and Abdelkader as the most endangered players on the roster (not named Joakim Andersson, anyway).

That may change if the Wings have to sacrifice a forward or two to acquire a top-four defenseman via trade, but at present, the upcoming season will be about "stealing jobs" just as much as the last one involved "stealing jobs," and the Millers, Abdelkaders and even Helms and Glendenings have to watch their backs.

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I always thought Vanek is shooter and was really surprised watching him against the Rangers. The guy just refused to shoot the puck trying to make an extra pass in the “best” tradition of Filpula. I am not sure I will pay $4 mil for him, but he is going to get $7 on a multiyear deal from somebody. The good news I do not see any way KH offering even close to it.

Posted by VPalmer on 05/31/14 at 03:09 PM ET


Could not agree with you more about avoiding the forward market, George.  Unless there is a too-good-to-be-true option out there the Red Wings should stand pat with the forward group they’ve got.

Posted by captaineclectic on 06/01/14 at 07:01 PM 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.