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Red Wings mid-day news: on Mantha, the Wings’ defense (prospects and current players) and UFA haul

Updated 3x with free agent blather at 12:51 PM: Amongst the Red Wings-related news that popped up this morning (and ahead of the Wings' development camp scrimmage, which takes place at 5 PM today at Centre Ice Arena): While speaking with Ken Holland regarding the Wings' scouting appointments, MLive's Brendan Savage inquired as to the progress of one Darren Helm, and Holland very politely said the equivalent of, "He's doing okay, but it's only been two days":

"Looking at the sixth-month history, for the last two days he's done fine," said general manager Ken Holland. "The first day, we had a full practice, which was 50 minutes. (Thursday), was an hour and 50 and he did half of it. When they had to flood the ice, he came off. We're bringing him along slowly. He's been out for six months. We don't want any setbacks. He hasn't skated for two months. He's not going to play (today). I think if we had a week of practice, maybe he would have played in the scrimmage."

A scrimmage is the only item on today's agenda and Saturday is an off-day before there are two workouts scheduled for the final two days of the camp Sunday and Monday.

"He'll go back on (the ice) the last two days," Holland said. "He plans to be out for the full practices. How has he done? He's done OK. No setbacks. But I can tell you he's definitely not partaking in all aspects of the camp by design."

He's not taking part in the battle drills, and he's generally not taking part in the systems drills as those involve contact. He's also a little bit out of his element as he's not taking part in the team-wide off-ice workouts (there's no word as to whether he's engaging in any physical fitness regimen at present), and he's not taking part in the meetings, so he kind of comes and goes.

In terms of the prospects taking part in the summer development camp, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan penned a feature story about Anthony Mantha (and noted that Chris Chelios is dreading one thing: having to speak at his Hockey Hall of Fame induction):

There’s a reason the Red Wings were so interested in drafting Anthony Mantha. For one, he has the look of a power forward. He’s 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, but, at 18, has plenty of time to get bigger and stronger.

Then, when you look at Mantha’s scoring potential, you’re even more impressed — he had 50 goals for Val-D’Or in the Quebec junior league. And while some scouts were critical of Mantha for not playing hard every shift, he knows in what areas he must improve.

“I knew what I had to get better on,” Mantha said of the reports. “What I need to work on if I want to play in the NHL one day. I know what I have to do right now and I’m working hard on it. It’s my compete level. It’s being present every day. That’s the difference between being professional and being a major junior guy.”

Sounds like the Red Wings knew what they were getting into, doesn’t it? Still, it’ll be a while before Mantha makes an impact with the Red Wings. After all, he’s only 18. But right now, Mantha wants to make sure the Red Wings made the right pick.

“I want to leave my best impression and come back to the prospects tournament (Sept. 6-10) ready to go,” Mantha said Thursday during the development camp.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle's Dennis Chase penned a pair of articles about the Wings' defense.

His first article focuses upon the four graduating-to-the-Griffins defensemen in Alexei Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Nick Jensen and Xavier Ouellet, culling quotes from Holland, Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, who at least witnessed the players' practices habits as "Black Aces" during the Griffins' Calder Cup, and Chase also spoke with the players themselves:

Fans might not hear too much about these four prospects for awhile. The Wings top prospects typically spend two to three seasons in Grand Rapids developing their games before they are deemed NHL ready. The players, no matter how eager to reach the NHL, accept that.

“Obviously, it takes time in this organization,” Sproul said. “But you see the guys that have made it through the draft (to Detroit) and you know they’re great hockey players. So you go with the system, and believe in it, because you know it clearly pays off.”

It’s a system that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said is preached to the players at this camp. The Development Camp is where they can begin to establish the work ethic needed to become an NHL player with the Wings providing some of the essential tools.

Prepare for gratuitous Babcock quotes...

“This is a good opportunity for them to learn about nutrition, strength training, and take a step toward becoming a pro,” Babcock said. “We have a world-class nutritionist, a world-class strength coach. To me, those two things are the key to this whole thing, much more so than the on-ice stuff. Draft day is one thing, but the growth and development that needs to take place over the next five years for these guys is critical. It’s about taking a step. (It’s like) the organization has made a commitment to you, now it’s about you making a commitment to yourself. There are so many good players, and the separation between you and the next guy is going to be in the details, and that’s the opportunities we’re providing.”

Although Babcock is not a coach on the ice for this camp, he is an interested onlooker.

“I want to see them, know who they are and tell them about the development plan with the Red Wings,” he said. “I want to explain to them how much work it’s going to be, how long the process is, and how much fun it’s going to be one day to actually put our uniform on. Understand, totally, that you’re a work in progress. As excited as you should be about being a draft pick, you’ve got to get better every day or you’re not going to play.”

And the rest of Chase's article is obviously worth your time.

Chase also spoke with Holland and Babcock regarding the Wings' current NHL defense, noting that 32-year-old Niklas Kronwall and 29-year-old Jonathan Ericsson are practically "greybeards" given the team's youth movement (regardless of whether it was reluctantly embraced):

Drafting and developing players has become key since the NHL instituted a salary cap. The Wings have several top-flight young defensemen at the Development Camp here this week, all hoping one day to be Red Wings.

“Everybody is looking for defensemen,” Holland said. “Defensemen are hard to find. If you’ve got one (prospect in the system), there’s a chance that one is not going to make it. But if you’ve got six or seven, you hope three or four make it. We just signed Jakub Kindl for four years. Dan DeKeyser is 23, Brendan is just 24. We’re hoping some of those guys are around here for a long time. In the meantime, it gives these prospects here a chance to develop. We hope we wake up three or four years from now and we’ve got an excess of defensemen. That’s the hope.”

Even though Holland likes the team’s home-grown talent, he said the players must still perform.

“It’s nice to have draft picks on the team, but the object is to make the playoffs,” he said. “You’re trying to find players that can make a positive difference to allow your team to make the playoffs.”

DeKeyser is one of those who had a positive impact on the Wings, once he signed after leaving Western Michigan University.

“He was a tremendous bonus,” Holland said. “Lots of teams made a pitch to sign him. Fortunately, he’s home grown (born in Detroit) and there’s opportunity here. We obviously liked him, but how quickly he made an impact was a bit of a surprise.”

Ahem:

“We built the team through the draft in the 1990s,” Holland said. “We built the team again in the late 1990s, early 2000s with the Zetterbergs, the Datsyuks, the Howards, the Filppulas, the Hudlers, the Franzens. We’re trying to do it all over again. We’ve worked hard the last seven to eight years hanging on to our draft picks. We moved back two picks (in the first round this year), as an example, to get an extra second round pick. We’re trying to get extra picks, hang on to our picks. We’ve been more conservative at the trade deadline. We’re probably as deep with prospects as we’ve been since the 1990s. Part of it is a philosophy, part of it is obviously good drafting by our scouts.”

There's much more, obviously...

And Chase delivers something of a bombshell--albeit a laser-guided one--in his final article of the day, discussing the Wings' free agent aquisitions and departures:

“Obviously, we’re excited,” he said. “I thought last year we were challenged offensively. It was hard to score goals in the West (Division) for whatever reasons. There were lots of low-scoring games, Chicago scored lots of goals, Anaheim scored lots of goals. We were sort of in a pack with a bunch of other teams (after that).

“We wanted to get more scoring. Stephen Weiss, five of the last seven years, has scored 48 points or more. He’s 30 years of age. He’s a play-making center. Daniel Alfredsson has been the face of the Ottawa franchise. Even though he’s 40 years of age, he’s real competitive. He’s got a tremendous one-timer. We think our power play is going to be better just having Alfie standing on the top of the circle and having the threat of a shot.

“When you look at (Johan) Franzen, (Henrik) Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Weiss and Alfredsson, we have the makings of two lines that can score.”

The Red Wings have lost center Valtteri Filppula to Tampa Bay and don’t appear to be in the running to re-sign forward Damien Brunner.

“I made him an offer,” Holland said of Brunner, “and he didn’t like it.”

From every reading of the tea leaves, it appears that Holland's offer to Brunner and his agent, Neil Sheehy, was rejected. There may or may not have been a second offer, with both deals in the 2-year range and at $2.5-3 million. And then Sheehy told Holland that they would  "go in a different direction," and that was that.

Somewhat ironically, the Dallas News published a column by Rick Gosselin which is a subscriber-only story about the Dallas Stars' potential "copying" of the Red Wings, so I can only leave you with this:

Update: I'm amused that the AP and the Detroit Free Press are just picking this up:

The Fargo Force junior hockey team has acquired the son of Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.

Mike Babcock Jr. had 18 goals and 24 assists in his senior season at Novi Detroit Catholic Central. The Force acquired him from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders for a 2014 United States Hockey League draft pick.

The Forum newspaper reports that Babcock has committed to playing at Merrimack College following his USHL career. He’s currently taking part in the Red Wings’ prospect camp in Traverse City and will be eligible for the NHL draft next year.

Update #2: Here's some Ilitch real estate speculation from the Detroit News's Louis Aguilar. [sarcasm] Enjoy [/sarcasm]:

There’s a good chance much of the $200 million of development intended to be built around the new home of the Detroit Red Wings could end up on land controlled by Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, according to a real estate developer and other experts.

Much of the property is clustered behind Ilitch’s Fox Theatre headquarters between Grand River and Grand Circus Park, according to public property records. A good deal of that land is surface parking lots and empty historical buildings, which has made the Ilitch organization the target of criticism through the years for sitting on the property.

A spokesman for Olympia Development of Michigan, the Ilitch real estate arm, had no comment, citing company policy not to discuss speculation.

The properties give the Ilitch organization plenty of space to build the hotel, residences, restaurants and other components of the 45-block “entertainment district” that was unveiled last month along with plans for the new arena. While the location of the arena is quite specific, where much of the additional development will go has not been indicated.

“Yes, of course, the Ilitches will look to that property first. They spent years acquiring it, for major plans,” said Paul Kerber, vice-president of Marcus & Millichap Detroit, a commercial real estate investment services firm. “Now, finally we get to see what they are.”

 

Update #3: For what it's worth, Damien Brunner and Daniel Cleary made the Hockey News's Lyle Richardson's best remaining free agents list, the National Post's Noah Love pondered the landing spots of several free agents, Brunner included, and the National Post's Michael Traikos says that the Ottawa Senators will win the WingEast division.

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Comments

bezukov's avatar

I’m looking forward to some day referring to goalies as “Mantha fodder”  after he scores on them.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 07/12/13 at 01:21 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

I’m looking forward to some day referring to goalies as “Mantha fodder”  after he scores on them.
Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 07/12/13 at 01:21 PM ET

That, sir, is genius, and hopefully very true.

Posted by Hootinani on 07/12/13 at 02:06 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

That, sir, is genius, and hopefully very true.

Posted by Hootinani on 07/12/13 at 02:06 PM ET

The force is strong with this one.  +19

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 07/12/13 at 03:16 PM ET

DrD's avatar

Geeky Wings fans - good to see I am not alone! smile

Posted by DrD on 07/12/13 at 03:48 PM ET

Avatar

I’m less optimistic about Helm than any of the Red Wings media would prompt me to be. “He’s doing fine these past 2 days, compared to the last six months, even though he’s not taking part in half the practices” isn’t anything concrete.

I don’t feel like anyone else felt this way, but I think the Wings and Helm rushed his recovery in the middle of the season, right when we thought he’d be coming back and he had another setback. They’re trying too hard to get him just good enough to get in the lineup. It worries me.

Posted by CrimsonPhoenix on 07/12/13 at 05:57 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.