The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/09/13 at 10:57 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings' summer development camp begins tomorrow in Traverse City, MI, and while we've talked about the players listed as participating and a little bit about the free agent invitees, we haven't talked about the reasons why the Wings are bringing 37 prospects and free agents (half of the roster consists of free agents, and as the Wings are at the 50-man roster limit, none of said players can hope for much more than invites to the fall prospect tournament and/or AHL deals) and one Darren Helm to Traverse City, accompanied by the Grand Rapids Griffins' coaches, goalie coach Jim Bedard, Red Wings strength and conditioning coach Peter Renzetti and Griffins strength and conditioning coach Aaron Downey, the team's equipment staff, trainers and the majority of the front office, all at great expense to the organization...
Especially given the fact that the Wings are hoping that maybe a quarter of the prospects develop into NHL players. The "player development" part of drafting and developing prospects into professional hockey players involves enormous amounts of teams' time, energy, effort and just a staggering finanical investment.
While you know what's in it for the team in shaping the future of the team's roster and building a foundation for success, what's in it for the prospects?
Well, the Score's Justin Bourne actually did an excellent job of explaining the steps drafted prospects take from the moment they hear their name called on the draft floor until they take part in teams' prospect tournaments and main training camps, and the middle of his article explains what this week's all about:
Rookie camp: “Rookie camp” is really “prospects camp,” as all the organization’s recent draft picks (including the odd player who actually played as a rookie on the NHL team the year before) come together for a few days.
There, you get to know your future teammates, which makes it easier when you finally show up for training camp. You have individual meetings with the brass, but more important, they get to see you in action. That means it’s fitness testing, training and on-ice practice time with the odd scrimmage mixed in for good measure. As the week progresses, relationships form, and you start to feel some affiliation with the program.
Using the metrics they accumulate during tests over those few days, they’re able to put together your …
Custom workout plan: I was a tallish, lean player who struggled to put on weight, let alone stop losing it during the season. I drank protein shakes after practice, ate like a horse after games and chewed protein bars like my life depended on it. Still, I was too easy to knock off pucks, so my custom summer plan involved minimal on-ice action, not a ton of cardio and a lot of power lifting. Or at least that’s what they wanted me to do. (I just wanted to play hockey, so I probably did a little too often.)
Another player might have a plan that’s the complete opposite of that. Whatever your shortcomings are, the organization you’re committed to has their strength and conditioning guys devise a packet that clearly states your daily plan in the gym (with all exercises increasing in weight as the summer goes on).
While Tomas Storm's skill-building drills and Andy Weidenbach's power skating drills yield the most jaw-drops from observers like me, I've found that the Wings are in fact much more concerned with what takes place during the second half of players' on-ice sessions, when the Grand Rapids Griffins' coaches introduce the players to the system that the Wings play and really, really, really push pace and intensity as the days pass to ensure that everyone comes to camp understanding that the players' performances during the fall prospect tournament will in fact determine spots in the "pecking order" and possible contracts for free agents...
And perhaps just as importantly, the players learn that, should they receive invites to the main camp, that Mike Babcock has no time for players who need to have drills explained to them three or four times, and that a professional hockey team will demand execution of drills and plays at an 100% levels of execution and intensity at full-out pace 100% of the time.
As I learned last summer, the physical part of the equation might be more important than the on-ice portion of the camp. The players are introduced to some truly grueling training techniques as a serious-ass eye-opener regarding the near-insane level of dedication to brutal, brain-and-body-punishing workouts that players are expected to embrace as "living in the gym" is incredibly important for players who're still growing into their bodies.
They also learn about fueling their bodies (Aaron Downey informs players to expect to invest significant amounts of money in healthy eating) and recovering from athletic activities (and while I'm not sure of the particulars, I'm certain that they receive some tips as to how to spend their down time, especially when they're on their phones or computers)
In terms of those "numbers' and metrics, the players seem to take more pride in their fitness testing numbers and almost pay more attention to the workout "prescriptions" they receive than they do the on-ice lessons they learn. They're young, competitive athletes, and so many of them state that their main goal for the rest of the summer involves working out with personal trainers (at no small cost to them) or finding a way to spend time with the Wings' personnel to build their bodies up for the prospect tournament and main camp.
In summary, however, the Wings prospects' brains and bodies are exposed to a remarkable amount of information and new experiences over what is really an incredibly short period of time, and, as Brendan Smith told MLive's Brendan Savage (again, Luke Glendening is the only player who took part in the Griffins' Calder Cup run who's attending the camp as plaing into mid-June = you're allowed to not head to Traverse City in July) even Helm might find himself learning some new tricks:
"I think you get a lot out of it," said second-year defenseman Brendan Smith, who won't be at the camp now that he's an NHL regular but took part last year. "You understand there's so many sources to use and you learn how to work out, things that you should be eating nutrition wise. It helps out a lot. I think I've been there six years and every year it was like I was learning some new stuff. You should cherish that time. The Development Camp is a big time for everybody. We do it really well up there."
Smith said the camp is beneficial to players who have already been through it – "I was learning new things and obviously working really hard," he said – and it not only gives the players a chance to get back on the ice but Traverse City is also a pretty nice place to spend a week in July.
"Absolutely," Smith said. "Traverse City is pretty nice. It's cool to have that kind of area and a place for everybody to bond. We were by the beach a lot. It's really nice to be by the beach, get some vitamin D."
That's an incredibly important part of the equation, too--these guys get to know each other, during the scrimmage, they get to try to beat the hell out of each other, and they begin to form friendships that will be cemented over the summer and during the fall.
As Pleiness notes, Danny DeKeyser won't be taking part in the camp, either, but he did so two years ago, when the Wings hired his coach at Western Michigan, Jeff Blashill, and he enjoyed the "getting to know you" aspect of the camp in particular:
"Just kind of learning a little bit more about the organization and kind of meeting people within the organization" was helpful, DeKeyser said. "There's a lot of people within the organization and a lot of players. It's kind of like a bonding thing.
"Anybody who is a looking to play pro hockey, that's a good step to take. It just helps you adjust a little bit and meet some guys in the organization. It's fun. I love Traverse City. It's an awesome place. It's a good spot in Michigan for sure, right up there on the lake. It was a blast two years ago when I went."
The players will engage in an afternoon's worth of practicing and working out on Wednesday; on Thursday, they get into the two-a-day routine; Friday they scrimmage, and on Saturday, they do get a day off to hang out on the lake together before spending Sunday and Monday grinding it out yet again. Here's the schedule for those of you who aren't familiar with it, from the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau:
[Wednesday] July 10
8:30 am – 11:00 am Team Lidstrom physicals
9:30 am – 11:00 am Team Yzerman physicals
12:00 pm – 12:50 pm Team Lidstrom practice (Admission Free)
1:00 pm – 1:50 pm Team Yzerman practice
In case you were wondering, I did ask whether the physicals were being held behind closed doors, and they are, so don't expect to see the fitness testing in person. That's completely understandable and how it should be.
[Thursday] July 11
8:00 am – 9:50 am Team Lidstrom Practice (Admission $5)
8:00 am – 9:45 am Team Yzerman off-ice workouts
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm Team Lidstrom off-ice workouts
2:00 pm – 3:50 pm Team Yzerman practice
[Friday] July 12
5:00 pm intra-squad scrimmage (Admission $5)
[Saturday] July 13
8:30 am Training Camp Ticket Sale (no on-ice activities)
[Sunday] July 14
8:00 am – 9:45 am Team Lidstrom off-ice workout (Admission $5)
8:00 am – 9:50 am Team Yzerman practice
2:00 pm – 3:50 Team Lidstrom practice
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm Team Yzerman off-ice workout
[Monday] July 15
8:30 am – 10:15 am Team Lidstrom practice (Admission $5)
8:30 am – 9:45 am Team Yzerman off-ice workout
10:30 am – 12:15 pm Team Yzerman practice
10:45 am – 12:00 pm Team Lidstrom off-ice practice
The Detroit Free Press's Helene St. James spoke to one of the Wings' first-time participants in one Tyler Bertuzzi about both his family ties and the game he plays:
What attracted the Wings to Tyler is his reputation as an outstanding agitator, someone so gritty that he has been described as even tougher as his uncle, who was considered the premier power forward in the NHL a decade ago.
Tyler wasn't expected to go as high as he did — second round, 58th overall — because he missed about two months with a whiplash injury. That limited Tyler to 43 games, which saw him produce 13 goals among 22 points, along with 68 penalty minutes for the Guelph Storm in the OHL. The Wings considered his strong finish to the season — along with his reputation as a pest — a good reason to nab him before he fell into the third round. That, in short, led to a pleasantly surprised Tyler 10 days ago. He watched the draft while at home in Sudbury, Ontario.
"I was so excited when I heard my name," Tyler Bertuzzi said. "It was an honor to be drafted so high, and then by the Detroit Red Wings — it was awesome. My uncle has told me everything about what a great organization it is."
Tyler is the son of Todd's sister, Angela. Todd Bertuzzi also played for Guelph as a teenager. Storm coach Scott Walker gets a good deal of credit for Tyler's success. He “has taught me a lot about how to be an agitator and how to just let me play my game, and be good at it," Tyler said.
Ironically enough, Tyler was a long shot to make the Storm when they drafted him in the fourth round of the Ontario Hockey League Priority Draft two years ago. "I ended up making the team, and it's been nothing but great since," Tyler said. "They gave me a chance to play and a chance to get my confidence."
Confident enough to do a little off-season trash talking, it would seem. Asked to compare himself with his uncle, Tyler didn't hesitate to answer: "I'm meaner."
His uncle's reply? "We will see at camp, then.”
Some of the Wings' prospects have Tweeted about heading to Traverse City today...
For the record, the players fly into Detroit and then head up to Cherry Capital Airport (eliminating a long bus ride = one of the "perks" of being a Red Wing) but RedWingsCamps found that some of the coaches aren't so lucky:
In other news, via RedWingsFeed, let's just say that Daniel Alfredsson's $2 million in performance bonuses aren't particluarly complicated in being "attained"...
And here's how the, "You can exceed the cap by 7.5% for over-35 player performance bonuses" thing works:
Under the collective bargaining agreement struck in 2013, a performance bonus cushion is in place for all years of the deal, including the last one in 2021-22.
The performance bonus cushion allows teams to exceed the upper limit with performance bonuses to a maximum of 7.5 percent of the upper limit.
For example, if the upper limit is $64,300,000, teams can exceed it by $4,822,500 in performance bonuses. Any performances bonuses in excess of that total do not fall into the cushion and are counted as part of the team's cap payroll.
Any performance bonuses actually earned at season's end (ie. for games played, awards, all-star teams, etc.) are then added to the team's final cap payroll. The catch with the cushion is that if the bonuses earned at year's end push the team past the upper limit, the overage is carried over as a penalty the following season.
You may take this quip from Slam Sports for what you will (and it's part of a much longer Q and A)...
Last week, Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune Editor-in-Chief Paul Ouellette had a chance to sit down with legendary coach and TV personality Don Cherry and get his thoughts on some hot topics in the world of hockey.
On Daniel Alfredsson going to Detroit:
Don: “Someone asked me about that. I think Ottawa has as much of a chance to win the Stanley Cup as Detroit. Is there no loyalty?”
And if you're looking for a sympathetic ear regarding the concept that Valtteri Filppula may not have been worth the $5 million the Tampa Bay Lightning are paying him, you can find one in Sportsnet's Ryan Porth, who believes that Filppula's contract was downright "ugly" (in an article discussing the, "Good, the bad and the ugly" of free agency thus far):
Valtteri Filppula, Lightning: Filppula wanted to be paid like a No. 1 center, and did he ever. The problem is Filppula is not a No. 1 center and is overvalued at $5 million per season for the next five years. There is a theory that Filppula could improve without being a secondary option in Detroit. But if Filppula was a product of the system, this is going to look like a terrible contract sooner rather than later.
That's probably it for me until this evening. I need to get the car packed as I'm going to head to Traverse City this afternoon.
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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.