The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/28/13 at 11:03 AM ET
As it turns out, the supposedly quietest weekend of the off-season's yielded a conveniently-planted rumor about the Red Wings sending Jordin Tootoo back to Nashville, a solid number of overnight report stories and a state-of-the-Wings assessment from Ken Holland, and MLive's Ansar Khan continues his survey of the Red Wings' Eastern Conference foes with a survey of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Khan's also penned articles about the Canadiens, Senators, Bruins, Sabres, Panthers and Lightning):
Maple Leafs' strengths: Scoring shouldn't be a problem, as the Leafs have two potent lines with a top six led by Phil Kessel, the team leader in goals, assists and points. Nazem Kadri had a breakout season (18 goals, 44 points). Joffrey Lupul missed two-thirds of the season with injuries but managed 18 points in 16 games. David Clarkson, one of this year's top free agents, adds goal-scoring ability and toughness to a team that led the NHL in fighting majors (44) by a large margin without him in 2013. They have two good checking centers in newly acquired Dave Bolland and Jay McClement. They have a solid combination in goal with James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, who had backed up Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles.
Maple Leafs' weaknesses: Puck management was an issue, as the Leafs led the league in giveaways. They also tied for the worst shot differential in the league (minus-6). They are rumored to be shopping Cody Franson, their scoring leader on defense, who's a restricted free agent. That would leave them thinner on an average blue line anchored by Dion Phaneuf.
Maple Leafs outlook: The Leafs made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and were poised to knock off the Boston Bruins in the opening round before a monumental Game 7 collapse – the Bruins scored three times in the final 11 minutes of regulation to tie it and won 6-5 in overtime. It should be a learning experience for a Leafs team on the rise. Toronto should make the playoffs, if not challenge the Bruins for the division.
Khan continues at length, and I'm already in an, "I despise the Leafs" mood today because HockeySverige.se's Uffe Bodin posted a frickin' hour-long Hockey Night in Canada-produced documenary of the Leafs' successful 1992-93 season (and I was in attendance when they defeated the Wings in the first round of the playoffs in rather devastating fashion).
I'd much rather be in Grand Marais than headed to Wal-Mart on a rainy late July Sunday anyway, so hearning Joe Bowen say that classic Torontonian one-wording of the "TorontomapleLEAFS'" name gets my dander up almost instinctively.
In other news, I was a little surprised to read that Edmonton Oilers forward Nail Yakupov told Sport-Express's Sergey Gavrilov that he's going to be spending his August training in Metro Detroit with Igor Larionov, but I'm guessing that Larionov brings most of his clients to the Motor City in the summer. I wonder if Yakupov will be skating with the Wings when they begin informal practices in Troy and at the Joe...
If you were not aware of this promotion...
And the Detroit Athletic Company's Bruce Mason continues his two-part analysis of the Wings' draft history (again, Detroit Athletic is a merchandise-selling shop that happens to posit articles about Detroit sports, so you've been warned), following up his take on Jimmy Devellano's tenure as the team's decision-maker with a surprising stat about the Wings' luck in the first round...
For such a dominant organization that’s among the best in all of professional sports, its quite humorous – and impressive – that the Wings have had 39 first-round picks, and just one stayed for his entire career: Steve Yzerman.
But I'm just not a fan of spending so much time nitpicking about who the Wings could've picked when players actually pan out, even if they're not superstars...
Wings general manager Bryan Murray made a solid selection in Martin Lapointe (10th overall, 1991), but he could have selected a dynamic player such as Alexei Kovalev (1,029 points), who was selected 15th overall, or Markus Naslund (869 points) taken 16th overall. Lapointe had 381 career NHL points and 1,417 penalty minutes.
In 1992, Murray selected Curtis Bowen (22nd overall), who never played an NHL game. And in 1993, he chose defenseman Anders Eriksson, who played 151 games across three seasons but never reached his potential. The very next pick after Eriksson? Todd Bertuzzi (New York Islanders), who later went to Vancouver and scored 25 goals or more in five of six seasons from 1999-2000 through 2005-06.
Eriksson was just the start of a bad string of luck with defensemen selections. The Wings followed with Yan Golubovsky (23rd overall, 1994), Maxim Kuznetsov (26th overall, 1995), Jesse Wallin (26th overall, 1996) and Jiri Fischer (1998, 25th overall).
And he continues by noting that Ken Holland's Wings picked Jakub Kindl ahead of Tuukka Rask. During every draft year, there are always cringe-worthy, "Why did the Wings pass over X for Y?" scenarios, but that's the truth for the 29 teams that didn't know that X was going to develop into a superstar and Y was not.
Drafting is the first step in the player development process, and the Red Wings' drafting record has gotten a little better in no small part due to the team's increasingly heavy emphasis on and investment in ensuring that their players are given every competitive advantage in terms of learning how to train properly, how to work on improving their on-ice skills and offering mentorship and guidance to their prospects...
But drafting is still a guessing game, and player development truly depends on the players themselves as it does on the teams who pick them--and when you've got a 1-in-30 chance for drafting a player in 1 of 7 rounds instead of a 1-in-20 chance of picking a player over the course of 12 rounds, the post-second-lockout draft is really stacked against teams attempting to make needle-in-haystack picks, so the closer the Wings get to the present, the harder it becomes to grab someone that another team hasn't seen or to really out-wait an opponent for that player your scouts aren't completely sold upon.
That's not an excuse for the Wings' draft gaffes, but it's an explanation as to why the, "The Wings should have picked Mike Cammalleri over Igor Grigorenko" comparisons in even regarding early-2000's picks becomes harder and harder as we get closer and closer to watching a team attempt to pick players whose careers are still in progress while scouting on an ever-increasingly-even playing field. It's gotten incredibly hard to out-scout your opponents, and when the "jury is still out," it's not nearly as easy--or fair--to play the "should've and could've" game.
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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.