The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/09/14 at 12:20 PM ET
The Red Wings' World Championship journeys kick off today in Minsk, Belarus, with Team USA captain Justin Abdelkader and defenseman Danny DeKeyser battling Belarus at 1:45 PM EDT (on NBCSN; as Paul noted, NBCSN will air all of Team USA's round robin games) and Tomas Tatar's Slovaks battling Jakub Kindl's Czechs at the same time (viewable by...alternate means; Gustav Nyquist's Swedes begin their Worlds schedule at 9:45 AM on Saturday, vs. Denmark), and Tatar...
For better or worse, Tomas has never feared making bombastic statements, and he's going to have to work very hard to back up what he said to MLive's Ansar Khan about the evolution of his game over the past NHL season:
“I was hoping to get to this point by a certain point in my season,” Tatar said. “I am on the team, but I would like to be better, so I will have to work and prove myself every year. I want to be at a level where Z (Henrik Zetterberg) and those guys are. I would like to see my role grow in this locker room. It would be nice to be one of those guys.”
Tatar, 23, had 19 goals and 39 points in 73 games. He flashed good one-on-one moves in open ice. More importantly, he showed good hands from in tight, not hesitant to get on the inside despite his size (5-11, 186).
Khan continues, noting that Tatar isn't exactly a defensive dynamo, as does Tatar:
Tatar was one of many Red Wings who struggled in their five-game first-round playoff series loss to the Boston Bruins. He had no points, despite a team-high 19 shots on goal.
“It was just hard for us to really match up with them,” Tatar said. “It seems like not really anybody played really good for us. It was a tough series and we didn’t play good like a team. They were just a better team.”
It was a learning experience for Tatar and other young players who stepped up during the regular season for this injury-plagued team.
“Obviously, it’s a different game,” Tatar said. “Nobody did good in the series. It didn’t matter if you were a young guy or a veteran.”
Shifting our focus to the Red Wings' changes-to-come, the Hockey News's Lyle Richardson revisited Jim Matheson's take on a certain Johan Franzen's "value," and Richardson "did the math" regarding a trade possibility:
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson reports the Detroit Red Wings won’t use a compliance buyout on streaky scoring winger Johan Franzen. Matheson noted ‘The Mule’ is under contract for the next six seasons at an annual salary of $3.9 million. He speculates they could move him if they could get a top-four defenseman in return.
If Franzen had less time remaining on his contract he would be easier to move. Even if the Wings agree to pick up part of Franzen’s salary, his age (34), inconsistency and injury history also hurt his trade value.
Because of Franzen’s front-loaded contract, there are also salary cap recapture penalties to consider. As the Wings were linked in the rumor mill this season to Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler, let’s assume Edler is swapped for Franzen this summer. If Franzen retires in 2017, the Wings would be tagged with an annual cap recapture penalty of over $2 million for the following three seasons, while the Canucks would be tagged for $545K annually over the same period.
I don't believe that the Wings plan on moving Franzen, but you know what they say...
And finally, the NFL draft will allow the sports talk radio hosts who INSISTED that Mike Babcock was destined to leave the Wings for the Toronto Maple Leafs to barely mention that they might have been overzealous in their predictions...
But Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner still believes that Babcock's going to find greener grass:
This is how I see Babcock's contract situation playing out: Red Wings GM Ken Holland will receive a contract extension sometime this summer. He and Babcock will then be perfectly content starting the season with Babcock as a lame duck. As the season unfolds, speculation will mount about Babcock's future, and this will be the official statement -- from both the coach and team -- throughout the campaign: "We'll address the situation after the season."
Babcock is the best coach in hockey. Everybody knows that, and at the conclusion of next season, he'll be the NHL's hottest unrestricted free agent. He's in a position of complete control, and if Babcock does decide to take his talents elsewhere, this won't be a snub to the Wings. In fact, it will most likely be a mutual parting of ways.
The Red Wings' lineup is getting younger by the minute, and the man most responsible for the rapid development of their young talent is Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill. He's also in the last year of his contract and is considered one of the top young coaches in the game. He was recently voted the AHL'€™s outstanding coach for the 2013-14 season.
The Wings don't want to lose Blashill, so if Babcock leaves, Blashill could very well be his replacement.
The Wings and Babcock have had tremendous run together, and despite what happens next season, he'll always be regarded as the Wings second-best coach ever, behind Scotty Bowman.
But Babcock knows the score and was dead on when he told reporters that he can get a job. It will likely be a job that he'll be able pick from many suitors, so don't be surprised if Babcock punches his ticket out of town. It could be the only time in his career when it will be completely his choice.
I don't believe that the lure of "unrestricted free agency" intrigues Babcock at all, and given Tweets like this one from Darren Dreger, I believe that Blashill will be back behind the Wings' bench as an assistant coach sooner than later..
I think that Bill Peters might find an NHL job sooner than later, too, but Blashill is happy in Grand Rapids for the present moment, and Babcock's readily stated that he's fascinated by doing what he's doing right now--leading the team through a transitory period, and at other times, he's stated how much the last lockout reinvigorated him and how much he enjoys having to have revamped his approach to involve more "teaching."
“I tell people all the time, I got a good place to hunt, I got a good place to waterski, my family’s happy, my youngest girl’s finishing school next year so I’m free that way, but there’s not reason to move if you don’t have to move or if it doesn’t excite you to,” Babcock said. I’ve always been a big believer the grass is always greener right here at home as long as you fertilize and water.”
He also added he wants to be where he’s wanted, plans on being in the league a long time, and there will be opportunities. Like Tom Izzo says ...
Anyway, Babcock, who will be starting his 10th season with the Wings, also was asked if even good coaches can wear out their welcome with a team.
“Who do I have I’ve coached a long time?” Babcock said. “Franzen, Kronwall, Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall, the leaders of our team, I have unbelievable relationships with. I have a good relationship with the Mule, as well.
“So I’m not concerned about that. Basically, coaching my team’s like college hockey in a lot of ways now. There’s been such a turnover in the last four years that I don’t feel like I’ve been coaching these guys a long time because the reality is I haven’t been.“
Babcock asked Ken Holland if he could succeed Scotty Bowman way back in 2001, when he was coaching the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, and Holland told Babcock he'd need to earn an NHL resume before he'd be handed what Babcock believes is one hell of a job opportunity right here in Detroit. Babcock did just that with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, taking them to a Stanley Cup Final, he earned his dream job, and he's going to coach her for as long as he wants to.
At this point, there's no reason to truly believe that a man who speaks his mind and speaks honestly about his intentions is going to do anything other than parlay his potential unrestricted free agent coaching status into a bigger and better contract with his present employer.
Update: Cue the eye roll for this quip from ESPN's Craig Custance, per an Insider-only mailbag feature:
What are the odds that Mike Babcock leaves Detroit after his contract is up next year? That would be terrible news if he did. Who would be a good replacement if this does happen?
Bryan, if I were a betting man, and I am, I’d bet against him coaching in Detroit beyond next season. For one, Babcock is well aware that teams need a new voice after awhile. Even a coach as good as Babcock gets stale and some of those veterans in that room have been listening to him for a long time.
He’d get his choice of jobs if he played out his contract and with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in their final couple years of stardom, there could be better positions for him to cement his legacy in the game. He’s a McGill guy with an appreciation for the history of the game and my guess is he’d love to be the guy to bring a Stanley Cup back to Montreal, although it doesn’t look like Michel Therrien is going anywhere. I think Dan Bylsma has done enough to return to Pittsburgh but what if that job somehow opened? The Crosby/Babcock combo has worked out pretty well for Team Canada.
It could simply come down to which jobs are available as to whether or not he’ll return to Detroit. But he’s in a really good spot right now with a ton of leverage. He’s a smart man.
As for a replacement, the Red Wings wouldn’t have to look far. Their AHL bench boss, Jeff Blashill, is ready to be an NHL coach. Detroit's current associate coach, Tom Renney, is also more than qualified. If the Sharks' Todd McLellan becomes available, he’s the front-runner.
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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.