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Red Wings morning mishmash: on Tootoo, Babcock and business

A few stories popped up this morning that didn't quite make the overnight report, but a sleepless blogger (stomach virus or getting adjusted to Belarus time ahead of the World Championships' start tomorrow Friday, you pick one) found it rather intriguing that, while Mike Babcock both discussed his coaching future and the Red Wings' player personnel decisions to come, he's suggested that the Wings owe Jordin Tootoo the privilege of NHL employment.

Ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins' second-round series against the Texas Stars, which begins with a pair of games in Austin, Texas on Thursday and Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner spoke with the Wings' resident good soldier (or as Capgeek calls him, the Wings' "Buried Player") about his season spent mostly riding buses.

Wallner reports that Tootoo's battling an, "Upper-body injury" (let's just say that by AHL standards, that's a transparent diagnosis), but Tootoo hopes to get back into the lineup to prove that he's still an NHL player that happened to be a salary cap casualty, and not the other way around:

It is important for the 31-year-old Tootoo to play, and it’s not just for the Griffins. It’s for his future because he still thinks he can play in the NHL.

“It’s something I have to look deep down inside and really ask myself the hard, tough questions,” Tootoo said. “And I know I’m right there. But there are thousands of hockey players that want to take my position as well. I’m here to try and get myself back into the NHL. Maybe toward the end of my career I’ll help groom the young guys, but right now I’m here for myself to get back.”

That’s unlikely to be in Detroit. Ken Holland, Red Wings general manager, may use the team’s one cap compliance buyout on Tootoo’s contract, worth $1.9 million, and make him a free agent.

He has been with the Red Wings since he signed as free agent in 2012 after eight seasons in Nashville.

“Toots has done everything we could have asked of him in the AHL,” Holland said in an MLive story April 29. “He hasn’t complained. He’s been a good foot solider. I don’t know if we’re going to buy him out, but I don’t think it’s fair to Toots and from the business standpoint, we don’t want Toots in the American Hockey League.”

Wallner continues, and as Tootoo still has one year remaining on his contract, at a cap hit of $1.9 million and an actual salary of $2 million, it's highly likely that the Wings will simply use their last amnesty buyout to free Tootoo for future employment.


With all of this Babcock-going-elsewhere babble going on, and the Alternative to the Flagship Station station sounding more like the Flagship Station, MLive's Brendan Savage reminds us of Babcock's words from locker room clean-out day, which were kind of the reason that the Toronto Star's Dave Feschuk wrote the column he did, and the reason that Matt Dery's going ape:

When the Red Wings cleaned out their lockers last week following their playoff ouster by the Boston Bruins, Babcock said he likes it in Detroit and that discussing a contract extension is "no priority whatsoever."

Babcock said he'd be content to work on a year-to-year contract and even joked he might become Red Berenson's assistant coach at the University of Michigan.

"I'm real comfortable with the owner and the manager; that's not a concern for me one bit," Babcock said. "When you're at the stage of your career that I am, I'm real comfortable with whatever they want. I want them to be happy. If they're not happy then I'm not happy. I have no problem. I can go year to year.

"I know Scotty Bowman went year to year sometime here and I'm real comfortable with that. I can get a job. I'm not worried about that. The owner is better than great to me. They do things right. They treat people right. The GM is a driven guy who can't stand losing and I like to be around ultracompetitive people."

Then the GM said he plans on talking to Babcock about signing an extension, and specularity ensued.

Speaking of which, if you missed it, Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea noted that we got a rare glimpse into the Ilitch PR machine as the Red Wings' long-time PR director, John Hahn, has exited the equation, and Ilitch Holdingssnagged a social media-savvy successor:

Ilitch Holdings Inc. has a new top spokesman: Doug Kuiper. He replaces John Hahn as the vice president of corporate communications for the $3.1 billion management services company for the various Ilitch family businesses that include the Little Caesars pizza chain, the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, and MotorCity Casino Hotel.

The hiring was announced Monday in a statement issued by Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings.

As part of his new job, Kuiper also will handle communications for the $650 million hockey arena district project the Ilitches have under way in downtown Detroit.

That's the really intriguing part. The Red Wings have successors already in place in Todd Beam and Kyle Kujawa, but the man at the tip of the PR spear tends to direct the entire organ-i-zation's policies--as in all of Ilitch Holdings' companies--and let's just say that the Wings' approach is very much so "old-school" to the point of heavy-handedness.

Kuiper most recently was chief marketing officer for Detroit-based cloud-computing business Covisint Corp., which was spun off from software maker Compuware Inc. last year.

He also spent 14 years in marketing and communications at Compuware, which bought Covisint in 2004. Prior to that, Kuiper was public relations director for the psychiatry department at Wayne State University’s school of medicine.

Kuiper earned his undergrad and graduate degrees in English from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, respectively, Ilitch Holdings said.

“Doug is a highly experienced communications and marketing professional who has successfully managed communications for a high-growth business with an increasing presence in Detroit,” Chris Ilitch said in a statement. “His experience and deep roots in Detroit’s business community align well with our future development work and other growth within our businesses, and we’re very pleased to add him to our team.”

And this is where I get to make the rare ownership comment: it's widely believed that when the NHL's Board of Governors met last fall, and Ken Holland simply said there was a "change" going on and the media understood that meant, "Don't ask"...Chris Ilitch probably took the helm as the Red Wings' voting member of the Board of Governors, if not some sort of ownership role.

Given that Mr. I is 86 and that he's had some health issues, it just makes sense for the Wings to begin the transition to the next generation. Mr. I is still at the helm, but you've got to do your due diligence.

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I really hope Tootoo catches on with another NHL club. He may have his limitations on the ice, but when you consider the personal troubles he’s overcome, the person he is off the ice and the causes he fights for…..I just think he’s a super human being and I wish the best for him.

Posted by Steve in SE MI on 05/07/14 at 10:20 AM ET


I still think they should have played him in the playoffs.

Posted by George0211 on 05/07/14 at 10:25 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Then the GM said he plans on talking to Babcock about signing an extension, and specularity ensued.

Specularity:  speculation hilarity.  Love it, G.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 05/07/14 at 11:08 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Every once in a while I get to make up a new word. I think it’s only one every month.

And I do hope that Tootoo does well elsewhere. Not in the division though wink

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/07/14 at 11:09 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Off topic, G, but I thought of you when I saw this:

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 05/07/14 at 12:01 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.