The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/14/13 at 07:36 AM ET
The Red Wings' "Red and White" game on Sunday (at 11 AM) tends to stand alone as the centerpiece of training camp, but tonight's Celebrity and Alumni Game at Centre Ice Arena (at 7 PM) may steal the show.
Wings GM Ken Holland, new Fox Sports Detroit analyst Chris Osgood, Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and goalie coach Jim Bedard will be tending the nets; Wings coach Mike Babcock, assistant coach Bill Peters, the balance of the Grand Rapids Griffins' coaches (Jim Paek and Spiros Anastas), the Griffins and Red Wings' equipment managers, the vast majority of the pro and amateur scouts (including Hakan Andersson and Mark Howe), Kirs Draper, Kirk Maltby, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer, Dallas Drake and even Ken Daniels, Mickey Redmond and Ken Kal are all slated to play this evening.
MLive's Ansar Khan spoke with Wings GM Ken Holland about strapping on the pads after a long lay-off...
“It was a chore just trying to figure out how to dress again; took me a little longer than it normally does,'' Holland said. “But (Saturday) is going to be a lot of fun. It's a sold-out crowd, it's for a good cause, to raise money for the local arena. Being on the ice with Cheli, Ozzie, Draper, Malts and Fisch, it's going to be a good night.''
Holland still has most of his equipment from 1985, his last year as a pro with the Adirondack Red Wings.
“Same pads, same helmet/mask, stick,'' he said. “I use Osgood's glove and I use my son's upper-body protector.''
Goalie pads in those days were narrow and small.
“There's lots of net (to shoot at),'' he said.
He acknowledged the potential for being lit up, having to face several players only a few years removed from retirement.
“Draper flies around at 100 miles an hour, so for me it's going to be all angles and protractors, just stand 'em up and cut 'em down,'' Holland said. “I don't know how to do the butterfly and I'd probably pull a groin if I did do a butterfly. One team looks like it's stacked, with Chelios, Maltby, Draper, Fischer. We're trying to make a major trade to level the playing field.''
The Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau spoke with Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill about their...Let's say apprehension about the game...
Tomorrow’s Celebrity and Alumni game, which begins at 7:00 pm at Centre I.C.E. Arena, has been one of the most talked about events all week. The game is sold out and the auction for the specialty designed jerseys are expected to be competitive. The participants are hoping to put on a good show for the packed house.
“I don’t know if excited is the word,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill said. “I want to make it through the game. I don’t play much goalie and I expect there to be a lot of stand up goaltending going on. I am very happy that guys like Kris Draper, Jiri Fischer, and Chris Chelios are on my team. It will be fun.”
Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock, also admits not being excited about the game. The 50 year-old former defenseman doesn’t get much of a chance to play regularly given his coaching schedule.
“My excitement about it is at an all-time low,” he said smiling. “Do you know how sore my hip flexor and groins are even after a little glide around the ice yesterday? It will not be one of my all time highlights.”
Many of the NHL players are expected to attend to watch the Red Wings coaching and scouting staff play on Saturday night. Goaltender Jimmie Howard is planning on coming to watch his former mentor, Chris Osgood and current goaltending coach, Jim Bedard participate.
“I can’t wait to watch the game,” he said smiling. “I am going to come and see it to have something in my back pocket in case I need it down the road.”
And the Free Press's Helene St. James took note of Howard's comments as well:
Eager to claim bragging rights, each side’s roster has changed several times, though no one is certain who has authority to make trades. Never mind that: Howard just wants to go see how his boss, Holland, and his former mentor, Osgood, fare in net.
“I can’t wait to watch that,” Howard said after practice Friday at Centre Ice Arena. “I’m going to come see that just to have something in my back pocket in case needed.
The Saturday night players first practiced Thursday, which made for a lot of exclamations about soreness Friday. There also was some gentle suggestions Maltby needs to lose weight.
Babcock joked that his excitement level for the game “is at an all-time low for me. Do you know how sore my hip flexors and groins are? Oh, my God, even after a little glide-around yesterday. You may find this hard to believe — it will not be one of my all-time highlights, probably.”
Holland figured he should finish with good stats because the roster is full of people he employs and “a couple of guys are in contract years,” Holland said, laughing.
As noted last night, the Wings Tweeted a few pictures from the Alums' Friday practice...
And Ken Kal reported that he'd be...Um...Fine...Eventually...
Speaking of broadcast news...
RedWingsFeed and Whoabot snagged this from last night's Tigers broadcast...
And the Traverse City Record-Eagle's Dennis Chase asked Mickey Redmond five questions:
Q: What are your thoughts on the Red Wings moving to the Eastern Conference?
A: Yes, it’s great to get Boston, New York, Toronto and Montreal on a regular basis. As important as that, nobody is going to miss spending five to six hours on an airplane flying to the West Coast as often as we had to before. The big winner will be the Red Wings fans, who will get to watch these games at 7 o’clock at night now instead of 10 or 10:30. That will be huge for our fans and our audiences. It’s all good and I think it will be a great challenge for us — and for them (opponents). They’ve never seen the likes of us before. Play is a little different over there. There will be a feeling out process for awhile
Q: How is play different?
A: The Red Wings play a different type of game. They’re a puck possession team. They don’t have the fighters that a lot of those Eastern Conference teams have. But it takes two to fight and you don’t hit people when you have the puck. That’s not going to change. I see it as the Red Wings setting the pace for people to come and get them as opposed to getting a bunch of tough guys and battling it out that way.
Q: There’s a lot optimism coming into the season. A young defense came around last season and the team signed two established scorers to bolster the offense. What is your take?
A: We were a goal or two short last year on the offensive side. We were very good defensively, starting with (Jimmy) Howard. The learning curve was really steep for our young defensemen, but those kids did a great job. We were only one shot away from going to the Final Four again. The goal-scoring is welcome. (Daniel) Alfredsson, although he’s 40, is an experienced guy who knows where to be and when to be there. That’s as important as being the fastest guy on the ice. Stephen Weiss is a proven goal scorer and in our system I would expect he’ll have more opportunities to score and that will be a good thing for the Red Wings.
Q: Are you amazed that players, like Alfredsson, are still elite players at 40?
A: No, it’s a different world. The kind of help players get today is totally different than in our day. They’ve got trainers all over the place and they take care of them much better than they ever did in our day. The treatment they get, the help they get, will keep them going a lot longer. And they, without a doubt, take better care of themselves than we did. Society was a different world in our day. Today everybody is into the health kick — and that’s good.
Shifting focus back to the under-Chelios's-age club, the Record-Eagle's Chris Dobrowolski penned a fantastic article about the Wings' very "young" blueline, at least by Detroit standards...
“We’re excited about the potential of the defense because last year when our season was on the line the last 11 games of the year I think we gave up something like 14 goals in regulation or overtime,” said Wings general manager Ken Holland. “They really buckled down. Obviously, Kronner is in his 30s and everyone else is in their 20s so we’re hoping it’s a defense that can continue to evolve and get better and better.”
Detroit showed the faith it had in its young group by re-signing Kindl to a 4-year, $9.6M deal and Smith to a 2-year, $2.525M deal.
“I knew I was never going to take Lidstrom’s spot, or Stuey’s spot or Kronwall’s spot,” said Kindl, Detroit’s top pick in the 2005 draft. “All of the sudden the door opened last year, Nick retiring, Stuey moving to San Jose and the next thing you know you look at our back end and we’re such young guys.”
Kindl’s patience paid off and he was able to respond when the opportunity presented itself, recording four goals and nine assists in 41 games. He added five points in Detroit’s playoff run and posted a plus-4 during the postseason. Kindl’s partner on defense, DeKeyser, is back after an 11-game stint that immediately followed a brilliant career with Western Michigan. His season was cut short in the playoffs when he injured his thumb against Anaheim, but he returned in time to help Grand Rapids win the AHL title. He played well when he was thrust onto the big stage, showing he was ready to have an impact right from the get-go.
“I think it was big. Anytime you can get some playoff games and some playoff experience that’s always great coming into the next season,” said DeKeyser. “Hopefully, that transition will roll into this year.”
“I thought we played pretty good last year together,” [Kindl] said. “Danny, when he came up from college, he stepped right in and he looked really good out there. It was a little frustrating to see him hurt. Who knows? The (Chicago) series could’ve ended differently if he was healthy. Danny’s a good skater. He makes good plays and he skates well with the puck. I felt really good with him when we played together last year and the same thing (this year).”
Holland said it was surprising to see DeKeyser make such a big contribution so soon.
“It’s a big jump from college or juniors to the National Hockey League, especially because we were in playoff games down the stretch,” he said. “Games were big. Any mistake was critical and he played really solid. We knew he was 6-foot-4 and he was mobile. Those things we knew, but certainly his composure and his ability to make a first pass into the middle of the ice were things that at the NHL level — with the speed, the pressure — we were very, very surprised with.”
And Dobrowolski continues with some quips from Brendan Smith...
And in a tangential vein, the Free Press's Helene St. James took note of the Wings' slight roster change and Babcock's belief that training camp lines do not necessarily tell the, "Who's going to play with whom" tale...
Thursday’s return of Daniel Cleary bumped Todd off a line with Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist and onto a line with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, a bit of an odd-ball line.
Mike Babcock said he reassembled his lines just based on “who has a chance to play in the NHL, and try to put them in good spots.” He reiterated that he may still put Cleary with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, which would bump Justin Abdelkader.
“We have eight exhibition games to figure all this out,” Babcock said. “These are walk-throughs for me. I make that very clear every year. They have four or five opportunities in exhibition to grab their chunk of the ice time. We give everyone an opportunity on the power play, we give everyone an opportunity on the penalty kill. So when you leave here, you know you were given an opportunity - the ball is in your court.”
Babcock put Todd Bertuzzi on a lesser line because Bertuzzi is a known quantity – his assets are a big body and soft hands, and the willingness to play in front of the net. Todd missed much of last season with back pain, but he’s been skating for nearly three weeks, and so long as he remains healthy, Babcock knows what he has in Todd.
She posted a Bertuzzi-Bertuzzi video as well.
Sportsline's Brian Stubits penned an Atlantic Division preview, and the Wings are in the...Atlantic Division? Yep, that's right...
3. Detroit Red Wings
Most important player: Henrik Zetterberg. When it all comes down to it, this is still his team to lead. The issue for Detroit last season was somewhat surprising -- the Wings weren't scoring enough. At his bestm Big Z helps remedy that.
X-factor: Danny DeKeyser. It was a massive addition when the Wings signed the free agent out of college. This season he should get a true chance to show what he has. If he's all he was hyped to be, the Wings look solid on D. Who woulda thunk that last year?
Before last season, people were starting to write their eulogies for the sport's longest playoff streak, which stretches back a couple of decades. Heck, GM Ken Holland was pretty much the first one who put pen to paper. And he wasn't far off -- the Red Wings did struggle for much of the season. They came on strong at the end of the year and not only got in the postseason but won a series and came oh-so-close to beating the eventual champs from Chicago.
They seemed to find their stride as the season wore on, taking on a bit of a new identity. With guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg they still have offensive potential but became a much stronger defensive squad, turning a perceived weakness into a strength. It helps having one of the more steady goaltenders in the league in Jimmy Howard behind them.
Now they move forward with a couple of new additions in Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson. Alfie is up there in age but he came to Detroit in part to win the Stanley Cup. He's going to have to tap into that fountain of youth a bit to do his part but he showed last year he still has some game. Weiss is coming off a terrible, injury-shortened season and will play his first games not in a Panthers sweater. As the second center, he's going to be relied on big time to give them a solid top six. They have their usual bottom six guys to take care of those responsibilities.
Every year people get ready to count out the Wings and every year they keep on winning. They still have a good season (or a few) to go with this core, though we'll have to wait and see if they shape up to be an elite contender. They shouldn't be far behind.
If you find yourself in Sault Ste. Marie, MI this evening, per Soo Today...
The Red Wings Alumni Team vs the Soo Eagles at Pullar Stadium, 435 Portage Ave. in Sault Michigan, begins at 7:30 p.m. For information, call 906-632-3366.
And Paul pointed me toward an interview 41-year-old Slava Kozlov gave to Sport-Express's Mikhail Zislis. He's still going strong and playing for Spartak Moscow at present...
And finally, as an FYI:
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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.