The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/11/13 at 11:09 AM ET
Updated 4x at 2:00 PM: Amongst this morning's Red Wings-related news: I'm not sure whether I would ask Jordin Tootoo about SI's Alan Muir's suggestion that Tootoo's the 8th-most-hated active player, but MLive's Brendan Savage did just that, and Tootoo told Savage that such a comment is in fact a compliment:
"Part of my job is to create havoc out there and get under people's skin," Tootoo said after Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, Detroit's third straight win. "You're bought into this league to do a certain thing. It just goes to show that I'm doing my job."
"It's a work in progress. Get out there and it doesn't matter how many minutes you play, you want to do your job and help the team win. Throughout my career, I've been a notable player to do that. It takes a little bit of a skill, a little bit of heart and willpower. I'm not the biggest player out there.
"It's part of being a role player. Everyone has roles on the team and that's what brings 22 guys together. It's the little things that count. Maybe your average fans might not know it but the guys in the dressing room realize that's a big part of the game. That's where a lot of games are won."
Via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports Detroit's Darren Eliot also weighed in on Tootoo's impact in a column penned for Michigan Hockey Now, but he did so in a very strange way, suggesting that Tootoo's four fights have "distracted" Red Wings fans from the truth about their favorite team(?):
Despite having little in the way of pugilism in its recent past, Red Wings’ fans identify with guys who fight. Maybe it is part of being an Original Six market that has seen the NHL from its earliest incarnation. Maybe it is part of the working class, survivor spirit that has long defined Michiganders. Maybe it is just the titillation of watching two grown men square off in a dangerous, politically-incorrect manner that seemingly has less and less to do with the outcome of the game than ever before. Whatever the reason, fighting remains a visceral vice for many who remember when fighting was truly part of the game’s culture and it becomes a guilty pleasure for those newer fans who look on in disbelief because such bad behavior is taboo everywhere else these days – except maybe reality shows.
After all, sporting events are the original and ultimate form of reality viewing. At rinks, arenas and stadiums everywhere, fans even get to participate by standing, cheering, booing and singing (Can I get a, “…Born and Raised in South Detroit…”). Nothing gets a more all-inclusive, stand-on-your-feet, cheer-at-the-top-of-your-lungs response than a fight. Still does. Tootoo proves it. Even after all the years of not being part of the Red Wings’ master plan. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, I wrote here last spring about fighting in hockey on one hand and my personal perspective on the other.
This isn’t about that. This is more about our Red Wings in a year of transition. We knew this was coming, but no one knew what form it might take, or when it might arrive. It’s awkward and it’s here now. The it I speak of is an Identity Crisis. What defines this Red Wings team? Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are marvelous players. Johan Franzen is hot right now. Damien Brunner is off to a nice start as a first-year NHL’r. Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson are NHL defensemen. Jimmy Howard is solid in net. Brendan Smith was making nice progress before injuring his shoulder and Darren Helm is a non-factor due to debilitating back pain.
I haven’t listed everyone, but I’ve named enough names. The point is, the team no longer has enough top-flight players to execute their long-held self-brand as a puck-possession team. The special teams – again, for so long loaded with dedicated skill players that made the difference many nights, especially on the road – is two seasons in decline, with holes on both sides of the equation. The balanced four-line attack is a faded memory, as the “third and fourth line” players have produced exactly one assist through nine games (an assist by Patrick Eaves on a rare power-play appearance). The blue line – forever the envy of everyone and the motor that powered the team’s fortunes – is in disarray, decimated by injuries and thus woefully inconsistent.
Am I the only person wo still thinks that the Wings succeed via executing puck possession hockey regardless of the personnel who are wearing red and white jerseys?
So, here we witness: a team no longer able to pass the puck around opponents all night long; a group unable to wait for that critical power play knowing the GWG is less than two minutes away and not built size-wise or production-wise to grind out offense. Jimmy Howard said, “We’re not really used to it yet.” He was referring to the team’s reaction to Jordin Tootoo taking matters into his own hands – literally and figuratively – after his two-fight night at the Joe against the Dallas Stars. Howard could have just as easily been talking about all of us getting used to seeing our Red Wings scratch and claw for every point until they get better, get healthy and define who they are.
In the meantime, we can turn back the way-back machine and cheer a Tootoo bout today like we did a Joey Kocur, Bob Probert, or Darren McCarty fight years ago. Let the spontaneous spectacle suspend the overriding reality: Hockeytown is under construction.
In news of a different "complimentary" kind, I'm not completely sure what to think about the first of two quips the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson issued about the Wings in one of his Hockey World blog entries, but it certainly jibes with ELliott's line o thinking:
*The Red Wings continue to defy the critics, winning four in a row after struggling mightily early. They still have little offence unless Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and newcomer Damien Brunner come through and their defence is a shell without Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Brian Rafalski, three of their top four D-men retiring the last two years. If they do stumble, though, maybe they’ll get a top 10 draft pick for the first time since 1991 (Martin Lapointe, No. 10). They’ve only had three in the top 10 since 1986 (Joe Murphy, No. 1 in ‘86 and Keith Primeau (No. 3 in 1990).
Matheson's talking about the fact that all non-playoff teams will now be entered into a draft lottery, and he also doesn't mention that Niklas Kronwall's got 10 points and Johan Franzen 9, or that the "bottom six" are slowly but surely coming around.
As for the second one...
*Oilers coach Ralph Krueger never coached Damien Brunner on the Swiss national team, but he’s seen enough of him to know he’ll succeed in the NHL with the Red Wings. “He dominated the Swiss League this year with lockout players there. He’s got Ales Hemsky type speed, world-class speed,” said Krueger. The key is how he adapts five-on-five. “Nobody has their eyes on him yet, but when they start respecting him it’ll be harder, but it’s like our kids last year (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle). Now they’re used to it.”
He's been scoring quite a bit five-on-five, and he's already being checked very heavily--the concept that players "surprise" after eight or ten games is downright silly given the amount of video scouting available, and especially given that the Wings already played the St. Louis Blues three times and the Blue Jackets and Stars twice, he's played seven of his first 12 games against the same three teams, so it's not as if he's snuck up on everyone.
The CBC's Tim Wharnsby also mentioned Brunner (again, via Paul) in a column filled with "Monday Musings":
The Detroit Red Wings appear to have unearthed another talented European player in Swiss forward Damien Brunner. He leads all first-year players six goals in 12 games. However, he's not eligible for the Calder Trophy race because he's too old at age 26.
Brunner credits his coach with EV Zug, Doug Shedden, for preparing him for the NHL. Brunner was in a slump playing for Kloten when he was traded to Zug in 2008.
"I was so happy to get out of there," Brunner told the Detroit News. "But you know, everyone was telling me, 'Oh my God! Now, you've got the hardest coach ever! He's going to kill you! He's Canadian! You're too soft!' And what I learned is, right that first week when I got in that locker room, Doug Shedden was the best thing that ever happened to me, at that time."
Shedden, of Wallaceburg, Ont., played 44 games for the Red Wings in the late 1980s.
"He was so hard on me and tried to push me every day," Brunner said. "But he told me right away after 10 days, 'Listen, kid, you've scored a couple goals now, but you have to do that every night. You have the potential to score 30 goals a year.' From there on, I just try to compete every day and work hard. And he gave me [a hard time] a lot to try to push me in the right direction and he told me, 'Look, your goal has to be to play in the NHL.'"
In the player appearance category, part 1: If you missed it, the Wings announced that Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm will be appearing at local Meijer stores on six locations, and two of said appearances take place today and tomorrow:
JUSTIN ABDELKADER AND DARREN HELM SET TO APPEAR AT METRO DETROIT MEIJER LOCATIONS THIS SEASON
... Michigan Native Abdelkader to Kick Off Season-Long Promotion Tomorrow in Canton …
Detroit, MI... Detroit Red Wings forwards Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm are set to appear at various Meijer locations throughout the Metro Detroit area during the 2012-13 season, signing autographs and interacting with the fans of Hockeytown at six different Southeast Michigan Meijer locations. Abdelkader, a Muskegon, Mich., native and former Michigan State Spartan, will kick off the season-long campaign this week with back-to-back appearances at two separate supercenters on Monday in Canton (45001 Ford Road) and Tuesday in Allen Park (3565 Fairlane Boulevard). Four additional stops featuring Helm and Abdelkader are scheduled for the months of March and April in Madison Heights, Southfield, Rochester and Warren. The complete season-long schedule can be found below:.
Date Time Meijer Location Red Wings Player*
Monday, Feb. 11 5:00-7:00 p.m. 45001 Ford Rd., Canton Justin Abdelkader
Tuesday, Feb. 12 5:00-7:00 p.m. 3565 Fairlane Blvd., Allen Park Justin Abdelkader
Monday, Mar. 4 5:00-7:00 p.m. 1005 E. 13 Mile Rd., Madison Hts. Darren Helm
Wednesday, Mar. 6 5:00-7:00 p.m. 28800 Telegraph Rd., Southfield Justin Abdelkader
Monday, Apr. 8 5:00-7:00 p.m. 3175 S. Rochester Rd., Rochester Darren Helm
Tuesday, Apr. 9 5:00-7:00 p.m. 29505 Mound Rd., Warren Justin Abdelkader
*Note: Designated player will appear at each event from 6:00-7:00p.m.
In the player appearance category, part 2: Again, via RedWingsFeed, this is a "tangential" appearance, per the Free Press's Helene St. James...
Kirk Maltby, legendary among the Detroit Red Wings for his ability to talk, appears to have passed on some of his wise-cracking skills to his daughter. A news release this morning revealed that Ella Maltby will play a supporting role in the upcoming Michigan film "Papou," by Michael Angelo Zervos.
The film, according to the news release, centers around the relationship between a grandfather and grandson. Ella Maltby, who turns 9 in March, will play a "wise-cracking, skeptical friend of the main character." Zervos is quoted as saying that Ella Maltby's audition "made the decision on who to cast very, very easy. She's a talented young girl, and I look forward to working with her."
Filming begins in July, which should work out well with her dad's schedule. Since retiring in October 2010 -- after helping the Wings win four Stanley Cups -- Kirk Maltby has served as a pro scout for the team. In July, his scouting reports will have been long filed, and he'll mostly be advising on any potential free agent signings.
For more information on the film, visit http://motherandmidwife.com
In the player appearance category, part 3: The Red Wings Alumni Association gets around. Pembina Valley Online's Clayton Dreger reports that the Wings' Alums were in Winkler, Manitoba to play the Winkler Flyers on Saturday (extensive photo gallery included);
And "Finally For the Moment," I'm not going to get into this too deeply as litigation is a nasty business, but the lawsuit Pavel Datsyuk filed against "Pasha LLC" produced a response in the form of the defendant telling the Detroit News's Mike Martindale that he's innocent and had a business relationship with Datsyuk that soured over royalty issues.
Update: NHL.com's Dan Rosen suggests that Red Wings fans need not "panic" regarding their team's fortunes, and instead, should display "patience" with and for their team (but he says that Capitals and Kings fans are free to freak out):
DETROIT RED WINGS
Time for: Patience
Why: Trying to fill the holes created by Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement and Brad Stuart's departure to San Jose already is a challenge, but the Red Wings' biggest problem this season has been injuries. They're difficult to overcome on their own, but when they ravage a blue line that already was missing Lidstrom and Stuart, it becomes almost impossible.
Yet, it hasn't been for the Red Wings, who have won three games in a row, including a 3-2 thriller win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
Even with 10 players missing time with injuries, including speedy center Darren Helm, who has only played in one game, Detroit is right in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race with 15 points. The Wings already have beaten the St. Louis Blues twice, got solid wins against the Kings and Minnesota Wild, and were one of the two teams that had taken a point off the Chicago Blackhawks entering Sunday.
"I think you panic when you're healthy and you have all of your assets in place, because when you have a full complement of your players, then you can get a really good idea and that's when you can start questioning if you need to do something," NBC Sports analyst Eddie Olczyk said. "Without Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, I really believe over an 82-game schedule they were going to take a 12-15 point hit. That's just the reality of it," he added. "So, there is a transition going on there. But panic? No. I think they have to get healthy."
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are carrying most of the load, but it's going to remain a challenge due to all of the injuries. Helm still is out, Todd Bertuzzi missed the two games over the weekend due to a back injury, and Brendan Smith and Carlo Colaiacovo are still on injured reserve with shoulder injuries.
"They have to get Darren Helm back. He really is a key part of their team," Olczyk said. "He brings a different dimension that they don't have -- a guy who can really skate, get in on the forecheck, a guy that is not afraid to run you into the second or third row, plus he can kill penalties and can win faceoffs. They're going to have the puck more when Darren Helm is in the lineup."
[sarcasm] Well Eddie "Subtle Interference" Olczyk says that the Wings are okay for now, so I feel relieved [/sarcasm].
Update #2: The "CK Agency" wants us to remember that 97.1 the Ticket is holding "Sport Fest" at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi on Saturday, February 16th, and that Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom will appear at said event;
And in the alumni department, the Buffalo Hockey Beat's Bill Hoppe reports that the Buffalo Sabres are waiving former Wing Matt Ellis, which is a bit of a bummer as Ellis has been a consummate professional and good solider for the Sabres:
With no roster space left, the Sabres waived forward Matt Ellis today.
Is this the end of the 31-year-old’s five-year run with the team? Would he clear waivers? It’s possible a team will grab him. Will he make it to Rochester?
Ellis could come back right away even if he goes down. He was the Sabres’ only spare forward just days ago. Another player will get injured at some point.
Whatever happens, the hardworking Ellis made a strong mark in Buffalo.
Hoppe's story continues with an excellent profile of Ellis from 2009...
Update #3: Ellis cleared waivers. Joey MacDonald did not.
The CBC's Elliotte Friedman added some Wings-related observations to the mix via his "30 Thoughts" column...
14. The Detroit Red Wings are seeing new defensive looks from other teams. Because the Red Wings defencemen don't move the puck very well, opponents are able to shadow Pavel Datysuk and Henrik Zetterberg much more than they used to. There were times last week where you could see guys basically standing next to them. That the duo has combined for 16 even-strength points (of 31 total) is pretty good, considering.
15. For years, the Red Wings bristled at suggestions that they are not tough, arguing toughness is in taking your hits and getting you back with goals. After seeing this, follow up with this and don't anyone ever say Datsyuk isn't tough.
16. A few Wings fans reached out when I included Valtteri Filppula as a potential first-line centre option in last week's blog. It's a legit question. I put him there because, depending on the market, someone may look at him and say, "There's not much out there and he's better than we have." Detroit really hoped Filppula would be impactful against the Nashville Predators in last year's playoffs, but it didn't happen.
Update #4: The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness took note of Jimmy Howard's take on his day off yielding a refreshed set of performances this past weekend...
Over the last three games, the Wings have gotten some stellar play out of their two goalies, but Jimmy Howard may have turned in the gem of this young season Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. Howard stopped 45 shots to help lead Detroit past the Los Angeles Kings.
“When it comes to goaltending it’s two different games within a game,” Howard said. “Some nights you’re getting a lot of work and other nights you’re not. You just have to find ways to make saves for your guys and I was able to do that tonight.”
Twenty three of his saves came in the second period.
“They did a good job of getting on top of us and turning pucks over,” Howard said. “They just kept coming and throwing pucks at the net. We did a great job of limiting their opportunities. Pretty much they were one and done. Against a big strong team like that it’s important to keep them to the outside.”
The 45 saves is the most he’s made since making 47 against the New York Rangers on Feb. 7, 2011. His career high is 52, which he made against the Kings on Jan. 7, 2010.
The Wings have now allowed just four goals against in the last three games Petr Mrazek began things on Thursday, allowing one goal against the St. Louis Blues. Howard followed that by letting one in Saturday against Edmonton.
Howard credits his freshness to taking Wednesday off and sitting Thursday.
“That gave me a little extra push,” Howard said. “I felt really rested out there.”
If you're interested in reading Sergei Fedorov speaking with the Windsor Star's Bob Duff about Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, enjoy.
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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.