The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/30/14 at 09:50 AM ET
I'm not up to full speed yet (had a bit of setback), but I really adored this quip from a certain coach who, you and I have been told, both wanted Daniel Cleary back and did indeed tell the media that the "veterans" would win roster battles by default when some five-and-a-half months ago--made after the Wings' 4-2 win over Toronto, to the Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan, and said almost in passing after discussing Darren Helm's hat trick (scoresheet here for Curly Fries):
“You look at [David] Bolland for them,” Babcock said. “Bolland is not close to the player he normally is. You miss the whole year, you come back, you are not quite the player. Whether it is conditioning, timing, just feeling good ... Helmer had a big night. It helps his confidence and it helps us. Can (Helm) get his game back? I am sure. I don’t know how long it is going to take.
“Injuries are a part of hockey. We have been devastated this year, no question about it. But we found all these kids, and we are better for it going ahead, and that is a positive thing. We have had a lot of fun doing it.”
If you want to read Helm's teammates' take on his game, MLive's Ansar Khan provides for your needs...
And it's hard to picture a 2014-2015 Red Wings roster without the majority of Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening on the roster.
The Wings may or may not dip into the free agent marketplace and/or any cap compliance buy-out surprises to bolster their blueline this summer, but I get the feeling that the defense will be the Wings' only free agency focus--and I'm starting to wonder whether the Wings may simply sign a veteran to a one-year contract to ensure that none of their signings gets in the way of the possible development of at least one of the Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Nick Jensen, Mattias Backman and/or the non-waiver-exempt-next-year Adam Almquist.
Defense can be like goaltending, even in a system that's turned prospect development into as much of a science as the art of helping players' physical and mental maturity intersect with the growth of their game into professional-level in terms of its execution--you draft half-a-dozen guys and hope that one or two become meaningful contributors--but this team seems to have shifted the focus of its rebuild-on-the-fly to ensuring that the prospects can "steal jobs" (if only belatedly).
With Sheahan, Glendening, Tomas Tatar and Danny DeKeyser due raises as restricted free agents, Jonas Gustavsson, David Legwand, Kyle Quincey (gasp!) and Daniel Alfredsson "maybes" to return as unrestricted free agents (I'd expect the Wings to simply not qualify Cory Emmerton, which would make him an unrestricted free agent, and to use their last cap compliance buy-out on Jordin Tootoo), Capgeek's estimated Wings spending money of $21,341,288 under a very optimstically-projected $71.1 million salary cap (it may come in around $70 million, according to the New York Post's Larry Brooks) can disappear in a hurry.
In terms of the immediate future, however, the Wings need all hands on deck as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning this afternoon (5 PM on FSD), wrapping up a nasty stretch of 8 games in 15 nights (as Chris Osgood noted).
April's schedule consists of 7 games played over 13 nights, including two sets of 3-in-4 (home against 1st-in-the-East Boston on Wednesday the 2nd and Buffalo on Friday the 4th, before going into Montreal to play a Habs team that manhandled the Wings on Thursday; then road tilts in Buffalo and Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Thursday the 8th and 9th, a final home game against the Canes on Friday the 11th, and an all-important season-finale in St. Louis on Sunday the 13th)...
And the Wings remain tied with Columbus with
80 82 points but behind the Blue Jackets in wins and ROWs (38 vs. 34 and 33 vs. 29, respectively), and the Wings are tied with the Capitals (34 wins and 28 ROWs and 25 ROWs), too. Washington could push ahead of both when they play in Nashville tonight, and it really appears that only two of the Wings, Blue Jackets and Capitals will make the playoffs.
Jonas Gustavsson's starting this afternoon against the 41-24-and-9 Lightning (who defeated Buffalo 4-3 in OT Saturday; they've won 7 of their past 9 games), Justin Abdelkader may or may not return today from a lacerated thigh today, but Pavel Datsyuk (skating at least), Stephen Weiss (mysteriously proclaimed himself pain-free for the first time in forever on Friday) and Jonathan Ericsson (boy, do the Wings miss him, and he's recovering from a broken ring finger) remain in limbo...
When the Wings had 15 games left--before the Wings rattled off wins against Toronto, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, and then lost 3 straight, Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond estimated that the Wings needed to win 8 or 9 of those 15 games to make the playoffs. The Wings have won 4 of 7 thus far, and with 8 games to go, it might take going 5-and-3 to out-last Columbus and Washington.
The Wings are going to face three "Beasts of the East" over the next seven days, they've got a trio of games against "spoilers" in Buffalo (2 games) and Carolina (1 game), the Penguins are going to be a pain in the ass and if the Blue Jackets keep winning, the "youth movement" may find itself in a win-or-no-playoff situation two Sundays from today.
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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.