The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/25/13 at 03:54 AM ET
I tried to combine the Red Wings-Ducks wrap-up and set-up for tonight's Wings-Coyotes game (10 PM EST, FSD/FS Arizona/97.1 FM) into one entry because that's how the narrative seemed to present itself, but not everything fit in one place, so...
Prepare for an extravaganza of discussion about Jarome Iginla, Danny DeKeyser, Calle Jarnkrok, Ladislav Smid(!), Pavel Datsyuk, Wings prospect and Saginaw Spirit goalie Jake Paterson, and a wee bit about the NCAA regional hockey playoffs, as one Wings prospect will play in Grand Rapids and another in Toledo.
But we'll start with a fantastic "status report" regarding the 16-11-and-5 Wings from the Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliott, who found that both Wings coach Mike Babcock and forward/alternate captain Pavel Datsyuk believe that the team's adjusting to Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom's retirements and the departures of Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler at exactly the rate they expected the team to acclimate given its injury situation:
"We're probably right about where we thought we'd be, but we thought we'd have a way different team," Coach Mike Babcock said. "We knew it was going to be scratch and claw for us this year, just with our back end."
But scratch and claw they have, sweeping two statement games from the Ducks in Anaheim on Friday and Sunday. The victories lifted the Red Wings to fifth in the West and gave every indication they'll extend their playoff streak to 22 straight seasons.
"It's a short season and we have a lot of changes. Especially the Lidstrom and Holmstrom change," center Pavel Datsyuk said. "We just try to figure out how to play without these two special boys."
They're figuring it out now. "Every game is much better and better," Datsyuk said.
The team thought it would be "way different" because it assumed that veteran signings Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Mikael Sauelsson (finger) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) would all be healthy from the get-go, that Darren Helm (back) and Todd Bertuzzi (back) would be playing on the third line with Jordin Tootoo...
And the team obviously never thought that Brendan Smith (shoulder), Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder), Valtteri Filppula (knee, shoulder), Johan Franzen (hip flexor), Jonathan Ericsson (back-y-shoulder-y thing), Kyle Quincey (jaw), Ian White (lacerated quadriceps), Patrick Eaves (jaw) or anyone else I forgot would be so significantly banged-up.
The team the Wings have is a line younger and at least a defensive pair younger than the team anticipated, and at least I fully believe that, at some point, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin and the team's coaching staff got together and agreed that the combinations of injuries, youth and a decreasing salary cap this summer would make this abbreviated season a good a time as any to shove a youth movement down the team's throat and...
Well, as close as this team will get to rebuilding, to "rebuild."
In fact, that's exactly what Ken Holland's plan sounds like:
Other than Nik Kronwall, everybody on defense is 28 years of age or younger," Holland said. "We think some of them are going to get better, but we've got to do it the old-fashioned way: patience, draft and develop."
Holland also said Detroit's payroll structure will allow him to fill needs through free agency this summer.
"We're hoping we're going to go into a new building in three, four years. There's a lot of talk about a new building," he said of replacing Joe Louis Arena. "Right now we're sitting at $44 million for next year. We have lots of cap space, but we've got to sign Jimmy Howard, and Val Filppula is unrestricted…. All in all I'm pretty happy to be in the thick of things. We control our fate."
New building = license to spend more with the cap highly likely to rebound to the $70-to-80-million range a few years down the line? Interesting...
In the interim, as Holland has told the beat writers so many times, it's about earning a playoff spot, and that's the plan, says the Piano Man:
"It's been a transition for us, and then with injuries we've had to show our depth as an organization," winger Justin Abdelkader said. "We've had guys come up from Grand Rapids and play big roles. I think it's going to make us a lot stronger and better team for that."
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: First and foremost, yes, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos Tweeted that Jarome Iginla's listed the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Bruins, Kings and Penguins as the teams he'd be willing to accept a trade to, and Sportsnet noted that Iginla's statement was more or less "no comment" after the Flames' 3-2 win over St. Louis:
Iginla denied the report following Calgary’s 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues Sunday night.
“I didn’t say anything about a list,” he said. “We’ve made it this far in the year and I know there’s a lot of speculation about our team, and me individually … that’ll work itself. … I really don’t want to contribute to it.”
According to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, Calgary general manager Jay Feaster is seeking two prospects and a draft pick in exchange for the Flames captain.
The 35-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. In 30 games this season, Iginla has nine goals and 22 points with a minus-6 rating.
Calgary currently sits in 14th place in the Western Conference and five points out of the eighth playoff spot with 18 games remaining in the season.
Iginla is the Flames’ all-time leader in games played (1,218), goals (525) and points (1,095). He was originally drafted in the first round, 11th overall, by the Dallas Stars in the 1995 NHL Draft.
The Flames are also reportedly shopping defencemen Anton Babchuk and Cory Sarich ahead of the April 3 trade deadline.
All of this is very flattering ,and probably speaks more to the fact that the Wings still have sway as a premier place to play from players' points of view, but I doubt it'll happen.
Does Ken Holland kick every tire? EVERY tire? Yes, he does. He'll inquire about Iginla's asking price if he hasn't already. But the Wings need a top-pair defenseman, not a forward, so I don't see the team surrendering assets to acquire Iginla as realistic.
The Wings are interested--and realistically so--in unrestricted free agent and NCAA defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who TSN's Bob McKenzie reported will spend at least Tuesday and probably a good chunk of the week sorting through teams' offers and presentations at Newport Sports Management's offices in Toronto.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirmed that the Wings will be among the bidders...
The Red Wings, and many other NHL teams, will make one final pitch to Western Michigan junior defenseman Dan DeKeyser. With the Broncos out of the NCAA playoffs, DeKeyser will forego his senior year and meet teams with his representatives Tuesday in Toronto.
"He'll have a lot of options, he's a good player," Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said.
DeKeyser played one season under current Grand Rapids coach (and former Red Wings assistant) Jeff Blashill. DeKeyser also grew up in Macomb, and played youth hockey with Nill's son, Trevor.
The Red Wings are close to signing Northern Michigan goalie Jared Coreau, another undrafted junior leaving college early, this week.
As did the Free Press's Helene St. James, who says that the Wings are without a doubt at the front of the long line that's going to Toronto to meet with super-agent Don Meehan and DeKeyser's representatives:
The Red Wings have made it clear to defenseman Danny DeKeyser that they're interested in his services and believe they are front-runners to land the coveted prospect.
"There are 30 teams who are going to be interested," general manager Ken Holland said. "We're one of them."
There isn't a team in the NHL that wouldn't like to add a talented defenseman for nothing more than money, especially with the trade deadline nine days away and the standings so tight that few clear sellers have emerged.
Every bidder is on a level playing field money-wise, tied into an entry-level contract for DeKeyser. But the Wings have one big advantage no other team can offer: playing in front of family. DeKeyser, 23, was born in Macomb and graduated from De La Salle High.
DeKeyser has a history with a couple of people in the Wings' organization, too: He played midget hockey with Trevor Nill, son of assistant general manager Jim Nill, and was previously coached at Western Michigan by Jeff Blashill, now the head coach in Grand Rapids after being an assistant under Mike Babcock.
DeKeyser's plans are to spend today and Tuesday with his agents in Toronto mulling over where to sign. Wings brass will connect with him again if he wants, but Holland already has met with DeKeyser, as has Babcock. The one thing DeKeyser might want to hear is that he'll be guaranteed a spot on the NHL roster, because wherever he goes, he isn't going to anyone's minor league squad.
That's not an issue for the Red Wings, especially with Kyle Quincey out indefinitely because of a fractured cheekbone. The Wings would need to make roster room for DeKeyser, but that can be done by waiving Kent Huskins or sending Gustav Nyquist to the minors.
There's always a degree of hype when undrafted players become everyone's darling, and DeKeyser is no future Nicklas Lidstrom. But DeKeyser is a rangy 6-foot-3 guy who can skate and move the puck, and the Wings see him as a good block in their rebuilding.
St. James also reports that Mikael Samuelsson may be ready to go for next Sunday's game against Chicago, which has some of you groaning, I'm sure.
St. James offered a brilliant take as to why the Wings won't be able to give Calle Jarnkrok "cup of coffee" call-up when they bring him to North America to play a slate of games with the Grand Rapids Griffins:
Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels let the cat out of the bag when he reported as much, and MLive's Ansar Khan reports that Jarnkrok has to be sent back to Sweden by April 14th, so he'll get 9 games in with the Griffins:
Daly spoke to the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation and and was told any player on the first year of an NHL entry-level contract who played in Europe this season would be allowed to come over and play in the AHL only. But, the player must return to his Swedish club by April 15 to play in tournament games and get ready for the World Championship.
“Next year, the plan is he'll come to North America and compete for a job in Detroit,'' Holland said. “This is an opportunity for him to experience North American hockey for 2½ weeks.''
Detroit selected Jarnkrok in the second round of the 2010 entry draft (51st overall). The skilled, playmaking center has been compared in style to Henrik Zetterberg.
“He's a very good prospect,'' Holland said. “He's just got to get stronger. He's competitive, both offensively and defensively. He has good hands, hockey sense.''
The 6-foot, 176-pound Jarnkrok had 13 goals and 29 assists in 53 games for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League this season. His team was eliminated in the playoffs, when Jarnkrok had no points in four games.
“It's important that he gets on the (strength and conditioning) program this summer that other players are on,'' Holland said. “He needs to work hard in the summer and come to camp a few pounds heavier and a little stronger.''
As for Damien Brunner, Khan noted that Brunner remained upbeat when asked whether the NHL's compressed schedule and heavy travel demands are grinding him down:
The first-year right wing from Switzerland has gone 12 games without a goal, after scoring 10 in his first 19. He still is tied for the team lead in goals with Pavel Datsyuk....
“You hear a lot from friends, you watch a lot of games,'' Brunner said. “It’s different when you’re on the ice and experiencing it on your own. It’s all positive since I’ve been here. I like it here. It’s a big honor. I’m still learning.''
He has not been deterred by the physical play.
“The defensemen are playing tough in front of the net, but everything is fair,'' Brunner said. “There are no dirty plays out there at all. They are tough and physical and keep you out of the paint. They crosscheck you out in front, but it’s not like they’re trying to hurt you. It’s more they’re trying to push you away. The rest is OK.''
Brunner will return to the lineup tonight, and while his position with the team isn't in doubt, Wings coach Mike Babcock issued an intriguing quip about Jonas Gustavsson, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted:
He's got to come to the party here," Babcock said. "He's got to play for us. He hasn't had much action because he's been hurt all the time. He gets an opportunity, you've got to make good on it."
Babcock also said Damien Brunner will be back against the Coyotes; he was scratched Sunday to give him a chance to catch his breath as he adjusts from playing in Europe to the hectic pace of the NHL. "I told him to relax and not to come to the rink," Babcock said. "I saw he got a haircut, so he looks faster."
Like I said in the recap, I think that Chris Osgood's wonky groin, Ty Conklin's struggles and Joey MacDonald's back woes have sapped Babcock's patience with inconsistent back-ups, and while I fully believe that it's much better for Petr Mrazek to start games for the Grand Rapids Griffins than sit and watch Jimmy Howard play, it wouldn't surprise me if three or four more mediocre performances by Gustavsson cost him his job.
If you missed it, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson suggested that the Oilers better lock up Ladislav Smid before the Wings go after him...
If the Edmonton Oilers believe unrestricted free agent Ladislav Smid is part of their core (he certainly is, and could easily have an A on his jersey), then they will offer him a five-year contract for likely $17.5 million and get the deal done before the April 3 trade deadline.
If not, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t try free agency come July 1 and — you can take this to the bank — 20 of the 29 other NHL teams will be all over Smid because he’s only 27. The Detroit Red Wings, for sure, are very interested; he could be a replacement for Brad Stuart.
Not sure how much Smid is asking for, but $4 million for a strictly defensive D-man is likely the NHL ceiling. Smid gives you negligible offence but he shows up every night — what you see is what you get.
“The Oilers will surely sign him won’t they?” asked one NHL GM, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
If they don’t, Detroit will be all over Smid on July 1. Smid is a younger version of Bryan Allen, who signed a three-year, $3.5-million deal with the Anaheim Ducks last summer. Both have little offensive pop, but big bodies.
Nikolai Khabibulin didn’t hesitate when asked who the best Russian player is.
“Datsyuk,” said Khabibulin, admittedly from the same Russian city of Yekaterinberg (the old Sverdlovsk). “Four guys from there made the NHL. Myself, Pavel, (Alexei) Yashin and (Vladmir) Malakhov. Three won Stanley Cups (Yashin didn’t). That’s pretty special.” Khabibulin likes Malkin, Kovalchuk and Ovechkin, but Datsyuk has that special “it” factor. “He’s so strong on his skates, and so smart,” Khabibulin says. “He’s the best one-on-one player and he’s so responsible. You can put him 3-on-5, 4-on-5, 5-on-4, 5-on-3, 5-on-5, 6-on-4.” Oilers defenceman Mark Fistric, one of the game’s biggest hitters, says it’s useless trying to drill Datsyuk. “He’s solid. I thought I had him lined up last game and it was like smack, and nothing. Solid little guy.”
San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock’s assistant in Detroit, marvelled at Datsyuk every day.
“The way he’d pick pockets (backchecks), the way he’d roll off checks. He would pull pucks aside after our practices and say, ‘Let’s do this.’ I’d be thinking, ‘Hmmm, that’s different. No other player was doing that.’ He’d work on things and they’d show up in the game,” said McLlellan. “Very humble guy, too.”
In the prospect department, there is no shame in "backing into the playoffs," and that's what the ECHL's Toledo Walleye have done. Jordan Pearce stopped 20 of 21 shots in the Walleye's 1-0 loss to the Reading Royals on Sunday, but both the Walleye's website and the Toledo Blade report that the Walleye will begin a playoff push after playing 2 more regular season games. From the Walleye's website:
For the second time in Toledo Walleye history, the team will play in the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs. Despite the 2-0 loss to the Royals tonight, the Walleye clinched the playoff spot after Kalamazoo lost to Wheeling in a shoot out. The Walleye have a record of 35-26-5-4 overall and 18-12-3-3 at home.
“We have accomplished our first goal of the season,” says Toledo Walleye Head Coach Nick Vitucci. “Now our focus is to continue to maintain a high level of play for our last two games of the season and into the playoffs.”
With today’s attendance of 7,071, the Toledo Walleye broke the franchise’s all-time single-season team attendance record of 226,575 set during the inaugural 2009-2010 season. This season, a record breaking 226,743 fans have cheered on their Toledo Walleye hockey team to the playoffs!
“Toledo fans are incredible. They have been great support and helped us have a tremendous season,” said Walleye Head Coach Nick Vitucci.
In playoff action, in the OHL, Alan Quine was held off the scoresheet as his Belleville Bulls dropped a 2-1 decision to Mississauga. Their first-round series is tied 1-1;
And Jake Paterson was SENSATIONAL, stopping 67 of 70 frickin' shots, as the Saginaw Spirit dropped a 3-2, 2OT decision to the London Knights.
No. 1 star: Jake Paterson, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): One man made the game, others decided it.
For 59 minutes and 59 seconds, Paterson stymied the London Knights and nearly helped the Spirit steal a series-tying win. It took two goals from NHL first-rounder to be Bo Horvat, the first on a deflection and the other on a last-second scramble that was wilder than Costco on Sunday afternoon, for the Knights to force overtime. Horvat's goal went in with 0.3 seconds on the clock. Another half-second, and Paterson would have performed the minor miracle.
The Detroit Red Wings pick got even better in overtime, finishing with 67 saves before San Jose Sharks prospect Chris Tierney scored on a low snapshot in the 90th minute to give the Knights a 3-2 win and 2-0 series lead. What more could Paterson have done?
The Mississauga, Ont., native responded as expected after a rocky loss in the opener. Paterson signaled early on that the Knights, for all their scoring punch with Horvat, Max Domi and Seth Griffith, et al., were going to be hard-pressed to get anything past him. His effect was such that it made Philadelphia Flyers-drafted goalie Anthony Stolarz (41 saves) dial it up to 11. Stolarz stopped back-to-back breakaways in the second period, made several reflex saves and also robbed Justin Kea in the first OT.
Just imagine. These two could be reprise their rivalry when Canada and the U.S. face off at the 2014 world junior championship in Malmö, Sweden. Raise a Carlsberg to that thought.
Also: If you want to make drives to Grand Rapids or Toledo, you'll be able to catch some NCAA hockey--in Grand Rapids, Red Wings prospect Ben Marshall and the University of Minnesota, and in Toledo, Wings prospect Nick Jensen and Sant Cloud State University--as the pair of prospects will take part in the NCAA regional playoffs. As noted by NHL.com:
Automatic bids were handed out to the winners of each conference's postseason: Lowell (Hockey East), Wisconsin (WCHA), Union (ECAC), Notre Dame (CCHA) and Canisius (Atlantic Hockey).
The rest of the field is determined by the NCAA's objective Pairwise rankings system and sent regional sites by the committee representing each of the five Division I conferences. Host schools and top seeds are placed by proximity, with an eye towards serpentine matchups and avoidance of first-round intra-conference games.
Winners of each regional will take part in the Frozen Four at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on April 10 and 12.
West: Grand Rapids
Van Andel Arena
Friday [March 29th], 2 and 5:30 p.m. (ET), Saturday [March 30th], 4 p.m.
2. Minnesota vs. 15. Yale
8. North Dakota vs. 10. Niagara
Saturday, 1:30 and 5 p.m. (ET), Sunday, 4 p.m.
4. Notre Dame vs. 13. St. Cloud State
5. Miami vs. 11. Minnesota State
As DetroitRedWings.com's Stefan Kubus notes, the University of Michigan had a 23-year streak of NCAA regional playoff appearances snapped when they dropped the CCHA final to the University of Notre Dame in a 3-1 decision.
And finally, in the multimedia department, if you missed 'em, Pavel Datsyuk Tweeted the following...
Brian Lashoff gave a great post-game interview to the assembled press in Anaheim, and coach Babcock was surprisingly glib:
And the wonderful man known as Whoabot on Twitter posted the only Harlem Shake video I've enjoyed, chronicling the Perry-Getzlaf hissy fit:
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About The Malik Report
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.