The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/02/13 at 03:49 AM ET
As I perused the foreign-language newspapers, I found a photo gallery of Slovan Bratislava playing Spartak Moscow in a KHL exhibition game.
This past week, Biosteel Sports has done its best to inform YouTube and Twitter that Gary Roberts and Matt Nichol are about to beat the shit out of a crop of NHL'ers whose ranks include star players and one Brendan Smith in Toronto.
Ken Kal stated on Twitter that he ran into Jimmy Howard at the Joe, presumably to either get fitted for new goalie equipment (thanks to the NHL's attempts to shrink thigh rises, now's the time for Howard to talk to Vaughn Custom Sports and order some Michigan-made gear) or work out.
As the Score's Justin Bourne notes, from Kelowna's Capital News Center to--soon, anyway--the Troy Sports Center--across both the U.S. and Canada, NHL'ers who wait until mid-to-late August to return to their places of employment tend to view the first week and/or weekend in August (have a nice August Long Weekend, Canadian readers!) as even hockey players who try to avoid stepping on the ice for as long as possible while engaging in summer training have to concede that lacing up the skates might be a good idea...
And, as noted yesterday, Niklas Kronwall told Marie Hallman that his charity game to raise funds for his first childhood team, Jarfalla HC, will take place next Friday, meaning that Kronwall and his Stockholm-based NHL pals will begin engaging in the lovely Swedish term that is a "Puddinglägret," or "pudding camp" (i.e. informal skating), next week--and the Plymouth Whalers' preaseason begins on August 31st with a charity game in Livonia.
Long story long, while the last weekend in July and the first weekend in August represent the nadir of the hockey news cycle--and as crappy as the past week may have been for you, it's been a welcome relief in terms of allowing people like Paul and I to recharge our batteries--we can already hear the steady drumbeat of European pro hockey leagues already beginning a month's worth of preseason "tournaments" and "friendly" inter-league exhibition games, European players Tweeting about heading back to North America, and by the last week of August, we'll be reading practice reports from the Joe.
Paul and I know that the "2013-2014 hockey season"--as in more than just the NHL, all over the world--has actually already begun, and that we've only got a couple weeks left before things kick into high gear. Given that the Swedish Olympic team's having their summer powwow toward the middle of August, and that the U.S. and Canadian teams' orientation camps will include Red Wings players and personnel, I've got about two weeks left until things get particularly busy for me.
I know that the last couple of weeks haven't been "fun" for you, but for me, it's taken until perhaps three days ago for me to finally calm down after the playoffs, free agency and the prospect tournament had me on edge all the damn time.
Hell, I'm all of a month-and-change removed from packing up for TWO FRICKIN WEEKS in Traverse City (Am I freaking out about that? Yes, yes I am) to cover the prospect tournament and main training camp.
And ohyeahbytheway, there's a two-day period in the CBA starting today in which teams can buy players out, and I'm sure as *#$%@& crossing my fingers that we'll see the name "Samuelsson" in there somewhere.
In any case, Justin Abdelkader happens to be taking part in the Grand Rapids Griffins' summer camp in GR, and he spoke with the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner (and there's a photo gallery embedded in the story) in both video form...
And he spoke with Wallner about both his NHL comfort zone...
The 26-year-old Abdelkader broke away from the tag of fourth-line grinder with a career-high 10 goals in 48 games in his third season with the Red Wings. He moved to the wing, maintained his physical presence and, as a result, he spent much of the season paired with Pavel Datsyuk.
"It’s a league where you have a lot of young players coming up, but at the same time there’s a lot to be said for getting some experience,” said Abdelkader, who signed autographs and visited with campers Thursday at the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Hockey Camp. “Now I have over 250 games (257), and I think getting comfortable in the league and knowing how I need to play to be successful makes a big difference.
“I’m still young, but experience is huge. It’s a demanding game and 82 games, that’s tough. You have to bring it every night, but you have to learn how to be a pro – training and preparing each game.”
And taking in part in Team USA's Olympic orientation camp at the end of the month--and again, neither the U.S. nor Canadians will be skating during their camps...
“It’s an honor,” Abdelkader said, “and any chance you get to represent your country, there’s nothing like it.”
So, sans skating, Abdelkader knows that he's got to impress Team USA's brass over the first two months of the NHL season (as teams' rosters will be announced in late December):
“I just try and go out there and play the way I’m capable of, night in and night out, and let the rest take care of itself,” he said. “This year, I got more time on the wing and I think, since I was always a center, it was an adjustment. But I got used to it and I think it suits my game better and I can get on the forecheck and be physical on defensemen. So I’m just evolving into the role, whether it’s left or right wing, and to play to my capabilities.”
In terms of both looking back and looking forward, Pro Hockey Talk ended its "Red Wings day" set of articles (see: an "offseason recap," discussions of the "newcomers" and subtractions, and a question regarding Jimmy Howard's status) with an article by Mike Halford which addresses the Wings' move to the Eastern Conference (and, for the record, NHL.com's "30 in 30 series" will talk about the Wings on Saturday, August 17th)...
Traditionally one of the NHL’s most-traveled teams, Detroit figures to cut down its mileage in 2013-14. Some diligent work from SB Nation’s On The Forecheck suggests the Wings will log 35,324 miles — a far cry from the 42,865 they played in the last full NHL season (2011-12).
The real boon, though, might come in the playoffs.
The 2013 postseason was a tough one for Detroit, especially in the opening round. Its series with Anaheim went the full seven games, meaning the Wings had to endure five cross-country trips totaling more than 10,000 miles. There was also the endless switching of time zones (three hour difference), all of which took its toll.
“The worst is going back from [Pacific Standard Time] to the Eastern,” defenseman Kyle Quincey told MLive.com. “It’s a four- or five-hour flight with a three-hour time change. You get on a plane at 9 in the morning, you get home, the next thing you know you get back to your place and where did the day go?”
It's definitely not the miles as much as it is changing time zones, and both the players and beat writers often suggested that the Wings' status as a Western Conference team hurt their recruiting. Hell, Stephen Weiss said that one of the reasons that he chose to sign with the Wings was that he "wanted to stay in the East."
All that said, Detroit won’t escape the West entirely this year. It’ll have two significant swings: One through Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg from Oct. 30-Nov. 4, and another through Dallas, San Jose, L.A. and Anaheim from Jan. 4-12.
The move will also affect Detroit’s relationship with one of its biggest rivals — the Chicago Blackhawks. Whereas the two teams would meet routinely during the regular season, next year sees them face off just twice…something at least one Red Wing is OK with.
“I don’t think we’ll miss playing them six times a year,” said Niklas Kronwall.
The Free Press's Helene St. James also addressed the status of a player whose future will be determined by Darren Helm's attempts to recover from chronic back woes in one Cory Emmerton:
Looking at money: One year left at $533,000.
Looking back: Emmerton was a bubble player coming out of training camp, but played in every game because he’s a center, and because the Wings never had Darren Helm available. Emmerton averaged around 11 minutes, thanks in part to helping on the penalty kill.
Looking ahead: The Wings are keeping Emmerton, 25, for now because it’s uncertain whether Helm will return from the back pain he suffered since January.
If Helm can play, he’ll be the third center, and Joakim Andersson will play in the fourth hole, leaving Emmerton the odd man out and vulnerable to a trade or waivers. If Helm can’t play, Andersson moves up, and Emmerton will have a chance to keep the fourth-line position.
Again, I'm no fan of this "Andersson's a fourth-liner and whoever plays on the other line is a third-liner" paralance. It's going to depend on who plays more, and as many of you have pointed out, who earns "harder" minutes, on a night-by-night basis.
To the Wings’ advantage, Emmerton takes up very little salary-cap space. He’s decent on face-offs, having more good nights than ineffective ones. If he wants to establish himself as an NHL regular, though, he could stand to be more physical — on the fourth line, the very least a guy needs to do is finish his checks. The uncertainty surrounding Helm aside, the push from below puts Emmerton in a fighting position for minutes.
My problem with Emmerton is more or less what St. James suggests, put a little less delicately. Emmerton may stand at a solid six feet and weigh 191 pounds, but he isn't particularly "hard on the puck," nor does he fare particularly well against much larger players.
I know that Michal Handzus ended up playing a large role in the Chicago Blackhawks' second-round comeback by owning Henrik Zetterberg in the faceoff circle, but before he was promoted to the Hawks' second line, he was winning battles against Emmerton, and in my opinion, anyway, that made throwing his line over the boards something of a liability when the Wings were trying (and failing) to gain possession and control of the puck in their own zone.
I like Cory Emmerton. I think that he's a superb human being and a good player. But I'd rather have the smaller and slighter Helm over Emmerton if all things are equal, and I'd rather have the Wings spend that half-a-million bucks paying part of Joakim Andersson or Gustav Nyquist's salaries.
In news of a very different sort, we may all feel warm and fuzzy now because Ottawa Senators forward Kyle Turris told the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch that he respects Daniel Alfredsson's decision to leave the team...
"He's probably the guy I've looked up to the most in my four or five year hockey career with Phoenix and Ottawa," said Turris following a skate with teammates and other local pros Thursday at the Bell Sensplex. "He's just such an amazing person. What he taught me on the ice was one thing but off the ice was just another thing all together. He was incredible."
And, if anybody is thinking of booing Alfredsson for deciding to choose Motown over Bytown to try to win a Stanley Cup next season, Turris said those people need to think again.
"I think he should be extremely respected coming back and, hopefully, the fans appreciate everything he's done and don't judge him for this one decision because when it's all said and done he's at a point where he's earned the right to do what he wants," said Turris.
Turris said he doesn't want anybody to have any hard feelings because the Super Swede decided to move on. Since the decision was made, Turris has exchanged emails with Alfredsson, who returned to Sweden with his family two weeks before signing the deal with Detroit. Turris' fiance Julie Fuller has spoken with Alfredsson's wife Bibi.
"I think everybody was shocked ... to some extent," said Turris, who is getting married Aug. 17 in Minneapolis. "What he's done for this organization and this city, he's earned the right to be able to make the decision for himself. I'm not going to lie. It was a privilege and honour to play with him for two years. I will think back to it the rest of my life because of what he taught me and how much fun it was playing with him. I wish him the best of luck in Detroit."
And, via Pro Hockey Talk's Mike Halford, he more or less said the same thing to the Ottawa Citizen's Allen Panzeri the same thing.
About 50, "Senators player talks about Alfredsson" articles down, eight billion and twelve to go. Before December, no less.
Otherwise...The Detroit News continued their, "Best athletes by number" feature with numbers 50-99 today (they covered 00 to 49 yesterday), and Valtteri Filppula's #51, Jonathan Ericsson's #52, Larry Murpy's #55, Petr Klima's #85, Sergei Fedorov's #91, Johan Franzen's #93 and Tomas Holmstrom's #96 made their list.
And, for the record? At present, the Wings aren't selling single-game tickets, so for now, the only way you can get your hands on a ticket for the Nicklas Lidstrom jersey retirement game on March 6th is by buying 20-game or full-season ticket packages.
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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.