Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: assessment and reassessment in overdrive (and hard fan feelings)

As training camp resumes today with morning and evening skates at Joe Louis Arena, with the 10:30 AM skate being streamed on Fox Sports Detroit's website and the 7 PM skate being promoted as a "Jam the Joe" event, with $1 concessions and an open-to-the-public skate on JLA's ice (Bring your own skates) from 8-10 PM, before the Wings wrap training camp up with another open-to-the-public practice at 12 PM on Friday...

Is it possible that Detroit Red Wings' braintrust may enjoy thinking about hockey more than any other group of executives in the NHL. That's quite the supposition, but at least from the impressions speaking with people like Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin and even Mike Babcock have yielded for me, I would be willing to suggest that the Red Wings' braintrust may more thoroughly enjoy the thought processes that come with managing and coaching their NHL team more than any other hockey executives, well, anywhere.

During Wednesday's brief pause in training camp activities, Holland spoke to the Detroit Sports Broadcasters' Association about the lockout's impact upon the people who pay his paycheck (fans like you and me), his thought about the Wings eventually moving to the Eastern Conference, his team's power play, its personnel issues and Pavel Datsyuk's remarks after he returned to Detroit from Russia.

Then Holland moved on to ponder the pickle that is salary cap-enforced parity in a conversation with the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek, we assume that the team's braintrust and coaches, including former Rangers coach Tom Renney, spent at least part of the day considering adding the soon-to-be-bought-out Wade Redden to their roster, and if you caught the clip Fox Sports Detroit posted of Wings coach Mike Babcock's thoughts from the Red vs. White game on Tuesday night, there's no doubt that the braintrust spent the "off-day" reviewing the trends they witnessed in terms of player performances over the first four days of training camp.

I was still snug in bed after writing a marathon overnight report when Holland began his day by issuing the following comments regarding Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement, Brad Stuart's departure, the 48-game season to come and the state of his team's blueline to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun...

"We got 20 incredible years from Nick; I look at it like we got five bonus years from him," Wings GM Ken Holland said this week. "A lot of European players go back home when they’re 35 or 36; he stayed until he was 43 and won a Norris at 41. I’m not looking back. We were so fortunate. That 20 years is in the [NHL] Guide and Record book."

So now what? Well, you obviously don’t replace him, just as Bobby Orr wasn’t replaced in Boston.

"We’re defense by committee," Holland said.

The veteran GM, who has done an incredible job keeping the Wings among the NHL’s elite for so, so long, is realistic but upbeat when he talks about life after Nick. The "committee" on defense starts with Detroit's top defender, talented and bruising Niklas Kronwall. No need to elaborate there; he’s Detroit most dependable force on defense.

"I think, in the last year, Jonathan Ericsson established himself in our mind, finally becoming the player that we thought and hoped he would," Holland said. "He became a good penalty killer, a good matchup guy. He’s a guy that we think can eat up more minutes."

The Wings signed veteran Carlo Colaiacovo this past summer, adding him to a group that already included Kyle Quincey and Ian White.

"Those three guys are legitimate, solid NHL players," Holland said. "We’ve got Brendan Smith, who we think can play in the top four. We’ve got Jakub Kindl, as well. So it’s going to be defense by committee."

Smith, 23, is being counted on to take the next step in his career. He’ll be given plenty of opportunity to do so. It’s not as bad as some people would have you believe, but there’s no denying that, when you lose Lidstrom, plus another quality veteran in Brad Stuart (who signed with San Jose), the Wings aren’t what they had been on defense.

"That’s obviously the question mark on the Detroit Red Wings," Holland said.

And it's worth revisiting his comments to the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa, given that Holland openly admitted that he spent part of Thursday morning--i.e. today--already preparing for the 2013 trade deadline, which takes place on April 4th, and the 2013 free agent signing period via a managerial powwow:

This morning, the Red Wings brain trust will begin a process critical to the future success of the franchise. Executive vice president and general manager Ken Holland will assemble his staff, including assistant Kris Draper. Calling in from various locations will be the professional scouting staff, directed by Mark Howe and including Glenn Merkosky, Bruce Haralson and Kirk Maltby.

Some 2-1/2 months before the 2013 trade deadline of April 3 and 5-1/2 months before the beginning of the free-agent signing period, July 1, the staff that strives to keep the Red Wings a highly competitive franchise will begin to lay the groundwork for the many crucial decisions ahead.

"We're going to go through all the teams, we're going to look at all the players that are sitting and don't have contracts going forward," Holland said at a Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association luncheon at the Hockeytown Cafe. "And not only that, for the trade deadline. They've got a lot of responsibility to do evaluations on players for trade deadline and players who are potential unrestricted free agents."

Tthe Wings' cap situations for this season and the next are very, very good, but if you check out Capgeek.com's organization chart, the Wings will have to decide whether to re-sign unrestricted free agents-to-be Jimmy Howard, Valtteri Filppula, Danny Cleary, Damien Brunner, Drew Miller and Ian White...

And many of the Wings' prospects are coming off their entry-level contracts and will be restricted free agents, including Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith, Jan Mursak, Jakub Kindl, Joakim Andersson, Tom McCollum and Brian Lashoff...

All while the cap drops down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, yielding a potentially tepid unrestricted free agent period this summer--and not a lot of "sellers" come the trade deadline thanks to the 48-game schedule:

"My instincts would be that there may not be as much trading because there's going to be so many teams in it," Holland said. "The more teams that are in it, come the trade deadline, the less players are going to be available."

But, given the new environment created by the recently approved collective bargaining agreement, which has several new provisions affecting the process of assembling rosters, it now seems as though foreseeing events always will involve an "on the other hand."

"On the flipside, the cap is going from $70 million to $64.3 million; it's going down $6 million for the 2013-14 season. So, there's some teams that might want to make some moves to position themselves for the following season," Holland said.

Holland then told Krupa that after his team begins its season in St. Louis on Saturday (Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika pointed out that it's those Blues who are seen as the Central Division's Cup favorite this year), he and Mike Babcock will spend the following day assessing both his team's performance and those of the 29 other teams playing on Saturday and Sunday:

"We play St. Louis Saturday," Holland said. "Sunday, we'll have an off-day in Columbus. Mike Babcock and I will find some sports bar, and we'll nestle in there, and we're going to be watching hockey from the time it goes on until the time it goes off. We're going to scout some games. You gather information, you see how the team plays out and you get to the trade deadline and make a decision: Are you a buyer or a seller — or are you going to stand pat.

"Fortunately, for 15, 18 years, we've been a buyer because the team has been good and put us into a position where we want to try to make some additions. Hopefully, we're in that position again."

Cue the irony alert!

"All you can do is do your research and when the time comes, you've done your work, you're ready to make your decisions," he said.

You might imagine that when the Free Press's Evil Drew Sharp took note of Holland and special assistant to, well, Ken Holland Kris Draper spoke at the DSBA luncheon (thanks to RedWingsFeed for the link) and then fielded questions from the media afterwards, Sharp made sure to turn up the panic meter and all but insist that the Wings won't make the playoffs, and that not making the playoffs is a "good thing" (oh, Evil Drew...):

"There's the possibility that we might not make the playoffs this year," the Wings general manager said Wednesday at the Detroit Sportscasters Association luncheon at Hockeytown Cafe. "But nobody can run and hide from you any longer in this league. You can't stockpile players. You're constantly tweaking. You're constantly changing. And that's why all 16 teams that make the playoffs now can win the Stanley Cup."

The title of Best General Manager in Professional Sports is a distinction that Holland can't run and hide from either. When told recently that other teams are downplaying the high expectations wrought from newly high-paid free agents, Holland shrugs that he doesn't have that luxury.

Death and taxes remain life's two biggest inevitabilities -- and in this town, a Wings playoff appearance has made that list after 21 straight trips to the postseason. But the trick for Holland in this lockout-shortened, 48-game season is convincing everyone that falling short of the annual Stanley Cup expectations this season isn't a cardinal sin, but rather a reflection of hockey's fluidity. It's not about lowering standards, but raising awareness of the new NHL economic reality. The super teams have gone the way of the dinosaur.

"Our fourth line in 2002 when we won the Cup, our fourth line, was Igor Larionov, Luc Robitaille and Tomas Holmstrom," Holland said before the Wings' scrimmage Tuesday at Compuware Arena in Plymouth. "That was our fourth line! Two Hall of Famers even before that season and one of the best net-front players the league has ever seen. You're never going to see that again."

That much is true, as are Sharp's assertions that the Wings don't have a real "#1" defenseman, that we're not sure how much scoring depth a team with oodles of third and fourth-liners really has, that the power play has sucked ass of late--and we're gonna get to that--before noting that Holland continues to believe, as he told Duhatschek, that the margin between becoming a Stanley Cup Finalist and a team heading to the golf course at the end of April is razor, razor thin:

"If we get the improvements we want, we can be the best team in the Western Conference," he said, "but if we don't get them, it might be a struggle even making the playoffs. But you've got to understand that we're doing this on the fly. We want to compete for the Cup this year, but we also want to compete for it in 2016."

Holland told the audience at the monthly luncheon Wednesday that he believes Detroit will be one of the cities that will forgive the NHL much faster than others after the 113-day lockout. He called the Wings' fans' massive response to the team scrimmage Tuesday night at Compuware Arena "incredible."

Holland also told those in attendance, including Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji (see the mid-day report for her faithful Twitter updates from the DSBA luncheon) that the team will attempt to honor Budd Lynch's memory at some point this year, that the Winter Classic will essentially lather, rinse and repeat as an Ann Arbor-based event with a possibly even more fan-friendly Hockeytown Winter Festival preceding the big game at the Big House, and that Grand Rapids Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek may be named to the AHL's All-Star Game roster soon.

As you might imagine, Holland didn't answer any queries regarding the team's potential interest in Wade Redden, but as people like you and me might wonder why the hell the Wings would be interested in adding a 36-year-old defenseman who spent the 10-11 and 11-12 season in the AHL after flopping disastrously as a marquee signing by the Rangers in 2008, well, The Fourth Period weighs in with some scuttlebutt...

Redden signed a six-year, $39 million contract with the Rangers in 2008, but has spent the last two seasons in the AHL

The Red Wings are one of several NHL clubs looking to add depth to their blueline and will have some competition for Redden's services.

Redden's agent, Don Meehan, did not confirm or deny having preliminary discussions with other teams about his client.

"I'm not permitted to talk to anyone about Redden nor can they initiate contact with me (until he becomes a free agent)," Meehan told TFP.

With roughly $9 million in available salary cap space, the Wings have enough room to sign Redden to a small contract and still look to make other significant upgrades to the roster throughout the season.

If the Wings are unable to sign Redden, however, GM Ken Holland will continue to explore options on the trade front. Holland has been involved in several trade discussions with some of his counterparts over the last few days.

In 994 NHL regular-season games, Redden, a two-time NHL All-Star, has accumulated 106 goals and 344 assists for 450 points.

Read: Redden has a track record of playing pretty darn well earlier in his career, and he'd come dirt cheap.

As the Windsor Star's Bob Duff notes, the Red Wings' roster is already packed and may have to jettison a player or two to get under the 23-man roster limit, but the Wings are considering at least bidding on Redden once he's bought out for more than simply his track record and status as an experienced warm body, and part of that track record involves having someone in the front office who knows Redden very, very well:

His agent Don Meehan said Redden would prefer to be back in the NHL

“Yes, (he) is anxious to resume play in the NHL,” Meehan told TSN Radio. “If the opportunity affords itself, he’d very much like that.”

The six-foot-two, 205-pound Redden has 106 goals, 344 assists and 450 points in 994 career games for the Senators and Rangers.

In 2008-09, Redden played for New York coach Tom Renney, who is now an assistant coach with the Red Wings.

The Detroit Free Press said Detroit is considering the Redden option. The Wings, who are already without the services of veteran defencemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, are nearly $9 million below the salary cap and tried to sign Nashville’s Ryan Suter during the off-season.

They added free agent Carlo Colaiacovo to go along with Niklas Kronwall, Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl.

Before moving on from the front office's thoughts to those of Mr. Renney regarding his behind-the-bench job, I would like to point out that, as the Hockey News's Lyle "Spector" Richardson pointed out, there are alternatives for the Wings to consider. 

The New Jersey devils have 8 defensemen on the roster, though they want a scorer in return for a group whose best possible cast-off is Henrik Tallinder; the Phoenix Coyotes probably won't move Keith Yandle, but Derek Morris is serviceable, and where things get interesting (as far as I'm concerned--and all player name links go to their The Sports Forecaster profiles) is in Buffalo, where Spector notes that the Sabres have nine defensemen, and both Spector and the Buffalo News's John Vogl believe that the mobile Andrej Sekera, the well-traveled Jordan Leopold and the slow-as-a-Larry Murphy-but absolutely rock-solid and Brad Stuart-like Robyn Regehr might be available. Sekera's a restricted free agent after this season, and already earns $4.5 million, but Leopold's a UFA-to-be who earns $3 million this year, and Regehr is also unrestricted-to-be and earns $4 million.

With a full season's worth of $8.7 million in cap space and all the numbers pro-rated down to 48 games, the Wings do have the money and extra forwards to happily add someone's cast-offs, but I really do think that they're going to see what they've got, for once and for all, before making a move at the trade deadline, when that unallocated cap space essentially multiplies and allows teams to take on larger and larger contracts.

 

As for Mr. Renney's day job, he spoke to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness about his main task as an associate coach this season in resurrecting the Wings' power play minus both Nicklas Lidstrom's point shot and the shot-tipping, rebound-retrieving machine that was Tomas Holmstrom. How bad was the Wings' power play at the end of last season? Pleiness says it was 22nd overall, but that seems generous!

“We’ve got people capable of filling those holes,” said Wings assistant coach Tom Renney, who has been put in charge of the power play by coach Mike Babcock. “As much as Nick is a Hall of Famer I don’t think you dwell on that. I think you look at who’s here and what they have to offer and play off those strengths. From first looks I think we have what we need to have an effective power play.”

...

“The bottom line is whatever we do on the power play five guys have to be connected both mentally and through their level of skill,” Renney said. “From what I see we have both.”

The Wings have had much success on the power play the four seasons prior to last, ranking in the top five in three of those seasons and ninth in one. Renney resurrected the power play in Edmonton in his second season behind the bench.

“I think we had the right sticks, not necessarily the personnel, but we did have some pretty good ponies,” Renney recalled of his time behind the Oilers bench. “Speaking of pedigree, they were very hungry to score on the power play for starters. I think we really made the net the focal point,” Renney added. “You can over pass the puck on the power play to the point where you have diminishing returns. Our objective was to get it to the net as quickly as we could, create chaos at the net and really come in hard for rebounds.”

I hate to say it, but the Wings over-passed the puck to Lidstrom like it was going out of style over the past two seasons, and with no one but Holmstrom willing to go to the front of the net and stay there, the power play became a one-trick pony in a hurry. It does at least sound like Renney will demand that Holmstrom be succeeded by multiple players, and that the lack of a big cannon on the point will yield more play down low and along the side boards.

“What I find interesting is how your skill can take over when you start taking that approach,” Renney said. “Then you’ve got guys that can do some pretty significant things when they do start attacking the net.”

Renney is well aware of the concept that special teams play can become a lost cause after a certain period of time, and he talked Pleiness's ear off, so you can go ahead and keep reading about his power play philosophies if you wish, but they also translate into a personnel tweak that is...Intriguing...In either bringing Mikael Samuelsson back onto the PP blueline, or possibly employing Damien Brunner as a cannon shot-in-reserve, all while Johan Franzen attempts to emulate his predecessor--even though Renney isn't a fan of forwards on the blueline:

“What I prefer is two defensemen back there if I can because what that likely means is we have two really good units,” Renney said. “Because that one forward is either up front on the first unit or has the same value playing on the second unit. We’ll do what we have to do. What it’ll come down to is the shots. Do we need a lefty or a righty? Where are our one timers, who are they and can they handle and that’s what we’re going to have to determine with Damien.”

As you might imagine, Niklas Kronwall will become the team's focal point on the power play, and Kronwall knows it...

“We’re still a puck-possession team and we want to try to get the puck to the net a lot of times and not try to play too much around,” Kronwall said. “So hopefully we can keep shooting the puck and Mule’s going to do a good job in front and so is Bear or whoever is in that spot. The rest of us just have to find ways to get the puck to the net and find ways to make something happen.”

And Renney spoke to MLive's Ansar Khan about both Kronwall's strengths and what intrigues the "associate" (not assistant) coach bout the Swiss import that is Brunner:

"As an opposing coach, I saw this guy (Kronwall) so legitimate in so many ways,'' Renney said. “I think he’s really going to emerge as an important guy on our power play, never mind the rest of the game.''

Ian White will continue to play the point. Other options at the point include defensemen Kyle Quincey, Carlo Colaiacovo and Brendan Smith, the talented rookie who eventually will quarterback the power play.

Renney prefers to have two defensemen at the points on each unit. But forward options at the point include right-handed shooters Mikael Samuelsson and Damien Brunner.

“What I prefer is two defensemen back there because what that will likely mean is we have two really good units,'' Renney said. “Because that one forward is either up front on the first unit or has the same value playing on the second unit.''

Renney said of Brunner: “He’s got good hockey sense, he’s got good pedigree. I like his IQ. He’s able to play off of really high-level players. This is a smaller rink for him and things are happening quickly, and he seems not to be bothered by that. That shows a real good instinctive player.''

Renney said, at the very least, he wants to make sure the power play “isn’t sucking the life out of our offensive team play.' It can’t prevent momentum, it’s got to entice it,'' he said. “Five guys have to be connected, both mentally and through their level of skill. From what I see, certainly early, is that we have both.''

 

 

In terms of the player personnel that's already here and must step up on the power play, there is probably no doubt in your or my mind that it's a make-or-break-it season for Johan Franzen.

The 33-year-old Mule spoke to the Free Press's Helene St. James about finally having put nagging injuries behind him, and the fact that Franzen finally feels like he's got enough confidence in reserve to sustain his ridiculously streaky goal-scoring abilities through an entire, well, 48-game campaign:

"Coming into this camp," he said, "I've been feeling better than I have in many years. Just overall, you feel like you never get on top of it. You're just feeling OK, and then the season is about to start again. You've got pains and aches, everywhere. I think with this long break, and being able to work out really hard every day, it's been really good."

Franzen spent the lockout skating in Troy with, among others, Cleary, who noticed that not only does Franzen look rejuvenated, "he looks happy. That's key. He's happy."

Given that the Mule's a grump and a half, the fact that WXYZ's Brad Galli suggested that the Mule's trying to take some of Tomas Holmstrom's happy-go-lucky-ness to heart while displaying more leadership is nothing less than worthy of a Mike Babcock "fantastic," and said coach has made a significant personnel move in order to spurn both Franzen and a certain Finn toward greater secondary scoring heights:

Coach Mike Babcock has put Franzen on Valtteri Filppula's left wing to start the season, hoping the two will become so good a tandem that Datsyuk and Zetterberg can play with each other. Filppula is under pressure himself to prove last year's breakout year offensively wasn't a one-off, but no matter what, Filppula is responsible defensively, nimble on his skates, has great vision and is a first-rate passer.

"I love his speed, speed with the puck," Franzen said. "You've just got to get your feet going on the left side and he will probably find you."

When he does, will Franzen finish? Between having a highly skilled center and being promoted to the first power-play unit, it's fair to expect Franzen to be the equivalent of a 30-goal scorer in the 48-game season that begins Saturday at St. Louis.

Babcock has spoken of how he sometimes has to challenge Franzen, especially to be harder around the net. Franzen doesn't necessarily respond.

"Depends when it is, if it's a good reason or not," he said. "That's his way. Sometimes you don't agree with it, but you have to take it. For many years we had a lot of players scoring a lot of goals. I'm just happy to be a few goals ahead of everybody. It doesn't feel like pressure, because we've always got Hank and Pavel scoring a lot of goals. I don't have to challenge myself, I don't think. You go out there, you want to win."

Well, yeah, Mule, but winning involves scoring, and at least Kronwall believes that Franzen's tendnecy to get down on himself will eventually translate into an ornery giant wreaking havoc around the front of the net. All while, as St. James notes, earning his reputation as a "heavy" in more ways than one:

"Zetterberg said Franzen is pushing for more team dinners from the new captain because Franzen "likes to eat and he likes when it's free." Kronwall, one of Franzen's closest friends, happens to know Franzen "is 227. We had a weigh-in the other day."

 

At the other end of the happy-go-lucky vs. happy-go-grumpy spectrum, the sky seems to be the limit for Damien Brunner, who's just a few months too old at 26 today and 27 in May to win the Calder Trophy as an official "rookie." Brunner does lack any NHL experience whatsoever, but the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan found that Brunner makes up for that in wide-eyed enthusiasm:

The first NHL game Damien Brunner ever attends will be the first one he'll play in Sunday in St. Louis.His first exposure to Red Wings fans and the atmosphere they can provide, such as Tuesday's scrimmage, was enlightening.

"When we play exhibition games in Switzerland, we don't have fans in the stands," Brunner said. "It was fun how they cheered. The Red Wings have always had great fans. I'm looking forward to playing more games."

Playing against teammates and Red Wings minor leaguers in a scrimmage isn't much of a measuring stick, but Brunner did show glimpses of his playmaking.

Brunner assisted on linemate Henrik Zetterberg 's goal. The duo's ability to play together in Switzerland might turn out to be one of the biggest moves during the lockout. Playing with Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk , Brunner will be given a golden opportunity.

"Hopefully they can be a good line for us," Babcock said. "We're hopeful we have a player in Brunner who can continue to grow. But he's a kid in the league."

 

 

Speaking of enthusiasm, the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple took note of both a tinge of frustration from one over-ripe Tomas Tatar in a split notebook...

Babcock said that Tomas Tatar had a good third period in the scrimmage. Tatar has 15 goals and 17 assists in 36 games this season for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League. This is Tatar's fourth season with the Griffins, and he has scored 24 goals each of the last two seasons. He played in nine games for the Wings in 2010-11.

"I don't know how far I am" from making the Wings, Tatar said. "We'll see what's going to happen. Me and Gus (Nyquist) are together. We have had lots of success so far."

While spending most of his column noting that someone who is far away from playing NHL hockey again, but is absolutely giddy about having been able to play in the Wings' scrimmage after being cleared for contact, may finally be reaching the end of a long and painful road back from a lingering concussion. Patrick Eaves looked excellent on Tuesday night, but he has to very literally take things a shift at a time after suffering a broken jaw blocking a shot almost fourteen months ago:

"He's been a year away from hockey, and to come back and play I'm sure he feels good," said Wings coach Mike Babcock. "We're pulling for Patty Eaves first and the Red Wings second."

Eaves acknowledged playing in the scrimmage was a big step forward.

"I just tried to keep it really simple and just talk a lot with my linemates," he said. "I knew they would help me out. I was just trying to have fun out there."

Eaves said he remains optimistic that he can return to play in the NHL. He hasn't been cleared to play in games yet. The Wings took Wednesday off and return to practice at Joe Louis Arena today.

"We'll see how Thursday goes," Eaves said. "Not trying to look too far ahead."

 

In the prospect department, the Grand Rapids Griffins had the luxury of flying on Red Bird III from the Red vs. White game to a slate of on the road-and-still on the road games against the Charlotte Checkers starting on Wednesday night, but things did not go as planned once the puck dropped.

The Griffins opened up their series against the Checkers--and their first of three games over the course of four nights (Red Bird III will fly the Griffins from Charlotte, NC to Rockford, IL on Friday morning, and will then return to Detroit to pick up the Wings, while the Griffins wait to play Rockford on Saturday)--by dropping 1-0 decision to Charlotte. The Griffins' website provides a recap of the game's events...

The Grand Rapids Griffins remain winless against the Charlotte Checkers, as they fell to the Western Conference leader 1-0 at Time Warner Cable Arena Wednesday.

Despite having nine players recalled to Carolina from Charlotte earlier this week, the Checkers defeated Grand Rapids for the second time this season. The Griffins recorded 28 shots on goal while holding the Checkers to 16, but were unable to overcome the one-goal deficit. With the loss, the Griffins fall to 0-3 all time at Time Warner Cable Arena, in addition to sitting winless in six total meetings with the Checkers.

Charlotte (24-11-2-3) broke the scoreless tie at 9:26 of the first period. Luke Pither snapped a wrist shot from just below the top of the left wing circle past the catching glove of Petr Mrazek. The defenseman scored the lone goal of the evening during his first game in a Checkers uniform after being recalled from the ECHL this week.

The Griffins (21-12-2-2) held the Checkers to seven shots on goal while tallying 14 of their own in the first period. But Charlotte responded in the second, limiting the Griffins to just five shots to the Checkers’ six in a scoreless period.

The Griffins had an opportunity to tie the game late in the final period, as they pulled Mrazek from the goal and used a power play to create a six-on-four advantage. The effort fell short of giving Grand Rapids their first victory in Charlotte’s arena, though.

Mrazek recorded 16 saves during the game while Peters earned the victory with 28 saves. The shutout was Peters’ fifth of the season.

And the Grand Rapids Press offers some post-game context:

After running off eight wins in an 11-game stretch, the Griffins have hit the skids with three losses, including a one-goal decision to Peoria on Saturday at Van Andel Arena and a 5-2 loss on the road at Rockford.

The Griffins won't have to wait long to try to turn the tables on Charlotte as the two teams face off again at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Both the Griffins and Checkers' websites posted Flickr-formatted photo galleries, if you want to read and hear the Checkers' comments, you may most certainly do so via their website's recap, and the Checkers' YouTube channel posted a highlight clip of sorts:

 

 

 

In the multimedia department, if you want to watch them again, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff re-posted his post-Red vs. White game interviews with Jimmy Howard...

 

And a right-side-up version of his interview with Jonas Gustavsson (and just as Damien BROOner wants to be called BRUNNer, "The Monster" wants to go by "Gus," so we shall accommodate him):

 

 

 


Regarding the new captain, head over to Michigan Hockeys' Michael Caples' "Shaved Ice" column from Wednesday for a wallpaper-sized picture of Henrik Zetterberg accepting a jersey with a "C" on it, and while the overnight report captured the somewhat anticlimactic Swedish press response to Zetterberg's status as something of an open and much-delayed secret-spilling, Zetterberg did speak to his local paper, Sundsvalls Tidning, and here's a rough translation of his interview with ST.nu's Kenneth Fahlberg

Zata; A really big honor

Sundsvall. Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom are his predecessors. Now Njurunda's Henrik Zetterberg has joined the historic and giant hockey names as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings.

"It's really obvious that it's a really huge honor, you just have to look at who's come before in this organization," says Zata to ST-sports.

Just as expected, Henrik Zetterberg became the owner of the "C" on his chest in Detroit after Nicklas Lidstrom retired. Late on Tuesday evening, Swedish time, it became official during a press conference in Plymouth, Michigan.

32-year-old Zetterberg was presented as the 36th captain in team history, and only the third in the last 27 years.

When ST sports reached Zata on the phone, he'd just finished a pre-season workout, and after protracted negotiations and a 100-day lockout, the season starts on Saturday. Detroit will play a road game in St. Louis.

"48 games in 99 days...It will be a very tough season, one race from start to finish. There'll be many teams who will be fighting for the playoffs until the very end, especially here in the Western Conference, but we look forward to it," says Zetterberg.

This season Detroit has a new captain, but that won't be a major difference to Zetterberg, who's never been in the habit of making a big deal out of himself. He won't do so this time, either.

"I'll continue to be myself, one who's trying to lead the team by example, showing it on the ice by doing my best all the time."

He continues: "I won't be the one taking on everything, that's not in my nature, either. However, I can stand up and speak if necessary, as I've done in the past, and I will do now, so there's not going to be a difference. And we have may other leaders in Detroit as well."

What leadership role models do you have?

"It's obvious that it's difficult to [not mention] Steve Yzerman or Nicklas Lidstrom, my last two captains. And I'd find it hard to have two better captains."

How were they as captains?

"They said something when it wsa needed, and then they listened. It's the school [of leadership] I'm familiar with, and I tried to learn from them. None of them blathered in vain, and I won't, either."

Being named team captain in North America is more than getting a "C" sewn on your jersey. The symbolism surrounding it is very great, as, for example, the well-attended press conference testified to.

"The captain's role is much bigger here than it is back home inSweden, I understood that immediately when I came over here. Yesterday was a very, very big day in my career."

Of course, it was also his father Goran, at home in Njurunda, who was the first to receive the news.

"I called him right away and he told me that he was really proud."

There's no doubt that his teammates believe in him.

"As a captain, you lead by example, work hard, and be an honest player, and treat others with respect. That's how "Stevie" and "Nick" did it, and I'm sure "Hank" will do so," said teammate Danny Cleary to the Detroit Free Press.

Steve Yzerman, who was Detroit's captain for 20 years, between 1986 and 2006, also spoke to the newspaper.

"Henrik is a natural leader, intelligent and confident, he's a complete player that you can always count on, no matter what the situation is. He'll be a great leader for the Red Wings."

On the ice, Zata will look to form a line with his old radar partner Pavel Datsyuk and his new-found teammate Damien Brunner, who he played alongside with in Zug during the lockout.

"Above all, it'll be very fun to play with Pavel again, it's always fun to play with him. But it'll be exciting to see what Brunner can accomplish, because I played with him for 22 games in Switzerland."

How was your time in Switzerland?

"In hindsight, it was good that I went away and played, even though it was on a different level. It's very important to get into game situations."

 

 

Also of Red Wings-related note:

6. America's choice in net: The 2014 Olympic Games are about a year away, and it's not too early to suggest that tryouts have begun to be the USA's No. 1 goalie. Considering how well Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller played in 2010, the job could be his to lose. But USA Hockey officials can't overlook how well Jonathan Quick played last season during the Los Angeles Kings' championship run. Plus, the Vancouver Canucks' Cory Schneider and Detroit Red Wings' Jimmy Howard could play their way into contention. Thomas wants to be considered, and the Ottawa Senators' Craig Anderson is also an American.

 

Ian White, Detroit Red Wings (up 13 spots): Projected to pair with Niklas Kronwall on the primary power-play unit for the Red Wings, White leapfrogs more than a handful of bodies in the rankings. Honest to goodness, we thought coach Mike Babcock would go in a different direction. Brendan Smith has more long-term upside, but White could be mighty useful this shortened fantasy campaign, if this strategy endures.

 

In a short season, do you think crafty veterans like Joe Thornton, Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson will have more or less of a fantasy impact? -- @CROWEE88

Though some veterans around the League could find it difficult keeping up with the condensed schedule, I'm confident Thornton (33 years old) and Zetterberg (32) will hold up well. They were point-per-game players in Swiss-A during the lockout and return in game-shape to respective units with talented linemates. Zetterberg is even fortunate enough to have played with Detroit Red Wings teammate Damien Brunner in Europe. Alfredsson (40), because of so many explosive young players around him with the Ottawa Senators, clearly came back for a reason. If his training regimen during the lockout proves to have been sufficient, Alfredsson could certainly follow up his 59-point campaign with 30-35 in 48 games.

 

  • In a different kind of fantasy world, we begin our survey of power rankings (which you know I hate, and I know I despise) with the Wings sitting 14th in Fox Sports Jon Rosen's rankings:

14. Red Wings: There is still plenty of character and veteran experience, even in the absence of Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Brendan Smith is no Lidstrom, but he is capable of earning top-four minutes and developing into a two-way workhorse on the blue line.

Rosen also posted a Central Division season preview a few days ago if you want to give it a read.

 

  • Oh, the things we say...Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov reacted to yesterday's overnight report's worth of Pavel Datsyuk-back-to-Russia(?) talk by noting that the "authoritative website Kukla's Korner" stated that it'd been Datsyuk's dream to finish his career there. I don't read my own press, but I think he's talking about me...

 

  • Not exactly earth-shattering, but amusing: the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi reports that the Red Wings' ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye, ate, well...Walleye on Wednesday...

 

  • And this may not mean much to you, but for me, this promotional blurb from 97.1 the Ticket reminds me that even though it's January, and even though sports talk radio in Detroit usually revolves around NFL playoffs, college basketball, the Lions, spring training to come for the Tigers and anything but hockey these days, on Tuesday, it's all about the Wings:

Hockey is back and 97.1 The Ticket has here with all your Red Wings action.  Join 97.1 The Ticket’s Jamie and Wojo broadcasting live from the Joe Louis Arena this Tuesday, January 22nd from 6-7:10 p.m. for the 2013 Detroit Red Wings Home Opener against the Dallas Stars. Stop by as we welcome hockey back to Hockey Town from your station for sports… 97.1 The Ticket.

Check us out inside the west entrance on the concourse by the Gordie Howe statue.

I haven't put my Red Wings magnet back on my beloved Pacifica yet, and I very honestly planned for the lockout by buying a different set of t-shirts and a Made in Detroit and Easton Hockey hats, so I've neither worn or displayed any Red Wings merchandise since the lockout began in September, nor have I bought anything marketed by the league, including hockey cards.

The closest I got was a self-purchased Christmas present in the form of a $140 pair of 15" Reebok 4-roll hockey gloves (the 15" gloves have 5 backrolls) for $37, including shipping, in Red Wings colors, but I haven't used 'em, and I feel similarly about donning Wings gear or slapping that magnet back on my Pacifica's trunk lid.

I was going to make this its own entry, but maybe it's more appropriate here as I'm an openly biased Red Wings fan who feels kinda funny about rooting for my Red Wings again: the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo isn't particularly keen on the concept of the Red Wings playing a 48-game season that only involves in-conference play...

And after a five-month lockout that saw the Winter Classic go by the wayside, ensured that the Wings won't retire #5 until next season and really prevented the team from honoring Budd Lynch's memory in a timely fashion, the Wings are about to begin a demolition derby of 48 games in 99 nights, and Caputo's not quite sure what to make of the season that we've ended up with, but he doesn't like it:

The Red Wings main rivalries are not with the teams in their conference, which is a source of bewilderment for their fans, even during a normal season. The Red Wings not only will not play the Maple Leafs, but the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins or the New York Rangers. This is a border town. As such, the crest on the sweater means so much, and the Leafs and Canadiens are the Red Wings primary rivals. It’s just the way it is. Even Gary Bettman can’t change that, as hard as he evidently tries.

Hockey tradition is passed down from old-to-young unlike any other sport in this state. It’s been 45 years since the NHL doubled in size and The Original Six went the way of leaded gasoline, black and white televisions and Brownie cameras. However, the lure of The Original Six is ageless and timeless. It’s especially true right now. Two seasons ago, Boston won the Stanley Cup. This season, the Rangers are considered by many to be Stanley Cup favorites because they now feature Rick Nash, who, finally, has escaped from Columbus.

Unfortunately, Red Wing’ fans are not as fortunate. They can’t escape the Bluejackets. Or the St. Louis Blues (oh, the Blues are good team, but they play dreadfully boring hockey, don’t they?). Or Nashville (that there is an NHL teams in that town and not Quebec City is blasphemy). The Red Wings don’t play Pittsburgh this season, either, and that has been an excellent rivalry with every encounter being extraordinarily intense since the Red Wings and the Penguins met in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009.

Well, at least the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Red Wings’ division to provide some level of scheduling sanity.

If it sounds like I am complaining, I am. The labor stoppage was indefensible, reprehensible and irresponsible. Count me among those who don’t accept Bettman’s pathetic public apology. Also, I sincerely wish players association head Donald Fehr retires before he gets his hands on another sport to try to ruin.

I am very much looking forward to the start of the NHL season this weekend, though. I can’t wait to attend the Red Wings home opener Tuesday night. Yet, I find myself feeling guilty for it because I was truly incensed by the most unnecessary labor stoppage in sports history.

Despite it all, the season will get exciting. Will the Red Wings make the playoffs again? I believe they will. If they advance a couple rounds, the lockout will be put into the rear view mirror completely. If they don’t, it will be part of a story line that could hurt hockey in this town for years to come.

The season has been compromised. Time will tell for how long in Hockeytown.

What do you think about his words, and how are you feeling about getting behind the Wings again now that we've got an NHL season to live for as the "#hockeyisback" hashtag meets the, "Hockey has been here at every other frickin' level since September!" party?

Are you already wearing your Wings stuff again? Are you planning on buying tickets and merchandise, if you haven't already?

Don't get me wrong, I love my Red Wings, and I'm happy to admit it, and I most certainly want to make it very very clear that while we are allowed to be angry at both the NHL and NHLPA, and to some extent, the Red Wings' organization and players for dragging us through another lockout, we are not allowed to take our mixed feelings out on the people who were most severely hurt by the "work stoppage"--the people who work at Joe Louis Arena, both in broadcasting, the ticket office, and the people who take your tickets, guide you to your seat, sell you overpriced food and merchandise, man the parking garages, work security, etc., or the folks who work at local sports bars and restaurants, hotels, yes, even the casinos, and those who hawk Wings merchandise in sports shops all around Southeastern Michigan.

While the billionaires and Millionaires argued, they're the people who couldn't pay their bills on time and dealt with either reduced hours or no work at all, and it's simply not right for you or I to dare to do anything other than be extra nice to them and welcome them back to welcoming us to their places of work.

The Wings, players, management and owners included, and the NHL and NHLPA? That may be a different story, but I really want to know how you're dealing with any lingering resentment or anger, because I'm having a hard time of it myself. I hope it'll abate once the puck's dropped on Saturday night.

I hate to say it, but I think it's going to take a long, long time before the Wings earn all of my trust back, and again, there are two reasons that I'm battling through my depressive episode that's lingering like a stupid-ass concussion to begin with: you're incredibly important to me as a TMR and KK reader, and I simply care for too much for the Red Wings' coaches, management, players and prospects as plain old human beings to walk away from the game, the sport or my Wings.

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Comments

redxblack's avatar

Are you already wearing your Wings stuff again? Are you planning on buying tickets and merchandise, if you haven’t already?

Wearing the old stuff, but won’t be buying anything new for quite a while. I won’t be buying a new Zetterberg sweater, even though he’s one of my favorite players.

I hate to say it, but I think it’s going to take a long, long time before the Wings earn all of my trust back, and again, there are two reasons that I’m battling through my depressive episode that’s lingering like a stupid-ass concussion to begin with: you’re incredibly important to me as a TMR and KK reader, and I simply care for too much for the Red Wings’ coaches, management, players and prospects as plain old human beings to walk away from the game, the sport or my Wings.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m so disgusted by this league, but so love watching this team and this sport.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 01/17/13 at 08:24 AM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

So you bought some 4 roll reebok gloves? I bought some Bauer Supreme Total One gloves and Reebok 11k 15 inch shin guards with the money I did not spend on Wing paraphenalia. The gloves are all black to match my beer league team with home Philly colors. It makes me feel dirty to wear those colors but with a team named the Pylons,the colors are appropriate.First game tonight in almost 5 months. Have skated several times since Thanksgiving playing pickup games against all different competition from former pros to neubs just getting started.
Can’t wait until Saturday to light the candle on this new Red Wing season.

Posted by cigar_nurse from Greenville South Cakalakee on 01/17/13 at 10:43 AM ET

RedMenace's avatar

I was at the Griffins game last night, and boy, was it terrible.

—Mrazek absolutely should have stopped that shot; there was nothing special about it at all.

—Fournier was absolutely brutal

— Most of the guys looked bored, though they did pick it up halfway through the 2nd period. Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan, Glendening, Ferraro, and Billins gave a pretty solid effort all night; Raedeke had a few good shifts, as did Callahan.

I should have gone tonight—$1 beer night; would have made the game much more bearable. Here’s hoping tonight goes a little better.

Posted by RedMenace from the Church of Jesus Lashoff on 01/17/13 at 04:52 PM ET

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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.