The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/12/14 at 01:58 AM ET
I had to finally give in and crash after a very hard week's worth of work and a travel day marred by that damn Cleary signing on Thursday, so I sat out Friday's fun while Paul manned the blog...
And of everything that "went down," I have to be incredibly blunt regarding the suggestions that neither the team nor a certain Daniel Cleary have to give a flying f*** what fans think about what the team does or who it signs:
If anyone understands that the armchair GM's and fans who either love to hear themselves talk and/or want to use sports as a means by which to find an excuse to argue, people who work on sports websites and blogs know at least a little bit about walk that knife-edge's tightrope between tuning out the inevitable white noise and holding oneself accountable to constructive criticism and earnest questions about the content and form of your work.
When the reaction to the Quincey and Cleary re-signings is so unbelievably and across-the-board negative, and both the most extreme and most moderate fan voices (hi! *waves*) have responded to the latter re-signing with one voice, "putting on blinders" regarding fan opinion is just arrogant and downright dangerous.
Fans do not run the Detroit Red Wings, though we sure try to do so. Fans do not know all of the information about the Red Wings' personnel or prospects that the management and coaches do, and fans are not blessed with 20+ years of experience in managing, coaching, medically treating or developing the prospects of a professional hockey team, nor would a fan-run team do anything less than trade everybody all the damn time and run a team into the ground.
Fans do have a voice, however: fans vote with their dollars, in the form of TV and radio ratings, web hits, merchandise sales, ancillary business and especially in terms of ticket sales.
We're fickle, we're overly controlling, we're "bipolar" in the old-school "Manic-Depressive" sense of the word, we're ridiculously verbose and we have the particularly ill-timed habit of believing that "we know best" when we have the least information.
But we're not stupid, and after witnessing Daniel Cleary lose his job to younger, cheaper, healthier and simply better-contributing players twice, only to be given his job back over and against the wishes of those who support the team's supposed belief in its youth movement and its supposedly-accurate and now seemingly-hypocritically-hollow "the player who performs best will earn spots on the team" ethos--this time, in the form of a 1-year deal with a base salary of $1.5 million, a no-trade clause and a bonus of $1 million (likely "tolled" to the 2015-2016 season's cap figure) for what Capgeek reports is all of 10 damn games played (which might be his season-high given the way Cleary's derivatively-arthritic knees, chronically-injured groin and 80,000-miles-of-city-driving-on-Detroit's-city-streets body tend to behave)...
That's a STUPID contract awarded to a player who simply hasn't earned the dangerous and possibly team-destructive level of loyalty he's been awarded.
Red Wings fans might be a tree full of Brazil nuts, but we're not that stupid--and we know stupid when we see it. Bringing Daniel Cleary back is plain old stupid.
Hell, USA Today's Kevin Allen may have offered best reason as to why free agents haven't signed with the Red Wings for the past three or four summers--witnessing the Wings continue to make contradictory lateral signings leaves outsiders puzzled as to what the hell the team's direction might be:
Detroit Red Wings: D
They wanted to sign a right-handed-shooting defenseman but couldn't win the recruiting battle. Free agents seem reluctant to come to Detroit because it's difficult to project how good this team will be moving forward. The Red Wings are a mix of older players and skilled youngsters.
The skilled youngsters never seem to get ahead because every offseason, the management that seems to re-learn this whole, "Youth movement = key to strong performance in the future" lesson every season seems to deliberately place roadblocks in the young players' way.
As far as I'm concerned, the best thing the Red Wings could have done when they struck out on Dan Boyle (it turned out that he wanted to go to New York to play with Martin St. Louis and play for the Rangers all along), Matt Niskanen (he wanted the money, and no one was willing to overpay for him the way the Capitals were, and he wanted to play for Barry Trotz), Anton Stralman (in addition to the Lightning offering more term than the Wings were willing to give him, the Lightning had Ryan Callahan recruit both Stralman and Bryan Boyle), Christian Ehrhoff (the Wings offered more money and term, but the lure of Crosby-Malkin and playing with two Germans in Marcel Goc and Thomas Greiss pulled Ehrhoff toward Pittsburgh), Tom Gilbert (apparently he wanted the Wings to give him a counter-offer, and there was some sort of "take the money, we're trying to sign other players" exchange) and Brad Stuart (speaking of a known quantity...) was to do nothing.
If this team really did believe that Ryan Sproul, Alexey Marchenko, Mattias Backman and Xavier Ouellet are nearly NHL-ready, I would have much preferred to see the team simply go to training camp with Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith as defensemen 1 through 4, Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff as numbers 5 and 6, and an open try-out for spot #7 and possibly replacing Kindl or Lashoff underway.
Instead, the team gave Quincey 2 years at $4.25 million per season for a solid second-half performance (his playoffs were very mediocre, like everyone else's), and in giving Quincey a half-a-million-dollar "compromise" raise, the team not only nudged Quincey's cap hit to within $500,000 of Niklas Kronwall's paycheck, but it also very probably made re-signing restricted free agent Danny DeKeyser (who had a $1.35 million cap hit, all figures from Capgeek) that much more expensive.
And then, with the Wings choosing to wait until September to find out whether its co-leading scorer for the 13-14 season, Daniel Alfredsson (18 goals, 31 assists and 49 points in 68 games played), is still willing and healthily able to play, and the Wings still needing to re-sign Tomas Tatar (who posted 19 goals, 20 assists and 39 points in 73 games, after having spent the first 9 in the locker room so that Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo and Cory Emmerton could play), and with $3.01 million on bonus overages from the previous season eating into its cap space...
And a team whose leading goal-scorer, Gustav Nyquist (28 goals, 20 assists and 48 points in 57 games played) spent nearly half the season in Grand Rapids due to the cap and roster clusterfuck created by Cleary's previous re-signing, a team which relied upon Tatar, Nyquist, Riley Sheahan (9 goals, 15 assists and 24 points in 42 games played) and Tomas Jurco's (8 goals, 7 assists and 15 points in 38 games played) contributions to make the playoffs, a team whose coach chose to exhaust Luke Glendening's waiver-exempt status by playing him in 56 regular-season and 5 playoff games, and a team which theoretically wanted to give the no-longer-waiver-exempt Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan and top prospects named Anthony Mantha and Teemu Pulkkinen chances to make the team...
That team's management and coaching staff apparently decided that the best possible option in terms of reinforcing its forward ranks was to both bring Cleary back and to insist that it will only carry 14 forwards, all but assuring that Ferraro and Callahan will be waived and that there's little to no chance that Mantha or Pulkkinen can make the team.
Why do I sound so pessimistic if Cleary himself told the media that he's been given no guarantees of making the roster (though his one-way contract ensures that all of $575,000 of Cleary's $1.5 million cap hit would actually disappear from the team's cap figure if he does in fact go to Grand Rapids)?
The management's actions and the coach's preferential treatment toward Cleary and his veteran compatriots over the past three or four seasons, especially when younger players out-play veteran players during training camp and the exhibition season, give me absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that anything's truly changed, or that this team has any sort of intention to award jobs or playing time based upon merit.
Six months after Ken Holland appeared on the radio station which still loves playing that, "The kids aren't the answer" sound-byte to say that the kids in fact were the answer, and that the signings of the then-Grand Rapids-banished Samuelsson, Tootoo and Emmerton and the sitting-in-lieu-of-the-kids Bertuzzi and Cleary were "on him," and two-and-a-half months after Holland told the media that he was not going to make any of the kinds of signings that he would have to "get rid of in November" during the team's locker room clean-out day, what have the Red Wings done?
They made a lateral and seemingly panicky alumni re-signing when they couldn't land a top-tier offensive defenseman who shoots right, signing a stay-at-home defenseman who shoots left instead, and then the team "took care of Dan Cleary" even though the team told Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby that they'd have to sign two-way, league-minimum try-out contracts and battle their way onto the team after each player won 3 more Cups and played at least 500 more games in Detroit than Cleary has played for the Wings.
A player who finished with 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points in 53 games, and finished tied with Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson for a team-second-worst -11 has been treated like he's more equal than the players who stole his job twice now.
That's not loyalty at work. That's stupidity and "putting on blinders" to the point that this team's off-season signings have done the worst thing possible--they've sacrificed the team's credibility with its fans. And there is no worse contract it can break than its contract with the faith fans have placed in the Detroit Red Wings. Our faith and trust feel like they've been waived for Daniel Cleary's sake.
Of course, as Paul noted, Cleary told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he doesn't care what we think...
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and you try not to let any of the negativity or positive comments affect you,” Cleary said. “We live in the day of social media, anyone can say anything. You can’t worry about what people think. You’ve just got to go out and do what you do.”
And Cleary insists that he's going to be healthy despite battling chronic and degenerative knee issues for the past two years:
Cleary, 35, began training a week after the season and just resumed skating this week, which is four weeks earlier than normal.
“It feels good,” Cleary said. “It’s very promising. My knee’s a lot stronger and feels a lot better. I knew I needed to get my entire leg stronger to support my knee.”
Cleary’s numbers have dropped off each season since he scored a career-high 26 goals and totaled a career-high 46 points during the 2010-11 season.
However, he was the Wings’ second leading scorer (four goals and six assists in 14 games) in the playoffs two seasons ago when they lost in Game 7 in a Western Conference second round meeting with the eventual Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks. Cleary feels he can get back to that level.
“It’s going to take hard work and dedication, but that’s my goal,” Cleary said. “I’m confident I can.”
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner tried to determine, "What re-signing Dan Cleary means for the Red Wings"...
When Cleary's signing would pose a problem and have the fans in an uproar is if Detroit inks Daniel Alfredsson to a new deal. This move would balloon the roster to 15 forwards, one more than the Wings want to carry.
Tomas Jurco would be the odd man out. Jurco would have to begin the season in Grand Rapids since he doesn't have to clear waivers, drawing comparisons to Gustav Nyquist last season. And the finger of blame will once again be pointed to Cleary.
What could complicate matters even more is if Anthony Mantha and/or Teemu Pulkkinen look strong in training camp and the preseason.
And Regner has this to say about Cleary's comments:
He's an astute guy and is well aware that many people in the Wings organization have stuck their necks out for him.
It's now up to Cleary to "do what you do," which is help the Wings win hockey games, because that's the bottom line in a bottom line business.
However, if Cleary cannot contribute and his skills have eroded, it's up to him to be a stand-up guy and walk away from the game. He owes that to Holland, his coach, his teammates and to Wings fans.
The Free Press's Helene St. James' weighed in on the defensive whiffs and potential trades on WBBL's Schiling and Bentley show on Thursday, prior to the Cleary signing (which makes this intereview seem far-far-off...)...
And MLive's Ansar Khan weighed in on Cleary's return while speaking to Regner, who was filling in for WDFN's Matt Sheppard, on Friday morning:
Khan of course spoke with Holland about the health of another player who needs to earn his damn paycheck in Stephen Weiss...
"(Trainer) Piet Van Zant texted him two days ago," general manager Ken Holland said. "He said he's feeling great, he's training hard; he's played some shinny (pick-up hockey). So far all reports are he's healed and ready to roll in September."
(Weiss is at least working with fitness guru Gary Roberts in Toronto, he's not just dicking around somewhere)
Cue the raised eyebrow:
"(Coach) Mike Babcock and I talked to many of our players about the importance of having a great off-season and coming to camp understanding there's a competition for ice time and jobs," Holland said. "Last year we always had so many injuries that for the most part we were digging into our farm system. I'm hoping with the adversity we faced and with the quality minutes those young kids played it'll allow us to be a four-line team."
Holland said the club has gotten positive updates on the health of Pavel Datsyuk (mid-season knee issue), Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery on Feb. 21) and everyone else.
"The biggest thing is health," Holland said. "If we can get to training camp (Sept. 19) and get Pav, Z, (Darren) Helm, Weiss on the ice we're optimistic we got the potential to be a decent hockey club."
That segues nicely into Khan's other conversation with Holland, regarding potential trades and other free agents who remain available:
"Had the odd call, but for the most part it's slowed down," Holland said. "It goes slow now for July and August. In past years once (top) free agents are off the market and money is spent things get slow."
Trade possibilities for right-handed shooting defensemen include Mike Green (Washington), Tyler Myers (Buffalo), Jeff Petry (Edmonton) and Cody Franson (Toronto). But the cost is high. Teams are asking for a top young forward like Gustav Nyquist or Tatar, or No. 1 prospect Anthony Mantha.
"I explored trades through June, couldn't find a fit," Holland said. "Now I sense a quiet three, four, five weeks. In the meantime I'll reach out to some of those (GMs)."
Oh look, I wonder who suggested that the whole trade talk in July concept was frivolous at best? Remember who that was?
As for free agents...
"I don't know that what's out there is any better than what we got in our system," Holland said. "Players (free agents) would be more experienced, but are they any better than (Ryan) Sproul or (Xavier) Ouellet? We got pretty good kids."
Sproul, Ouellet and the other top young defensemen, Alexey Marchenko and Mattias Backman, will start the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, barring multiple injuries in the preseason.
And, regarding re-signing Danny DeKeyser and Tomas Tatar:
"We're going through the process," Holland said. "We made offers, had conversations with both camps."
In terms of Wings prospect news, the Wings made the re-signing of Tom McCollum official on Friday, and while I know that Jared Coreau and Jake Paterson weren't jumping up and down with joy, the players seemed to know it was going to happen, and McCollum did something that hasn't happened too often regarding alumni who are awarded contracts with the team again--he earned his job back, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes:
The 24-year-old McCollum played in Grand Rapids last season under an American Hockey League contract. The demotion seemed to pay off for McCollum, who produced several career bests in his fifth season with the Griffins, posting a 24-12-4 record with a 2.30 goals against average, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in 46 games.
In the wake of injuries in Detroit, McCollum shined while replacing goalie Petr Mrazek, who was called up to the NHL six times last season.
When his NHL contract with the Wings expired following the 2012-13 season, McCollum’s future with the organization was very much in peril. Coupled with the opportunity that was presented, McCollum’s work ethic and determination yielded positive results, which undoubtedly helped him earn a new NHL contract.
After five AHL seasons, McCollum ranks third all time among Griffins goaltenders, trailing Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard in games played (159) and wins (69). It’s expected that McCollum, who agreed to a two-way contract, will play backup to Red Wings’ top goalie prospect Petr Mrazek in Grand Rapids, while Jake Paterson and Jared Coreau will play in Toledo (ECHL).
Joining the Detroit organization just over a year ago on a three-year entry-level contract, undrafted goaltender Coreau also spent the majority of last season with the Walleye. In 20 games, he produced a 1-12-6 record and a 4.03 goals against average. The 6-foot-5 goaltender faced similar woes in his five games with Grand Rapids, posting a 0-4-0 record and a 4.39 GAA.
“We’re adults. We’re pros. People have tough seasons, and nobody is going to pat you on the back and tell you it’s going to be OK,” Coreau said. “You just have to keep going and working hard. Sometimes it turns around and sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, you have to keep working.”
All challenges considered, Coreau’s positive attitude remains intact.
“It’s a big season coming up here for me, and I think the lessons learned last year are definitely going to help me,” said Coreau.
Coreau will spend a majority of his second professional season with Toledo, where he’ll likely be joined by former Saginaw Spirit goaltender Paterson. The 20-year-old netminder was drafted in the second round (80th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and he briefly served as a “black ace” with the Griffins during the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs.
“It’s a pretty likely scenario that me and Jared might both be in Toledo,” said Paterson. “So you have to head into [the season] with the right mindset and try to stop as many pucks as you possibly can.”
With Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum manning the pipes in Grand Rapids for the third straight season, both Coreau and Paterson will have to battle for occasional back-up duty.
“I need to win. That’s the biggest thing,” said Coreau. “Go in there, show I can win. Work hard. Put the hours in. Be a good teammate and go from there.”
The article continues, and includes quotes from Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and defenseman Richard Nedomlel about the Toledo Walleye's attempts to rebound under new coach Derek Lalonde.
The Griffins also posted a 9-and-a-half minute video which serves as the second chapter of its "Between the Benches" chronicling of the Griffins' playoff run:
One of the Wings' prospects will make his local TV debut on Sunday, per WXYZ:
Detroit Red Wings first round draft pick Dylan Larkin is coming home.
The team's top choice in this year's entry draft, Larkin will join the Suburban Ford 7 Sports Cave live in studio this Sunday at 11 a.m.
Larkin grew up in Waterford, Michigan, and played for the United States National Team in the USHL in Ann Arbor the last two seasons. The Red Wings selected him 15th overall at last month's draft.
The 17-year old will join host Brad Galli, 971 The Ticket's Mike Stone, and Detroit Sports 105.1's Matt Dery LIVE in the 7 Sports Cave to discuss the whirlwind experience since being picked by his hometown team, and his time at the team's development camp last weekend.
The Suburban Ford 7 Sports Cave airs live on WXYZ-TV Channel 7 on Sundays at 11 a.m. You can watch on TV, online at wxyz.com, and on the WXYZ app.
Regarding a pair of summer development camp try-outs, Michigan Hockey's Nick Barnowski profiled Ferris State University graduating senior Scott Czarnowczan...
The 5-foot-10 defenseman was invited to camp as a free agent following a successful college career in Big Rapids. He said that getting the invitation was something he’s dreamed about.
“I fond out and I was pretty ecstatic,” the Macomb native said. “Being a part of the Red Wings organization, it’s a privilege to be here.”
Czarnowczan viewed the opportunity to once again play in the state of Michigan – even if only for a week – as an advantage.
“Michigan’s one of the best states for hockey in the U.S.,” he said. “To stay here, you keep learning from all of the coaches around here.”
Who turned pro with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads this past spring...
After his collegiate career ended, Czarnowczan made the jump to the ECHL, playing in two games with the Idaho Steelheads. He scored a goal and picked up an assist in his professional debut on April 11.
“It was definitely a next step up,” he said of the experience. “In college, you’re pushing the tempo, never really bringing the puck back. In the ECHL, you’re circling back, slowing play down, and setting up plays. It was different, a learning experience before I came here.”
In the non-playing alumni category, the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Wings pro scout Kirk Maltby's started a hockey camp for youngsters:
Having tried their hands across the border, Kirk Maltby and his brother Shawn are about to undertake their first camp locally.
The Maltbys — the men behind 1118 Hockey, named for the numbers they respectively wore in their hockey careers — are setting up shop Monday through Friday at St. Clair Civic Arena in St. Clair Shores to help fine tune the skills of boys and girls ages 8-12.
The Maltbys have run camps the last two summers in Cambridge, Ontario, near where Shawn is a correctional officer. Kirk, 41, played 14 seasons for the Red Wings, helping them to four Stanley Cups.
Part of what made Kirk such an effective NHL’er, of course, was his penchant for riling opponents. That, however, isn’t something pre-teens need to learn.
“No, boys do that to each other as is,” Kirk said Friday. “What I’ve learned is, the boys and girls work extremely hard, but sometimes you have to ask boys to do something — or stop doing something — and you have to ask two or three or four times. Girls, it’s one time and they’re back on track and listening.”
And finally, if you're looking for an alternate opinion regarding the Wings' most recent signings, Winging it in Motown's Kyle McIlmurray penned a letter to Ken Holland, and it doesn't sound all that different from mine:
You've carbon-copied the roster that couldn't stay healthy (I have every reason to believe they won't next season either) and you've snubbed one of the players who helped your team stay relevant and make a push to your impending doom that was the Boston Bruins in the first round.
As for coaching? Peters is gone, Renney is likely gone.. You can't get UFA players to come to Detroit, and you have no idea why.. What makes you think coaches are going to be any different?
An accountable organization? No, I think what you're running here is a burlesque comedy, and I'll tell you what.. Red Wings faithful just aren't sitting so faithful anymore.
So who's accountable? In the eyes of team ownership, no one. The team keeps bringing in money, so who cares right?
With that being said... Good luck making the team anytime soon, kids. You're gonna need it. Don't worry!
Your hard work won't be forgotten.
When you not only break your fans' trust, but you also suggest that their opinion doesn't matter...You wind up in a slightly dangerous situation, not only in terms of recruiting players to come to play for your organization, but also in terms of recruiting fans to attend your games or root for your team.
I've heard from at least a dozen fans who say that they're either walking away from the team or that their level of interest in the team has gone down significantly, and that they won't follow the team nearly as closely. I'd imagine that they're the tip of the iceberg of apathy toward the organization.
Sometimes I wish I didn't care so deeply for the team and its players, but I do, and that means I'm sticking around. But hockey fandom can be like a marriage--a significant relationship full of highs and lows--and it's not a happy marriage right now, not for me, nor for many of my fellow Wings fans.
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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.