The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/17/14 at 04:56 AM ET
Today's schedule of Red Wings-related events goes as follows:
At 9:45 AM EDT, Jakub Kindl's Czechs will battle Denmark at the World Championships;
At 1:45 PM EDT, Tomas Tatar's Slovaks will play Italy in Minsk (no TV for either game but they can be...found);
And at 4 PM EDT, Tyler Bertuzzi and the Guelph Storm will battle the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Memorial Cup (on Sportsnet and the NHL Network).
I'd argue that Friday involved far too much discussion of Mike Babcock's future as it relates to a certain team in Pittsburgh, and it turns out that Babcock was in London, ON on Friday to watch Anthony Mantha score the only goal the Val-d'Or Foreurs needed to defeat the London Knights in the Memorial Cup's opening game, but he wasn't in the mood to talk...
And Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner believes that the Red Wings, and Babcock, need to let the Pittsburghs, Torontos, and the players of a youthful Red Wings team what's going to happen regarding any possible extension or exit as Regner believes that the team's relative youth might yield a performance-dropping distraction:
Detroit will be a youthful hockey team next season, and trying to keep youngsters focused on an 82-game schedule is challenging enough. But throw in the constant barrage of "What's next for Babcock?" could be a tough distraction for a young team to overcome.
What's unfortunate about all of this is that none of it will be coming from the Wings or Babcock. As much as they want to control the message and concentrate on the season, outside sources will have a field day running with all the rumors, innuendo and speculation concerning Babcock's future.
Of course, if the Wings and Babcock agree on an extension, all of this budding mass hysteria will quickly go away. But it's not that easy.
Babcock has worked his way up through the coaching ranks to put himself in a very good situation. It would be difficult for him not to at least see what's out there once his contract expires.
The Red Wings want to somehow keep Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill in their organization, and if Babcock plays out the sting with the Wings, Blashill is the right and logical choice to step in behind the bench.
Last week, I wrote that the Wings and Babcock are completely OK with letting next season play out before they talk about a contract extension. Although I still believe that, it might not work out that way.
With all the gossip and buzz surrounding Babcock already, he and the Wings might not have the luxury of putting this highly anticipated outcome on the back burner. It's just too hot.
I don't expect Babcock or the Wings to do anything other than let the situation percolate.
Why? Because Babcock already made the media rounds, stating that he wanted to remain here (apparently print journalists don't read about radio interviews, many of which you can listen to on my SoundCloud page), Ken Holland stated that he wanted to re-sign Babcock and would discuss the situation over the next couple of months, and given that the Wings' ownership rebuffed a Torontonian request to speak with Babcock several years ago, I don't believe that any of the furor about Babcock will raise his asking price.
Babcock was in London, watching Mantha win, and Holland was probably in Grand Rapids, watching the Griffins drop Friday's game.
After coming together to engage in some pre-draft meetings earlier this week, the Wings' front office is likely back on the road--between Mantha and Bertuzzi taking part in the Memorial Cup (which goes until the 25th), the Griffins heading to Texas for Games 6 and hopefully 7 on Sunday and Monday, the World Championship's quarterfinals beginning next Thursday, (also ending on the 25th; Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom will also be inducted into the IIHF's Hall of Fame on Saturday the 24th), and of course the NHL's Eastern Conference Final beginning in Montreal today and the Western Conference Final getting underway in Chicago on Sunday...
Now's the time to scout, scout and scout some more, to get a final glance at the possible draft picks playing in London, to assess the Grand Rapids Griffins prospects' NHL-readiness and/or which players should be offered contracts and which players should be allowed to walk, to try to uncover some possible unrestricted free agent pick-ups skating at the Worlds, and to make sure to pay attention to what the Canadiens and Blackhawks do well in attempts to "steal" their secrets and aid the Wings' puck possession game next season.
The organization has always moved in deliberate fashion, rarely altering its off-season trajectories to respond to the ebbs and flows in public opinion, and as Tom Renney and Bill Peters have been made available to speak with other teams, I'd argue that Babcock and Holland (again, as a coach, Babcock is NOT available to other teams unless the Wings' ownership agrees to entertain inquiries) are much more concerned with determining who will flank the coach's shoulders for the 2014-2015 season.
Blashill's a strong candidate to return to the NHL, Jim Paek's been an assistant/associate in Grand Rapids forever, and he does a wonderful job,a nd I have no doubt that Babcock is both scouting the players at the Memorial Cup and some possible assistant coaches-in-the-making as well.
Do people like you and me want to hear a definitive, "Yes, he's coming back, we're going to re-sign him" or, "No, he says he's ready to move on, we're going to groom Blashill to replace him" to ease our minds?
Sure, it'd be bloody nice if that happened, but the team's front office is kind of busy right now, and as you and I already know, they've never been particularly timely in terms of stopping along the way to let us know that "everything is going to be okay."
In terms of Friday's World Championships action, again, Danny DeKeyser and Justin Abdelkader's Americans proved to be a hot mess against Kazakhstan, needing overtime to defeat the Kazakhs, and Gustav Nyquist scored the game's first goal en route to Sweden's 3-1 win over Tomas Tatar's Slovaks.
After the game, Nyquist told the IIHF's Lukas Aykroyd that his team's starting to get its game together...
Despite remaining unbeaten, Sweden has had difficulty putting the puck in the net. It has scored just seven goals in its last three games. But Tre Kronor is still feeling good.
"It was a much better effort today," said Nyquist. "We got a much better start than we have done in the previous games, and when we got that third goal, it was huge, of course. After that I feel we controlled the game pretty well. It's hard to say how there can be such a big difference from one day to another. If we knew, we'd fix it right away."
He talked about Sunday's game against Canada...
Looking ahead to facing Canada, Nyquist said: "They have a very young and gifted team, but at the same time they lack a bit of experience. Also, they all come from playing on the small rinks. Hopefully we can exploit that."
And he lamented witnessing a teammate suffer an injury...
With 1:45 left in the period, Swedish blueliner Niclas Andersen was shaken up when he tried to block a rising slap shot by Juraj Valach and took it off his visor. The trainers helped him off and he went to the dressing room. Andersen was sent for X-rays and would not return.
(Team Sweden GM Tommy Boustedt Tweeted that Andersen had no fractures)
"These are freak accidents that have happened to players who sacrifice their bodies when they play," said Nyquist. "Taking a puck to the head doesn't happen too often, fortunately. But for us who are left, it's just a matter of going out there and taking on an even bigger responsibility."
In another part of the "mixed zone," Ladislav Nagy explained why we didn't hear from Tatar:
The loss leaves the Slovaks with long odds of making the quarter-finals. They have just four points, and need to collect as many points as possible in their two remaining games versus Italy on Saturday and Denmark on Tuesday.
"We played so tight because half our team is sick," said Slovak star Ladislav Nagy. "Four players didn’t play. They stayed in the hotel. There’s some virus in the locker room. So I didn’t feel like I had any energy. I have like a sore throat. I don’t know what’s happened. From what, from where? It’s hard to play against Sweden when you have no energy."
Slovak website Hokejportal.net posted a photo-filled recap, and in a nice change of pace, a photo gallery from an evening walk around Minsk, but Tatar didn't speak with the media after the game. Nyquist did speak with Hokejportal.net about his teammate, however, and what follows is roughly translated:
'Tomas Tatar is a really fun little guy, I've spent a lot of time with him, he makes lots of jokes, is still witty. I won't talk about him too much, because he'll certainly read about it and tease me. But he's a good player. Tomas Jurco's equally talented an has excellent technique. Like me, he had to play for Grand Rapids. He's a young player with a good futures ahead of him, and with experience in difficult games, he's constantly improving. Last year we won the Calder Cup together in Grand Rapids, and now they have a chance to defend it, so Jurco went to the farm," says Detroit teammate Gustav Nyquist.
Nyquist has picked up a few Slovak words from Tomas Tatar, with whom he played in both the NHL and on the farm team. Although he didn't wantto discuss it much, he revealed one interesting thing. "I probably only learned bad words that you say on the bench when you're angry. I'll tell you, however, that he's a very bad soccer player. Probably the worst I've ever seen. I need to do some work myself, but I don't know if they've ever played soccer in Slovakia," laughed Nyquist.
The Swedes played Slovakia 24 games after a game against France. There was some mischief in that game, but the Swedes eventually won. Before the showdown with the Slovaks, the Swedes could have complained of fatigue, but they're used to similar conditions. "It's a very hectic tournament, but the conditions are the same for everyone. We play in a lot of games, and between them we have to regenerate [our energy]. Against the Slovaks it'll be a tough game against a team with a lot of skillful players. It will be a good test for us. Slovakia's been in a tough situation at the start, though it's a good team. It's going to be fun to play against Tomas," said Nyquist.
The forward was picked by the Red Wings in the 4th round of the 2008 draft, but he's taking part in his first World Championship. In Minsk, he hasn't had much free time, but he spoke fondly of the city. "We don't have much free time, since the number of games we have to play are high and we have to relax. But from what I've seen of Minsk, it's a clean city with nice people. I have nothing to complain about," said Nyquist.
FTR: Slovakia has close ties to both the West and the Eastern Bloc/former Soviet Republics due to its heavy industry (mining and steel), and I would imagine that it's almost obligatory to ask a player what they think about "president" Alexander Lukashenko's dictatorial paradise.
In terms of the Red Wings' prospects, as noted on Friday, Hockey's Future ranks Detroit as having the 3rd-best crop in the league, and the Free Press's George Sipple examined several of the Wings' possible choices when the team makes the 15th overall pick at the entry draft in Philadelphia this June...
Tyler Wright, hired last year as director of amateur scouting after Jim Nill left to become general manager of the Dallas Stars, is excited to have a high pick this season.
“You look at last year’s draft and you get Mantha,” Wright said. “This year, you’re pretty excited about that pick. There are some gems that could be polished, that could be sitting there at 15, for sure.”
Here’s a brief look at five players who could be available when the Wings pick.
I'm not going to list them all--otherwise, you wouldn't have to read Sipple's article--but I am most certainly fans of numbers one, two and three:
■ Forward Nikolaj Ehlers (5-feet-10, 176 pounds): Shoots left. Native of Denmark. Ranked No. 13 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Had 49 goals and 55 assists in 63 games for Halifax in the QMJHL.
■ Center Dylan Larkin (6-1, 190): Shoots left. Ranked No. 17 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. From Waterford, played for the Ann Arbor-based U.S. Under-18 team and is committed to Michigan. Had 29 goals and 20 assists in 53 games.
■ Forward Alex Tuch (6-4, 213): Shoots right. Ranked No. 12 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Played last season for the U.S. Under-18 team. Committed to Boston College. Totaled 28 goals and 32 assists in 53 games.
Dan Boyle was “kind of expecting it,” but he was still “devastated” by the San Jose Sharks’ decision to not bring the 37-year-old defenseman back next season.
“I was clear that I wanted to be back here and I loved it here,” said Boyle, per CSN Bay Area. “It can still be pretty tough news to take, but when you lose like we did, you figure that changes are going to be made. Part of me thought this could happen.”
The good news for Boyle is that, even at his age, he should garner good interest as an unrestricted free agent. The Detroit Red Wings, for instance, are in the market for a “top-four right-handed shooting defenseman.” Could there be a fit there?
Boyle played 75 games for the Sharks in 2013-14, scoring 12 times with 24 assists, then added four assists in seven playoff games.
As Paul noted, Boyle, who turns 38 in July, earned $6.67 million on his last deal, and he did post solid numbers. The Sports Forecaster describes Boyle, who I have a feeling the Wings will land over Matt Niskanen, as follows:
Assets: Is as mobile as they come from the back end. Runs a power play smoothly and with creativity. Puts up impressive point totals and is solid in the defensive zone.
Flaws: Is not big or strong, so he struggles to handle NHL power forwards in front of the net. Tries to do too much with the puck from time to time. Is slightly in decline.
He's 5'11" and 190 pounds, so he's not a giant. His skating makes up for most of that deficiency.
Career Potential: Savvy veteran offensive defenseman.
Boyle's very outspoken, and the CSN Bay Area article that Brough refers to includes this from Kevin Kurz:
There’s little question that Boyle, arguably the best defenseman in Sharks franchise history, will get the multiple-year deal he’s seeking from another club. In fact, along with text messages from many of his now former teammates, Boyle has been contacted by some other players around the league, “wanting me to come play for other teams,” he said.
Although his game dipped a bit this season, perhaps as a result from a concussion in October, a right-handed defenseman that can play on the power play will be a hot commodity. Boyle, who was part of Tampa Bay’s championship team of 2003-04, also carries himself with a professionalism rarely matched in NHL dressing rooms both on and off the ice.
Yes, he’s disappointed he won’t get a chance to help bring a championship to San Jose. But, there’s also a sense of anticipation for what comes next. He’ll have options.
“It’s definitely tough, but it’s exciting at the same time,” Boyle said. “It’s a confusing time, but it is what it is. It’s a business, and at the end of the day, things happen. I’m obviously crushed and hurt with what’s happened, but I’m a competitor. I want to win the Stanley Cup. That’s what I’m excited about. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity.”
If you want to read more about Boyle, the Mercury News's David Pollak penned an article and a blog entry about Boyle's comments, and two parts of his article stood out, with this passage making an impact...
Dan Boyle talked Friday about how hard it was to hear that his days with the Sharks were over, how negotiations never reached the point where salary was discussed, how he was the one who pressed general manager Doug Wilson for a quick decision.
But the usually candid defenseman declined to offer an opinion on what's keeping the Sharks from winning a Stanley Cup.
"I've definitely shared my thoughts with Doug. We have our year-end meetings every year, and this year's was probably the most honest and intense," Boyle said. "I'm pretty honest with you guys, but with respect to my teammates and the organization, I won't share my thoughts with you. I don't think it's fair to do that."
And this one standing out in particular:
Boyle said it was fair to call contract length the sticking point, as money was never on the table. The Sharks mentioned only the possibility of a one-year deal, Boyle said, and he was looking for two.
"It never really went anywhere from there," Boyle said.
Boyle again acknowledged this season was tough because of the concussion he suffered Oct. 15. That is behind him now, he said. "Moving forward I feel real good. I will wait till July 1 to see what is out there. I'm obviously crushed and hurt by what happened, but I'm a competitor. I want to win the Stanley Cup," said Boyle, who won one in 2004 with Tampa Bay. "That's what I'm excited about, and I'm looking forward to the next opportunity."
Pollak noted the following in his blog entry:
So what next for Boyle. He talked about waiting until July 1 for teams to come calling, but in reality, things could happen before then. I bounced a few ideas off Boyle’s agent, George Bazos, and here’s what the other options could be.
*If one team were seriously interested in Boyle and the feeling was mutual, the Sharks could trade his rights to that team for something, even if only a low draft pick. That way that team could sign Boyle to a deal before he hits the open market. Bazos didn’t dismiss the possibility.
*Boyle and his agent could also petition the Sharks to let them talk with other teams before July 1. Not likely to happen the agent said.
Bazos anticipated a lot of interest in Boyle and, with a shortage of right-shooting defenseman with his credentials, I think that’s accurate. He may not fit in the Sharks’ plans, but even at 38 next fall, Boyle should find plenty of suitors.
As far as Pollak is concerned, Boyle might end up with the Rangers (due to his Lightning ties with Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards), back with the Lightning (Boyle still spends his off-seasons there, the Mrs. is from there and his parents are "snowbirds") or Ottawa (where Boyle grew up), but this speaks volumes as to whether the guy is "worth it," too:
Finally, a little secret: Those of us who cover sports teams are more focused on how good a player is for an insightful post-game quote than how he handled the puck on a breakout play in the first period. The nature of what we do, sadly, in trying to explain to readers what went right or wrong.
Not to slight Boyle’s contributions on the ice — which were many — but his loss from the room is a huge setback for us. Trust me, he is missed already.
I believe that the crop of free agents aside from Boyle and Niskanen, who I honestly expect to chase the kind of money that P.K. Subban will earn from Montreal ($8 million), money that I'm not sure the Wings want to pay anybody but a superstar (and Niskanen isn't quite there)...
The picks are pretty slim unless you believe Andrei Markov's knees will hold up, that Marek Zidlicky's better than Boyle, or that Andrej Meszaros or Tom Gilbert are more affordable options. That's about it, and again, given the limited options, I genuinely wouldn't be surprised if the Wings didn't add anybody this summer, and chose to go with "the kids" and a ton of cap space with which to make a possible trade during the 2014-2015 season instead.
But Boyle is a good "bridge" option if the team believes that the Sprouls, Ouellets, Marchenkos and Jensens are a year or two out, and th Wings tend to sign older players.
As I said about Babcock's status, this team tends to move in a tried and true manner, and Holland and the organization's modus operandi suggest that Boyle's a more likely target than Niskanen.
Finally, as I'd be equally happy with the Wings doing nothing at all on the blueline save giving Adam Almquist and the aforementioned prospects chances to steal Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff's jobs, I've really enjoyed Red Wings TV's following of the "kids" during the Calder Cup playoffs.
Their latest video involves Zach Nastasiuk, a grinding forward--with Babcock making an appearance and making a WONDERFUL comment about the "jump" from Major Junior to the AHL being perhaps harder than the jump from the AHL to NHL (hello, your expectations of Anthony Mantha the Mamba and his Mantha Ray shot)...
But the team's already profiled Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan...
And they showed Tomas Jurco's hat trick in Game 3. The Wings will need Jurco and his teammates to be at their best to stave off elimination on Sunday.
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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.