The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/02/14 at 04:13 AM ET
I know that many of you are less than enthused about the concept that the Red Wings aren't likely to make a trade deadline move, especially given what Ken Holland himself had to say to the New York Times (on Saturday, reiterating that the Wings' first round draft pick is not for sale) and MLive's Ansar Khan (on Wednesday), but the reported asking prices for Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler (as well as someone who insists he's going to test the unrestricted free agent marketplace in Thomas Vanek) are nuts...
And while I don't like the concept of the Wings adding, at most, a depth defenseman, I despise the concept of the team surrendering Anthony Mantha, Calle Jarnkrok, Teemu Pulkkinen, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet or Petr Mrazek--as well as at least one of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco or Riley Sheahan, and that first round pick--for the sake of making a move.
Just as importantly, regardless of whether this summer's crop of potential free agent defensemen, cap compliance buy-outs and/or players who might be available at the entry draft or over the course of the summer via trade, the Red Wings started this season only accommodating Tomas Tatar because they would've lost him to waivers; Gustav Nyquist wasn't on the roster because Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo were playing instead; and Cory Emmerton, Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary were skating ahead of Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening.
Somewhere along the way, the Red Wings' stubborn coach and management finally decided to "let the kids play," and while I do believe that the Wings must absolutely, positively add a top-pair defenseman somehow this summer, I'd just hate to see the team screw the developmental pooch at this point.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch believes that the Wings are still going to "buy" due to Henrik Zetterberg's injury...
DETROIT RED WINGS - If they can’t find a way to get it together, their 23rd straight trip to the playoffs will be in major jeopardy. The club needs help up front with Henrik Zetterberg gone, especially in a tight playoff race.
But that's not an accurate assessment of what's really going on in terms of the Wings' scoring situation.
Pavel Datsyuk at 70% and perhaps in a moody state is still a game-breaker; Johan Franzen is playing perhaps the most consistent and engaged hockey of his Wings career; Daniel Alfredsson serves as something of an every-night x-factor; and the aforementioned Tatar, Nyquist, Sheahan and Jurco are remarkably posting points on an incredibly regular basis.
Add in the fact that the Wings really need to figure out what the hell Stephen Weiss can bring to the table, that Darren Helm chips in from time to time and that Justin Abdelkader still finds the occasional goal when he goes to the front of the net and stays there, and the Wings are OK up front (FTR: Drew Miller does a fine job, but I don't know if Joakim Andersson has any understanding of the concept that he's being replaced by Sheahan and Glendening).
Jimmy Howard's gotten way better since the New Year and Jonas Gustavsson remains consistent in goal, so the net's not a worry...
But the one concern involves the fact that, after Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, the Wings' defenders continue to struggle posting points. For whatever reason, as Kyle Quincey's almost disturbingly turned into a capable rearguard, Danny DeKeyser's been bit yet again by the sophomore slump skating alongside #27, Jakub Kindl remains frustratingly inconsistent--to the point that I believe his tenure with the Wings is in Andersson-like jeopardy--Brian Lashoff's just not an offensive contributor, and Brendan Smith has turned into an engima and a half, sometimes aiding the cause and sometimes aiding the opponent, not seemingly able to learn from his defensive gaffes.
On the blueline, the Wings will go as far as Kronwall, Ericsson, and at this point, Quincey and DeKeyser will take them, and the team could definitely use a third-pair defenseman that's at least better than Cory Cross, their underwhelming acquisition back in 2006. I just don't think it's going to happen.
As the Free Press's Steve Schrader notes, the Wings have come out of the Olympic break taking care of business despite an in-absentia captain...
The "They Forgot How to Lose" award: To the Red Wings, who — despite missing captain Henrik Zetterberg — closed February with a flourish in their scramble for a playoff spot. Shoot, with last week’s big wins in Montreal and Ottawa, they haven’t lost a game in three weeks.
And while the Wings won't practice today (and it appears that Pavel Datsyuk won't be practicing save game-day skates), and the Washington Capitals have snuck up on the Wings in the Wild Card race, the Wings embark upon a stretch of 5 games played over the course of 8 nights starting on Tuesday in New Jersey; they'll return home on Thursday for Nick Lidstrom Jersey Retirement Night, they'll host the Devils on Friday, the Rangers in a Daylight Savings Time matinee on Sunday, and then another Wild Card rival in the Blue Jackets next Tuesday.
Then the Wings get a two-day break before playing every other night for the balance of the month, and they will do so while asking their veterans to set the tone for the kids they're riding and that youth movement that the team's finally reluctantly embraced.
That ain't a bad thing.
In terms of the in-absentia captain and 70% Magic Man, The Hockey News's Alexander Liepold noted that the pair rank among the top 10 NHL'ers in terms of scoring since the 2004-2005 lockout:
8. Pavel Datsyuk: 609 games, 217 goals, 429 assists, 646 points
Many fans and media think Datsyuk is the league’s best player and his point production certainly puts him in the conversation. Like Crosby, he has missed time due to injury, playing the second fewest games on this list, and Detroit isn’t exactly known as a team that scores a ton of goals anymore.
10. Henrik Zetterberg: 619 games, 242 goals, 391 assists, 633 points
Zetterberg has only topped 90 points once in his career. However, like many on this list, he has been able to crack the top 10 through consistency – the mark of a great player.
I like the fact that Babcock told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, MLive's Ansar Khan and the Free Press's George Sipple that both Weiss and Kindl are essentially on try-outs thanks to the present Wings team's play of late...
Babcock said Weiss and Kindl have to earn their way back into the lineup. “We’ve got to win games,” Babcock said. “You start by flying in practice. Get noticed in practice and the coach puts you in.”
But I do have a beef with Sipple's story because his editor chose to pen the headline as follows: Red Wings' Johan Franzen: Fighting 'not a part of the game'
Franzen told Sipple that he doesn't believe he should fight given his history of concussions and the subdural hematoma he suffered in 2008...
Asked after Saturday’s practice about Neil’s comments, Franzen shrugged them off. “What he says? Yeah, I definitely don’t really care,” Franzen said.
How much respect does Franzen have for Neil as a player?
“Well, he thinks I’m not tough because I’m not fighting him,” he said. “What does he have, like 30 fights a year? He’s been doing that his whole career. I’ve not had a fight my whole life. It’s like me asking him to have hockey sense and good hands or something.”
Here's your problem:
Franzen said he doesn’t believe in fighting.
“For me, it’s not a part of the game,” he said. “I couldn’t care less what (he says). I’m not going to fight him. It’s easy as that. I’ve had enough concussions and definitely not going to risk one doing something as stupid as that.”
Franzen then added: “It’s like me asking him to be a good hockey player.”
Franzen was in fact very specific regarding the concept of fighting in a non-#93-doing-it sense, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
"I didn’t say that,” Franzen said when asked if he believed fighting should be taken out of the game. “I said I don’t fight. I never played that way. I don’t see the reason to start now.”
As such, I'm quite disappointed in whoever edited Sipple's article for going for an easy web-hit-inducing headline, and as you and I both know, even in this day and age, people go by the headlines that the Free Press and News publish over just about everything else.
Franzen didn't need to fight Neil after scoring a hat trick, in the last 6 minutes of the last regular-season meeting between the two teams, simply because Neil's a giant dick. He especially didn't need to respond to Neil pulling his helmet off and popping him in the head by fighting, either, and if we are to believe Franzen, there was no spearing provoking the incident--Mr. Neil, who insisted that Franzen's "yellow" behavior ticked down league-wide respect for a supposedly 6'4," 250-pound tough guy, started begging for a penalty when he felt...Hell, I'll quote from Khan:
Franzen disputed Neil’s claim that he was speared in the groin area during the Red Wings' 6-1 victory at the Canadian Tire Centre, a game in which Franzen scored three goals. He said he put his stick between Neil’s legs and could hear Neil “crying to the refs that ‘he’s spearing me!’ ”
The NHL did not punish Neil for dropping his gloves and taking a swing at Franzen’s head with 5:55 remaining in the third period. Neil received minor penalties for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct and both were given 10-minute misconducts.
“I’ve been getting head shots pretty much every year and I don’t think it’s ever been punishment for any of the hits I’ve gotten to the head,” Franzen said. “This was the third one, targeting the head. He just sucker-punched me. Maybe (the NHL) should actually try to protect the players … a play like that when he just drops his gloves and punch me in the head, if he doesn’t get anything for that I don’t know, seriously, what’s going on.”
As far as I'm concerned, yes, Franzen could stand to learn to freak out a little less when someone makes contact with his head in a non-punching form, because players definitely know that he can go absolutely ape when he's facewashed, and I'd certainly suggest that there's no shame in putting on a visor to send a, "If you try to punch my face you will have to go through Lexan" message.
But that's just me.
Wrapping up the hockey-related portion of this entry, as I was writing this, NHL.com's Dan Rosen penned a set of "14 Storylines For the Final 6 Weeks of the 2013-2014 Season," and we're going to be hearing this from the out-of-towners until and/or unless the Wings prove their doubters (sometimes including you and me) wrong:
Will Wings' streak get clipped?
The Detroit Red Wings quest for a 23rd consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is far from a sure thing.
The last time the Wings failed to qualify for the postseason was 1990, when George H.W. Bush was president. It's the fifth-longest playoff streak in NHL history and the longest active streak among the four main professional sports leagues. The Boston Bruins own the NHL record at 29 seasons (1968-96).
As a perennial contender in the Western Conference, the Red Wings were supposed to breeze into the postseason after realignment moved them into the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. They finished third in the Central Division last season and beat the Anaheim Ducks in the first round before taking the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks to seven games before being eliminated.
Since the start of the 1997-98 season, the Red Wings have won more games (849) than any other team in the NHL. The team's 736 regular-season victories and 113 playoff wins are tops in the NHL over that span.
But key injuries to several players, including forwards Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and goalie Jimmy Howard, have forced the Red Wings to dig deep. Still, Detroit enters Sunday in possession of the second wild-card playoff spot in the East; the Red Wings are one point ahead of the Washington Capitals. But a 23rd straight trip to the playoffs is anything but a sure thing.
I believe that this team will make the playoffs.
Even if it doesn't make a trade deadline addition.
In the "Business of Hockey" department, SportsBusiness Journal's Christopher Botta's rare interview with Mike Ilitch got so much "play" that the Red Wings sent it to their email subscribers under the headline, "Mike Ilitch: Champion for Detroit," but the recent approval of a massive 40-block land transfer to clear the footprint of the Wings' $450 million rink and $200 million economic development yielded an editorial from the Free Press's Stephen Henderson today, demanding that Ilitch help unite the Downtown and Midtown areas, lest the City spend, "$250 million for nothing"...
The city’s development arms and the state will spend $261 million to build a new downtown hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings, whose billionaire owner will chip in about $189 million of the cost.
But it’s also true that the deal doesn’t include any agreement for community benefits — so no guaranteed jobs for Detroiters, only “targets” that may or may not be met; no spinoff investment by the Ilitch family into programs or brick-and-mortar into struggling neighborhoods.
The city’s rebound is doomed to fail if it doesn’t expand from downtown and Midtown to Detroit’s hardest-hit areas and most economically isolated people. That’s the message I heard over and over this week, and one that’s echoing louder and louder in the conversation about how to get the city back on its feet.
But look where we are: State and local governments agree to a massive public investment in a downtown stadium but can’t manage even the most meager benefits agreement.
That makes it difficult to imagine how affordable housing agreements might be included in upcoming residential projects around the city’s core, or how benefits to public schools might be siphoned out of high-end commercial developments.
The stadium will bring people and some economic activity (how much is debatable, according to many studies) to an area that doesn’t have them now, but there’s no guarantee it will do anything more.
This is precisely what Sugrue, author of “The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit” and a lecturer about Detroit and other struggling urban centers, says is the wrong strategy.
“The kinds of jobs that are being created by a lot of the downtown redevelopment are jobs for folks who have significant education, skills and means already,” Sugrue told Free Press reporter John Gallagher last week. “They’re not, by and large, creating stable secure jobs for folks down the ladder, for working-class folks, in particular.”
And if you're not one for this kind of political talk, I included it for a reason: the Free Press's Joe C. Guillen and J.C. Reindl also revealed the following this morning:
For more than 30 years, the Red Wings have played hockey in Joe Louis Arena under an agreement negotiated by former Mayor Coleman Young to keep the team from moving to the suburbs.
With a new hockey arena on track to open as early as the 2016-17 season, the agreement between the City of Detroit and the Red Wings will disappear, and with it about $7 million in revenue the city received annually from the team’s home games.
Under a new deal hashed out between representatives of the team’s owners, Mike and Marian Ilitch, and state and local development authorities, the Red Wings will no longer have to share 10% of ticket proceeds, 7% of suite sales, 10% of food and beverage concessions, 5% of souvenir sales and other revenue from parking. All of that money — estimated to be about $7 million annually — would belong to the Ilitches’ Olympia Development of Michigan when the team moves north of downtown into a proposed $450-million arena.
In addition, any future proceeds from the selling of naming rights to the new 18,000-seat arena would also go to Olympia Development. Other NHL teams have snagged corporate naming rights deals worth millions a year or more.
Because the Downtown Development Authority will lease the rink to the Ilitches, they won't be paying any property taxes, either, and as I recall, even with an 18,000-seat arena in the offing, the estimates of new revenues in the new rink vary from $8-10 million per season.
There are some who suggest that the revenues and soon-to-be-rising salary cap are reasons as to why the Wings haven't spent as freely of late, and some believe that when the new rink opens and the cap's in the $80+ million range, the Wings will start holding summer press conferences announcing the signing of free agents every year.
That's inaccurate, but public perception is public perception, and the Ilitches are taking a huge hit here:
Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland said the council did not publicly seek a share of the new arena’s naming rights when it considered legislation last month to advance the project. But the topic was raised in “backroom discussions” with Olympia Development, the arena’s operator, he said.
“It just didn’t seem like they were willing to budge,” Leland said.
Sports business experts say it’s no longer unusual for team owners to obtain 100% control over revenues from new venues that are built in part with public financing. As cities compete with one another to lure sports teams, owners can often bargain from a position of strength.
“Those things used to be in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s more commonly shared with the public partner,” said Neil deMause, an expert on stadium financing and author of the book “Field of Schemes.” “But starting with the round of stadiums that were built in the early ’90s, it’s really been team owners wanting public money and wanting to keep all revenues.”
Guillen and Reindl report that the Ilitches are paying the City $1 million a year to rent Joe Louis Arena, which will be demolished by the State and likely added to Cobo Hall's footprint--promising a significant profit to the city over the long haul--but de Mause thinks the deal stinks, and you and I know what's going to happen here:
The Red Wings declined to say whether ticket prices will be affected by the move and elimination of the city’s 10% cut. The arena will have 2,000 fewer seats than the Joe but feature upgraded amenities, a larger concourse and high-end luxury boxes nearer the ice.
Guillen and Reindl report that realistic estimates suggest that about 440 new jobs will be created by the rink itself as the follow-on rink will have a larger staff, but we have no idea whether the "proposed economic development" involves, say, a practice facility, or what percentage of Detroiters the Ilitches will employ. In that part of the agreement, they definitely got off scot-free.
What do I think about the deal?
I guess you could say that I'm hopeful, as Henderson is, that the development of the Cass Corridor will finally link Downtown and Midtown if the Ilitches really do want to create a living legacy to pay tribute to the 84-year-old Ilitch, and to some extent, I'm just happy that the Downtown Development Authority and Detroit Economic Growth Corporation are in charge of the construction and maintenance of the facility, because they've delivered Compuware's downtown headquarters, Campus Martius and other downtown real estate investments on-time and under-budget--in a city and Wayne County where the Wayne County Jail's 1,800-bed addition's turning into a quarter-billion-dollar boondoggle.
But I'm also resigned to the fact that the way of the business world is fundamentally unfair to "regular folks," and when the city's bankrupt, people who've spent decades of their life earning below-market wages because they believed that pensions that probably won't be honored would help them in their post-retirement lives and in a city as crime-ridden, bereft of basic city services and in a county that's about to go bankrupt because Bob Ficano is just as crooked as Kwame Kilpatrick was, there are always fundamentally "better" ways to spend taxpayer money on taxpayers instead of businessmen. Especially businessmen whose wives own casinos and who operate an entertianment empire.
But it is what it is, and this is the best of a deal that was going to happen regardless of what you, I or anyone else who's not a business mover and shaker think about it.
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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.