The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/15/13 at 04:16 AM ET
Updated with NHL.com's Red Wings preview at 3:54 AM: The Detroit Red Wings will begin their last day of training camp held at Compuware Arena this morning bright and early, taking to the ice at 9:30 AM for a 45-minute-long practice before heading home for a game-day nap and returning to the rink (again, the event is open to the public, admission is free and parking is free) for a 6 PM Red vs. White scrimmage between members of the Red Wings and Griffins' organizations (which will air on Fox Sports Detroit and WXYT, and if you are going, plan on showing up closer to 4 than when the doors open at 5, because general admission in a 3,400-seat rink means first come, best seat).
The format allows the Wings to both begin to re-acclimate their bodies to a "morning skate and game" format while also allowing the players to finally compete against each other--and the prospects who want to take some of their jobs sooner, and some of their jobs later--before enjoying a welcome respite from on-ice work to rest those groins on Wednesday.
Tomorrow, the Wings will work out off the ice at Joe Louis Arena, but they're going to press the "repeat Tuesday's schedule" button at the Joe on Thursday (again, public admission, free parking, concessions stands open, the whole shebang) for a 10 AM practice and a 7 PM scrimmage (this time an intrasquad one, because the Griffins have game in Charlotte to fly to) and on Friday, the Wings will hold a 12 PM practice and fly to St. Louis to begin the season on Saturday night.
So the two scrimmages are essentially the Wings' de-facto exhibition games, and may serve as the most important parts of training camp...
Except for the fact that there are two Swedish members of the organization who will be holding press conferences to make announcements this week. The first will take place today, at 4:45 PM, and the Red Wings will name Henrik Zetterberg their captain, and the second will take place on Thursday or Friday, and will involve tears as Tomas Holmstrom makes his retirement official.
Regarding the main public event, MLive's Ansar Khan offers the respective rosters, with Mikael Samuelsson sitting out as he has a groin injury (you may have read that in the first of three separate Monday practice digest posts, and don't forget that Fox Sports Detroit released its 41-game broadcast schedule on Monday, too), Darren Helm, as he's still nursing a back injury, and Pavel Datsyuk is somewhat iffy as he didn't get back to Metro Detroit until Monday night after an over-24-hour trip back from Chelyabinsk, Russia...
Jan Mursak-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo,
Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Jurco-Louis-Marc Aubry-Mitchell Callahan
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Nathan Paetsch-Brian Lashoff
Chad Billins-Brennan Evans
Johan Franzen-Valtteri Filppula-Mike Knuble
Todd Bertuzzi-Justin Abdelkader-Daniel Cleary
Patrick Eaves-Luke Glendening-Landon Ferraro
Trevor Parkes-Jeff Hoggan
Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith
Jakub Kindl-Ian White
Adam Almquist-Carlo Colaiacovo
And the Free Press's Helene St. James sets the scene for the scrimmage:
Scrimmages usually are split into halves, but tonight's will have the standard game situation of three 20-minute periods. The Wings also are calling up top prospects Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Riley Sheahan to join the game along with the rest of the Griffins.
The game starts at 6 p.m. and is free to the public. Doors open at 5. It will be televised on Fox Sports Detroit and can be heard on WXYT-AM (1270).
It is unclear whether Pavel Datsyuk will be on hand. He stayed in Russia over the weekend to play in the KHL All-Star Game, was due in Detroit on Monday afternoon and is expected at today's morning skate. Given that his body clock will be 9 hours ahead of Detroit's zone, he might be too sleepy to play.
"That's a Pavel decision," coach Mike Babcock said. "He doesn't have to get off the plane and do anything. Fans would love to see him, obviously, and so we'll see what happens."
Babcock will watch from the stands while assistants Bill Peters and Tom Renney coach. It's likely to be an interesting game from the standpoint it comes after just two practices and one morning skate, and will feature some players, like Zetterberg and Damien Brunner, who spent the lockout playing overseas and a whole bunch of NHLers who spent the lockout skating on their own.
"If you've really been diligent and have prepared, it's going to show," Babcock said. "If you haven't been, that's going to show, too. One thing good about it is, we've got four guys in Grand Rapids, forwards, that are dying to be Red Wings in Nyquist and Tatar and Andersson and Sheahan."
"We're trying to get into a game routine, with a morning skate and have a game in the evening," Cleary said. "Just trying to get our bodies into that clock-type situation. We're all in the same boat."
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke to the players about the scrimmage...
"It'll be good for us, the game action is probably the biggest thing we need," goalie Jimmy Howard said.
Today's scrimmage is being treated as much like a dry run for a regular-season game as the Red Wings can make it. There will be a morning skate, and different faces than usual to compete against. But just getting their body clocks into a familiar game-day routine is vital.
"We're all in the same boat (around the league)," forward Daniel Cleary said about trying to get into a routine. "The players who prepare the best and focus the most will come out of the gate well. The key is to stay out of the training room."
Coach Mike Babcock will not be on the bench, but rather observe from a suite. With another evening scrimmage Thursday, Babcock wants to get the players acclimated to a game-day routine.
"The idea is to simulate a game (setting) and understand what it takes," Babcock said.
As well as a systemic tweak that involves that later-this-week press conference, as you're going to see Tomas Holmstrom's would-be replacement, Johan Franzen, try to fill--as Kuflan suggests--Holmstrom's Nicklas Lidstrom-shot-tipping skates:
"Homer was a star at what he did," Babcock said. "The best in the National Hockey League in my opinion, and Nick Lidstrom was the best defenseman.So you're not getting Homer and you're not getting Nick."
But Johan Franzen could at least soften the blow of not having Holmstrom in front.
"(Franzen) is as good as anybody," Babcock said. "Mule has been waiting to be out on the first (power-play) unit since he got here and he thinks he should be. We think he should be, too. It's a natural fit."
Regarding today's press conference involving a Swede succeeding a Swede, Henrik Zetterberg spoke in a different tone as the Wings' presumptive captain after Monday's skates, offering a frame-worthy, "You have to know when to speak at the right moment, and when to shut up at the right moment," and the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski noted that while not seeing Lidstrom wear the "C" will be as shocking to Wings fans as not seeing it on Steve Yzerman's jersey, the Red Wings have been grooming Zetterberg to eventually wear the captain's letter from his first days as a Red Wing:
"I think I've been easing into it for years," Zetterberg said. "When you look at both Stevie and Nick, they weren't the most vocal captains, but they showed it on the ice every day. They showed it in games, in practice, in the weight room. There are many leaders in here who do the speaking part. If it comes time to say anything, of course I'll do it. But I will not change my way."
It's a way that works for the Wings, primarily because Yzerman and Lidstrom generally were the team's best players. Zetterberg isn't on Lidstrom's level in that regard, and he shares top billing on the Wings with Pavel Datsyuk. But Zetterberg is among the best two-way forwards in hockey, and the high-character qualities are evident.
He speaks in low, measured tones and has an underrated competitive glare, as Lidstrom and Yzerman did. I think Zetterberg will be a bit edgier, a bit more outspoken than Lidstrom. Zetterberg has flashed his anger at times, such as when Nashville's Shea Weber clobbered him in the head during last year's playoffs.
There's also the player-coach dynamic, and with Mike Babcock entering his eighth season, it can be a delicate balance between a hard-driving coach and a veteran team. With Lidstrom in the dressing room, no one could stay upset because the captain wasn't upset. The Wings could use a feistier streak, and Zetterberg has no problem supplying it.
"Bottom line is, he's seen it all, he's like a coach on the ice," Babcock said. "He doesn't mind getting mad at me and I don't mind getting mad at him. I think that's very important. He doesn't mind standing up for the guys and telling me what he thinks. The other thing is, nobody ever wants the team to not be as good on their watch. Believe me."
But what makes Bob Wojnowski "Wojo" is that he knows when to capture the "spirit of the thing," and he points out that Zetterberg has always been able to avoid the spotlight he and Emma have had to endure as the de-facto "David and Victoria Beckham of Sweden " (they spend most of their time here, and, more like Holmstrom than Lidstrom, it appears that what will still be relative anonymity by Swedish tabloid standards may yield a post-hockey life for Henrik and Emma in Birmingham instead of Njurunda or Manfried)...
And as Wojnowski points out, Zetterberg will be expected to sustain the kind of scoring pace he did in the land of Toblerones and Damien Brunner, a.k.a. Switzerland...
More will be asked now of Zetterberg, and that includes production. Since career-highs of 43 goals and 92 points in 2008, he hasn't topped 31 goals, and had 22 last season. Defense is where he excels, winning the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP when the Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008.
While not allowing that "C" to wear down his jersey as he attempts to uphold the heavy mantle that is leading the Detroit Red Wings both on and off the ice:
It's been a winning team, with 21 straight playoff appearances. But this is a challenge unlike any the Wings have faced in two decades, their first foray without either Lidstrom or Yzerman. Zetterberg said he talked to Lidstrom over the summer, and if necessary, won't hesitate to talk with him some more.
"He's only a phone call away, even if he is in Sweden," Zetterberg said. "Look at the teams I've played with and all the leaders — (Chris) Chelios, (Kris) Draper, Stevie, (Brendan) Shanahan. You take bits and pieces every year. There are other things I want to try to do now, and I'm really looking forward to it. You have to know when to speak at the right moment, and when to shut up at the right moment."
Chelios, Draper, Kirk Maltby, Chris Osgood and even Darren McCarty are all still around if Zetterberg needs some alumni inspiration.
In the locker room and on the bench, there are strong alternate captains in Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall, outspoken voices in Danny Cleary and Jimmy Howard, a possible successor-in-waiting in Valtteri Filppula, and, according to WXYZ's Brad Galli, a surprising voice of Holmstrom-esque comedic relief...
But there is no doubt that the Red Wings--who weathered the team's "divorce" from Sergei Fedorov, a lockout that saw McCarty, Ray Whitney, Derian Hatcher, Curtis Joseph, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille leave the team, the staggering double loss that was Steve Yzerman's retirement and Brendan Shanahan's departure in 2006--face what the old folks call a "sea change" thanks to Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom's retirements and Brad Stuart's departure.
This is perhaps the youngest Red Wings team since the one Scotty Bowman inherited in 1994, and it is most certainly the least star-studded since the days of first-round disappointments against Toronto and San Jose, just like the team Bowman discussed coaching during that mad dash combined with a demolition derby that was the 1994-95 season.
The team has oodles of bottom-six forwards, a thin defense (likely to be augmented by a trade deadline acquisition) and two twenty-something goalies with chips on their shoulders, and is coming off consecutive first round defeats.
Whether the Red Wings can sustain their 21-year-playoff streak and whether they can in fact improve upon last season's performance is a question that really started to be answered on Sunday, but it will officially become Zetterberg's question to answer today.
In other news: I know this is very important to you and very important to me, so let's let the Free Press's James Jahnke take it away:
Fox Sports Detroit announced today that it will televise a minimum of 41 Detroit Red Wings regular-season games and the preseason scrimmage against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
That means that all 48 regular-season games will be televised, with four on NBC and three on NBCSN.
Six of FSD's 41 games are slated for Fox Sports Detroit Plus.
“This season is going to be a sprint, and we could not be more excited to televise each and every game on our 41-game schedule,” FSD general manager Greg Hammaren said in a released statement. “Our commitment and passion regarding the Wings is greater than ever, and we look forward to providing Red Wings fans some of the best coverage throughout the NHL.”
Calling the action again this season will be Ken Daniels (play-by-play) and Mickey Redmond (color). Larry Murphy will substitute for Redmond during some road games.
A half-hour Red Wings season-preview special premieres at 7 p.m. Saturday on FSD.
Here's the schedule. You can click on the image for a full-sized pic:
In terms of the depleted defense--which stacks up as Niklas Kronwall paired with Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey skating with Brendan Smith, and Ian White skating with either Carlo Colaiacovo or Jakub Kindl, with, at present, Brian Lashoff and AHL-only-contracted Nathan Paetsch in Griffins waiting--the Wings will find out what they have in a hurry, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan suggests:
"It is what it is," coach Mike Babcock said. "There's huge opportunity out there, a whole lot of ice time. Grab hold of it. I'm going to watch. Players think the coach makes the decision. He's not. He's just watching. It's the players who make the decision (by their performance)."
Ericsson, 28, and Quincey, 27, can solidify the defense greatly by becoming consistent. Ericsson has always intrigued NHL scouts, but mental mistakes at inopportune times have dogged him.
"You learn so much from playing from yourself, and other players, about the game," Ericsson said. "I learned to deal with down periods. Just beating myself down, for no reason really. I just had to look ahead and get better. That's my goal every year, to be a better player every year."
Ericsson told Kulfan that he's excited to be essentially receiving an Ian White promotion to the top defensive pair (while White must be wondering what the hell he did to end up with his old pal from his days as a youngster in Toronto in Colaiacovo after playing the 11-12 season alongside Lidstrom):
"For sure," Ericsson said. "Playing against top lines, those are challenges everyone wants to (face). We have two big spaces to fill (Lidstrom, Stuart), and we have to fill them as best we can. A lot of us have to take on a bigger role."
When Quincey was reacquired at last season's trade deadline — for a first-round pick this past season — general manger Ken Holland saw a young defenseman just entering his prime. But Quincey hurt his groin, never did play consistently, and seemed out of sync without a training camp behind him. Quincey talks about the "fresh slate" this season.
"I'm fired up and ready to go," he said. "Everybody is starting fresh."
They all look capable now, in practices and scrimmages. Smith has the exciting ability to carry the puck and create offense, White and Colaiacovo are both capable on the power play. Kindl, at age 25, remains a prospect with size (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) and natural ability.
"Bottom line, there's opportunity," Babcock said. "Let's see what guys can do with it."
If not, the Red Wings have an abundance of forwards, including one who's just been cleared for contact in Patrick Eaves, two who may be on their way out in Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak, a try-out who hopes to earn one more shot at the NHL in Mike Knuble, and of course, four forwards who may be NHL-ready in Grand Rapids in Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Riley Sheahan...
But the Wings didn't sign Jordin Tootoo to a two-year contract to trade him. They signed him to bring a Dallas Drake-style feisty edge to the forward lines, and the Free Press's Helene St. James says that we should hang up those Tootoo Train whistles and start calling #22 the Tasmanian Devil:
"Kind of a different player than Detroit has ever had before," Cleary said. As he remembers it -- and granted, July 1 was a long time ago -- Cleary's first reaction on hearing the Wings had signed Tootoo was "OK." Then it was, "Nice to have on your team. I know we hated playing against him in Nashville."
The Wings see Tootoo as someone who can help them regain their footing after last year's especially disappointing showing in the playoffs, when they lost in the first round to Tootoo's Predators. Tootoo, who turns 30 on Feb. 2, isn't a big-minutes guy, but it's what he does with those minutes he is on the ice that they like. Babcock sees Tootoo as the same type of player the Wings had on their most recent Stanley Cup winning team, in 2008, when Dallas Drake and Darren McCarty roamed the ice and Aaron Downey was on reserve.
"When we won the Cup last, we had great toughness on our team," Babcock said. "Dallas Drake hunted you down, and we had Mac and we had Downs. We had lots of grit. We haven't been near as gritty since. We're not talking about guys to stop and fight at stoppages, we're talking about guys who will get on you and forecheck and make people nervous. He always made us nervous."
The Wings' captain agrees with his coach here...
"We have been playing against him in Nashville for many years, and you've really got to be aware when he's out there, because if you don't pay attention, he can really hurt you," Zetterberg said. "I don't think we've had a guy like that in a few years. It's going to be really fun to have him on the team. He's that kind of player that you want to have, but you hate to play against him."
Cleary called Tootoo the type of player who, "gets under defensemen's skins and other opposing players, and he skates well and is a physical player. And he's got offense in him. It's a nice addition to have. He's a real nice guy. He's fit into the locker room well. I know he's turned his life around, which is great to see. We need his energy."
And where does the Tasmanian Devil moniker come from? Tootoo himself, who tells St. James that he's bringing some Inuk grit and feistiness to the mix:
"I was always the little Tasmanian Devil, I guess you would say," he said. "It just stuck with me. That's what got me to where I am today. That's what's going to keep me going. But every year the game evolves, and you've got to be able to learn to play the game a certain way. I'm an easy learner. I'm going to do whatever I have to to maintain those goals.
"I know I can produce offensively. I've done it in juniors. But when you're told to play a certain way, that's what you've got to do. I think the game has changed over the years, where you can't be a one-dimensional player. For me, I know I can play in different roles. I think it all starts with having confidence. It's a man's game. Only the toughest will succeed."
Drew Miller's status as a Red Wing may or may not be in question, but he took a huge step forward by absolutely dominating for Braehead Clan in Scotland, and he told the Free Press's George Sipple that the Red Wings' member of the storied Michigan State Millers plans on using the confidence he gained in Europe to truly establish himself as an every-night player here in the Motor City:
"This is a big year for myself," he said after Monday's practice at Compuware Arena in Plymouth. "I'm up for a contract after this year. I want to give myself any advantage I could to come in and be ready to go when hockey did start. I hope that it pays off. It's something that I can look back on and say I'm really happy and glad I went over there and spent that time over there."
Miller, 28, said his wife was with him the entire time in Scotland, and they were able to do quite a bit of sightseeing when he wasn't playing.
I'll let you read Sipple's article for that part of the story, because the hockey part is equally important:
The Clan fans saw Miller display more of a scoring touch than he normally does with the Wings. He was reunited with former MSU forward Ash Goldie, who is in his first season with the Clan. Miller played in all situations and skated on the first line. Now he's battling for playing time on the Wings' fourth line.
"I think I'm more confident in myself," Miller said. "I wouldn't say I'm comfortable. Once you get comfortable, you get complacent."
The Red Wings' slogan for the season is a sincere "Thanks for Sticking With Us," and Danny Cleary discussed the team and the players' responsibilities to mend fences with the lockout-hardened hearts of Red Wings fans in words and deeds, both on and off the ice:
"We've got a tremendous fan base, that's an understatement," Daniel Cleary said. "Even on the road, especially down south or out in Phoenix, it's almost like a home game for us. The Red Wings are a global team."
Cleary said players recognize that "we've upset a lot of fans," especially "the fickle fan. Our jobs, as players, is to put a good product on the ice, sign an extra autograph, as many autographs as you can. With the shortened season, it's going to be hard to do a lot of appearances, to get out there in the community. All I know is, our team will work hard to represent the jersey proudly."
Henrik Zetterberg said: "It's definitely been a tough time for the fans, when the league locked us out. We're going to do everything that we can to show gratitude that they're still sticking with us."
Coach Mike Babcock is certain he knows how that can be accomplished the most thoroughly.
"I think the best way to do anything for fans is to put a product on the ice and win," he said. "... I think when you reach out and sign an autograph -- you've got time to do it. You had eight months off. You've got time to do it. There's lots of things you can do that way. But to me, still the best way is just win, baby."
I'd suggest that Cleary should know that it's not just the fickle fan who's angry.
Many die-hards, many people who spend the vast majority of their non-working time, energy, effort and especially their money following the Red Wings, in both the season ticket-buying class and a little down the socioeconomic line--like me--are still very, very upset about an incredibly unnecessary lockout, even though the owners were the ones locking everyone out.
As such, the Wings' players and the Wings' organization will have to understand that it may take multiple seasons to truly recapture the loyalty of the walk-ups for $9 seats and those who plan their yearly vacations about spending a week up in Traverse City to attend training camp and/or the prospect tournament.
This is going to be a long process, and as far as the Wings have come in terms of delivering more bang for their ticket-paying public's buck, they're going to have to go a little further. What that entails, both they and us will have to figure out, but offering open access to training camp and practices is a wonderful start.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
- TSN revealed its list of the top 50 players in the NHL, and only two Red Wings made the list--Pavel Datsyuk, listed at #5, and Henrik Zetterberg, who was listed at #22;
- TSN also posted its Red Wings season preview a couple of days ago. I believe that ESPN will post its Central Division previews today;
- The CBC's Elliotte Friedman offered one take on the Red Wings' defense, albeit in passing, in Monday's 30 Thoughts column...
9. Adding Cam Barker gives Vancouver eight NHL blue-liners. The New Jersey Devils also have eight and the Buffalo Sabres nine. Pittsburgh has seven, but the Penguins are loaded with prospects at this position. The question here is, do these teams believe you can't have enough defencemen during this shortened season or will they talk trade with others (Detroit, Edmonton) looking for help? Now that Anton Volchenkov is healthy, opponents believe the Devils, in particular, are searching for a partner with a forward to trade.
- Regarding numbers of a different kind, I have to shake my head at one of NHL.com's Matt Cubeta's 50 fantasy hockey predictions...
1. Last year I said Datsyuk would reach 100 points. This year I'm saying he won't top 40 points -- 40 points in 48 games is a rate of .83 points-per-game, which would've tied him for 44th in the NHL last season. Between his declining stats, potential for injury and his lack of shots and PIMs, he might not be worth an early draft pick this year. He's also typically a slow starter, and with the condensed season, it could benefit you to pass on him.
...17. In his first season in the NHL, Damien Brunner will be extremely effective, posting 14 goals, 18 assists and a plus-8 while skating on the same line as Henrik Zetterberg for most of the season.
- And the Hockey News's Darryl Dobbs offered an equally fearless fantasy hockey prediction about Damien Brunner in his list of "10 potential steals" (and I will let you read Yahoo Sports' Ryan Lambert's 20 "bold" predictions on your own):
3. Damien Brunner, Detroit: The only reason Brunner isn't No. 1 here is because we’ve seen this act before. Jiri Dopita, Fabian Brunnstrom, Janne Pesonen, Ville Leino…the list goes on. And although Leino worked out, it took him two years after he came over. However, Brunner offers more hope than any of them. All the stars seem to be aligned this time. He played for Zug in the Swiss League during the lockout and dominated. To this day, he still holds an 11-point lead in the scoring race with 57 points in 33 games. As a comparable, John Tavares in the same league had 42 points in 28 games.
What's more exciting- Brunner lined up with Henrik Zetterberg. The two just clicked. They created magic together and it is certainly a pairing that will continue on at the start of Brunner's NHL career. As training camp opens up, Brunner is on the top line with Zetterberg and this fellow named Pavel Datsyuk.
- This ain't my cup of tea, but I have to mention it: the Toronto Star's Rick Westhead stated that he'd received a copy of court documents detailing Steve Moore's struggles to function since Todd Bertuzzi attacked Moore way back in 2004, but it is worth noting that the Vancouver Province's Jim Jamieson also posited an article stating that the Vancouver Canucks' captain at the time, Markus Naslund, has not been asked to testify in the Bertuzzi-Moore case;
- And I'm still on a different kind of somewhat shaky ground as I am still recovering from a severe depressive episode, and while I know that some of you don't like it when I talk about my mental illnesses, the reason I do so is because many, many more readers have told me, both publicly and privately, that they are glad that there's someone who shares their struggles, and that spreading awareness about mental illnesses makes them feel better.
It turns out that this week is "Mental Health Awareness Week" in Canada, and as such, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke to a very brave man in TSN's Michael Landsberg, who both hosts TSN's Off the Record and openly deals with depression because he wants to raise awareness regarding the concept that mental illnesses are relatively common (1 in 5 people deal with a severe mental illness in their lifetime) and are relatively treatable.
Mental illnesses are the result of chemical imbalances in the brain--so they have physical origins and can usually be treated via a combination of medication, psychiatric and therapeutic aid. They aren't that abnormal and they aren't simply "in one's head."
If you're dealing with a mental illness, or know someone who is, I strongly encourage you to tell someone and seek treatment from a physician, psychiatrist or therapist. Even if you don't think your family will be supportive, or you don't want your family or friends to know, trust me, there is always someone to tell; I'm certainly available via my email and Twitter accounts, and I know for a fact that the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, can both steer your toward treatment and simply offer you someone to talk to at 1-800-950-NAMI.
That'll be that for now, and this morning, it'll be hockey hockey and more hockey, but the "raise awareness" thing isn't something I want to do: it's something I have to do, because it's not me trying to moan about my health. It's about trying to encourage you, your friends, your family and the people you care about to worry about your health, and to take care of your illnesses, regardless of whether they're physical, mental, emotional, or anything else.
Otherwise, head over to Monday's 3rd post for lots of multimedia, or enjoy this advertisement for a fine Precious Roy product:
1. What can the Red Wings do to fill the void left by Nicklas Lidstrom? Lidstrom is a once-in-a-generation player. Teams don't replace those guys. Teams can't replace those guys. They leave a void and, really, the rest of the team just has to deal with it and move on.
Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey have to take the next step in their careers -- do what they do best, only do it better than they have before in Detroit. Kronwall has to go from being second in command on the defense to the one in charge, all the while being a mistake-free defender who still delivers those huge hits.
Brendan Smith has to take a huge step in his development to become a top-six NHL defenseman. Ian White, who played primarily with Lidstrom last season, must find consistency with a new partner.
2. Is Jonathan Ericsson ready for a bigger role? In addition to losing Lidstrom to retirement, the Red Wings lost Brad Stuart to the San Jose Sharks. Ericsson has to step into Stuart's skates and be as reliable and as durable. That means Ericsson is going to have to play more than 20 minutes a game (he's never done it), stay healthy for a full season (he's never done it), and move into a key role on the top PK unit (he's never done it).
Ericsson has shown flashes of brilliance in his NHL career to date. At 28 years old, it's time he takes the next step and becomes the player the Red Wings have long said he could be. He basically has no choice.
3. Can Danny Cleary rebound from a sub-par 2011-12 season? Cleary is known for being one of the most determined players in the game, but at 33 years old and coming off a tough, injury-plagued season, the Red Wings have to be wondering if he's starting down the wrong side of the hill in his playing career. Cleary had 12 goals and 21 assists in 75 games last season after putting up career-highs in goals (26) and points (46) in 68 games two seasons ago. He was shut out in five Stanley Cup Playoff games last season.
The Red Wings could use 20 or more goals from Cleary again to take some of the pressure off Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Detroit lost Jiri Hudler's 50 points, and instead of hoping that Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner can make it up, the Red Wings have to count on Cleary to help bridge the gap. He's certainly capable of getting back to being the player he was two seasons ago.
6. Is Detroit's record run for consecutive postseason appearances in jeopardy? The Red Wings have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 21 straight seasons, an NHL record and the longest current streak in any of the four major professional sports leagues. The past 20 of those playoff berths have come with Lidstrom as a cornerstone defenseman.
The current team, at least on paper, is good enough to keep the streak intact, but there is no denying that for the first time in a long time the Red Wings are vulnerable. Minnesota got better. Dallas got better. Anaheim could be a threat again. Calgary and Colorado both believe they have improved. There will be plenty of competition for Detroit in the Western Conference.
Rosen offers a less than, well, rosy video preview...
The Wings are mentioned at the 1:10 mark of NHL.com's larger Central Division preview video...
Rosen also spoke to Wings coach Mike Babcock and assistant GM Jim Nill about their thoughts on a very young Wings team for his main Wings preview...
"Nick Lidstrom is like a security blanket -- he just makes you feel good," Babcock said. "When he leaves, like when Stevie [Yzerman] left, it makes you uneasy. But what's the matter with change? Embrace it. Get the old adrenaline pumping and let's go."
As scared as he is, Babcock's adrenaline is pumping and his excitement for this season's edition of the Red Wings is high because he wants to see which players will step up and emerge as leaders and go-to guys in the absence of arguably the greatest defenseman in a generation or more.
"We can't replace him. We're not trying to replace him -- his quiet confidence and his ability to coach the coach, to run the team with no ego," Babcock said. "But Henrik Zetterberg, [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Niklas] Kronwall, they're not slouches. They were watching Stevie, and now they got a chance to watch Nick. It's important when you get your turn you embrace it."
Once training camp begins, Babcock's finger will immediately point at Kronwall as the guy on the defensive side who has to take over and be the new No. 1 in front of All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard. Jonas Gustavsson will be Howard's new backup.
Kronwall was a No. 3 until Brian Rafalski retired after the 2010-11 season. He moved up to No. 2 last season, but with Lidstrom now in the front office, the 31-year-old known for his pulverizing body checks will be counted on to be the steadiest of Detroit's defensemen. To help replace Brad Stuart, who is now with San Jose, the Red Wings signed Carlo Colaiacovo to join the defense corps of Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl and rookie Brendan Smith.
"It's their chance now," Wings vice president and assistant general manager Jim Nill told NHL.com.
"These jobs are up for grabs, and you gotta grab a job," Babcock said. "I don't decide. I watch the games and if you're good you play, and if you're not you don't play. I want to win. That's it."
For the first time in 20 seasons, the Red Wings will try to win without Lidstrom. They have the pieces in place to remain a Stanley Cup contender, to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season, but it would appear that Babcock's fears finally have some substance. The Red Wings might finally be vulnerable.
"You gotta get in the tournament at the end, and I'm excited about our group," Babcock said. "But it's like anything, when things change it makes you uneasy."
And NHL.com's Brian Compton focuses on one "X factor" player for each Central Division team, with one banged-up Wing meriting a mention:
Darren Helm, Detroit Red Wings -- Helm is one of the fastest skaters in the League, and the Red Wings know they need him to be healthy and productive in order to win the division. Last season was proof of that -- they went 42-22-4 with Helm and 6-6-2 without him. Detroit couldn't recover from Helm's lacerated forearm suffered in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals and was quickly eliminated by the Nashville Predators.
"This guy is just one of those Energizer bunnies. He keeps on trucking," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "[Helm] walks in and immediately charges up the room. That's how important he is to our team. You know, sometimes as a coach when you lose a guy, the appreciation for that guy goes up."
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