The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/31/13 at 03:57 AM ET
This was supposed to be part of the Red Wings-Blackhawks set-up, but the entry took up too much bandwidth, so one must think on one's feet, even at 4 AM.
Amongst this morning's Red Wings-related topics:
Regarding the trade deadline: Ken Holland followed up his conversation with NHL.com's Brian Hedger regarding the trade deadline by stating unequivocally to the Free Press's Helene St. James that the Wings will not trade their 1st round pick in this year's draft, nor will they go the "rental"route.
Will the Wings' management, pro and amateur scouts bunker down at the Joe, kick every tire and attempt to find players that will improve their team?
Yep. But they're not going to sell the barn to buy a horse, nor are they going to screw themselves cap-wise going forward for the sake of making a deadline splash--and landing DeKeyser is a huge contributing factor to that equation, as did the Wings' 2-for-3 and 3-for-4 road trips through Western Canada and the Western U.S. proved that this team is gelling together pretty nicely during what is admittedly a rebuilding and-or-transitional year:
"I'm OK where we're at," Holland said. "Especially considering 20% of (the) roster has been out. And I'm not doing any rentals for fifth or sixth defensemen, or fourth-line players. If we can get a real player, a top-six forward or a top-four defenseman, at a price we can live with, who wouldn't do that? But I'm not doing any rentals."
A realistic look at this Wings team makes it hard to think this is their year to win the Stanley Cup. Never mind that the final hurdle could be a Pittsburgh team that just reeled in Jarome Iginla; in all likelihood, the path out of the West would mean going through Chicago and facing as good a defense as there is in the NHL. The Wings aren't elite, not like the Penguins, Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings. But they are a good team with a lot of young players who bode well for future success. But this isn't a year to sell the farm for a shot at the Cup.
"We're trying to make the playoffs but at the same time rebuild the team," Holland said. "I like our depth up front. We're set in goal. We're younger on defense. We have to be patient."
Why yes, Dr. Scratch and Sniff, the Wings do see Bertuzzi, Helm, Samuelsson, Quincey and Colaiacovo returning like "adding players at the deadline":
"If we wake up and have Bert, Sammy, Quincey and Helm in a couple of weeks," Holland said, "there's not a move I could make that would be much better than that."
What about Bouwmeester, who the Satellite Hotstove suggested that the Wings still have interest in? Money. $6.67 million worth of a cap hit. And compensation. And the fact that the team now has...Uh...eight healthy defensemen on the roster, including some pleasant surprises:
There's less concern about the defense than at the start of the season, too, thanks to the transformation of Jakub Kindl. Ditto for Brian Lashoff, who has segued from minor league call-up to 5-on-3 penalty killer.
As St. James wisely states, the Wings aren't just worried about selling the barn to buy a horse. They're also worried about selling the stable:
Gustav Nyquist has at least a 10-year career NHL career ahead of him. So does prospect Riley Sheahan. The Wings don't want to relinquish those guys. Valtteri Filppula might appear to be trade bait, but the Wings would rather get him signed to an extension, all the more so to offset the high probability Pavel Datsyuk goes back to Russia when his contract expires at the end of next season.
Holland's message to his players at the start of the season was "get in, and anything can happen." Now that it looks like the Wings will make the playoffs for a 22nd straight season, Holland may well decide to see what this group can make happen.
While DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned an article about the state of the Wings' blueline given Danny DeKeyser's addition, this seems more appropriately-slated for trade deadline talk:
“When training camp started in September, we weren’t really sure on Brian Lashoff,” [Ken Holland] said. “All of a sudden through injuries he gets an opportunity and has done a great job. Brendan Smith, we knew was going to be on the team, but he’s getting better all the time. Certainly, Jakub Kindl’s been a great story for us. He’s a guy that’s paid his dues and with Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski and (Brad) Stuart and (Niklas) Kronwall and (Jonathan) Ericsson he really hasn’t had much of an opportunity. Now with opportunity he’s taken it and run.”
DeKeyser, who played the last three seasons at Western Michigan University, adds more depth to the Red Wings’ blue line that already features Kyle Quincey, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ericsson, Kornwall, Kindl, Smith and Lashoff.
Colaiacovo, who missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, is currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning assignment, and Kent Huskins was traded to Philadelphia on Saturday, thus making room for DeKeyser on the 23-man roster.
“Getting Danny is a real good deal for us, but we’ve got Lash, and we’ve got Smitty, and Kindl’s a kid too,” Babcock said. “It’s not like Kronwall and E and these guys are old either. Quinc isn’t old, so it’s a real good situation for our team.”
It’s not just the current roster, either, that that the Red Wings are excited about. Detroit holds the rights to several other top defensemen around the world, including St. Cloud State junior Nick Jensen, a fifth-round pick in 2009, who was named WCHA defenseman of the year in a vote of 12 league coaches.
“One of the best defensemen of the Quebec Junior League is Xavier Ouellet, the leading scoring defenseman in the OHL is Ryan Sproul,” Holland said. “We’ve got a couple guys in Europe, (Alexei) Marchenko and (Mattias) Backman, so, it appears we’ve got some defensemen on the horizon and we’ve got some young guys on the team.”
Regarding Danny DeKeyser and the Wings' defense: First and foremost, according to Capgeek.com, DeKeyser's cap hit is $1.35 million for this season and the next, NOT $3.75 million. DeKeyser got a $92,500 signing bonus, he'll be paid a pro-rated $925,000 this year and a full $925,000 next year, and if he spends time in the AHL, his salary will be $70,000 at that level of play. He can also earn $825,000 in performance bonuses next season.
Second, the Wings' website posted a 6-minute video of DeKeyser speaking to the press, and it pretty much covers what you're about to read:
The Free Press's Carlos Monarrez posted a video of DeKeyser's comments--and Nicklas Lidstrom's, too:
If a total of 10 minutes' worth of footage--Wings coach Mike Babcock's off-day presser not included--is a little too much to sit through,
here's Monarrez's article on the Clay Township, MI and Warren De La Salle graduate and intends-to-finish-his-degree in criminal justice and public relations Western Michigan student DeKeyser, who does indeed pronounce his name "duh-KAI-ser," like a Kaiser roll:
DeKeyser, 23, wore No. 65 and was paired with Kyle Quincey. By all accounts he looked comfortable on the ice, even while skating with some of his boyhood favorites like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
"I definitely grew up as a big Wings fan," DeKeyser said. "Getting to play for your hometown team is something pretty special, so it's a definitely a good opportunity for me."
DeKeyser, a 6-foot-3 undrafted but coveted free agent, was courted by a dozen teams. His decision wasn't easy, but he liked the Wings' organization and said it helped that his parents, who live in Clay Township, could see him play regularly.
"Yeah, it was tough," said DeKeyser. "I could have picked reasons for going to any of those teams. But ultimately, in the end, I thought this was the best decision for me."
For most of his career, DeKeyser wore No. 5 in tribute to his favorite player, Nicklas Lidstrom. DeKeyser said Lidstrom helped sway his decision, and Saturday he got to meet his idol when Lidstrom made a rare appearance at practice.
"He called me the other day when I was going through the decision process and talked to me for a few minutes," DeKeyser said. "I got to meet him here today, so it was pretty special."
DeKesyer was a little wowed by the fact that Nicklas Lidstrom gave him a recruiting call, as he told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“He called me the other day when I was going through the decision process and talked to me for a few minutes,” DeKeyser said after taking part in his first practice with the Wings Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. “Then I got to meet him here today. So it was pretty special. That helped in my decision definitely. He just told me about the organization and how special of a place it is to play,” DeKeyser added. “They have a great management team and a locker room full of great guys. He said it would be a fun place to play so I took his word for it.”
Lidstrom said the call seemed to take DeKeyser by surprise.
“Kenny (Holland) handed him the phone and told him it was me,” Lidstrom recalled. “We had a good little chat. I just told him about the positive things I’ve seen and learned over the years here with the team. I don’t think he was ready for my call,” Lidstrom continued. “I don’t think he was expecting me to call him. It was more listening to what I had to say. He had a lot of teams that were asking for him and had meetings with a lot of teams so I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for him. We’re very happy to have him here.”
Lidstrom is in town for a few days before a family vacation to Florida.
And the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reports that DeKeyser's sitting between Brendan Smith and Drew Miller in the Wings' locker room, and DeKeyser's very happy with his decision to sign with the Wings for more than reasons simply related to hometown pride:
"It was tough. I could have picked a reason to go to any of those teams. But, ultimately, in the end, I thought this was the best choice for me. I just looked at some of the best places for me to play, what they had on the blue line and that kind of thing. I thought I would fit in well here because there's young guys and a good group of veterans."
The learning curve for NHL defensemen can be long. But some who have seen DeKeyser play believe he is ready now. Ken Holland, the Wings' general manager, and coach Mike Babcock suggested DeKeyser is likely to remain up in the NHL with the parent club for most, if not all, of the current season, while they watch his development and the decision is made on when to play him. DeKeyser will not dress Sunday against the Blackhawks.
"He hasn't practiced since Tuesday, so that will take him a little bit," Babcock said Saturday. "He'll watch tomorrow, and we'll probably put him in warmup tomorrow and then just go from there. It's hard when you're a player, you play every day and you get one day off per week, and all of a sudden you haven't played for a while. So, take care of that and then, the determining factor? That's what they pay me to decide."
DeKeyser sounds eager to go, and content to put first things first.
"It's going to be a fun place to play, and whenever I get my first chance, it'll be fun to play in front of the family," he said.
He grew up in Macomb Township, but his family now lives in Clay Township.
"I always came to a few Red Wings games every year, three or four a season, some playoff games," DeKeyser said. "It's definitely different stepping into the locker room when there's (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Johan) Franzen, guys like that who I grew up watching, who I always idolized."
DetroitRedWings.com's Roose took note of the team's "master plan" for DeKeyser...
“I think we’re going to keep him here for basically the whole year,” Holland said. “Now that doesn’t mean you can’t send him down for a day or two.”
DeKeyser grew-up in Macomb, where he was a huge Nicklas Lidstrom fan, and eventually graduated from De La Salle Collegiate, an all-boys Catholic high school in neighboring Warren, in 2008. Out of respect for his boyhood idol, DeKeyser wore No. 5 at WMU. But with that number out of circulation he will wear No. 65, as he did for his first practice with his new teammates Saturday.
“It was good. I hadn’t skated in a few days so I’m trying to get my legs back underneath me. It was a good skate, good tempo,” he said. “I just need to get adjusted to the next level. Guys a little bit bigger and stronger and quicker so that’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment there for me, but I think I can come in here and be fine. I want to be a big part of the team here. I just have to work hard and that’s all I can do then we’ll see what happens from there.”
As well as Nicklas Lidstrom's endorsement of DeKeyser's form, at least from a first-glance perspective:
“He's a very good skater. He looked confident out there,” Lidstrom said. “I'm sure he was nervous on the inside coming out and skating for the first time with the guys. He looked confident, looks like he's a good puck-moving defenseman.”
“We had a good little chat,” Lidstrom said. “I just told him about the positive things I've seen and learned over the years here with the team. … He's coming to a very good organization, very committed organization, a team that wants to win, ownership that wants to win. He's from the area, so I'm sure he's very excited about playing here in front of his family.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock likes what he's seen from watching the 6'3," 200-pound defenseman "lots" while he played at Western Michigan University, as he told MLive's Ansar Khan...
“I like that he’s a real good defender,'' Babcock said. “He skates good, seems to pass the puck real well. He’s obviously good. At his level he’s been a dominant player for the last two years, and we’re excited to have him.''
“You see a guy play at one level and he’s a dominant player,'' Babcock said. “Now he’s got to be able to turn that into being a dominant player at this level. The other thing about it is we started the year with no depth on D and then suddenly we’ve got all of these guys on D, which is a positive thing.''DeKeyser signed his contract before practice. General manager Ken Holland said it usually takes 24 hours for the league to look it over, particularly the bonuses, and approve it.
“Once it’s approved, then he’s either got to go on our 23-man roster or go on the Grand Rapids roster,'' Holland said. I think we’re going to keep him here for basically the whole year. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t send him down for a day or two. As of midnight on Tuesday, there is no 23-man roster (limit, a prelude to Wednesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline).''
And the Wings' current players believe that DeKeyser will do just fine...
Niklas Kronwall, the leader of the defense, offered some advice.
“Right now, don't think too much, just go out and play, have fun, enjoy it,'' Kronwall said. “He seems like a good guy. I've heard a lot of good things about him. For a guy like that who comes in, just do his thing and he'll be fine, and we'll be able to use him pretty soon.''
As they also told NHL.com's Brian Hedger:
"I think it looks pretty good for us in the future," Kronwall said. "You can't [replace] guys like Lidstrom. He's one of a kind. What we can do is try to get as much depth as possible and do it together instead."
"I think it's always a priority to have good defense," Holland said. "Obviously we've had a guy [Lidstrom] who was a cornerstone for 20 years and we knew we had to overhaul. I think we're in a good position because we've got a lot of competition. We're going to have to make some decisions on defense heading into the summer, but the young kids have really stated a case and allowed us to have some depth."
DeKeyser enters that mix after carefully assessing the situation in Detroit with his agent.
"I just looked at what some of the best places would be for me to play and what they had on the blue line and where I would fit in," DeKeyser said. "Here there are quite a few young guys and a good group of veterans. I thought it would be a good fit for me. They have [Smith], [Kindl] and other guys that are good players and will be around for a while, so I thought it would be something to be a part of that, as well."
In other words, Detroit's' future looks bright on the back end, with a group of players and prospects that features big bodies, good skating, puck-moving ability and more grit than usual for the Red Wings.
"Me, [Smith] and Kindl all played together in Grand Rapids a little bit and have known each other for a while now," said Lashoff, whom Holland quickly signed to a contract extension after he started playing regularly. "It's good to be together from the start and just grow into something big. Obviously to get [DeKeyser] here is huge. From what I've heard he's a really good player and that will also be good for us going forward."
Or, as Kronwall told the Detroit News's Krupa, the Wings' blueline is finally starting to rebound:
"I think it's looking pretty good," said the leader of the new, younger and bigger defense, Niklas Kronwall. "We got a chance to see guys like Lash and, now, DeKeyser also, that maybe in a regular year we wouldn't have seen," Kronwall said. "So I think it looks pretty good for us into the future. There's no doubt: You can't find guys like Lidstrom anywhere. He's one of a kind. But what you can do is try to have as much depth as possible, and then do it together, instead."
And there may be more help down on the farm.
"You know, the WCHA Defenseman of the Year is a draft choice of ours, Nick Jensen," said Wings general manager Ken Holland, who was obviously pleased to have DeKeyser on the roster. One of the best defensemen in the Quebec junior league is Xavier Ouellet," who also is the property of the Red Wings and poised to turn professional next season.
"I think the leading scorer in the OHL is Ryan Sproul," another Wings prospect on defense. "We've had a guy who was a cornerstone for 20 years, and we knew we had to overhaul. But when we look at our roster and see that Nick Kronwall's in his 30s and that everybody, you know, (Carlo) Colaiacovo and (Ian) White, Lashoff, (Jonathan) Ericsson and (Kyle) Quincey, they're all in their 20s."
Every qualified observer forecasts considerable movement among the NHL rosters either before the trade deadline, or this offseason. There is a new, lower salary cap next season and some inducements in the new collective bargaining agreement for franchises to move a couple of big salaries before those individual contracts expire.
The Red Wings currently sit in playoff position, having won crucial games on the road over the past three weeks. They have largely retooled their defense, with the possibility of making a big acquisition along the blue line, and then using money under the cap and their opportunities via free agency to add scoring depth upfront. There is still some angst about the future. But certainly less than at the start of the season.
"I think we're in a good position," Holland said. "Because we've got a lot of competition, we're going to have to make some decisions on defense, heading into the summer. But the young kids have really stated a case, and allowed us to have some depth."
Maybe that's the point--the Wings' defense doesn't have Lidstrom anymore, but between Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff, Brendan Smith, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo and now DeKeyser, the team's nine-deep, and probably looking to cut ties with White and Colaiacovo down the line to make room for the "kids" to play more regularly--if not considering moving one of the "kids"if the team lands a real top-pair defenseman this summer.
Kent Huskins was the Wings' #4 defenseman in early February. He's no longer needed, and that tells you more than enough about how far the Wings' blueline has come in terms of growing from within.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
As the Windsor Star's Bob Duff noted, Brett Lebda is currently playing for the AHL's Binghamton Senators;
Oh, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch, always trying to start shit:
There haven't been any contract talks between the Wings and goalie Jimmy Howard in the past 10 days. He is making $2.25 million and is willing to take less to stay with Detroit, but there's a bridge to gap to get a deal done. Howard won't be dealt but there are no guarantees he'll be back in Detroit next year.
Oh bullshit. The Wings want to keep him and he wants to stay. He'll re-sign and he'll get his $5 million a year. The end.
Hooked on Hockey Magazine's Kevin Sporka had a conversation with Lidstrom that's must-read Twitter material:
Huh, that's what I've been saying, but Lidstrom knows much, much better than I do.
And Pavel Datsyuk signed autographs at DC Sports on Saturday, and I highly recommend checking out his Twitter page as he re-Tweeted his fans' pictures from the event. It's pretty cool to see Datsyuk thank his fans for their time and business in this instance.
In the prospect department, at the NCAA regionals, Nick Jensen registered an assist as Saint Cloud State University defeated the University of Notre Dame 5-1, with the SCSU Huskies advancing to the NCAA semifinals. They'll battle for a place in the Frozen Four when they face Miami of Ohio today at 4 PM (on ESPNU) at Toledo's Huntington Center.
In playoff hockey on the other side of the pond, Mattias Backman scored the 1-0 goal and played 20:56 in Linkopings HC's 3-2 OT loss to Skelleftea AIK. The Swedish Eliteserien semifinal is tied 1-1;
In the OHL, first and foremost, I got something wrong! Ryan Sproul and the Soo Greyhounds' 5-3 loss to Owen Sound on Friday night gave Owen Sound a 3-2 lead, not a series win. The Soo will play for its playoff life tonight in Sault Ste. Marie;
Alan Quine scored a goal in the Belleville Bulls' 5-0 win over the Mississauga Steelheads, giving Belleville a 3-2 series lead in what Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager duly notes has been a "homer" series-and-a-half;
In playoff hockey on the west coast, James DeHaas scored the salt-away goal as the Penticton Vees defeated West Kelowna 5-1, taking a 2-0 lead in the second-round BCHL series;
In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye's first-round playoff series against the Cincinnati Cyclones will begin on Thursday, April 4th at the Huntington Center;
In regular season hockey in the USHL, Mike McKee didn't play in the Lincoln Stars' 3-2 win over Sioux City on Friday, but he did play in the team's 2-1 win over Sioux Falls, registering neither point nor penalty. I scoured the web for news but could not find out whether the Stars' captain was injured or was stil being benched for undisciplined play;
And we'll end where we usually begin, discussing the Grand Rapids Griffins' fortunes. The Griffins dropped a 3-1 decision to the Texas Stars on Saturday night, playing their 3rd game in 3 nights. Carlo Colaiacovo didn't register a point and now Calle Jarnkrok's gone without a point in 3 AHL games, and the Grand Rapids Griffins' website provides a recap (and a photo gallery):
Despite peppering the Texas Stars’ net with 43 shots, the Grand Rapids Griffins only managed one goal in a 3-1 loss on Saturday at the Cedar Park Center. After taking an initial 1-0 lead, the Griffins surrendered three unanswered goals to the Stars en route to their 3-1 victory. Goaltender Jack Campbell recorded 42 saves in Texas’ win.
Jan Mursak put Grand Rapids (38-23-3-3) on the scoreboard first at 14:16 of the first period. The right wing walked into the left wing corner and made a quick spin towards the net, tucking his shot inside the right hand corner of the net on a sharp angle.
Texas (39-17-5-6) tied the game at one just over one minute later. The initial shot by the Stars was blocked by Brennan Evans, but the rebound bounced right to Justin Dowling in the slot 12 feet away from the net. Dowling fired it home to tie the game at 15:43.
The Stars took a one-goal lead at 19:52 of the first period. Travis Morin took a centering pass from Colton Sceviour and tipped it home past Petr Mrazek with only eight seconds left in the period.
In a scoreless second period, the Griffins recorded 17 shots on net while the Stars tallied 15.
Matt Fraser gave Texas a two-goal lead on a power play goal at 13:37 of the final period. Travis Morin kept the puck alive in the left point area and swept the puck to Fraser, who snuck his shot inside the left goal past Mrazek. The score was the left wing’s AHL-leading 33rd goal of the season.
Mrazek stopped 32 of 35 shots in the loss as Campbell earned the victory behind 42 saves.
The Griffins will continue their road game stand as they travel back to Houston to face the Aeros on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. EDT.
The Stars' website posted a recap, and SendtoNews.com posted a highlight clip from the game:
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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.