The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/28/14 at 03:52 AM ET
I know that some of you needed to have a good bout of sports-related arguing (I've learned that some sports fans, for better or worse, have more fun debating their opinions as to what a team ought to do than they have watching the team perform; there's absolutely nothing wrong with having a good sports-related argument, but my brain doesn't thrive upon it), and TSN's Scott Cullen's Red Wings off-season game plan allowed you to vent...
But I'm a little more intrigued by the draft combine and the 119 players in attendance (including Claude Lemieux's son) at present. I make it a rule to not get too attached to the concept of the Red Wings drafting any particular prospect given that there's a 1-in-30 chance that the Wings will actually draft them, but the Wings are in a particularly unique position this spring.
Drafting 15th overall in what's supposed to be another "weak draft"--which is either an accurate assessment of a draft year's talent or a code word for, "We don't know how to rank any of these guys after the top five-to-ten prospects"--the Wings may have the chance to snag another Anthony Mantha-type prospect or two.
By suggesting as much, I mean the following: the Wings aren't going to be picking sure-fire superstars, but having the middle-of-the-round pick in both the first round (when there's a 60/40 chance of a player making the NHL) and in rounds 3-7 (the pick sent to Nashville in the David Legwand deal became a second-rounder when the Wings made the playoff cut; yes, I expect the Wings to find a way to snag a 2nd round pick, even if that means "trading down" in the first round, too)...
The Wings end up with a much better chance of picking players who've slipped due to some perceived fault (see: Mantha's defensive game, Riley Sheahan's ability to generate offense, etc.) as opposed to players who are still available at the end of each round due to real faults. That's an advantage and then some over picking 25th to 30th in each round.
On Monday morning, Holland told MLive's Ansar Khan that he may or may not lay the groundwork for some draft-day trades, and he also revealed to Khan that the team's pro scouts will gather to discuss the unrestricted free agents-to-be available at defense, forward, and even in goal from June 2-4th.
On Monday evening, Holland spoke with the Free Press's Helene St. James regarding his plans for the next four days...
“Everyone in the industry is here, top prospects and agents,” Holland said Tuesday. “It’s a good opportunity to interview players, touch base with people.”
The emphasis for teams is usually to gauge a player’s off-ice maturity, as their on-ice exploits are well-recorded by now. The event concludes with fitness tests.
The Wings are all the way up at No. 15 in the first round, the highest they’ve been since 1991, when they used the 10th overall selection on Martin Lapointe. More than two decades worth of making the playoffs, with varying degrees of success, mostly rendered the Wings in the bottom third of first-round selections, and trades for established NHLers cost the Wings first-round picks in a handful of years.
Now, Holland said, the changing landscape has emphasized “drafting and developing from within.”
And St. James tossed off some names that may or may not have originated from Holland himself:
Possible first-round options for the Wings next month include forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Alex Tuch, Kevin Fiala, Dylan Larkin, Robert Fabbri and Sonny Milano. All are among the 119 players invited to the combine.
Holland also discussed the interview process with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
“We’re in a room here, and every 20 minutes or so, another young player comes in and we have an opportunity to interview him and get to know him better,” Holland said.
Holland said Jiri Fischer, director of player development, along with the team’s strength and conditioning coordinators, will oversee the fitness testing.
The Red Wings have the 15th pick in the draft June 27, with rounds 2-7 on June 28.
And Kulfan noted the following regarding the Wings' free agent powwow (the first of several organizational meetings that the Wings will hold during the month of June):
In addition, Holland said he’ll contact representatives for Red Wings unrestricted free agents to let them know their status.
Forwards David Legwand, Daniel Alfredsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson; defenseman Kyle Quincey; and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson are potential unrestricted free agents.
It’s likely Alfredsson, who at 41 could retire, and Gustavsson are the only two of the group the Red Wings would consider bringing back.
Again, the team also has to re-sign restricted free agents Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Danny DeKeyser; the team also plans on trading or buying out Jordin Tootoo, and the team can re-sign or allow 9 RFA's to walk, including Adam Almquist and Cory Emmerton.
I would be very happy to see the Wings bring Alfredsson back, but Mike Babcock's repeatedly stated that he only wants Alfredsson to return if the 41-year-old believes that he can play closer to 82 games than the 68 he played in this past season due to back and groin ailments.
By now you more or less know the free agency story--the Wings will probably pursue Matt Niskanen should the Penguins allow him to hit the free agent marketplace, but the beat writers' gut feelings and my gut feeling are similar in believing that Dan Boyle is a more realistic option--and Sportsnet's Luke Fox happened to mention both players among his "Top 14" free agents-to-be...
11. Dan Boyle
Age on July 1: 37
Team: San Jose Sharks
2013-14 cap hit: $6.67 million
Stay or go? Go
Why he’ll get paid: A smart Stanley Cup champion who is a rock on the point and can still quarterback a power play. Boyle is getting older, but he’s still one of the NHL’s more dependable defencemen and free-agent blueliners who can score 35-plus points a season and log 21 minutes per night are hard to find.
Latest dirt: Sharks GM Doug Wilson announced on May 15 that Boyle and Marty Havlat would not be re-signed by San Jose.
9. Matt Niskanen
Age on July 1: 27
Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
2013-14 cap hit: $2.3 million
Stay or go? Go
Why he’ll get paid: Of all the league’s UFA defencemen, Niskanen racked up the most points (46) in 2013-14. He added another nine in the post-season. He logged more than 20 minutes of ice time and his plus-33 rating is 19 better than Willie Mitchell’s, the runner-up in that category among D-men on the market. Top-four free-agent defencemen under 30 are scarce this summer, which equals a payday for Niskanen, who couldn’t have picked a better season to break out in a big way.
Latest dirt: The belief is Niskanen just priced himself out of Pittsburgh. Expect D-hunting teams such as Edmonton, Colorado and cap-happy Detroit to take a hard look. We could be in for a bidding war.
The whole bidding war thing is why I don't believe the Wings will end up with Niskanen. He's a superb player, but is he worth $7-8 million? I don't believe so, not after having posted 30+ points only twice in his career.
I know that Boyle's lost a step, but his career numbers are far more consistent, and he is really, really, really PISSED OFF about the Sharks letting him go. He turns 38 on July 11th, but I'd be more comfortable with the Wings signing him to a 1-to-2-year deal and utilizing him as a "bridge" between the current top-four and a Wings team in which Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Nick Jensen and Mattias Backman are all in the mix.
I'm not in charge of the team's personnel decisions, so that's just my take...
But I am hoping that somewhere, somebody who might have a hand in Wings personnel decisions reads this and understands why I say OH GOD NO PLEASE NO regarding possibly signing this guy and his wonky knees:
7. Andrei Markov
Age on July 1: 35
Team: Montreal Canadiens
2013-14 cap hit: $5.75 million
Stay or go? Stay
Why he’ll get paid: After injuries robbed the Habs of some of Markov’s best years, the power-play staple has been a beast the last two seasons. In 2013-14, he led the team in plus/minus (+12) and ranked fourth in team scoring (43 points).
Latest dirt: Although re-signing restricted free agent P.K. Subban is of higher priority for GM Marc Bergevin, Markov, too, will hold the upper hand in his negotiations. “I’d like to stay here for the rest of my career,” Markov said back in January, when the two sides reportedly had some preliminary talks. “You can see some players in their 40s who still play. I don’t want to think that far. Whatever is going to happen tomorrow will happen tomorrow.” Bergevin reportedly offered Markov a one-year deal worth more than $6 million mid-season; Markov was looking for a three-year pact.
Fox continues and lists some intriguing possibilities up front, like Jussi Jokinen, and some not-so-intriguing ones as well (I have no interest in Thomas Vanek, for example--I'm convinced that he's the modern-day Ray Sheppard, a great pair of hands attached to very little in the way of game-breaking talent), and he lists some "leftovers," too:
Forwards: Milan Michalek, Benoit Pouliot, Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, Mikhail Grabovski, Brian Gionta, Steve Ott, Daniel Alfredsson, Ales Hemsky, Mason Raymond
I don't believe that the Wings will sign anybody up front, but I can't deny that my ears perk up regarding Steve Ott, though at this point, I'd be fine with the Wings giving Mitchell Callahan a chance instead.
Defence: Marek Zidlicky, Kimmo Timonen, Willie Mitchell, Anton Stralman, Matt Greene, Andrej Meszaros, Stephane Robidas, Sami Salo, Tom Gilbert, Ron Hainsey
As Paul said, there are some intriguingly "flawed" players on the trade market, like Mike Green, but if the Wings are embracing the "youth movement" belatedly, I'm cool with "going with the kids."
At the other end of the spectrum, in the "for the record department," from McKeen's Hockey's Brendan Ross:
I'm sorry, folks, I know that you see Rasmus Bodin standing 6'6" and 207 pounds and hope that he'll come in from the wilderness and become some massive checking forward, but from what I've seen of Bodin, he's done a whole lot of nothing in terms of developing into a promising prospect. As RedWingsCentral suggests, he's not going to cross the pond:
Bodin’s hockey talent doesn’t match his size and his chronic injuries have limited him to just 38 games since the Red Wings drafted him in 2012. Although the Red Wings hoped he’d develop into a Justin Abdelkader type, he hasn’t panned out and will likely finish his career overseas.
Regarding a Swedish prospect with a much brighter future, Mattias Janmark will probably spend at least one more season in Sweden before coming over to begin his North American professional career.
He didn't register a point during his 3 regular season games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and he only had 1 point in 6 playoff games, but he took six shots, and by all accounts, he looked like the savvy playmaker and "heavy" skater he's cracked up to be.
Janmark's Swedish Hockey League team, AIK Stockholm, was relegated to the Allsvenskan--the equivalent of an NHL team being relegated to the AHL--and GT.se's Bjorn Lindsten reports that Janmark, whose contract with AIK expired, is being pursued by nine teams, including the Frolunda Indians.
Here's a rough translation of Lindsten's article--and take note of the gentleman who's helping recruit Janmark to Frolunda:
Mattias Janmark's looking for a new team--and many are showing interest.
"It's about eight teams in the SHL, and Frolunda is one of them," says his agent, Christian Sjogren.
Janmark had a strong season with the bottom-feeding AIK, registering 30 points (18 goals and 12 assists). He continued his season in North America.
The 21-year-old, who was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, played 8 games for the farm team Grand Rapids Griffins before the team was eliminated from the playoffs.
"Mattias did well, the coach was pleased, but he didn't have as much playing time as he'd hoped because several forwards were sent down by Detroit when Mattias was over."
The sojourn in Michigan helped Janmark realize that he needs at least another year in the SHL before he can seriously compete for a spot with Detroit. Therefore, he's seeking a new team.
"We will meet next week and make a decision. It's about which team is able to offer the best mix between what we believe will hel Mattias develop in terms of his game, and salary is also important, it would be hypocritical to say otherwise," says Sjogren.
Eight teams have declared interest thus far. Janmark will visit some of them during this week. He visited Linkopings HC yesterday. GT reports that he will visit Frolunda at the end of the week, and will then take a trip to Jonkoping (HV71).
Frolunda may be in the driver's seat for two reasons.
Their director, Hakan Andersson, is the chief European scout for the Detroit Red Wings, and has frequent contact with Janmark and his agent. He obviously advocates for Frolunda, but also says:
"I am an employee of Detroit, but even if I will help advocate for Frolunda, it's about Mattias, and he should go on his gut feeling."
Frolunda will be able to showcase a team that works well for players who want to go to the NHL with their new venture under coach Roger Ronnberg and GM Christian Lechtaler.
John Klingberg, Tom Nilsson and Alexander Wennberg are three good examples. Janmark, a playmaking center or left wing, is on paper a strong replacement for the latter player.
But Frolunda, which continues to focus on its bottom line, won't be able to offer the best economic conditions.
It remains to be seen whether they can win the SHL game for Janmark.
Regarding three other prospects: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose has declared Xavier Ouellet to be one of the "Wings in Waiting"...
“When hockey people get to know him, coaches get to know him, general managers get to know him, to be around him and scouts get to talk to him, he knows what he wants,” said Jiri Fischer, Detroit’s director of player development. “He wants to be the best and he's doing everything he can. That's why when he turned pro, he was our first call-up. Mike Babcock believed in him.”
Ouellet was drafted by the Red Wings with the 48th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft. The defenseman made his NHL debut last October in Detroit’s 1-0 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. He appeared in three more regular-season games (Nov. 9, Nov. 12 and April 13), notching four shots and earning two penalty minutes. Also, he made his Stanley Cup playoff debut in Game 5 of the Red Wings Round 1 series against Boston.
“He knows that his combination of strength, size and skating,” Fischer said. “Obviously, improving size is pretty tough. You can get a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger and a little bit wider. His skating needs to improve, but thanks to him being so smart on the ice, he doesn't put himself in tough situations. He doesn't put himself in races that he would lose. If there are 50-50 pucks dumped out of the offensive zone he always knows how to be first on the puck. He plays well under pressure.”
“Two years ago, the year after we drafted him, he was runner-up for defenseman of the year in the Quebec Junior League,” Fischer said. “Last year, he had a high-ankle sprain. He missed the whole Subway Super Series. He played in the Canadian (junior team) selection camp in the summer and he just sells himself on character and hockey IQ. He competes on every shift.
“That summer, he impressed Team Canada so much that even though he had a high-ankle sprain, they basically waited for him until halfway through the camp and into the exhibition games before the World Junior started last year. They had him as a top four (defenseman) already.”
Ouellet appeared in 70 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season, earning four goals and 12 assists and a plus-3.
Anthony Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs held their QMJHL championship parade on Monday, and the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo listed "3 Stunning Facts Red Wings Fans Should Know About Top Prospect Anthony Mantha"...
1. In 81 games regular season and playoff games for Val d’Or in the Quebec Major Junior League, Mantha scored 81 goals. In the same league, his last year of juniors, Sidney Crosby had 80 goals in 77 regular season and playoff games.
2. The Red Wings drafted Mantha 20th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. It was a deeper than usual draft, but how Mantha was still there at No.20 is incredible. It’s not like he came out of nowhere this season. He had 50 goals in 67 regular season games the year before. He was grown an inch since he was drafted by the Red Wings, from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-5, at least according to official records.
3. Mantha’s grandfather, Andre Pronovost, played on several Stanley Cup championship teams with Montreal in the 1950s, and played for the Red Wings during the early 1960s.
And Tyler Bertuzzi, whose Guelph Storm finished just short of the Memorial Cup, bade farewell to Guelph for the summer:
I've got some stuff to say about news that occurred on Tuesday, too:
I know that he didn't magically rejuvenate the Wings' power play--which has stank since the Stanley Cup Final in 2009--but the power play tends to get away from people, and I happen to believe that Renney's status as the "good guy" coach the players could go to when the ever-intense bench boss got on their nerves probably extended Babcock's shelf life by several years.
The fact that Babcock had an associate coach with significant experience in the prospect development department from Renney's time with Edmonton seems to have allowed Babcock to embrace the youth movement more enthusiastically, too. I think he's done a fine job coaching, and while the power play remains distinctly "meh," Renney helped far more than he "didn't deliver."
Regarding the Red Wings' equipment sale on Saturday?
1. Find a season ticket-holder if you can and ask if they will give you their invite if they're not going. If you want to get your hands on the high-profile stuff, like a Jimmy Howard glove and blocker, you want to take part in the season ticket-holder pre-sale.
2. Please understand that while you will be able to get sticks, gloves and stuff like books and autographs for very solid prices...
A) The Wings offload a significant amount of "stuff" to their in-rink Hockeytown Authentics over the course of the regular season, so the end-of-season equipment sale isn't the kind of motherlode of full sets of equipment that it used to be;
B) If you're going to buy skates to use them, ask if you can try them on, because their skates cost $300+, and at that price, you might as well buy last year's model on clearance at your local hockey shop, properly-fitted to your feet;
C) Expect things like game-worn jerseys and used (and smelly) equipment bags to cost umpteen billion dollars, or nearly so. Those warm-up jerseys worn on Lidstrom night are gonna cost $1,000-2,500 (from Quincey to Datsyuk, as it were), and the playoff jerseys' double-stitched and zig-zag-across-the-number-stitched jerseys are things of beauty, but the jerseys are the marquee get-em-in-the-door items, and they're priced to drop your jaws to the floor.
My friend Courtney snagged a Callahan prospect tournament jersey a couple of years ago, and while the prospect tournament jerseys rarely offer the numbers that the players will eventually don when they're no longer #68 or #72, they're an affordable way of getting your hands on your favorite prospect's game-worn duds for an honest-to-goodness reasonable price;
And things like gently-used gloves and grinders' sticks are sold at very affordable prices. If you happen to like Drew Miller's heel curve or you want to find out whether the CCM Tacks sticks that Glendeing, Jurco, Sheahan, Tatar, Helm and even Datsyuk are all they're cracked up to be, or whether they're just painted Reebok Ribcors, this is the time to get your hands on sticks, fool around with them (gently) and to see if you can find a practice stick or prototype (this is the time of year that you'll find out that the CCM rep gave Johan Franzen a few sticks, that Pavel Datsyuk has tried Easton twigs, and that Henrik Zetterberg's probably tried a Bauer) that you might want to use for yourself.
As for the equpiment bags, you can buy a new, custom-made equipment bag from Warrior, Brian's or Vaughn for a cheapear amount than the $400-600 that the Wings charge for banged-up "official" equipment bags. Those bags have little to no collector's value as they're usually worn out from being stuffed to the gills and then flown in the cargo hold of Red Bird III over and over and over again, they're smelly, and if you have no use for them, they're just going to take up space.
You WILL want to check out the books and pucks as you will be able to get an autographed something for a reasonable price if you've got $50+ to spend, and if you look through the books, sometimes an autographed copy has slipped through the cracks. You're allowed to not tell the cashier that there's a Z with a flourish and a #40 in the $20 book or a D and a #13 in the $30 commemorative if you don't want to.
That, and if you miss the sale, I promise you that at least 10-15% of what's bought will show up on eBay within ten days. Some sellers ask ridiculous prices, but you'd be surprised how many just want to make $30 or $40 off something that cost them $150 to buy, and that's really a reasonable premium to pay if you don't want to burn gas and stand in line.
Otherwise...Michigan Hockey posted its latest issue online...
And I get a significant amount of questions regarding autographs, and I tend to suggest that people avoid eBay unless somebody is selling something with a Hockeytown Authentics certificate or is selling some sort of pre-signed premium hockey card.
I am VERY wary of 8-by-11's, pucks and hockey cards that were supposedly signed by players, and there is no reason to spend $250 on a vintage 1998 Sher-Wood stick somebody bought on clearance for $15 because it may or may not have a hastily-scribbled Datsyuk on it.
If you are in the market for something "authentic," it is worth and extra $20 or $30 to get a really nice picture or stick or jersey that you might want to show to your friends or get framed with a real signature than it is to spend $25 or $30 for something that was hastily-signed or possibly forged. There are so many fakes out there for every real autograph that it's silly, so do your homework and make sure that some certificate of authenticity comes with what you're buying.
Some players are starting up memorabilia stores through their official websites, too, like this guy:
Pavel's prices are market value--reasonable, nothing more and nothing less than anyone else is asking you to pay. When looking for memorabilia, you always want to get as much bang for your buck as possible, but it is always worth paying more to get the real deal.
The same is true for framing and jersey customization. My ONLY "jersey foul" involves spending $20 to get a crappily heat-sealed name and number on the back of a $150-300 jersey. NHL.com does not do good customizing at all, and Hockeytown Authentics is going to give you a jersey with a number smaller than official "jersey size" so that it fits on your back better. Detroit Athletic, Fanatic U, IceJerseys, they do the real deal, and the real deal is worth another $20-40. When you're buying memorabilia, it's an investment in yourself, so don't be cheap just to save a few bucks that you might regret down the line.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.