The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/07/13 at 11:31 PM ET
The hockey blogger's rules for a "slow day" involve, "Don't look around too much, or you'll find more than enough to keep you busy." I should have listened to that rule, because I ended up finding a decent crop of Wings-related and plain old interesting stuff, and spent three hours doing so.
Saturday marked the second anniversary of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy, and as Lokomotiv's owned by JSC Russian Railways, the owner/operator of the Russian railroads, the company spared no expense to build a memorial to the 37 players and coaches lost two years ago.
The result is nothing less than a staggeringly beautiful set of memorials outside "Arena 2000" in Yaroslavl. Sportbox.ru's Elena Russo posited a photo gallery of the memorial, whose new anchor is a steel sculpture made out of 37 hockey sticks, designed to very specifically look like a bird taking flight.
Both images from Sportbox.ru and Elena Russo
It's only a small part of a much larger memorial plaza which includes a bronze bell inscribed with the names of the players and coaches, faux gravestones to serve as individual memorials, and a sort of "wall of memory." The images are staggeringly beautiful and sad at the same time.
Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak and KHL president Alexander Medvedev spoke at the dedication of the new memorial.
The Red Wings and Pavel Datsyuk remembered the passing of Brad McCrimmon, Ruslan Salei and Stefan Liv...
And the Sporting News re-published one of Craig Custance's last articles for the website before he moved to ESPN, discussing his memories of Brad McCrimmon as Custance covered the Atlanta Thrashers for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and the Sporting News before the team departed for Winnipeg.
Custance recalls his first interview with the gruff McCrimmon, which he says is permanently saved on his home computer, and he framed his recollections in what was the "present moment"--when the news hit Metro Detroit and a pre-training camp-practicing Red Wings team:
Joe Louis Arena, where McCrimmon last coached in the NHL as a Detroit Red Wings assistant under Mike Babcock for the previous three seasons, was somber on Wednesday. It’s also the building where McCrimmon helped break in a young Nicklas Lidstrom. McCrimmon was the first regular NHL defensive partner for the future Hall of Famer. In all, McCrimmon played in 1,222 NHL games as a physical stay-at-home defenseman, finishing an astonishing plus-444.
“He was my partner every game my first year,” Lidstrom said on Wednesday. “He was that steady defenseman who stayed home all the time. He protected me in certain situations too when things got a little too heated. He was a great partner to have.”
It wasn’t just Lidstrom. McCrimmon partnered with a young Chris Pronger during Pronger’s first season with the Hartford Whalers and also helped break in a young Gary Suter with the Calgary Flames. NHL coaches tended to pair McCrimmon with their young defensemen because they knew he’d take care of them.
He was coaching long before he ever got the title.
So I played the audio of McCrimmon sharing his coaching philosophy, one he was testing in Russia.
“Coaching is about a belief system,” McCrimmon said that afternoon in Georgia. “My belief system was instilled in me when I was about four or five years old. My belief system hasn’t changed a whole lot. My belief in what makes players and teams hasn’t really changed a whole lot. Those are just facts of life.”
He formed that system growing up and working on a Saskatchewan grain and beef farm. His father Byron played for the Saskatoon Quakers and shaped McCrimmon into the man and hockey player we all got to know and respect.
Changing perspective in a big way but sticking with a Russian theme, I actually found a follow-up story about the burglary at Pavel Datsyuk's apartment in Yekaterinburg via the Czech newspaper iSport. That story sent me to Sovetsky Sport, where Dmitry Nesterov spoke to a friend of Datsyuk's named Alex about the incident (and what follows is roughly-translated):
Pavel Datsyuk's friend Alexei, who recently came to Sovetsky Sport's offices with the hockey player during the Kharlamov Trophy awards ceremony, shared details about the player's apartment's robbery.
"As far as we know, it wasn't just Pavel's apartment [that was robbed], said Alexei. "Most likely, the thieves just watched which apartments weren't lit during the evenings, and chose to go there at those times. As a result, several neighboring apartments were robbed. As far as I know, nothing very valuable was taken. The awards, medals and Cups, Pavel stores them in America, they're very dear to him. The apartment was flipped upside down, that's what was frustrating. Pavel was just about to get on the plane to go home, and here was this aggravation. I don't think the thieves knew who they robbed. And it's not impossible that when they see something [about the robbery], their heads might clear. They can just apologize and return everything."
Also from Europe, albeit a little more briefly: DRW Prospects on Twitter noted that Mattias Janmark (he's apparently dropped the "Nylen") scored a goal and added an assist in AIK Stockholm's win over SSK, and he told Marie Hallman that he's rounding into form after playing in the Czech Games for Sweden, and that he's looking forward to playing on AIK Stockholm's top line, alongside Teemu Ramstedt and Bjorn Melin.
In Southern Sweden, Helsingborgs Dagblad's Linus Andersson reports that 38-year-old Andreas Lilja is having a difficult time adjusting to the Swedish Allsvenskan and big ice again after ending his NHL career to go back and captain his hometown team, but Lilja insists that he'll be rounding into form sooner than later, too...
And in the multimedia department, HockeySverige's Uffe Bodin is fantastic at finding good YouTube videos as well as reporting about hockey, and he discovered a video documentary about the Red Wings' 1997-98 season today. The video's 56 minutes long!
In terms of activities taking place here in Traverse City, the Red Wings' prospects hope to clinch the Howe Division title and a berth in the prospect tournament final--a title they've never won--tonight when they face the St. Louis Blues at 7 (they practice at 11:30), and as the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau notes (and as many have said, if you're not following her on Twitter or following the Red Wings Camps' official Twitter account, you're missing out, big time), today is an important day in terms of remembering another fallen member of the Red Wings' family:
Here's her article about today's activities...
Organizers of the 2013 NHL Prospects Tournament and Detroit Red Wings training camp in conjunction with the Toledo Walleye Boosters Club have designated September 8, 2013 as the second annual ‘Bryan Rufenach day’. A portion of the proceeds of all ticket sales will benefit the Bryan Rufenach Just Skills Camp. The annual camp, based out of Lindsay Ontario and run by the Rufenach family, just completed its second year with over 70 participants between the ages of 7 and 12. Donations will help fund ice time and other costs associated with the five day camp and allow free participation to local hockey players.
Bryan Rufenach, who passed away tragically in the summer of 2012 while traveling through Europe, was a 23-year-old defenseman for the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) and the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL). He was also a 2007 seventh round draft selection of the Red Wings and played in the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament. During his last professional season, Rufenach collected 13 goals and 33 points in 54 games with Toledo. The Lindsay, Ontario native had previously spent four seasons with Clarkson University where he tallied 21 goals and 55 points over his collegiate career.
In addition to the ticket proceeds, the Toledo Walleye Booster Club will be on hand to raffle off several prizes including an autographed photo of Bryan on Military Appreciation Night. The NHL prospects games slated for that day include Minnesota vs. Dallas (3:00 pm), Carolina vs. Buffalo (3:30 pm), Columbus vs. New York (6:30 pm) and Detroit vs. St. Louis (7:00 pm). The Rufenach family is schedule to attend the even and a moment of silence will be observed in Rufenach’s honor.
Lindenau also penned an article about Wings prospect Anthony Mantha:
“The pace out there is fast,” Mantha said. “The guys are fast and the execution is also fast so the first period of the first game I was trying to get used to it. Then as the second and third period went by, I was in the game and I think it went pretty well.”
“The camp in June helped me to understand what it takes to be a Red Wing,” he said. “I learned what I need to do to get better. It made me realize I need to work harder to make it to the next level.”
With two important games left in the tournament, Mantha is trying to remain focused on helping the Red Wings win their first ever championship. But he can’t help but be excited about participating in his first professional training camp next week.
“I am really looking forward to practicing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg,” he said. “They are the best players in the league and I think I can learn a lot just by watching them. We have our last two games to play, but I can’t wait for next week.”
Mantha, who is planning to use training camp as another learning experience, hopes to impress the Red Wings brass enough to get a long look and maybe earn an exhibition game.
“I wanted to come to training camp with the mentality of trying to make the team this year because if you come with negative thinking you definitely can’t make the team,” he said. “If it’s not this year, I will come back next year with the same thinking even if I play one, two or three years in the AHL. They develop their guys well, so I am sure I will play for the Red Wings one day when they think I am ready.”
In the fantasy hockey vein, CBS Sports' Peter Maingot penned an "Atlantic Division draft preview," and yes, the Wings belong to an oddly-named division...
Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen - Stephen Weiss - Daniel Alfredsson
Gustav Nyquist - Joakim Andersson - Mikael Samuelsson /Dan Cleary
Johan Franzen (31 points in 41 games last year) stands to be the only player that could suffer as a result of the addition of Daniel Alfredsson, unless Alfredsson plays on the point on the first power play - a spot he has often frequented over his 17 seasons. While Alfredsson's addition has caused quite a stir in Ottawa, he clearly is no longer in his prime. Alfie only has a combined 111 points over his last three seasons covering 176 games, a 52-point pace. He had a modest 26 points in 47 games last season, 59 points in 75 games in 2011-12 and 31 points in 54 games in 2010-11. While he can show bursts of his former form, such as his 10 points in 10 playoff games last spring, he's going to be 40 years old this season and he'll be trying to play a full 82 game season instead of last year's 48 game season. That's 35 more games than the 47 games he played in last year. One could argue that fellow free agent addition Stephen Weiss should have a bigger impact on the team's regular season. Why? The addition of a legitimate No.2 center in the 30-year-old former Panther Weiss allows the Wings to put their best two players together in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Adding the imposing Abdelkader to the top unit should make things more stress free for the dynamic duo. A second line with Weiss along with Alfredsson and Franzen has the makings of a very effective unit. While Weiss had a forgettable injury plagued 2012-13 campaign he's been a 60-point player twice over the past four years with a 57-point average over the four-year period. Weiss is also responsible in his own end. Despite playing for a woeful Panthers squad for his entire 11-year and 654-game career, he's only a minus-17.
The Wings should have a quick and relatively dangerous third line, possibly comprised of a trio of Swedish nationals. Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson are locks for the third line, but the third Swede Mikael Samuelsson is no sure thing with his injury issues. Once believed to be a compliance buyout candidate, Samuelsson missed most of last season appearing in just four games. While he's scored 14 goals or bettering six of the previous seven seasons before his lost lockout year, Samuelsson will be 37 in December and carries a $3 million cap hit. Dan Cleary is the more compelling option at right wing but the team has no cap room to re-sign him currently. If they can unload either Jordan Tootoo and/or Cory Emmerton, they'd have the cap room to bring back Cleary. Reports out of Detroit continue to insist that Cleary will be re-signed. The other way to clear cap space is by putting Samuelsson or Todd Bertuzzi and/or Darren Helm on the long-term-injury reserve list. While Cleary managed only nine goals in a truncated 48-game season last year, he'd averaged 18 goals per season over the previous six full regular seasons. Moreover, Cleary was Detroit's second leading scorer in last spring's playoffs with 10 points in 14 games. At left wing, Gustav Nyquist has paid his dues in the AHL and established himself as a point-per-player there while the young center Joakim Andersson has size (6-2/206) and decent speed.
I don't plan on talking about former Wings very much this season--for better or worse, Daniel Cleary's likely to "make a decision" to leave the Red Wings today, Valtteri Filppula's moved on, Ian White will find an NHL contract somewhere and Damien Brunner's status remains murky but NHL-bound, and once training camp begins, there's going to be far too much news about the current Wings to worry about their NHL-playing alumni--but I thought this article about Filppula from the Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson is interesting.
Filppula addressed the fact that he skated with the Wings for one last time before heading to Tampa Bay, where he inked a 5-year, $25 million contract on July 5th, and Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper discussed the fact that, in many ways, Filppula is seen as the replacement for the bought-out Vincent Lecavalier:
“I turned the page pretty quick after I signed to play here, but I still have a place there, and it was a good place to skate,” said Filppula, 29. It wasn’t really that hard, to be honest. I have a lot of good friends, so it was a lot of fun (to go back). I was there for a long time, so in that way it was tough to leave. But I’m more so excited about the upcoming season.”
But Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he will go into training camp with no preconceived notions regarding Filppula’s role or what line he will play on when the season opens Oct. 3. Cooper has never seen Filppula play in person and knows the player only from tape, so he will see how things play out in training camp and during the preseason.
Lecavalier, the No. 1 overall pick by the Lightning in 1998, has 383 goals and 491 assists in 1,037 career games. Filppula, also a left-handed shot, has 100 goals and 151 assists in 483 career games.
“I think everybody in our organization 100 percent knows that it is not even comparable,’’ Cooper said of comparing Filppula with Lecavalier. “But because they play the same position, they shoot the same hand, of course they are going to be compared. I just think that’s unfair to put that on Val, because Vinny has been doing it in this league for 15 years at a high level. So, that’s an unfair comparison.’’
Cooper is certainly savvy enough to know Filppula will be a welcome addition to the roster.
“I think he is coming right into his prime, and he’s spent pretty much his entire professional career being educated at a Grade-A organization,’’ Cooper said. “And he has won. He comes from a winning organization, so any time you can take players out of that environment while you are trying to create that in your organization, it will help us.’’
Steve Yzerman's comments that "rivalries are born in the playoffs" strikes me as incredibly ironic now that the Bolts are in the Wings' division, and especially now that the Wings are going to be playing Atlantic Division rivals for their first 2 playoff rounds.
Again, the most interesting part of his interview with NHL.com involved stating that he's "building a house" in Detroit, which means that he'll be living here near-year-round (or at least that's what those in the know have told me):
In the "general interest" category, as Paul also noted, former Red Wing and player agent Igor Larionov told the Winnipeg Sun's Paul Friesen that his advice to hand-picked Russian-born clients involves pursuing NHL dreams over quick KHL bucks:
Certified by both the NHL Players Association and the KHL, Larionov represents players on both sides of this cold war, and yeah, he says attitudes towards his countrymen are cooling on this side of the pond.
“It’s only been three years since I’ve been working as an agent, and I can see that,” Larionov said in an interview, Friday. “I can sense that. Not from all of them. They’re still looking for skill, still looking for players that can make a play. You can’t really judge by one or two players, judge the whole nation, the whole talent from Russia. It’s all about circumstances, all about the advice they’ve been given by the people who represent them. And the financial side is also very important.”
Larionov’s advice might surprise you. He wants his players in the best league in the world. So despite feeling pressure from back home, he prefers to steer them towards the NHL.
Even if it means a smaller paycheque: he says he advised 23-year-old Andrei Loktionov to turn down a $3-million offer from the KHL in favour of the $725,000 the Devils were willing to pay this season. Loktionov took his advice.
“To be an agent it would be easy to get my commission from the $3 million,” Larionov said. “But I care about the career of the young players. I want to give them a chance to make it here. It’s never going to be easy, but it’s worth it.”
Larionov isn’t sure what happened with [Winnipeg's Alex] Burmistrov [who signed with the Ak Bars Kazan]. Maybe he just wasn’t patient enough.
“If kids have no opportunity to play in the NHL, or you can’t really wait... they can make good money, so you can’t really blame them for that,” he said. “At the same time, I always tell my boys when you’re 36, 37, you can always go there to play.”
"You're probably going to notice it a lot on wrap-arounds," said former NHL player Chris Clark, now the Blue Jackets' director of player development. "Those times when the goaltender gets his leg across just in time to cover the other post? Those might be goals now. The players haven't seen them yet. The goaltenders haven't played with them yet. But it's going to take some getting used to."
The NHL competition committee decided in early June to change the depths of the nets. This was lost in the bigger headlines of day - mandatory visors for incoming players -- but it is no small deal.
They have "square" as opposed to "curved" corners where the crossbar meets the goalposts...
The corners where the goalposts meet the crossbar are significantly closer to being a 90-degree angle now than with the previous goal, which had more a curve than an abrupt angle.
And the support piping is very different:
The NHL has had the support bars in the back of the new nets welded at the outside of the corners, so that no portion of the net will be obstructed during overhead replays. Seems a wise idea, no?
Also, the new nets have more narrow pipes all around, which begs a few questions. Will the puck carom differently off the posts? Softer? Harder? Will the puck bounce at different, more drastic angles?
And I absolutely despise having to mention this, but the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reminds us that the Red Wings' early schedule will include Daniel Alfredsson-related hype and blather from the both the American and Canadian media, and while Alfredsson wants to move on from the controversy surrounding his departure, I get the feeling that he won't give the media the silent treatment:
The decision by Daniel Alfredsson to sign with the Detroit Red Wings caught the city off guard.
The conspiracy theories remain. Words have been exchanged by both sides. The questions as to why he left will linger for awhile. They'll get louder when the Senators arrive in the Motor City on Oct. 23 to face the Wings.
But life will officially go on without the club's legacy player when camp gets underway. The void in the room has to be filled. The torch -- and the captain's 'C' -- will be passed to someone else -- likely centre Jason Spezza.
The Senators will have to get used to life without Alfredsson. Not only was he the straw that stirred the drink, on many nights he was one of the club's best players. His departure leaves a hole on the right side that must be filled.
And finally, another must-follow in RedWingsFeed on Twitter noted that several Wings attended Saturday's Michigan-Notre Dame 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.