Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: four months of no hockey but lots of Red Wings news awaits ‘us fans.’

I worked my tail off attempting to relate the stories and Tweets and videos and smoke signals posited during the Red Wings' locker room clean-out-day at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday, and in terms of me being snarky, I'd describe the deveopments as follows:

  1. Daniel Alfredsson said he had to talk to the wife and decide whether he's willing to put in another summer's worth of training before committing to returning or retiring, and Ottawa and Ontario snerked, giggled and made self-sanctimonious comments;
  2. Stephen Weiss let us all know that the last 8 months have really sucked, and some Wings fans' groins twinged in sympathy;
  3. Jimmy Howard confirmed that he had a very bad case of the stomach flu prior to and during Game 4, and at least thirty people made poopy jokes;
  4. Pavel Datsyuk said that he needs to have more tests and an MRI on his knee before deciding whether to have surgery, Henrik Zetterberg said that the numbness in his foot, a side effect of his back surgery, will go away in time, and somewhere, an orthopedist got their wings;
  5. Mike Babcock said that he's not worried about the fact that he's got one year remaining on his contract, and Detroit's sports columnists fangirled with THE INTRIGUE;
  6. And Ken Holland told us that he won't buy out Johan Franzen, and at least one Wings fan kicked a puppy in disgust.

Otherwise--quite happily for this 26-time-post-updater and still-busy blogger (see: Griffins, 5 World Championship participants, "Tony" Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi battling for the QMJHL and OHL's championships, respectively)--the Wings' players, coach and GM were "on message." 

Every locker room clean-out-day has a character all its own. Every time that the Detroit Red Wings fall short of the Stanley Cup, "It's not enough" anymore, and the timbre of a team that hasn't reached its Conference Final bar of every-season success for five years was one of determined discontent but not discord.

Or, to put it more simply, people were pissed off, but pissed off as a group of people on the same page instead of a group of individuals who had all sorts of different ideas as to what went wrong.

That doesn't paint a happy offseason picture for those of you who might want a team to run like a reality show, and the players-to-coach-to-GM party line that improving the team's defense--and offense--from within is probably a better idea than pursuing a trade-or-free-agency-acquired right-shooting defenseman (again, make Capgeek's Wings organization chart, its list of unrestricted free agent-to-be defensemen and forwards your bookmarked friends) was a little disconcerting for those of us who understand that Ryan Sproul, Alexey Marchenko and the left-shooting Mattias Backman, Xavier Ouellet and Adam Almquist are indeed still "kids"...

But the overall messages that, "We can do better, starting with me" and, "We can do more to improve by continuing to draft, develop and encouraging kids to 'steal jobs,' but our blueline definitely has to improve so we can tune up this whole puck possession machine to its previous levels, even if we have to look outside the organization," repeated from each and every one of the team's leaders, hit reassuring notes.

Given the dense amounts of text I'm about to present to you, I'd like to start with multimedia this time around.

The Detroit News's David Guralnick, the Free Press's Julian H. Gonzalez and Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples posted superb clean-out-day photo galleries (you'll note that the lockers of Daniel Cleary, Darren Helm, David Legwand and Kyle Quincey, who didn't speak with the media, remained full; Todd Bertuzzi did tell the AP's Larry Lage that he wants to continue playing before shooting out of the locker room like the cap off a bottle of Corona)...

And Fox 2 posted a pair of end-of-season clips, and WXYZ posted a wrap-up as well:

In addition to allowing Dana Wakiji and Art Regner wrap up the year, Fox Sports Detroit posted a better clip of Brendan Smith's comments than the Wings did...

As well as the only clip of Jonas Gustavsson's comments...

And the Wings posted clips of comments made by Daniel Alfredsson...

Tomas Tatar...

Smith...

Danny DeKeyser...

Jimmy Howard...

Niklas Kronwall...

Pavel Datsyuk...

Henrik Zetterberg...

Ten minutes' worth of Mike Babcock....

And THIRTY-SIX MINUTES of Ken Holland on...everything. I'm glad he admitted that he doesn't have all the answers as to what ails his team all of four days after its elimination, and that it may take until June 20th--after a long spring's worth of exit interviews with the players, trips to Grand Rapids, organizational powwows with the amateur scouts regarding the draft, the pro scouts regarding trades and free agent signings, and more consultations with the coaching staff, management and ownership--to figure things out.

The truth of the matter is that every year that the Wings don't win the Cup, Holland and Babcock and company have to conduct something of a forensic study of the season past, if not an autopsy thereof. From reassessing the team's training and medical staffs to determining what's necessary to dig the power play out of the bottom of Lake Superior, this team faces difficult questions, and there shouldn't be any easy answers.

Anyone who suggests that they've got all the answers as to what ails the Wings today is a bit of a dunderhead, and maybe you need to go buy a Genius in a Box kit so you can inform all of us of your brilliance with an "I'm Super Smart" cape.

I fully believe that one of the most powerful and intelligent sentences in this world is, "I don't know."

If you don't know, you do everything in your power to find out. If you don't know, you're willing to learn things that might contradict your preconceived notions. If you don't know, you've got work to do.

This team has a lot of work to do to make the Eastern Conference Final next season. This is the spring for the players, coaches and management to come together and put in the effort necessary to avail itself of the best opportunity possible to set itself up for success during Joe Louis Arena's final season.

In the Controversy! department, the Detroit News's John Niyo suggests that the Red Wings' coach for as long as he wants to be the coach was "hesitant to commit to contract extension"...

Babcock, who turned 51 on Tuesday, signed a four-year extension in October 2010 that made him the highest paid coach in the NHL. That means he’ll be entering the final year of his deal this fall, though he doesn’t seem at all worried about it.

“No priority, whatsoever,” Babcock said when asked about the possibility of signing an extension this summer. “I’m real comfortable with the owner (Mike Ilitch), with the manager (Ken Holland), and that’s not a concern for me one bit. One thing, when you’re at the stage I am, I’m real comfortable with whatever they want. I want them to be happy. And if they’re not happy, then I’m not happy.”

Controversy!

[A]ll of this only fuels speculation the Red Wings coach might prefer to hit free agency a year from now. The youngest of Babcock’s three children, daughter Taylor, will graduate high school next spring, so the family ties won’t be the same bind they’ve been. And there’s little doubt Babcock would be a hot commodity on the open market, if it ever came to that.

“If this was my first gig, I’d want an extension,” he said. “It’s not. I’m good.”

He’s better than good. He’s the only coach in history to lead teams to gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships in addition to a Stanley Cup title. He has been to three Cup Finals as a coach and figures to be a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the league’s best coach this season. This month, he passed Adams for No. 1 on the Red Wings career wins list.

His teams have missed the playoffs once in 11 seasons.

Babcock hasn’t exactly endeared himself to his players — particularly some of the veterans — with his abrasive, hard-driving style over the years. But with some prodding from management, he has toned it down the past two seasons. And while Babcock didn’t mince words when analyzing the team’s string of early playoff exits since 2009 — “That’s a five-year drought, the way I look at it,” he said — he got high marks from Holland for his work this season, guiding an inexperienced and injury-riddled lineup back to the postseason again.

With a successor in the waiting!

Jeff Blashill, hired from Western Michigan to be Babcock’s assistant in 2011, led the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins to a Calder Cup title last spring and has them rolling again in this year’s playoffs. He, too, is under contract for one more season, but when I asked Holland if he’d allow the 40-year-old Blashill to interview with other NHL teams if they came calling this summer, he said no.

Ahem:

Ahem part 2, per the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:

“I don’t really want to be a development team for other teams,” Holland said. “We’ve got to get this team going.”

Holland said he may change his stance in June.

Blashill has one year left on his deal with the Griffins.

“I believe Blash is an NHL coach in the making,” Holland said. “Is he ready today? He’s coached in the AHL for two years and he had one year in the (NHL) with (Mike Babcock).”

Spirit of the thing! From the Free Press's Jeff Seidel:

To make a long run in the playoffs, the Red Wings need to look more like the Boston Bruins. The Bruins had a roster with six players who scored 19 goals or more during the regular season; the Red Wings had two.

“I think, when you build a team, you need lots of 20-goal scorers,” Holland said. “We didn’t have enough 20-goal scorers. And some of the 20-goal scorers, they went down for stretches.”

The Bruins had a great goalie and a rock-solid defense, and they dominated the Red Wings on special teams in the first round of the playoffs. Against Detroit, Boston faced 20 penalties and killed all but two; and the Bruins went 6-for-16 on the power play.

“We’d love to get a right-shot defenseman who can play on the power play,” Holland said. “We’d like to get a better power play.” And not just one power-play unit. “You need two units,” Holland said.

So how does Detroit do it?

How does Detroit get past the second round for the first time in what feels like forever?

Don’t expect a huge transformation from free agency. Holland told the team that a lot of the changes will be internal. “I think there is this perception that, with July 1 free agents, there is this hockey store, and there is this fantasy hockey league that I’m running, and we can go get superstars,” Holland said. “Those days are over.”

Reality, regarding the coach, from the Macomb Daily's Pleiness...

There had been rumors circulating awhile back that Babcock could eventually take over for Red Berenson as the head coach at the University of Michigan.

“I never even thought about it,” Babcock said when asked if he had a few more years in him to coach in Detroit. “My daughter’s going into her grade 12 year. I’m either going to be the coach of the Red Wings or, I haven’t had a talk with Red Berenson yet, either that or I’ll be Red’s assistant coach for a year.

“For sure I’m staying in Detroit,” Babcock added. “I haven’t thought about going anywhere else. I’m real comfortable. I know Scotty Bowman went year to year sometime here and I’m real comfortable with that. I can get a job. I’m not worried about that. The owner has been better than great to me. They do things right. They treat people right. The GM is a driven guy who can’t stand losing and I like to be around ultracompetitive people.”

Holland is also heading into the final year of his contract with the team.

“We work well together,” Holland said. “He and I we want to go farther. I told the players I’m proud of the fact we made the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive year. It’s a hard league to make the playoffs. Thirty teams start the year and 14 miss. It’s getting to the point when the season starts most teams think they can make the playoffs. I’m proud we made the playoffs. I’m proud with all the adversity we faced with injuries, we had a lot of great stories, but nobody here wants to be taking team pictures in April. We certainly have bigger hopes and aspirations.”

MLive's Ansar Khan...

“I’m real comfortable with the owner and the manager; that’s not a concern for me one bit,” Babcock said after the team photo and locker cleanout at Joe Louis Arena. “When you’re at the stage of your career that I am, I’m real comfortable with whatever they want. I want them to be happy. If they’re not happy then I’m not happy. I have no problem. I can go year to year.”

...

General manager Ken Holland said he will speak to Babcock about his future in the off-season.

“I thought he did a tremendous job,” Holland said. “From the time a team gets eliminated from the playoffs until early August, these are the times for big decisions. I want to talk to Mike here in the next couple of months and we’ll see what comes of it.”

Holland added, “I want him back behind the bench. I respect the job he does for us. I respect his work ethic. I respect the job he did putting the young players into our system and sticking with them. I think if you put down a list of the best coaches in the National Hockey League, he’s on that short list. I think many would have him on that list.”

And the Free Press's Helene St. James--with REAL intrigue:

Babcock came to Detroit in 2005 after declining an offer to stay with the Anaheim Ducks. He might similarly want to leave Detroit on his own terms. He has a lot of coaching years ahead of him and probably will want to end up with a Canadian team, like Vancouver, at some point.

Wings players have found him abrasive at times, and he factored into Valtteri Filppula’s decision last summer to leave for Tampa Bay. Babcock has a tremendous history of success, however, and there’s a chance he’s a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year this season.

Asked about Babcock’s situation, captain Henrik Zetterberg said, “We’ll see. With the contracts and everything, with players and coaches, you just want it to be as smooth as possible. You don’t want it to be an obstacle. We all have confidence in Kenny that he has been doing his job pretty well.”

St. James also took note of the one player who the Wings will consider buying out...

Holland hinted that if the Wings use the compliance buyout they have available this summer, it’d be on Jordin Tootoo, provided a trade can’t be worked out. The Wings waived Tootoo this season after Babcock stopped using him. Tootoo has one year and $1.9 million left on his contract. The Wings would owe Tootoo two-thirds of that amount, but the salary-cap charge would be wiped clean. “I’ve got to figure out a way to get Jordin Tootoo back to the National Hockey League,” Holland said.

While the Windsor Star's Bob Duff discussed the player who's staying around:

“He had 16 goals in 54 games,” Holland noted of [Johan] Franzen. “I know he didn’t score down the stretch, he didn’t score in the playoffs. We had a lot of guys that didn’t score in the playoffs.”

You may not like Holland’s reasoning, but you know what? – and you’re not going to like this, either – he’s absolutely right. There’s no way the Wings can let go of Franzen.

Factor Franzen’s output over 82 games and it works out to 25 goals. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged 28 goals per campaign. In today’s NHL, that’s a lot of goals.

“You score 20-25 goals now, it’s a lot of goals,” Holland said. “We don’t have 60-goal scorers anymore. I don’t even know (about) 50, (other than) obviously (Alexander) Ovechkin. I look around the league and I kind of heard this talk about players on other teams a year ago, and this year those players are scoring. Coming out of the Olympic break, (Franzen) was on a hot streak and I think that hot streak is part of the reason why we were able to play our way into the Boston series.”

FYI:

Like Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, Franzen can be a maddening presence when the puck’s not going in for him, and Holland gets that it angers you.

“I’m a fan, too,” Holland said. “I’m a fan of other sports.”

What he doesn’t get is where the shop is located that’s stocked full of 25-goal scorers for sale.

“I think there’s this perception that there’s this hockey store, there’s this fantasy hockey league that I’m running where you can go get superstars,” Holland said.

While the Macomb Daily's Pleiness noted that there was a very different kind of disclosure process going on in front of Jimmy Howard's locker--and it's worth noting that Howard, who tends to hang his gear up, had his leg pads on the floor, sticking out like the prow of a warship:

“No,” Howard said when asked if he had a concussion during the team’s locker clean out at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday. “There was nothing. That was the weird part everyone was saying concussion, concussion and it actually got my mom pretty nervous. She heard it on the radio back in her own town. There was no concussion, just the flu.”

Howard said the flu hit him around 1 p.m. the day of Game 4 last Thursday. He led the team out for the pre-game skate and left before it was over.

“It progressively got worse,” Howard said. “Training and medical staff tried to give me all the medication so I could go out there and play for the guys, but as I got out there things just got worse and worse. I missed most of the game because I was too busy in the toilet area. It’s tough to go out that way, to not play again because of the flu. For me, I wanted to be out there for the guys in the worst way. We really tried, it just didn’t work out.”

Ditto for Stephen Weiss, who admitted to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that self-imposed pressure regarding living up to his contract played a part in his two resulting surgeries:

“I don’t how much I would change things other than being a little smarter in the summer and maybe being a little smarter at the start of the season and not playing through these types of things as much as I did,” said Weiss, who signed a free-agent deal and left Florida last offseason. “I wanted to do things the right way, but maybe if I took some time at the start of the season, maybe it would have done me better than being a hero a little bit. I got myself into some trouble that could have been avoided if I was smarter.”

Kulfan also asked Henrik Zetterberg about the weakness-in-his-foot issue...

Captain Henrik Zetterberg said he needs to regain strength in his left foot, a condition stemming from his surgery for a herniated disc.

“My back was fine but I had some weakness in my foot,” he said. “It will come back.”

Center Pavel Datsyuk will have an MRI on his knee this week which will help determine if surgery (and a three-month recovery) is needed.

Also...

Daniel Alfredsson, 41, on taking some time to decide on his future: “There’s a lot of factors, mentally and physically, family. I still love the game, it’s one of the best jobs you can have. At the same time, you have to end it some time.”

And from St. James:

"It's going to be at least a few weeks before I decide about that," Alfredsson said. He plans to stay in the area through mid-June, as his sons finish up school. "I need to get away from it all and then decide if I want to go through everything to prepare for another season."

Todd Bertuzzi will look for employment elsewhere, as will David Legwand and Mikael Samuelsson. Daniel Cleary, who received a verbal promise of future employment when he agreed to a one-year deal last fall, will be offered something in a capacity outside of playing in Detroit, as the Wings don't see him as a viable player anymore.

Jonas Gustavsson has been so injury-prone, he's hardly worth bringing back. Kyle Quincey, like most defensemen, stands to cash in on the market.

Babcock said the Wings "feel we can improve our back end from within." He specifically wants the defense to gain a right-handed shot, which could create a fit for either Sproul or Alexei Marchenko.

It turns out that MLive's Ansar Khan also posited a list of the "storylines" coming out of locker room clean-out-day, but I honestly didn't know that when I started this entry, so I'm going with his, "This is the thrust of the team's message" commentary instead:

“You need to do lots of recharging and make sure you’re in shape coming in,” Pavel Datsyuk said. “Your goal is not to make playoffs 23 years in a row; you make the playoffs to win Cup.”

The Red Wings battled to extend their playoff streak to 23 seasons but were eliminated in five games by the Boston Bruins in the first round.

“Of course it’s nice to keep the streak going but this is an organization and club that thrives for titles and wins,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “So it’s just not good enough.”

The Red Wings have been ousted in the opening round in two of the past three years and haven’t advanced to the conference finals since 2009.

“As much as 23 years is important to the franchise, we’ve won one round in the last three years in the playoffs,” Babcock said. “Our best years since I’ve been here are ’07, ’08 and ’09. In that time we won 11, 16 and 15 playoff games. We’ve got seven a couple times since and we’ve never been to the final four.  So that’s a five-year drought the way I look at it. You can’t always be on top, but you can be going in the right direction so we have to get things moving that way again.”

The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also noted the thrust of the message...

“Times have changed in the NHL,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “July 1 free agency is a time for support players and secondary players. Teams now sign their best players to long-term contracts; they don’t hit the market. A lot of what we’re going to try to do is internal, and 29 other teams are in the same boat.”

Holland is open to a trade, and he’ll explore that, though teams likely will be interested in top prospects.

“(It) has to make sense,” Holland said of any trade.

Which leaves the impression the Red Wings will count on the continued development of young players such as Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening.

“The young players who’ll be on our team have to realize how hard it is to win a playoff series and use that experience to be more prepared and take their game a little bit higher next year,” Holland said.

And that could include two of the organization’s top prospects — defensemen Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko.

Holland also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of 2013 first-round pick Anthony Mantha making the jump from junior hockey to the NHL next season.

As did St. James:

“We’ve been standing here a few times now the last few years,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said, “but it seems a little bit better now than it has been the last few years. We’ve really seen that we have guys that can really play. They’ve been a part of this team and really helped us going into the postseason. And we still have a lot of kids that will be knocking on the door. We’re proud of our playoff streak, but not going deeper than we have — it’s no fun. We’ve got to change that. We’re an organization that is not happy just to go to the postseason. We want to go deeper and go and win the Cup.”

In March and early April, the Wings paid a lot of heed to making the playoffs because they didn’t want to be the iteration of the franchise to break what is now a record-setting 23-season streak of doing so. But the pride in that mission absorbed a death blow from the Boston Bruins, who shrugged off being shut out in Game 1 to rattle off four straight victories. That has left the Wings pensive and planning for the future.

“We need to recharge and be sure we are in shape,” Datsyuk said. “Our goal has to be, not making playoffs 23 years in a row — make playoffs to win Cup.”

...

“We’re not happy with this year,” [Alfredsson] said, “but with the circumstances, we did the best we could. Health was a big issue for us, and being healthier will give this team a lot better chances.”

The Wings have set such a high standard that simply making the playoffs isn’t enough. No one feels that onus more than the players, and none more than the leaders. As Datsyuk put it for his second go-around on the subject: Next season, the Wings shouldn’t be focused on making the playoffs for a 24th straight time. They need to re-establish themselves as a Cup contender.

And that's it for now. I believe in doing things like letting the individuals speak for themselves (thus the videos first this time around) and emptying out my notebook all at once, but that doesn't make for good journalism.

That makes for an entire sports section of Red Wings stories on a Wednesday in April and then nothing. Newspaper editors would rather have the beat writers, "Spirit of the Thing" columnists, experts, intrigue-stirrers, etc. slowly but surely trickle out interviews with players, general managers and coaches over the next 7-10 days. So that's how things are going to unfold for the mainstream media over the next week or so.

The observations will be new, but if you've watched the above-posted videos more than once, you'll feel like you're shopping in a Goodwill store. Lots of quote-recycling going on.

Mike Babcock and Ken Holland are likely to make the radio rounds over the next couple of days, too (and Mitch Albom's web friends on WJR never post his damn interviews in a timely manner, so there will be some, "Did you hear?" comments as well as the usual podcast-friendly stuff from WDFN, Detroit Sports 105.1 FM, 97.1 the Ticket and TSN 1050 and The Fan 590 in Toronto), and one or two English-as-a-first-language-speaking players will make an appearance here or there...

But the foreign-language press is more likely to land player interviews than the locals from here on out (see: Gustav Nyquist telling Expressen and Aftonbladet that taking part in the World Championships will be "damn fun" and that the Bruins were "a step faster" than the Wings were).

That doesn't mean that the over-analyzing by you, me or the media is done--far from it--but in terms of "new news," we'll be talking about the Grand Rapids Griffins' attempts to defend their Calder Cup championship, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi's attempts to win Major Junior Hockey titles, the World Championships, when they begin in May (the 9th, in Minsk, Belarus, a.k.a. Another Country Where The President Always Wins When He Plays Hockey, You Go, Alexander Lukashenko, Look At You Score On An NHL Goalie On Your Own)...

And in a more immediate sense, I am as worried about the status of Pavel Datsyuk's knee as you are, I am grateful that Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard are sitting out the Worlds (two for baby duty and one for "a common side effect of spinal surgery" duty), and if you want me to follow the lead of Kulfan and the soon-to-be player report cards from St. James, Pleiness, Khan et. al., I'll happily do things quite differently.

Oh, I'm in the, "I'm worried about Daniel Alfredsson coming back because I liked him and he kind of co-led the team in scoring" camp, too.

I promise to help you avoid reading about how the Boston Bruins are so awesome and so bored and how Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand are really swell guys who you'd totally want to play hockey against, because I shit you not, the Bruins' press corps is worse than Chicago and Toronto's combined (the Bruins' players may in fact poop rainbows)...

But we are at a point where the Red Wings' 2013-2014 season is officially over, and the offseason has officially begun.

You and I have to deal with that until late August, when those informal skates begin, though--again--the Wings gave us a handy-dandy list of offseason dates to remember.

I'm not going to stop talking about the Red Wings. I've found that there are a few very nice slow days in early June and early August, but other than that, I tend to put in at least six hours of work every day save Sunday (I try to catch up on sleep then, though I do work Sundays), I tend to find at least one story of interest to post every day...

And while I the mom and I are hoping to go on vacation during the last week of July and at least a couple of the first days of August in Grand Marais, MI after a one-year absence from the family powwow, I am sure that I'll be lugging the laptop to the "rec room" where you can get marginal wireless service to update the blog more nights than not, because that's kind of what I do, and there's almost always enough news for an overnight report. Though I do plan on taking every other night off this time around.

In the interim, we're not on our own per se.

The Red Wings news cycle will keep rolling for another 7 to 10 days, and then other stuff will be going on--the prospects, the Worlds, perhaps the first hints of a Red Wings "Off-Season Game Plan" (oh, TSN's Scott Cullen is going to write that one up, too, and I'm more or less convinced that he truly despises the Wings on a Lambertian level--and then we'll be talking about the draft, the NHL Awards, the actual draft actually happening, and my ass will be trying to pull double time first covering free agency (Paul and I have that coordinated to the point that we inform each other of restroom breaks on July 1st) and then heading up to Traverse City to cover the summer development camp (anybody have a good recommendation for a QUIET but affordable hotel? The Howard Johnson has gotten way too noisy for me over the years).

This is just the start of a different kind of ride, the kind of ride where we watch other teams compete for the Stanley Cup, the kind of ride where we don't hear Ken Daniels or Mickey Redmond's voices until mid-September, the kind of ride where we see players wearing Red Wings jerseys skating in parking lots and rinks but not actually consisting of Red Wings players until the gents start filing back into town and appear at the Troy Sports Center, the Joe and Compuware Arena (Shh! Don't tell!) in mid-August.

Between now and then, we're likely to witness the departures of every free agent but Alfredsson (hopefully), at least a hard run at back-to-back titles by the Griffins, slick plays made by the Wings' Worlds participants, welcoming 7-ish new players to the fold when the Wings draft and finding out whether a Niskanen, Boyle (I've actually become more comfortable with the concept that a 38-year-old Dan Boyle on a 1-or-2-year deal would bolster the Wings' defense without getting in the way of the development of the Marchenkos, Sprouls, Almquists, Ouellets, Backmans and Jensens) or someone else will fill out the defense...

And hopefully we won't have any Mikael Samuelsson? You've Got To Be *#$%@& Kidding Me moments.

Get ready, because it's going to be a bumpy off-ice ride, and please remember that in the end, I am in fact a Red Wings fan just like you are. I just pretend to play a professional blogger on the internet.

Update: Cue more self-improvement talk from the Wings vis MLive's Ansar Khan:

“The first thing we have to decide is how many of these young guys are ready to play on our team at the start of the season,” Holland said. “Times have changed in the National Hockey League in free agency. July 1 is a time for adding support players. Teams now sign the best players to long-term contracts; they don’t hit the market. I told the team this morning a lot of what we’re going to try to do has to be internal.”

Babcock expressed the same sentiment.

“I think we have lots of pieces here,” Babcock said. “We’re going to be way younger than we used to be. Our veteran leadership will be Pav, Z and Kronner. And then we’re going to end up with a lot of kids on this team. I’m not certain going outside, unless you can get exactly what you’re looking for, is worth it when we have so much right here within.”

They still need some outside help. The salary cap rises to $71.1 million. The Red Wings are roughly $20 million under but need to sign restricted free agents Tatar, Sheahan and DeKeyser. That will leave them enough money to explore the market for a forward, a defenseman and a back-up goalie (they might re-sign Jonas Gustavsson).

“Is there a player or two via free agency? Is there a trade or two as we head to the NHL draft that will make us better?” Holland said. “A lot of this has to be the people we bring back. The veterans have to have a great offseason, be in the best shape they’ve ever been in. The young players have to realize how hard it is to win a playoff series and take their game to a higher level.”

Zetterberg is not anticipating big changes.

“I think the main part of next year’s team is here now,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t think there is that many (players) out there that are available. I think we have enough goal-scorers in here, we just got to do it.”

Update #2: Via RedWingsFeed, Expressen's Mattias Ek reports that the Swedish World Championship team chose to decline Jonas Gustavsson's services, but coach Par Marts hopes that Johan Franzen will take part in the Worlds in Belarus.

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Comments

Slumpy's avatar

. I think we have enough goal-scorers in here, we just got to do it.

Not enough goal scorers, not enough guys that finish checks and can hold their own in a fight and goaltending is not good enough to win a SC without Lidstrom and Stuart and a Cheli.

“I’ve got to figure out a way to get Jordin Tootoo back to the National Hockey League,” Holland said

Sigh, not impressed by the way he treated Toots nor Babs leaving him as a healthy scratch when we were up on Chicago last year in the playoffs. Could of used that menace on the ice but instead their agitators wrecked havoc instead, ugh.

Like to see Kenny earn his salary this summer.

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 04/30/14 at 07:16 AM ET

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Between now and then, we’re likely to witness the departures of every free agent but Alfredsson (hopefully), at least a hard run at back-to-back titles by the Griffins, slick plays made by the Wings’ Worlds participants, welcoming 7-ish new players to the fold when the Wings draft and finding out whether a Niskanen, Boyle (I’ve actually become more comfortable with the concept that a 38-year-old Dan Boyle on a 1-or-2-year deal would bolster the Wings’ defense without getting in the way of the development of the Marchenkos, Sprouls, Almquists, Ouellets, Backmans and Jensens) or someone else will fill out the defense…

Sorry to return to this so monomaniacally, given the huge variety of topics you touch on here, but I’ve got another name for that “someone else” pile:  the Rangers’ Anton Stralman.  Like Niskanen he’s 27 and right handed, he’s rejected a three-year, $3M offer from the Rangers, so there’s some chance he’ll hit the market, he’s Swedish (played for Timra), and while I know not everyone loves fancy stats, fancy stats love him).  I mention this because I haven’t seen him brought up by St. James or Khan or the like, so I have no idea if he’s on Detroit’s radar, but I think he should be part of the conversation.  I’d certainly rather see him take Quincey’s spot than see Dan Boyle do so.

Posted by captaineclectic on 04/30/14 at 07:29 AM ET

Jaromir Blogger's avatar

When I look at the Wings’ roster, I see plenty of guys who have the skill to put the puck in the net: Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Tatar, Nyquist, Franzen, Weiss (theoretically), Jurco, Sheahan, and even Helm, more and more. And these young guys will only get better at it. I think the biggest issue is that the defensemen aren’t able to give them good outlet passes so they can create great zone entries, get some odd-man chances and keep the opposition on its heels. Too many of the d-men just aren’t capable of making that happen at the moment. Their maddening inability to clear their own zone doesn’t help matters, either. Improve the blueline and watch those forwards score more goals.

Posted by Jaromir Blogger on 04/30/14 at 07:35 AM ET

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Yeah. Fixing the back end is the key this summer. More than enough forwards to play around with to find the right line combos. A solid defense will make Howard look better and the offense.

So much of the success the next few years is on how many of the prospects reach and then hopefully surpass their potential. We need one (or hopefully two) of the defenseman kids to become great. Same with the forwards. A few look like they could be those players but they still need to prove they can be great at the NHL level.

Posted by lancer on 04/30/14 at 07:44 AM ET

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As far as 20 goal scorers go, we should have a decent number of them. Pav, Z, Franzen and Nyquist are probably definites. I should think, Tatar and Weiss are too.
If Alfie re-signs, there is another. Possibly, sign another from free agency, like Stastny.
Let’s hope, Nyquist and Tatar don’t go thru sophomore slumps.

Posted by George0211 on 04/30/14 at 08:10 AM ET

topshelf14's avatar

I think the Wings need to add a right handed scoring winger. They won’t be able to get Vanek but I think acquiring someone like Wheeler via trade would be an option. Sacrifice Tatar, and a top pick to make it happen.

Also jaromirblogger is correct that our defense needs a significant upgrade. We do not have good pass first defensemen. Adding a Boyle, or Bieksa could certainly help.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 04/30/14 at 08:58 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Fixing the back end is the glaring need, but I am unsure a true fix is possible though, not in a season. There’s no free agents out there, and nobody is trading their #1. That will truly have to come with 1 of our prospect d, turning into a stud, and that will take some seasoning, more seasoning than longevity in the legs of Hank and Pav I’m afraid. 

What I’m surprised nobody is talking about is our lack of effective forechecking.  We need a mean abrasive SOB, and maybe even dirty, forechecking forward. When I look at the Wings’ roster, I see a lack of size and ability to sustain ozone pressure outside of our 1 skill line. Anyone worried about getting hit by Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Aflie, Tatar, Nyquist, Miller, Glenny?  Abby was effectively useless, Helm with a bum shoulder didn’t do much, Jurco was so/so, Sheehan looked like a rookie, and Franzen and Oldlegswand are as soft as bagel.  Puck goes in, and it’s an easy out, goes to our end where we struggled too often to get it out.  I think we need a Steve Ott or a Rafie Torres type character wheeling around on our 3rd line, something to tax the other teams defense.

Maybe Jurco grows into that hitting role, maybe it’s a Healthy Helm again, but until our Defense grows up, I would like to see the wings get more abrasive on the front end, be more difficult heavy and taxing to transition the puck on

Posted by MurrayChadwick on 04/30/14 at 10:32 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

Babcock hasn’t exactly endeared himself to his players — particularly some of the veterans — with his abrasive, hard-driving style over the years. But with some prodding from management, he has toned it down the past two seasons.

Hmmm…and how early did we clinch our Play-off spots the last two years?  raspberry

 

Possibly, sign another from free agency, like Stastny.

I’d love to see Stastny in The Wheel, but I’m not sure if he fits our budget plans, since he’ll make a lot of money with his next contract.  I would be a bit grumpy if he hits FA and Kenny doesn’t at least try to throw some money at him.

 

 

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/30/14 at 10:37 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 04/30/14 at 07:16 AM ET

You’re disappointed Holland dressed better, more-valuable players over Tootoo in a playoff situation?  What are you, a Leafs fan?

 

I think we need a Steve Ott or a Rafie Torres type character wheeling around on our 3rd line, something to tax the other teams defense.

Posted by MurrayChadwick on 04/30/14 at 10:32 AM ET

Yeah I can really see the need the Wings have to have a Torres.  Wings don’t nearly lose enough guys to injury, they need to have someone constantly suspended for repeated stupidity as well, obviously.

Ott?  Hah.  Did you see how completely ineffective he was in the CHI-STL series?  He obviously was a HUGE impact there in STL dropping 4 straight and going home…

Wait until some of the kid forwards get more comfortable.  A couple of them are going to be nasty to play against I think…

I think acquiring someone like Wheeler via trade would be an option. Sacrifice Tatar, and a top pick to make it happen.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 04/30/14 at 08:58 AM ET

Why?  That seems like a terrible trade.  Tatar AND a pick for Wheeler?  Tatar alone is maybe as good/worth as much as Wheeler IMO, and has more upside than Wheeler ever will.

Posted by Primis on 04/30/14 at 11:44 AM ET

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I dunno about Tatar and a top pick, but I don’t think Tatar is quite as valuable as Wheeler on the ice (he may be as/more valuable, given salary and age.)  Wheeler is 6’5 and scored 28 goals.  There’s a lot fewer guys like that than there are 5’10 guys who can score 20 goals.

Posted by captaineclectic on 04/30/14 at 11:52 AM ET

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Tatar’s a keeper.

Cleary getting a job in the organization. Holland looking to get Tootoo back in the N.H.L. Think any free agents don’t notice this stuff?

A good D man? How about Brad Stuart?

Posted by leftwing on 04/30/14 at 12:06 PM ET

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A good D man? How about Brad Stuart?

Posted by leftwing on 04/30/14 at 12:06 PM ET

Stuart didn’t resign because he had to be in California for family reasons. Unless something changed in his personal life, I doubt he is going anywhere.

Posted by George0211 on 04/30/14 at 12:07 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Holland looking to get Tootoo back in the N.H.L.

A good D man? How about Brad Stuart?

Posted by leftwing on 04/30/14 at 12:06 PM ET

Man ... I’m sorry, but how close do you actually follow this stuff?

Posted by SK77 on 04/30/14 at 12:19 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Yeah I can really see the need the Wings have to have a Torres.  Wings don’t nearly lose enough guys to injury, they need to have someone constantly suspended for repeated stupidity as well, obviously.  Ott?  Hah.  Did you see how completely ineffective he was in the CHI-STL series?  He obviously was a HUGE impact there in STL dropping 4 straight and going home…
Posted by Primis on 04/30/14 at 11:44 AM ET

Yeah and our small skilled and soft lineup obviously was a HUGE impact in the Wings dropping 4 straight and going home as well.

It’s all about mix. Blues’ers have nothing but grit and grind, and whether SJ chokes again or not, Torres has been pretty effective. You need a mix, and we have a lot of skill and speed, but we severely lack grit. Whether it be Ott, Torres, Shawn Thorton, wings need someone, ablekater isnt’ getting it done.

A couple of them are going to be nasty to play against I think…

Who? Sheehan or Jurco, they’re the only two with any size, and neither used it much, nor were drafted for it. Is Tatar-tot gonna turn into Marchant? Please, these guys are good at what they do, speed and skill, this team needs some nasty meat on its bones too.

Maybe Bertuzzi’s newphew in 5 years.

Posted by MurrayChadwick on 04/30/14 at 12:34 PM ET

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Unless something changed in his personal life, I doubt he is going anywhere.

Something did.

Posted by Garth on 04/30/14 at 12:34 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Unless something changed in his personal life, I doubt he is going anywhere.

Something did.

Posted by Garth on 04/30/14 at 12:34 PM ET

What’s up with Stewie?

Posted by SK77 on 04/30/14 at 12:37 PM ET

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Stuart left on good terms & said he could be back when everything was cleared up.

If you had read George’s blog you might have read what Holland said about Tootoo

Posted by leftwing on 04/30/14 at 12:40 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

If you had read George’s blog

going to need a snickers

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 04/30/14 at 12:51 PM ET

SK77's avatar

If you had read George’s blog

going to need a snickers

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 04/30/14 at 12:51 PM ET

I’m guilty of going straight to the comments lately. Too much content.

Posted by SK77 on 04/30/14 at 01:00 PM ET

Avatar

Babs wants his teams to play a certain way. Heavy on the puck, dumping the puck deep, cycling, shots from all angles, going to the net and deflecting the shots. This is how the Blues, Kings, Boston, etc play. The problem is you cannot play this type of game when your best players are skilled and small (Dats, Z, Nyquist, Tatar). Franzen is skilled and big, but does not use his size. Abby is strong, but not skilled. Our team is totally different from the team Babs wants to coach. The problem is that Babs does not adjust to the players he has. On the opposite, he wants the players we have to play his style. And on top of all this KH does not give him the players to fit his coaching style. This philosophical difference has to be resolved. We either need to keep Babs and trade half of our team to get players to fir his style or we need to change the coach for somebody who can do better with the players we have. I do not see any other solution because Babcock is not going to change and will continue to play Glendending more than Tatar and Nyquist because Glen does the things Babcock appreciates better than Tatar. And Lashoff will be playing more than Kindl because Babcock does not care what Kindl can bring to the table.  And KH gets him Legwand, who is a good offensive player and a very good passer and Babcock makes a 4th line checker out of him. I think the same will happen with Weiss too.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/30/14 at 01:19 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

Babs does not adjust to the players he has

just think how much better this team could be if he could adjust. Adjust not only to the players at his disposal, but also to exploit other teams weaknesses. Remember when the Wings could play the skill game, the speed game, the banging game, the offensive game, or the defensive game? Whichever way you wanted to play it, they could counter it and exploit it? yeah, nope, not anymore: scramble along the boards hoping to get possession, then maybe can stand in front of the net, screen the goalie for a shot from the point that misses the net, scramble for garbage goal….get back and defend

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 04/30/14 at 02:10 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

The problem is that Babs does not adjust to the players he has.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/30/14 at 01:19 PM ET

Respectfully, that is laughable.  Detroit only qualified for the playoffs precisely because Bsbs found formulas and styles that the ever-changing roster could be successful with.  We have had massive turnover the last two seasons, this season sometimes going several weeks without the same personnel being available for back-to-back games.  Babcock again did a remarkable job of patchworking inexperienced players without veteran leadership for extended periods and outplayed a number of teams like Toronto who should have been a top 3 lock.

You see no difference in style between 2007-2009, and this team that won 9-4-2 down the stretch in 2014??

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with creepy Rob Lowe. on 04/30/14 at 02:36 PM ET

gowings's avatar

“Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 04/30/14 at 02:36 PM ET “

I agree completely.


” I do not see any other solution because Babcock is not going to change and will continue to play Glendending more than Tatar and Nyquist because Glen does the things Babcock appreciates better than Tatar.”

I respectfully disagree. I think it might be difficult for him to change, but he has changed over the years and although he might be stubborn over Glend…well, maybe he see’s something we don’t, or he might be trying to squeeze the best out of him and see how far it goes…I am ready to give the coach the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by gowings from MTL on 04/30/14 at 03:07 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

The problem is that Babs does not adjust to the players he has. Posted by VPalmer on 04/30/14 at 01:19 PM ET

That’s far from the problem; Babcock is a tremendous coach, with this roster, and the injuries, we were lucky to qualify for the post season. 

The problem is this roster.  We have what used to be a 3rd pairing as our top unit.  I like Kronwall, but he’s not a #1, and Ericson is maybe a 3rd.  Our 2nd unit is a guy 1/2 the fanbase doesn’t want, and a promising kid a year removed from college, who needs to fill out.  Our 3rd is hardly the level it needs to be for a cup contender. Who on our blueline would take the spots of Boston’s D?

The forwards surrounding Pavel and Hank were all either too old, too young, or just journeymen pluggers who bring no playoff tangible assets. 

Legwand is an aging and undetermined player.  It was sad to see him suit up to be honest, trade acquisition, home town guys, and he’s skating like he’s out for the Sochi dance routine vs. playing hockey, I hope they took his uni after picture day and gave him a glittery blouse, set of tights and skates with a toe pick. 

Remember when the Wings could play the skill game, the speed game, the banging game, the offensive game, or the defensive game?

I think some of you wings fans need to open your eyes to the diminished skill of the 2014 red wings roster, its not 1995 anymore, both in terms of what we field on the ice, and how we can obtain it in free agency. Furthermore Holland has proven to not be the guy who can do it via trade, which if anything, concerns me the most.

 

Posted by MurrayChadwick on 04/30/14 at 03:09 PM ET

Avatar

going to need a snickers

Wife told me I was gaining weight. Thanks a lot George.

Sorry if I hit a button with my Stuart comment. I don’t remember how many years Stuart had to stay in California. I do know they left the door wide open when he left. Only speculation on my part. (‘Tis the season). If he’s avalible…......

No further fetched than some of the trade ideas that are being thrown out here.

Babcock again did a remarkable job of patchworking inexperienced players without veteran leadership for extended periods and outplayed a number of teams like Toronto who should have been a top 3 lock.

And he thrived on it. Vpalmer does bring up a point. Babcock, Holland and Blashill are all under contract for (only) one more year. What’s going to happen at the top? How do they keep Blashill in the system?

Posted by leftwing on 04/30/14 at 03:19 PM ET

Avatar

Respectfully, that is laughable.  Detroit only qualified for the playoffs precisely because Bsbs found formulas and styles that the ever-changing roster could be successful with

I think Babcock is a great motivator. His positivism alone should be applauded.
If you make a hockey movie about coaching, I want Babcock to be in that movie. His quotes, his attitude are great. Personally, I love the guy. My point is that Babcock coaches one style and we have players to play another style. You give Babcock 10 Glendenings + Tatar and Nyquist and he will make playoffs with that roster.  And this was practically the team he was coaching after the all star break and had the most success with it.
As soon as you give him more skill, Babs becomes confused as he still want every line to be a cheking line. Olympic team was a great example. Fabulous defensive performance as if he was coaching 2003 Ducks team. Best line - Benn/Getzlaf/Perry, all 3 big heavy in your face players. Worst line - Crosby line.
PP - same thing. Instead of using the skill and be creative, we are doing the same thing - shot from the point with a hope something will get deflected. No puck movement down low, not shots from the faceoff circles. And Canada Olympic team PP was the same with the only difference that it had defensmen who can shott the puck ten times better than Kronwall.
Again, I love Babs, I understand he is a great coach, but I still believe he wants to coach any team like this is 2003 Ducks.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/30/14 at 03:52 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Posted by VPalmer on 04/30/14 at 03:52 PM ET

Just curious (not trying to be a richard)

Do you have any coaching experience, in otherwords, do you see the surrounding structure the players execute, and are playing against, or are you basing this on your view of what you are seeing on TV as the result? i.e. we only shoot from the point on the power play? without seeing the 4 options that player had before the pass and what the opposition took away.

What Coach or team for that matter, in the NHL coaches/plays the way you think this team should be coached?

I’ve been watching most of the playoffs and I see very limited variations of the same 1 or 2 structures in the 5 game phases being played throughout the NHL.
The difference is the skill of the underlying player to execute and exploit. Coaching allows you to subtly adjust to what teams very or cheat to, to which I see Babs adjusting better than most, especially considering the talent we have.

Most teams take what is given, or their overwhelming skill speed or strength create small windows of opportunities, we have one line with one of those aspects, skill, they performed.

 

Posted by MurrayChadwick on 04/30/14 at 04:27 PM ET

Avatar

Do you have any coaching experience

No, I do not. I never even played, but have been watching for about 30 years. So, obviously I understand that Babcock knows hundred times more than me, but I still like to opine on what I see. I also agree the opposition takes away many options on a PP. But still let’s take the PP (which again, to me is 50% of all our issues as 5 on 5 we were OK against the Bruins I thought and we completely lost special teams and playoffs are special teams).
We had a successful powerplay in Detroit for years for obvious reasons. Lidstrom was the best at getting the shot through traffic and Holmstrom was the best at screening the goalie and deflecting the pucks. For the last 3 years (after Lids left) we are using the same basic PP structure and it’s not working because Kronwall’s shot is almost always blocked and we have nobody of Holm’s caliber as a net front presence. So, to me this screams change, but no changes are made.
Then we have Nyquist, Tatar and Alfredsson, all 3 have great shots from the faceoff circle and where are they used instead, on the blue line and except for Alfy, the other 2 do not have a good shot from there.
I do not see any movement and/or passing down low. Maybe we could try to put Dats behind the net (a la Thornton) and he can pass to the sides for one timers to tatar and nyquist and if that option is taken away, then the defensman might be more open. The way our PP is structured now it’s predictable and there is an opposing forward covering the player at the blue line. In that case there should be 3 on 2 advantage upfront that I do not see us using at all.
And finally I think is Smith is the best dman we have to quarterback the PP. He can usually get his shot through, he can walk the blue line with the puck and in general his offensive insticts are very good. Maybe I am wrong, but if your PP goes on 0 for 20 stretches, maybe it make sense to try him at least there.

Posted by VPalmer on 04/30/14 at 05:01 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

Posted by VPalmer on 04/30/14 at 03:52 PM ET

That is a generally fair assessment. I have coached and played, though not near the level these guys are performing.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 04/30/14 at 05:30 PM ET

d ca's avatar

It would make my summer if I found out the Wings have signed Joni Pitkanen (6’ 3” 215 lbs) or traded for Keith Yandle (6’ 1” 190 lbs) or Oliver Ekman-Larsson (6’ 2” 190 lbs). If I hear they signed another UFA (that wasn’t a surprise buyout—I am going to be pissed).

The Wings have a glut of young forwards and defensemen, but they don’t have any top 2 d-pairing guys

 

 

Posted by d ca on 04/30/14 at 11:23 PM ET

Avatar

Joni Pitkanen missed 50 games two years ago, half of last season and all of this season.  As of about a month ago he still had “no timetable” for a return.

WHY would anyone want to sign him, unless he accepts a miniscule salaried one-year deal?

Is everyone so over the moon about the Weiss signing that you want a defense version of it?

Posted by Garth on 05/01/14 at 11:09 AM ET

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WHY would anyone want to sign him…

Posted by Garth on 05/01/14 at 11:09 AM ET

Just saying, we did sign Sammy and Cleary to contracts if you want to know if something like that could actually happen.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 05/02/14 at 03:47 PM ET

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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.