The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/10/13 at 05:18 AM ET
Beware, Red Wings fans, auto-play highlight clips lurk within!
The best way to approach the strange tale that is the Grand Rapids Griffins' 6-4 win over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Final, having played out over 62:13 of regulation time, involving an awarded goal to Tomas Jurco that may or may not have hit the crossbar and went out, depending on what you saw from a video camera that looked like it was looking out of the window of a hot shower, involving a Francis Pare game-winner that was scored after 20 minutes of second period time had been played, and involving a game-tying 4th goal for Syracuse that initally was stated as having been scored before the team's 3rd goal.
Between the goal-awarding strangeness and the fact that 40 minutes of penalties played out as an 8-4 disparity toward the home team for the first 56...I mean 58 minutes of play, and the fact that those who watched the game on TheAHLLive.com were listening to the Crunch's director of community relations and a scratched player tell the home team's side of the story...
It was hard to figure out exactly what was going on and what was a penalizable offense from the viewer's standpoint, so we're going to go with the Associated Press's recap for a summary of events to start:
Landon Ferraro had a goal and two assists and was one of six players to score Sunday as the Detroit Red Wings' top minor-league affiliate earned a 6-4 victory against the Syracuse Crunch in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Final at War Memorial at Oncenter in Syracuse, N.Y.
The series now shifts to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the next three games. Game 3 is slated for Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.
Tomas Tatar, Tristan Grant, Tomas Jurco, Francis Pare and Jan Mursak also scored for the Griffins. Petr Murzak stopped 30 of 34 shots.
Andrej Sustr, Richard Panik, Brett Connolly and J.T. Brown scored for Syracuse, the AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Connolly and Brown scored 1:11 apart late in the second period to erase a 4-2 deficit, but Pare put Grand Rapids back in front 26 seconds later via the power play to restore a lead the Griffins would not relinquish.
Cedrick Desjardins stopped 23 of 29 shots in the loss for Syracuse.
Either 1:11 apart or -2 seconds apart.
The Crunch's website's recap is a little less spare:
The Syracuse Crunch dropped Game 2 of the 2013 Calder Cup Finals 6-4 to the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight at the War Memorial Arena. The Griffins hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals series. The series will now shift to Grand Rapids for Game 3 and 4 (and 5 if necessary).
The Griffins jumped out to an early lead, scoring less than five minutes into the game. Brennan Evans and Gustav Nyquist assisted on Tomas Tatar's opening goal.
Triston Grant put Grand Rapids up 2-0 at the 11:31 mark of the period. Grant was able to put the puck past Cedrick Desjardins after Landon Ferraro's initial shot bounced off the pads of the Crunch netminder.
The Crunch cut the Griffins' lead in half with 5:57 left in the period. With forwards in front of Petr Mrazek, Andrej Sustr's shot from the point found its way into the top left corner of the goal. Matt Taormina and Philippe Paradis picked up assists on the Crunch's first goal of the game.
Grand Rapids regained its two-goal lead just over six minutes into the second frame. After Desjardins made the save on a shot by Jeff Hoggan, Ferraro collected the puck in the crease for the goal. Riley Sheahan also assisted on the play.
The Crunch again cut the deficit to one with a power-play goal at the 10:06 mark of the second period. Richard Panik buried the rebound of a Tyler Johnson shot from the stick side circle to bring the game to 3-2. Brett Connolly was also credited with an assist.
However, Grand Rapids had a response yet again. Tomas Jurco answered back just over two minutes later with power-play goal for the Griffins. Sheahan grabbed his second assist of the game on Grand Rapids' fourth goal.
The Crunch's broadcasters were insistent that the goal hit the crossbar and bounced out. Were they right? It was hard to say. The AHL is 22 years behind the NHL in terms of instituting video review--there is no centralized location to review it, the refs simply skate into the scorers' booth and watch replays--and the video camera behind the Crunch's net looked like a late-80's video camera at least sitting behind frosted glass at a convenience store. It was very hard to see a black puck do anything near an opaque white membrane or a slightly fuzzy orange-ish crossbar.
Even if I was objective I would tell you that the replay was inconclusive, and when the replay is inconclusive, the call on the ice is supposed to stand (as Wings fans know all too well).
The Crunch and Griffins ended the second period with a wild final four minutes. At the 16:12 mark of the period, Syracuse again brought the game to within one goal. Mrazek was unable to stretch across the net to stop Connolly's shot from the right side of the net. Johnson and Ondrej Palat assisted on Connolly's goal.
Just over two minutes later, a J.T. Brown shot appeared to hit the outside of the net. After a review at the next stoppage of play, the officials deemed that the puck had actually gone through the net and Syracuse was awarded a goal with 18:23 gone in the period. J.T. Wyman picked up an assist on the Crunch's fourth goal.
Utterly bizarrely, the video camera to review Mrazek's net (a.k.a. the home team's net for 2 periods) was an overhead one with a very crisp contrast ratio--or so the viewing audience witnessed while peeking over the referees' shoulder as he watched it from the scorers' area--so the ref saw something most everyone else in the rink didn't, and as the fans sitting in the stands weren't privy to replay, they didn't receive the viewing audience's explanation, so the ref went to the scorers' area, magically pointed toward the center of the ice and the game was tied.
21 seconds later, Johnson was called for a delay-of-game after he shot the puck over the boards. The Griffins quickly struck back with a power-play goal five seconds into the man advantage with a goal from Francis Pare.
Again, no time was taken off the clock, so, by the time the penalty played out, Pare's backhander technically went in after 20 minutes of the second period had been played.
After a six-goal second period, just one goal was tallied in the third frame. Syracuse went scoreless, while Grand Rapids took a 6-4 lead with less than six minutes left in the game. Jan Mursak's goal was assisted by Hoggan and Paetsch.
Tomas Jurco could have scored an empty-netter, but as he was poking away at a puck that got caught on the side of the net, Richard Panik either did or did not plow Jurco into the end boards, receiving a minor for roughing that saw him hit the showers because the penalty took place at 19:05 of the 3rd.
Until the refs brought him back on the ice, lest the Griffins actually score on their power play.
And he took a 10-minute misconduct, so he had to be led back off the ice.
That kind of summarized the night in terms of how referees Darcy Burchell and Mark Lemelin handled what did or did not happen, and may or may not have taken place on the ice.
Desjardins ended the night with 23 saves on 29 shots and Mrazek saved 30 of 34 Crunch shots.
Crunchables…Andrej Sustr is the 17th Crunch player to score a goal during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs…With an assist tonight, Ondrej Palat now leads all players in points (21) during these playoffs…Tonight was the first time the Crunch and an opponent have combined for more than ten goals since October 20th...Evan Oberg played in his first game since Apr. 5th against Hershey.
The AHL's website offers a few more tidbits which underscore the fact that while the goal calls may or may not have went Syracuse's way over the past two nights--lest we forget, a would-be tying goal was waved off on Saturday because Brown, who scored the Crunch's mysterious 4-4 goal on Sunday evening, entered the crease with no one around him, and Petr Mrazek backing into the net on his own. Foot-and-a-half in the crease but no interference yielded no goal on Saturday, and puck possibly sailing through a net though no one saw it but the goal-scorer and referee yielded goal on Sunday.
Grand Rapids survived a four-minute Syracuse power play in the early stages of the third period, and grabbed their fourth two-goal lead of the night with 5:04 left in regulation as Jan Mursak scored on a breakaway to make it 6-4.
Despite a 13-4 edge in shots during the third period, the Crunch could get no closer on the scoreboard and dropped their second straight game for the first time this postseason.
Mrazek (13-7) stopped all 13 shots he faced in the third period and finished with 30 saves for the win. Desjardins (11-3) allowed six goals on 29 shots.
Grand Rapids was 2-for-5 on the power play; Syracuse was 2-for-8.
The Grand Rapids Griffins website offers its take on the game's events, too...
The Griffins are heading home to Grand Rapids with a 2-0 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.
Six Griffins scored goals and Petr Mrazek made 30 saves on Sunday to give Grand Rapids a wild 6-4 victory over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 2 at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
The Griffins, who have yet to trail in a game this series, will host Games 3 and 4 at Van Andel Arena this Wednesday, June 12 and Friday, June 14. Tickets are available at http://www.griffinshockey.com Game .5 would be in Grand Rapids on Saturday, if necessary.
For the second straight night, the Griffins tallied the game’s first goal early in the opening period. Seconds after a delayed penalty was signaled against the Crunch, Brennan Evans sent a pass out front from behind the net that Tomas Tatar smacked past Cedrick Desjardins at the 4:29 mark. Tatar’s 12th goal of the playoffs set a franchise record for a single postseason, eclipsing the 11 scored by Kevin Miller during the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Playoffs.
Triston Grant made it a 2-0 game with his first goal of the playoffs at 11:31, crashing the net from the right side to bang home the rebound of a Landon Ferraro shot from the slot.
The Crunch answered less than three minutes later, as Andrej Sustr’s wrister from the point found its way through a maze of bodies and into the top of Mrazek’s net at the 14:03 mark.
Both teams had additional chances before the first 20 minutes wound down, but a Gustav Nyquist shot deflected off iron with 4:30 remaining, and Mrazek denied a point-blank chance by a wide-open Richard Panik two minutes later.
Nyquist was stopped on a partial breakaway 4:21 into the second period, but the Griffins rebuilt their two-goal cushion at 6:23. After winning a race to a loose puck in the Crunch zone, Jeff Hoggan quickly fired a chance that Desjardins saved, but Ferraro swooped in to pop the puck into the top of the net before the goalie could rise from his sprawled position.
Syracuse soon clawed back to within 3-2 with a power play goal, only to see the Griffins quickly respond with one of their own. First, Mrazek tried to cover the puck after making a save, but Panik worked it free from the netminder and slipped a backhand inside the right post at 10:06. Tomas Jurco then scored 2:03 later to put Grand Rapids up 4-2.
The Crunch’s strategy of knocking the puck from Mrazek’s grasp while covering up after a save paid dividends once again during a power play with 3:48 remaining in the frame, as Johnson knocked it free to Brett Connolly for a tap in from the right side to make it 4-3.
Then things really got interesting.
That's one way of putting it. *#$%@& nuts is another.
The two teams played several continuous minutes until a stoppage with one minute left, at which time the referees reviewed the video of a play from a few minutes earlier and determined that a shot by J.T. Brown somehow passed unnoticed through the net’s mesh. Awarding the goal to make it 4-4, they erroneously reset the game clock to show 3:50 – meaning that, for at least a while, Syracuse’s fourth goal (at 16:10 of the period) was scored two seconds before its third goal (at 16:12).
The Crunch barely had time to celebrate their tying marker and good fortune when the Griffins struck again, with Francis Pare scoring from the left side at 16:36 to make it a 5-4 contest. Mercifully, the 22-minute and 50-second period expired without further drama, and during the third period, the AHL adjusted the official times of the Brown and Pare goals to 18:23 and 18:49, respectively.
The Griffins’ penalty killers came up huge by killing off a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Jurco with 14:28 left in the third, and then with just over five minutes remaining, Hoggan and Jan Mursak combined to give Grand Rapids its fourth two-goal lead. Hoggan sprung Mursak for a breakaway with a beautiful pass out of the Griffins zone, enabling Mursak to patiently skate in and flip a backhand past Desjardins at 14:56.
Like in Game 1, the Crunch took a late penalty to short-circuit their comeback hopes, as Vlad Namestnikov was whistled off for roughing with four minutes left, and the clock soon ran out on Syracuse.
Each team converted twice on the power play, with Syracuse enjoying eight opportunities to the Griffins’ five.
Cut that to three if you discount Panik's penalty or Vladislav Namestnikov plain old giving Danny DeKeyser a glove-on punch to the face in front of the Griffins' net at the 16:00 mark of the 3rd period.
The Crunch's broadcasters felt that the penalty was incredibly shady as the Crunch were simply "battling" and "showing their toughness" after every whistle (if you want to call pushing, shoving, hacking, whacking and otherwise entering every post-whistle exchange ensuring that the Griffins' players got a chest or face full of Reebok or CCM-glove-covered fingers and thumbs), and as such, DeKeyser turning his head after the exchange clearly illustrated "selling" what was clearly NOT a big deal.
Desjardins made 23 saves on the night.
Notes: The Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate had not lost consecutive playoff games since the 2011 East Division semis, when the Norfolk Admirals dropped the last four games of the series (April 19-23) in a 4-2 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton…The Crunch began this postseason 11-1 before this weekend’s two losses, and their core group of 10 players who won the 2012 Calder Cup as members of the Admirals were on a 21-1 playoff streak prior to the Calder Cup Finals…In its history, Grand Rapids won all three previous best-of-seven series in which it held a 2-0 lead.
We'll continue our Crunch-to-Griffins perspective-swapping with the Syracuse Post-Standard's Lindsay Kramer's main recap, which notes that the wild second period was...Confusing for everybody...
The second period Sunday was 20 minutes of folly. Actually, 22 minutes and 13 seconds, because that's how much time was accidently added to the clock. But more on that later. The fun started at the 12:09 mark, when Tomas Jurco potted a power-play goal from the left side of the crease to send the Griffins up 4-2. His shot appeared to hit the cross bar and fly back into play, but the goal was reviewed and stood.
Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins didn't see what happened when the puck flew behind him, but by sound he thought the goal hit the inside of the crossbar, which would make it good.
"I heard the bar,'' Desjardins said. "I was pretty sure it was in.''
With 1:37 left in the period, Syracuse's J.T. Brown whistled a shot on goal as teammate J.T. Wyman screened Mrazek. The puck clanged off the boards and play continued.
"I had no clue. I couldn't really see,'' Brown said of his aim. "When I got back to the bench, the guys said the saw the net move.''
Specifically, the sharp-eyed player was Philippe Paradis, who passed his opinion on to head coach Rob Zettler.
"In my mind, you have to give it a shot,'' Zettler said of asking for a video review.
"I didn't see it. He got his shot and the guy was screaming and I didn't think it could be in,'' Mrazek said. "I was surprised when the ref reviewed the goal. I didn't even know what he was doing. I felt it hit my shoulder a little bit and then the puck was in the corner.''
At the next whistle, with 59.5 seconds left in the period, the officials reviewed the play. They ruled the puck went through the net and the score counted, tying the game at 4-4.
And Kramer then describe the difficult task at hand for the Crunch going forward:
In the history of the AHL, 24 teams have won a best-of-7 series after trailing 0-2. But, only 8 teams have won a best-of-7 series after losing the first two games at home.
Syracuse now heads to Grand Rapids for Games 3 and 4, and maybe Game 5. The Crunch is 5-0 on the road this postseason.
"We are confident on the road,'' said Syracuse forward Tyler Johnson. "We are definitely not out of it.''
Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill isn't taking anything for granted until his team crosses the finish line with a pair more wins.
"Now, that's two wins,'' Blashill said after his team beat the Crunch 6-4 in Game 2 on Sunday. "There's a lot of series ahead for both teams. We were in two real tight hockey games. We were able to execute a little bit better than they were able to execute. It's going to be a battle Wednesday night.''
Two wins, and, as the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner notes, some serious-ass "human error":
“After Brown’s goal was confirmed, the clock was set to 3:50 remaining instead of 1:37,” said Jason Chaimovitch, the vice president of communications for the AHL.
That was after the game clock was at 59.5 at the time of the stoppage of play, creating mass confusion.
Chaimovitch did not know who determined the time.
To compound the controversy over an added 2:23 on the clock, Brown’s goal apparently went through the mesh of the net. After the period, crews looked at the net and made no changes or repairs.
As for taking on the shot, Mrazek said: “I didn’t see it. (Brown) got his shot and the guy was screaming and I didn’t think it could be in. I was surprised when the ref reviewed the goal. I didn’t even know what he was doing ... I felt it hit my (right) shoulder a little bit and then the puck was in the corner.”
Any further debate over a tie was extinguished moments later. A delay-of-game penalty to Tyler Johnson put the Griffins on the power play, and Francis Pare followed with a goal that eventually became timed with 1:11 left in the period, or 26 seconds after Brown was awarded his goal.
A person who supports the Red Wings and/or Griffins might say that the mysterious yes-goal-no-goal-yes-goal-awarding and referees' decision to call the rulebook incredibly tightly at times, incredibly loosely at others, and not at all after whistles seemed eerily reminiscent of what fans each and every one of the 16 NHL teams that made the playoffs have witnessed over the past six or so weeks of NHL playoff hockey.
Lots of strangely-awarded goals, inconsistency in terms of any sort of standard of officiating and an intimation that a make-up call is necessary to "even things out" after missing one of those dang stick-to-hand penalties was missed (as those are the only penalties either league seems to be interested in calling on a regular basis).
I'm not sure if what follows from Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples is true given the non-goal on Saturday night, but let's say that both teams have some beefs with the concept of things that happened at what was the visitors' net for the second period in the mysterious land of Onondaga County, New York, where--perhaps--a rink 7 feet shorter than regulation means that teams must play longer than regulation so that player velocity remains distance divided by time?
Yet it was the Crunch’s final goal of the contest – recorded late in the second period – which is the goal that will be talked about for the duration of the Calder Cup Finals.
With under four minutes to go in the middle frame (the scorekeepers were having some difficulty getting the exact time worked out), Syracuse’s J.T. Brown fired a shot past Mrazek that apparently ripped through the netting behind the Griffins’ goaltender. Play continued for multiple minutes before a stoppage of play to allow the referees a chance for video review. The trip to the replay screen left everyone confused, as they thought the referees were reviewing a breakaway chance for the Griffins that was clearly not a goal.
Video review proved that Brown had indeed scored, tying the game at four goals apiece, and sending the fans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena into a frenzy.
They would be quieted in a hurry, however, as Pare scored in the midst of a scramble in front of the Crunch goal to regain the lead for the Griffins.
The Crunch goal either did or didn't count depending on whose eyes saw it, as was the case for Jurco's; the second may have occurred near a massive object given that Einstein taught us all that time can be warped by gravity.
Perhaps that's it. The War Memorial is in fact located in a gravity well, where the laws of physics are bent and twisted and observations are not what they seem!
In any case, as I said in the quick take, I hope the Griffins weren't taken off the bus at Sarnia and told to replay another series against another team.
For now, the Griffins have a 2-games-to-0 series lead and have won a pair of games by a total score of 9-5--which ain't bad but ain't great--and they've done so because, while both fan bases, media corps (the Crunch's crew may not drop curse words like I do, but let's just say that at the AHL level, pretending to own a semblance of journalistic objectivity or detachment is not a job requirement) and somewhere-in-the-middle types like myself have filled the airwaves and the NSA's stomping ground with expletives, anger and confusion, the Crunch have not played a particularly disciplined game between their ears...
But the Griffins? Just as Mike Babcock's team (and Babcock, Ken Holland and Jiri Fischer were all in attendance for Sunday's game) displays an almost baffling level of even-keeled-ness, the Griffins tend to play calmly and stay even-keeled under the guidance of a near-clone of Babcock's style and demeanor in Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill.
2 non-goals for, 2 possible goals against in 2 games? Having to kill 5 penalties in Game 1 and 8 in Game 2, despite what I would hope is more than a subjective observation in stating that the Crunch have initiated the vast majority of physical play both during and especially after the whistles, and that, in both professional hockey leagues that play into June, that kind of stuff has been let go to a shocking degree.
Hockey between the whistles. Rugby scrums after. No harm, rarely a foul.
Do the Griffins care?
As far as they're concerned, Grand Rapids is a team that's had to play through two seven-game series to get to the Calder Cup Final, and it's a team playing against a Syracuse Crunch team that had exactly 1 playoff loss until the Final began.
You might not be surprised to hear that Francis Pare told the Grand Rapids Press's Wallner that the team believes that it's battling its way toward a colossal upset...
“I don’t think you will find anyone in this room that’s surprised,” Pare said. “Obviously, we’re excited but it’s a race to four and Wednesday is the next biggest game of the series.”
“I don’t know who would say it was a surprise because we didn’t play this team before because it’s the finals and anything can happen,” said goalie Petr Mrazek.
Anything can happen. And it often does.
The Griffins return home for the middle three games of the series, with Game 3 at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, in Van Andel Arena. Games 6 and 7 would be back in Syracuse, if necessary.
Coach Jeff Blashill didn’t think the team played its best game, but he was pleased with the focus.
“I thought we handled the emotional swings very well,” Blashill said. “It was certainly an emotionally charged night and emotionally charged building, and I thought we handled that well.”
After holding the Crunch to their lowest output in winning Game 1 3-1, the Griffins had the highest scoring output against them in Game 2. Syracuse only allowed eight goals total in beating Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in five games in the conference finals. But Blashill wouldn’t let two games define the series.
“We won one last night and we won one tonight and … now that’s two wins but there’s a lot of the series ahead of ourselves,” he said.
You might also not be surprised to find out that the Crunch are convinced that the gravity well occurring in Syracuse will disappear as the weekend fades from view:
“I know we are going to win three straight games and win the series here,’’ [Richard] Panik said. “I know that. I know our team. I know what we’re capable of. We’re going to do it.’’
In foreign-language news, the Czech press is delighted that Petr Mrazek's taking part in the Calder Cup Final, the Slovak press is giddy that Panik and his best friend, Tomas Tatar, and Tatar's Slovak teammate, Tomas Jurco, and Joakim Andersson, Adam Almquist and Gustav Nyquist's presence on the Griffins' roster has the Swedish press deeming the Griffins to be a "Swedish Team," just like the parent club.
Via RedWingsFeed, Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom spoke to Nyquist after the game, and he offered understated answers to "Der Alte" in typically Red Wings-Swedish understated fashion (it should be noted that the term "farmlag," or farm team, is not a pejorative in Swedish, but in Russian, stating that a Russian-born player to a farm team is like saying, "He's been sent to a gulag in Siberia")
Detroit's farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, have had a dream start in the AHL finals.
With two road wins over the Syracuse Crunch, the Swedish trio of Adam Almquist, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist are now two wins away from the Calder Cup.
"Yes, we've had a really great start and now we have three straight home games," says Nyquist to SportExpressen.se.
"I think we've done well for ourselves away from home, but we know we can play better. We know we're faching a great team, so we have to continue to push and not let them get any confidence," says Gustav.
Game 3 will be played in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, and then there are games there on Friday and Saturday.
That much is true, and I don't know if I'm going to attend them, but I hope you do.
You have to buy at least four tickets (and up to 12) if you're going to Game 3, but they cost from $14-28 per ticket, and if you buy tickets for Games 3, 4 and 5, you can buy 1-6 tickets for $48-102 for all three games (that's $16-25.50). That's really, really affordable given the action you're gonna see. I don't tell you how to spend your money, but if you want to go, it's not cost-prohibitive.
In the multimedia department, the Syracuse Post-Standard posted a 14-image photo gallery, and the Griffins posted a 40-image gallery which includes some wallpaper-worthy pictures of Petr Mrazek and yet another wonderful picture of Danny DeKeyser's incredibly expressive hockey-playing face (honestly, DeKeyserFace needs to be a meme. He "got his legs under him" during the game, and he's calm, steady and smooth-skating, but the faces he makes are downright goofy).
In terms of videos, you'll see and hear the quality of the Crunch's broadcast (as the boss suggested, Peter McNab of Altitude Sports, circa 1997, has met his match) in this clip of the Crunch being awarded the 4-4 goal...And again, I'm sorry for making an auto-play mess...
And there's more delight from the Syracuse crew in the main highlight clip:
And finally, the Griffins offer a YouTube-formatted highlight clip and set of interviews with coach Blashill and Pare:
We All Bleed Red on YouTube posted a CRAPTON of short videos from Games 1 and 2 on his YouTube channel, too, so go over there and have fun..
What did the Griffins' players have to say after the game?
Something tells me that the Griffins won't be practicing on Monday. They took a pair of "sleeper" buses back to Grand Rapids overnight:
The DVD players work! Yay! The Griffins were apparently very unhappy campers on the way to Syracuse as neither the DVD players nor TV's worked on their sleeper buses, yielding some incredibly unhappy gentlemen as sleeper buses do not have many windows.
As previously mentioned, the Red Wings' brass attended the game ahead of their pro and amateur scouting, pre-draft, pre-free-agency powwow at Joe Louis Arena this week, and I wish I had a link to WOOD Radio's interview with Mike Babcock during the first intermission, but as far as I know, nobody recorded it.
Babcock said two things of significant note: 1. He praised Mrazek but did suggest that he's playing too deeply in his net;
2. He was gushy about Danny DeKeyser's potential, though he readily admitted that DeKeyser both looked a little rusty after returning from a broken thumb and definitely did not have his sea legs (though he found his skating stride during the game);
3. He's watching the NHL playoffs closely as the Blackhawks beat the Wings (he feels that the Hawks can offer significant lessons for the Wings) and the teams that were left in the semifinals are playing up to a standard that the Wings feel they haven't lived up to since 2009 (the team believes that making the Conference Finals is essential on an every-year basis);
4. And he suggested that Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff are all going to play in the NHL next year as they are out of waiver options (or, in Lashoff's case, he's on a one-way contract), and as such, they're either going to play for the Wings, or, "We have to find other organizations for them."
That was a telling comment given that the Free Press's Helene St. James, who's usually tuned into the Wings management's plans, suggested that it is entirely possible that the Wings may move Lashoff due to his lack of foot speed.
This is just a guess, but I would argue that the team's wondering whether it should keep Kyle Quincey and/or Carlo Colaiacovo, whether it needs to target a UFA defenseman to serve as aid to Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson (if the Chicago Blackhawks have certainly proved that having Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya on the 2nd and 3rd defensive pairings with young defensemen = essential to playoff success) and whether it needs to make a trade or two (Lashoff's $725K cap hit for the next three years is very reasonable, and Carlo Colaiacovo is downright underpaid by 2013 free agent class standards at $2.5 million, with only 1 year remaining on his deal).
You can have no doubt that the Wings' ability to land DeKeyser has both made Lashoff's future uncertain and may be the reason that the team could decide to stick with Kronwall-Ericsson, Quincey-Smith and Kindl-DeKeyser instead of adding a free agent--at least until the trade deadline, because the pre-cap compliance buy-out market of UFA defensemen (thank you again, Capgeek) is utterly mediocre, to the point that Mark Streit's apparent desire to find a 4-year deal at somewhere between $5.5-6 million per season, at age 35, is entirely reasonable.
In the not-guessing-what-management-is-thinking department, as noted on Sunday evening, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke with Red Wings GM Holland about Danny DeKeyser's potential...
“I think he’s going to be a great player,” Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said of DeKeyser, a late-season free-agent addition from Western Michigan. “He’s going to be around a long time and he’s a great kid, too.”
Saturday was the first game action for DeKeyser since he broke his thumb in Game 2 of Detroit’s opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s a great experience for Danny DeKeyser to play against Syracuse,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “It’s a great way for him to finish out this season and go into next season.”
And while you and I have heard about Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, Petr Mrazek and Landon Ferraro (if not Adam Almquist) earning their likely statuses as "cup of coffee" and/or injury call-ups during the 2013-2014 season, and we all believe that Andersson, Nyquist, Tatar and DeKeyser have earned roster spots, even if the Wings have to make hard decisions regarding Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, UFA's-to-be Drew Miller and Daniel Cleary, and Patrick Eaves and Cory Emmerton as a result...
Holland is intrigued by the next wave, too:
“We’ve got some big decisions because there’s a push from below,” Holland said. “When the season started, guys like Brian Lashoff, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith, they were all in Grand Rapids. Tomas Tatar’s in Grand Rapids, and we signed a Danny DeKeyser. There’s five or six players that at the start of the ’12-’13 season, weren’t on our roster, weren’t on our radar screen other than depth. Those guys are all on our radar screen now. Other than DeKeyser, they’ve all got to go through waivers. I’m pretty comfortable saying that none of them are going through waivers. Someone will claim them, which means that we either have to have him on this team or we have to make some moves.
Ahem. As Babcock said.
“We’ve got Martin Frk, who played on the Halifax team that won the Memorial Cup and he’s on the first line with (Jonathan) Drouin and (Nathan) MacKinnon. We’ve got the WCHA defenceman of the year (St. Cloud State’s Nick Jensen). They’re just names to people. And they’re not going to come in here next year but we’ve hung onto our draft picks, we’ve tried to be patient, and I think for the first time people are starting to see, there’s some kids here and there’s more kids on the horizon.”
The Free Press's Aaron McMann also penned a profile of Mrazek, questioning his role given that the Wings appear to be at least willing to give Jonas Gustavsson (and his $1.5 million cap hit) a chance to redeem himself...
"He’s got great confidence ... and he thrives under pressure,” said Griffins coach Jeff Blashill. “He did that in World Juniors, and he seems to be someone who welcomes the pressure. In our biggest games yet, he’s played real good.”
And you can credit his February call up to the Red Wings for that. Mrazek, just 20 years old at the time, stopped 26 shots in the Wings’ 5-1 victory at St. Louis on Feb. 7. He played again 10 days later, giving up three goals in 24 shots in a 3-2 loss at Minnesota, before returning to Grand Rapids.
“It helped me so much,” Mrazek said of his time in Detroit. “I learned a lot of stuff, like how to practice (at that level) and how the guys (conduct themselves) in the locker room. That was a great experience, and I hope that’ll help me for next year.”
Jimmy Howard remains the Wings’ guy in net, he signed a six-year contract extension in April, but the backup situation remains up in the air. Jonas Gustavsson, who filled the role for most of the season, started four games but allowed 17 goals on 140 shots.
“I don’t know what their plans are,” Mrazek said. “I don’t think about it now. I’m trying to be the best (in Grand Rapids).”
Sometime around the 4th or 5th year of Howard's $31.75 million extension, the Wings hope that Mrazek (who is all of 21) will start pushing Howard for starts, probably after spending 2 years interning as Howard's back-up.
For the 2013-2014 season, at least? The team believes that Mrazek is better-served spending a second year acclimating to pro hockey and dominating while playing 50+ games in the AHL instead of spending 50+ games sitting on the Wings' bench while Howard does his thing. They're right.
We will conclude what turned out to be a much wordier and longer-to-write entry than I'd hoped by heading back to the land of speculation--and I would encourage you to take a gander at Capgeek's UFA finder split into forwards and defensemen as supplementary reading, and again, keep Capgeek's Wings salary cap chart open in another tab on whatever browser you use while perusing the following (my Firefox browser's auto-complete has gotten to the point where I start typing "www" and it's like, "Okay, captain you bookmark anything, is it Merriam-Webster, the Sports Forecaster, the Red Wings' team plane tracker on Flightaware, or are we going back to Capgeek again?")...
As the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took a gander at the free agent marketplace in photo gallery form--after asking Holland what he thinks about this summer's pre-cap compliance buy-out market (those buy-outs will start being made 48 hours after the Cup Final ends):
ALSO PLEASE REMEMBER that all the numbers I'm gonna quote regarding salaries paid to players in fact refer to 48 games and 99 NHL nights worth of money as opposed to 82 games' worth and a full season's salary. The math is so *#$%@& complicated that even cap nerds aren't trying to calculate how much money the players really earned this past season.
“I don't think it’s a big free-agent market as compared to other years,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “The free-agent market every year is going to get a little thinner because teams are signing their best players and nobody is letting those kind of assets hit the market.”
Like every other team, the Red Wings would love to add a top-four defenseman or a top-six scoring forward. And there are players in this market who could offer some help — if they're available and don’t re-sign with their present teams: forwards Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, David Clarkson and defenseman Rob Scuderi.
The emphasis seems to be on "OR" this summer. With $11.957 million in cap space, the team likely to spend about a million bucks to re-sign four RFA's in Andersson, Nyquist, Smith and Kindl...
But there won’t be any players causing a stir on the level that Ryan Suter and Zach Parise did last summer before they signed with the Wild.
“There are no superstar names out there the caliber of last year,” Holland said. “There are good, secondary players, but they might get signed up (by their present teams).”
Holland has his own potential unrestricted free agents he has to deal with — forwards Damien Brunner, Daniel Cleary, Valtteri Filppula and Drew Miller. Defenseman Ian White will test the market. Not all the free agent forwards are likely to return.
Filppula's all but sure to be gone. He earned whatever 48 games' worth of $3.5 million in real-world bucks amounts to past season, and I have no doubt that SOMEone will pay him $5 million based on unfulfilled potential as a 29-year-old with one 66-point season and point-per-every-other-game-or-so stats otherwise;
The Wings rather desperately want to re-sign Brunner, but he's all but assured to double his 48 games' worth of $1.4425 million in total compensation this past season;
Cleary is probably still worth his $3 million in real-world-buck salary as an all-purpose forward who puts up 35-45 points per season, but at 34 years of age, with some hard miles on his body, chronic groin and degenerative knee issues, re-signing him is a risky proposition;
And Miller loves being a Wing, but he's 29, he can lead a team's penalty-kill, win faceoffs in a pinch, play on the first or second line in a pinch, and as a 3rd or 4th-line forward who still averages 15-20 points per season despite averaging only 8-12 minutes per night, Miller faces a Filppula-like choice:
29 years of age is pretty much the prime of a player's career, and UFA's of that age know they could pretty much set themselves up for the rest of their careers if they happen to land a big deal on the open market.
For someone like Miller, who earned a modest pro-rated $850,000 last season and hasn't made a mint over 325 games of NHL experience, staying with Detroit means taking $1.5 million or less, but the lure of a possible but not guaranteed $2-2.5 million per season over 4 or 5 years has to intrigue the hell out of him.
“We have some big decisions because there is a push from below,” Holland said, noting the young talent emerging from minor league affiliate Grand Rapids.
And therein lies the rub for Filppula, Cleary, Miller, and, as previously stated, Eaves (he has a $1.2 million cap hit), Emmerton ($550,000) Bertuzzi (you're going to have to trust me when I say that the Wings value his shootout abilities, his status as a "nuclear deterrent" as the Wings move to a bigger and tougher Eastern Conference, and as the press intimated while he was sidelined, his ability to settle down the younger players and still provide leadership in the locker room, all at an affordable $2.075 million cap hit), the likely-to-be-bought-out Samuelsson ($3 million plus a no-trade clause) and even Jordin Tootoo ($1.9 million cap hit for 2 more years) to some extent have to be a little worried about the fact that Nyquist, Tatar and Andersson will take up a full line, and that the Wings' brass is still insistent that Darren Helm will return from his back issues and take a prominent role.
If you add the Griffins' trio to the lineup, assume that Helm and Bertuzzi will be healthy, and toss Samuelsson out, the Wings end up with 12 forwards (the aforementioned Griffins trio, Helm, Bertuzzi, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, Eaves, Emmerton and Tootoo) on the roster, and the team will carry 14.
Add Brunner to the mix, and that's 13. Keep Miller or Cleary and you're already up to 14 (14 forwards + 7 defensemen + 2 goalies = 23 players, which is the NHL's regular-season roster limit).
Let Miller and Cleary as well as the likely-to-be-flipped-for-a-draft-pick Filppula go, add Brunner to the mix, and go with, say, the obvious favorites that the trusty Wings beat writers insist the team covets in Bickell (6'4," 233 pounds, 27 years old, Abdelkader-like in terms of his abilities, will probably earn $2.5-3 million despite taking home $600,000 this past season), Stalberg (6'3," 209 pounds, 27 years old, FAST, will double his $875,000 salary easily) , Clarkson (6'1," 200, 29 years of age, by far the most pugnacious of the bunch, will probably earn at least his $3 million after scoring 30 goals and 46 in 11-12 and 15 in 48 games during 2013, which would translate to 25 goals over 82 games [with an equivalent of 42 points])...
And you're up to 14 forwards again.
As for my "dark horses?" (And this is the ONLY time I will engage in speculation)
Despite his injury history, 28-year-old Nathan Horton is a "heavy" (to quote a Babcockism) at 6'2" and 229 pounds, when he his healthy, he's a 30-goal-scorer and 50-60-point player, and the $5.5 million he earned this past season is a realistic amount;
And if the Wings are indeed in a, "Steal from Chicago" mood, they could also do worse than strengthening the second pair with soon-to-be-34-year-old Michal Rozsival, who's a steady right-handed defenseman at 5'1" and 212 pounds, and he's kept up with Hjalmarsson and Oduya, all while earning $3 million.
What do I THINK will happen?
I would like to hope that Valtteri Filppula will be flipped for a draft pick, but knowing the Wings' tendencies, they will try to keep him up to and including the morning of July 5th, before seeing Filppula earn $5 million-plus with another team;
Miller and Cleary have 50-50 chances of staying. I expect the Wings to re-sign Miller for $1.5-ish and to make the hard decision to say farewell to Cleary;
The Wings will find that re-signing Damien Brunner, given that his agent, Neil Sheehy, represented Ryan Suter last year, will in fact be a bear and a half, but he'll get inked to a $3-3.5 million deal at the last minute;
They'll buy out Mikael Samuelsson and trade Carlo Colaiacovo, though that trade may not take place until the fall;
The Wings will work very hard to ink Andersson, Nyquist, Smith and Kindl to deals averaging around $1.25 million for the forwards and $1.5 million for the defensemen;
The team will probably retain Eaves and Emmerton until the exhibition season, going over the 23-man roster limit and maybe even exceeding the cap if necessary to allow players to determine their own fates via training camp and the exhibition season;
The team simply won't issue qualifing offers to Tom McCollum or Brent Raedeke, and while they may shake their heads, they won't even make an attempt to convince Jan Mursak to not head to Amur Khabarovsk as the KHL team is probably paying Mursak north of $1.5 million;
The team won't add a defenseman, deciding to ride out the youth movement until the trade deadline, mostly because defensemen who can skate in a straight line will be landing $3 million contracts on July 5th;
The team will swing hard for Bickell, Stalberg, Clarkson and Horton, in descending order...
And if the Wings miss on the quartet, they won't sign anyone.
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