The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/14/14 at 02:15 AM ET
Updated 2x at 6:21 AM with some charming comments from Mikael Samuelsson and some Darren Helm stuff: Wednesday's slate of Danny DeKeyser contract updates certainly brought to mind the regular-season repeat machine, so I'd like to start with a point of clarification regarding Wednesday morning's "Wings in Waiting" article about Martin Frk instead.
The Wings posted the article minus the usual accompaniment of a "Prospect Report" video, so the video posted on Wednesday evening, which includes comments by Ken Holland, Ryan Martin and Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, sheds far more light upon the team's assessment of Frk's worth in light of his difficult professional debut:
I know that Frk was working out in Montreal during the Wings' summer development camp (if he went home to the Czech Republic, he didn't stay there for very long), and he's made appearances in Griffins assistant equipment manager Andrew Stegehuis' "Ice Bucket Challenge" video and some pick-up hockey games in Grand Rapids, so he's clearly committed to working on becoming a better North American pro.
One of Frk's former teammates was bought out in June and got married in July, and this morning, the Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe (via Chris Nichols) Tweeted an update about a certain Jordin Tootoo's employment situation:
At this point, I'm not sure if Tootoo can afford to turn down a two-way deal. I know he doesn't want to play in the AHL, but he needs to find a job and earn a spot.
I might surmise that Winnipeg felt that its status as both the closest major city to Nunavut and the capital of Tootoo's Major Junior Hockey-playing career's province (Tootoo played for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings) afforded the team the leverage to issue a two-way offer, and in early August, Tootoo might find that offer a little underwhelming, but this isn't the time of year that teams offer one-way deals to guys who spent last year "on the farm."
The Wings' press corps tended to stay "on message" in terms of their pursuit of quips and quotes from Danny DeKeyser on Wednesday, but the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan added two noteworthy items to his rehashing of the DeKeyser comments:
Alfredsson update: Alfredsson is expected to begin skating this week in his native Sweden. Alfredsson, 41, will skate with the other Red Wings after Labor Day, when players begin group skates in preparing for training camp.
If Alfredsson’s back holds up — it bothered him late last season — he and the Red Wings will work out a one-year contract.
Alfredsson, an unrestricted free agent, said he will not play anywhere else but with the Red Wings — if he decides to play and forgo retirement.
I know you've heard most of that before, but no reports of Alfredsson skating at the Frolunda Indians' rink (the "Scandinavium") in Gothenburg have popped up as of yet, and the calendar aspect of the Wings' informal practices matters.
The Wings' players tend to begin skating in Troy either next late week or in the last week of August, but the Wings "let the players in" around the first of September (sometimes before, sometimes after; per the CBA, the Wings' players cannot be coached on the ice by the coaching staff until training camp begins, but they obviously have, let's say informal chats with coaches and management in the locker room, training room and gym, and of course the coaches and management get to watch practices regardless of where the players are skating, but it's a little handier to watch them skate where the coaches and management usually work)...
This tidbit isn't insubstantial as it suggests that the players will begin their every-other-day practices on Tuesday, September 2nd, and will ramp things up during the following week (the prospect tournament begins on September 12th and the Wings' main camp begins on September 19th).
No worries about Babcock; Forward Drew Miller said the uncertain status of coach Mike Babcock —Babcock isn’t signed past this season —has no impact on the team.
“The only way we’ll get caught up is if you guys (media) keeping asking us every day,” Miller said. “I don’t think we’ll be worried about it. He’ll get it figured out and taken care of. We just have to play the game; that’s what our job is. I don’t think he’ll be negotiating during the season, so it’s not something we’ll have to worry about.”
Babcock's stated that he won't talk about his contract situation after the regular season begins, and that he wants to see Ken Holland get locked up first.
Conversely, Holland's stated that he doesn't want to talk contract turkey with Babcock until training camp, which gives Holland all of three-and-a-half weeks to try and extend Babcock before the team opens the regular season against Boston on October 9th, so I'm a little worried about the situation, but players tend to concern themselves with more immediate issues, at least publicly (again, I'm not buying Igor Larionov's suggestion that none of his clients have ever discussed Russia's political situation, and as we learned when Brian Rafalski launched a campaign against Tennessee's "Jock Tax," the locker room is not an apolitical place; something tells me that they talk about issues like player, coach and managerial contracts, too).
So much "stuff" occurred in the press release department over the past two days that I feel a recap is necessary, so:
- On Monday, the Wings released the details of the team's annual prospect tournament in Traverse City, MI;
- On Tuesday, the Wings released the details of the team's main training camp, which runs from September 18th to 23rd, again, in Traverse City;
- The Wings announced that preseason tickets will go on sale this Friday, August 15th at 10 AM;
- At the AHL level, the Grand Rapids Griffins signed their fourth NCAA free agent forward in University of Wisconsin graduate Tyler Barnes, and the Toledo Walleye signed a trio of free agent defensemen, including Wings summer development camp participant and University of Michigan graduate Kevin Clare;
- The Griffins also revealed that they'll play exactly two preseason games, with both games including the Lake Erie Monsters as the opponent. The Griffins will battle the Monsters at Windsor's WCFU Centre on October 2nd, and then they'll head to Fort Wayne, Indiania to battle the Monsters at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. According to WANE.com, the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets are the Monsters' ECHL affiliate.
Regarding prospects and "young guns," Dobber Hockey's Austin Wallace has penned a fantasy hockey profile for Wings free agent signee Tomas Nosek...
Tomas Nosek, LW/C
Shoots: L Height: 6-2 Weight: 201 Born: 1992-09-01 Hometown: Pardubice, Czech Republic Drafted: Signed by Detroit as a free agent June 14th 2014
Observations: August 2014- Tomas Nosek enjoyed a breakout campaign in his third season with his hometown team, HC Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga in 2014. He ended the year as the teams top scorer despite being the youngest regular on the team and finished as the ninth highest scorer in the entire league with 44 points in 52 games. He smashed his previous career high by 30 points besting his goal total by 14(5-19), assists by 16(9-25) and finished with a plus-17 rating which was top 20 in the league. His season caught the eye of the Red Wings and they jumped at the opportunity to sign the young Czech who had multiple teams after his services. It may have helped that Jiri Fischer the Red Wings director of player development was one of Nosek’s assistant coaches on the 2012 World Junior team so the familiarity to him could’ve helped aide his decision. Nosek brings a nice complement of size and skill to an organization that needs it to battle the Boston’s and Pittsburgh’s of the East and in time could be talked about as another coup by Detroit’s scouting staff. This signing also helps ease the pain of losing the talented Calle Jarnkrok as well as their 2014 second round draft pick which were both shipped to Nashville at the deadline for David Legwand. With 14 forwards already signed look for him to start his North American career with Grand Rapids where he will have plenty of time and opportunity to develop.
Fantasy Outlook: C+ He has a chance at being a call-up when needed this season because of his experience already playing professionally and because he possesses a solid well rounded two-way game that coach Babcock demands. Nosek projects to be more of a complementary scorer with the potential down the road to hit 50 points
And my Slovak is dreadful, but Tomas Jurco spoke with Pravda.sk's Michal Maslan on Wednesday afternoon, and I'm going to do a summary as opposed to a "rough translation":
1. Jurco says that he spent his longest offseason in three years (winning the Memorial Cup in St. John and then the Calder Cup in Grand Rapids = two very short summers) taking a full month off, going to Turkey for a quiet week (save going to "the disco") and mostly spending time with his friends and family, and then early last month, he began to ramp up his training. He's going to start skating with his hometown team, HC Kosice, in late August, and he'll leave for Detroit in the second week of September;
2. He feels that he needs to improve his shot because he learned that at the NHL level, you don't have much time to corral passes and assess your shooting options--instead, you have to shoot right away--and Jurco says that his fellow young teammates and coach Babcock discussed the need to shoot more, so he's been shooting on the ice alone; he also says that the Wings wanted him to get stronger and that they want him to come to training camp well-prepared as he understands the Wings' forward crunch means he has an uphill battle to make "the first team";
3. He doesn't work out with his sister Petra, who's an Olympic hockey player that's 5 years older than Jurco (he's 21), and there's a bit of an awkward exchange between Maslan and Jurco as to whether his sister is his biggest fan and/or whether the pair hope to play in another Olympics together.
4. Jurco says that his mom is his biggest fan, that he never had a "biggest critic," and that his family has yet to watch him play in the NHL in person because he was bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL this past season, and he says he remains in contact with his billet families from his time with the Saint John Sea Dogs;
5. Jurco says that he was actually heading to Saint John, New Brunswick for Christmas when he was called up to the Wings on December 15th, and he's quite happy that he scored his first goal in his second game against Anaheim, but he doesn't have the puck from that goal, and he assumes that it's been lost as Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan have been presented their "first goal" pucks;
6. He's asked about Daniel Alfredsson's situation and says that he's not concerned about whether Alfredsson re-signs. Instead, Jurco feels that he must do his best to prove that he belongs on the team, which he suggests is Mike Babcock's decision, and he says that he's already surprised that he's played in 39 NHL games, so he's not exactly already jittery about playing out the final year of his entry-level contract;
7. He says that he was satisfied by his 2013-14 campaign as he was able to play in the NHL and in the Olympics for Slovakia, and while it stank to lose to Slovenia, he had a great time at the Olympics and is only disappointed in the result;
8. He worked at a children's hockey camp this summer, and he said that he showed them a few stick tricks, but Jurco emphasizes that he's trying to get away from being known for his YouTube moments (as it were);
9. Then Maislan asks Jurco about the fact that he told the Wings' website that he'd like to be an actor if he wasn't a hockey player, so the pair chat about Jurco's answer (he says that he wonders about film production and direction), his favorite movies (he likes comedies and just about everything but science fiction movies), how often he goes to the theatre (once a week in the U.S., more regularly in Grand Rapids);
10. Jurco's then asked about his former Saint John Sea Dogs teammates, and he discusses the progress made by Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau, Minnesota's Charlie Coyle, Montreal's Nathan Beaulieu and New Jersey's Eric Gelinas, as well as friends who haven't "made the jump" yet in Minnesota's Zack Phillips and Stansilav Galiev;
11. Finally, Jurco's asked about his transition from QMJHL hockey to AHL hockey, and you already know by now that Jurco had a rough first half of the 2013 campaign in Grand Rapids, but his second half was superb and it resulted in an AHL championship. He says that it takes a few months for him to acclimate to new playing environments, and that's true for just about everybody.
And finally, on Twitter, the "Ice Bucket Challenge" continues...
While Wings prospect Chase Perry's preparing to head to Colorado College for his freshman campaign:
Update: Oh joy. Late-night foreign-language news.
First, Tomas Jurco's interview with SME.sk's Tomas Prokop is very similar to Jurco's interview with Pravda.sk.
Jurco reiterates that he's doing his best to improve his shot, he states that he's working on improving his strength and that he's running less than he used to do...And he reiterates that he's not particularly worried about the Wings re-signing Alfredsson, should it come to pass. Jurco says that if he starts the season in the AHL, he's done it before, and he'll deal with it...
Second, via Bjorn Broden on Twitter, Expressen's Mattias Ek reports that Mikael Samuelsson's about to sign with Djurgardens IF, and Samuelsson was just a charmer in his interview with Ek, joining the Mike Commodore Club:
Here's a rough 4 AM translation of Ek's article:
Samuelsson's goal: to silence anyone who doubts him
Huddinge (Sweden). Mikael Samuelsson has come home to Sweden after winning the Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold and World Championship gold. Three championships, and each one is a dream for a hockey player.
But the question they still ask themselves is: how good is this 37-year-old forward?
"I think I can still play hockey. That's what I'm here to prove," says Samuelsson.
In connection with Djurgarden's first open practice on ice on July 29th, Sport-Expressen confirmed that the team signed Mikael Samuelsson.
But the veteran forward, who played in 699 NHL games, was conspicuously absent at the Royal Court. Instead, on August 28th, he will come to the venue.
Given that Samuelsson's past two seasons with the Red Wings consisted of injuries, punishment and only playing 30 NHL games out of 164, one might wonder how good he'll be in the SHL.
And instead of training with Djurgarden, he and his summer NHL friends and Swedes Carl Hagelin, Marcus Kruger and Patric Hornqvist secretly started ice training in Nailsworth Hall in Huddinge, just over a kilometer from Hovet, which will be his new workplace.
"I'm managing my own time a bit more. We've been home for five weeks, the children are going to school and there's some stuff to be done," said Samuelsson as he takes off his white helmet with Detroit's #37 on its neck.
Starting on Monday
He's decided to start practicing with Djugarden on Monday.
"Slowly but surely it will be better and better. My body feels good."
Yes, what about your body?
"Last year, I felt okay, but there were other factors," says Samuelsson, who only played 26 NHL games for the Stanley Cup and Olympic-winning coach Mike Babcock.
"The year before, it was really bad, I was about to say. The injuries I got were strange. One was a shot to the finger. Then I got a stick up and pulled my chest muscle. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesnt. And I never came back from it, really. Hopefuly it's good now."
Mikael Samuelsson's been known for his outspokenness during his career. When he wasn't included in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic team, he told coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and the Tre Kronor management to, "Go *#$%@& themselves."
"It had been decided"
The punishment in Detroit also left its mark, and he doesn't hide his disappointment.
"I didn't get much playing time. It felt like he (Babcock) decided pretty early what he wanted. It started quite all right for me, actually. I felt good about my game, I scored in the first game and we won the first two games. Then he benched me, directly. He took me off the team completely after two wins," says Samuelsson while he pulls off his Detroit Red Wings pants.
"When it all started, I thought, 'There aren't any excuses,' or something like that. I obviously would've made things better. But there were sebacks as well. I wanted to have a pat on the back and hear, 'Here we go.' But I never got it."
Did you get any explanation from Babcock?
"He wanted me to play harder. But whatever he says, it's BS (Bullshit) to me. Whatever he chose to do...actions speak louder than words there. He must obviously say something to the player. But I know how he works, and I've had [to deal with him] long enough."
Mikael Samuelsson's moved forard, and he believes that with Djurgarden, he'll prove that he can still play to the highest standards of the SHL.
His shoulder injury from last season won't hamper him, so he sees himself as something other than a wild card.
"If you ask me, I don't think so. I think I can still play hockey. That's what I'm here to prove."
"Will it be a different kind of challenge? Absolutely. I'm coming home here, and with you and the media, it's clear that I've dealt with the media a lot before, too, but there I was more one of the guys on the team, part of the team. If I play my cards right, it will be a little different here. I will have a bigger role on the team, and I'm looking forward to it, too. It's not that I'm coming home to play for only some of the games. Then I would've felt I was able to quit. I'm still keen to be involved and have fun in a team with cohesion. I still believe I have something to contirbute."
Update #2: *Grumble* Up late due to some late-night family weirdness, so here's MLive's Ansar Khan weighing in on Darren Helm's "outlook":
2013-14 in review: Equaled a career high with 12 goals, in 42 games. ... Scored during his second shift in just his second game in nearly 19 months. It stood as the game-winner vs. Edmonton on Nov. 2. ... Scored six goals during a seven-game stretch from Nov. 16-29 before experiencing a 20-game stretch without a goal. ... Scored first career power-play goal on Nov. 23 vs. Ottawa. ... Notched first career hat trick on March 29 at Toronto. ... Scored two of the team's three shorthanded goals. ... Averaged a career-high 15:10 in ice time. ... Registered a career-high shooting percentage (14.5 percent). ... Was below 50 percent on faceoffs (49.1 percent) for first time in his career. ... Missed 40 games with four separate injuries (back, 14 games, Oct. 2-Nov. 1; shoulder, 11 games, Dec. 6-Dec. 28; groin, seven games, Jan. 1-18; concussion, eight games, March 6-20).
2014-15 outlook: The player coach Mike Babcock has referred to as the best third-line center in the league can still be a difference-maker if he can stay healthy. He's played in just 49 of the team's last 164 games, including the playoffs, due to a variety of injuries. His speed, forechecking ability and physical play make him difficult to play against. He creates a lot of scoring opportunities but is not a good finisher. Still, he manages to score in double figures.
Key question: How much better can the Red Wings be with a healthy Helm in the lineup?
Much better if he's trained hard during the offseason and is able to deal with whatever chronic back issues he's going to have to deal with from now on. He's an incredibly fast player who can indeed generate scoring chances for his linemates and help generate and sustain a strong orecheck, but he needs some consistent linemates and half a healthy season to truly find his stride again.
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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.