The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/03/14 at 04:38 AM ET
The Red Wings are about to get incredibly "busy" in the hockey sense of the term. After today's practice, they'll fly to New Jersey to kick off a slate of 3 games played over the course of 4 nights and a total of 5 in 8 afternoons and evenings (Sunday's game against the Rangers is a matinee).
After a two-day break on March 12th and 13th, the team will play on an every-other-night basis for the balance of the month, racking up 10 games over the course of 17 afternoons and evenings...
So the 28-20-and-12 Wings will reach the 75-game mark by March 31st, and between now and then, we'll find out whether the team can make any hay in terms of wiggling out of a messy race for a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
In penning his "Look Ahead in Hockeytown," DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose both previews this week's quartet of games and frames the Wings' situation as Ken Holland prepares for Wednesday's trade deadline and the players on the ice prepare to "get busy":
“We had some unrestricted free agents last year,” Holland said. “We weren’t a buyer, we weren’t a seller, I felt if we could just get our team together we could play our way in, which we did. Other than (Henrik) Zetterberg, for the most part we’re healthy. … We’re probably the healthiest we’ve been since early December.”
Certainly, Johan Franzen’s hot start following the Olympic break helps boaster Holland’s position. Franzen missed 22 games with concussion-like symptoms that lingered since mid-December. But last week, with Zetterberg (back surgery) out for the rest of the regular season, Franzen found his scoring touch, producing five points in two huge wins last week at Montreal and Ottawa. His three-goal night against the Senators was his first hat trick since Nov. 8, 2011.
Center Stephen Weiss is expected to return to the lineup for the first time since he underwent sports hernia surgery before Christmas, and Pavel Datsyuk, who missed the third period at Ottawa, was given the weekend off to rest his injured knee.
“He’s got an ongoing issue, he’s going to have to deal with it,” said Holland, referring to Datsyuk’s injury. “We saw in the Olympics how he can play.”
Roose continues and previews all four games that the Wings will play between now and the crappy day that is "Spring Forward" Sunday, and in the trade vein, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reiterated Holland's deadline stance:
“We’re not selling,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “I look at us a lot like last year. We had some unrestricted free agents last year. We weren’t a buyer, we weren’t a seller. I felt if we could just get our team together we could play our way in, which we did.
“I’d like to make a hockey trade if possible to try and obtain someone out there that that we think makes our team better,” Holland added.
The Wings won out over their last four games to make the playoffs last season. Then they beat Anaheim and went seven games with the Chicago, which went on to win the Stanley Cup.
“We’re going to definitely explore the market,” Holland said. “Calls are starting to come in so we’ll see. We’re always looking to upgrade, but when you’re battling for a playoff spot it’s hard to trade. Those days in the late 90s and early 2000s when you would trade one or two of three first round picks to acquire players is hard to do when you’re in our position.”
Holland said he talked to a handful of managers that attended the Olympics.
Pleiness then continues and notes that the Wings will probably look to add a defenseman, though Holland--again--isn't keen on spending a 1st rounder or a top prospect on a "rental player":
“The first question will be what’s the expense of the rental,” Holland said. “And when you’re (tied) for the last playoff spot it’s hard to trade a top prospect or a first-round draft pick to rent a player, but at the same time we’re always looking to upgrade. If there’s a hockey trade out there – I call a hockey trade a trade that affects your team going into next season – I’m obviously open to it.”
In terms of the Wings' difference-makers going forward, the Free Press's Helene St. James duly notes that one Johan Franzen's bringng his purse and lipstick to every game, and is possibly playing his best hockey since 2008, too:
Franzen, 34, is a textbook example of a streaky scorer — he can score five goals in one game, as he did Feb. 2, 2011, after which he scored just two goals the remainder of that regular season. Or he can go on a tear as in 2008, when he provided the Wings with 15 goals from March to the end of that regular season.
He is at his most productive when he plays with emotion, something teammates have been frank about not knowing how to stoke. But it seems another February game at Ottawa has done the trick. Franzen came through with a hat trick last week at Ottawa, in Detroit’s second game after the Sochi Olympics, to give the Wings a 6-1 victory. Franzen followed that with a give-and-go takedown of Ottawa tough-guy Chris Neil via the press.
The Red Wings need Franzen at his fiercest all the more because captain Henrik Zetterberg is out at least through the end of the regular season after undergoing back surgery. No one in the locker room has figured out how to make Franzen play at an emotional peak, but he seems to be there, and that bodes well for the Wings.
And the intrepid beat writers have also chosen to warm to the, "The Kids ARE alright after all!" theme. The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan profiled one Riley Sheahan, who's taken Joakim Andersson's job and is posting significant offensive numbers despite little NHL experience--which is especially surprising given that he never really scored on a regular basis at the NCAA or AHL levels...
Offensive consistency was an issue at Notre Dame, where Sheahan topped off at 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 37 games in the 2011-12 season before signing with the Red Wings. In the pros — last season with Grand Rapids (16 goals, 20 assists) and currently with the Red Wings (12 points in 20 games) — the offensive potential has been evident.
“The game is better suited for me in terms of the way you think,” Sheahan said. “The systems are a little different. I’ve enjoyed it so far. Confidence is an issue. In college when you get down on yourself, it’s such a short season and and you don’t get time to regroup. Here, it’s so far been good. You keep working on staying focused and being effective on every shift. If points aren’t coming, you concentrate on being solid defensively and keep using my body, focus on things like that.”
Sheahan’s effectiveness this season has been a pleasant surprise for coach Mike Babcock, who wouldn’t mind seeing Sheahan — and the rest of his line — shoot the puck more.
“All three have to shoot the puck,” Babcock said. “None of them, on first instinct, shoot the puck. They’d have more offense if they shot it. He (Sheahan) can shoot the puck way better (than Babcock thought). I just wish he’d do it once in a while. The only time he shoots it, it goes in the net.”
And MLive's Ansar Khan offers wider-perspective assessment of the "Kid Line" of Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar.
Sheahan's 12 points (4 goals and 8 assists) in 20 games played are surprising; Jurco's coming along a little more slowly, having registered 4 goals, 5 assists and 9 points in 21 games played; and Tatar's doing pretty damn well in what is really his first full season with the team--his 14 goals, 12 assists and 26 points in 51 games played are good for seventh in team scoring, one point behind Gustav Nyquist (though Nyquist has 27 points in only 35 games played).
The "Kid Line" is getting 'er done, and Tatar told Khan that he agrees with Babcock's suggestion that the trio needs to shoot the puck more often:
“We’re just having more space on the ice now and maybe play with more confidence,” Tatar said. “We’re getting more trust from the coach. Me and (Jurco), growing up in Europe we were more like passing around instead of shooting. I agree; we should probably shoot more.”
Sheahan suggests that the chemistry the three display comes naturally...
“I think we just figured it out and we read off each other well,” Sheahan, the line’s center, said. “We skate a lot. All of us think the game the same; we enjoy playing in the offensive zone and when it comes to playing in the D-zone we’re pretty steady and we get the puck out as quick as we can so we can have some more time in the O-zone.”
And while I can't quote all of Khan's article, it's a must-read because director of player development Jiri Fischer weighs in on Sheahan's progress, Tatar talks about Jurco...
Jurco, the club’s top pick in 2011 (35th overall), is a terrific stickhandler with finishing ability (four goals, nine points in 21 games). At 6-foot-2, 193, he also throws his weight around and goes to the hard areas.
“We’re getting lots of pucks in the corner because he’s finishing his checks,” Tatar said. “It brings energy and it’s good for our line, too.”
While Fischer suggests that Jurco may end up being the most offensively intimidating player of the trio--if only eventually:
“Every game he plays at the NHL level he’s dangerous,” Fischer said. “For me, he’s a lot of fun to watch. With his high-end skill at top speed, he’s a very dangerous rush player. And in the last year and a half, he’s learned how to forecheck and put pressure on the puck and stomp on any turnovers and really support the defense.”
In the "Business of Hockey" department...Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea penned a comprehensive article explaining how and why the Detroit Tigers chose to increase revenues by implementing a "dynamic pricing" system for their single-game tickets, and I'm going to leave this note about the Wings without comment:
The Detroit Red Wings, also owned by the Ilitch family, went to a dynamic pricing system beginning with the 2010-11 season. The team did not disclose how the system has affected single-game ticket revenue. The Wings have approximately 14,000 season ticket holders at 20,066-seat Joe Louis Arena, meaning there's a smaller pool of tickets available to be dynamically priced, so the revenue boost for each of the 41 home games is likely smaller than what the Tigers could see.
And in an editorial, Reverend Joan C. Ross, who runs the North End Woodward Community Coalition, penned something of a response to the Free Press's Sunday editorials regarding the Red Wings' follow-on rink's public funding--and especially the part of the deal that involed Detroit's City Council not asking the Ilitches or Olympia Entertainment for some sort of binding agreement to guarantee "community benefits" to the Cass Corridor's residents:
Even though the City Council accepted Olympia’s handshake and promise to do right by Detroiters this time, there is an ordinance before the council that would guarantee community benefit agreements for such projects in the future. Just as Olympia would never sublet work to another firm without a contract, it is only fair that the city have an equally enforceable agreement for hundreds of millions of public dollars.
If Detroiters don’t value the city’s assets and integrity, developers never will. Indeed, the bankruptcy has created a fire sale mentality where everything is supposed to be had on the cheap. City Council must take steps make sure the city gets a fair deal with developers:
■ Developers sign legal contracts to abide by the terms of the community benefit agreement.
■ Community oversight boards to ensure transparency.
■ Developers hold public hearings on projects with adequate notice.
■ Rent control and other protections for residents in the case of rising property values.
■ Projects should train and employ city residents.
These are some of the broad outlines of how the city must conduct business to keep residents from getting the short end of the stick.
Here's hoping that the Ilitches read this editorial and stick to some of Ross's suggestions.
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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.