The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/17/14 at 06:08 AM ET
Updated 4x at 9:17 AM: I've woken up so early that the start times of Tuesday and Wednesday's Olympic playoff qualification round games were just being set. here's what you need to know in terms of the Red Wings taking part in the tournament, per NHL.com and Team Sweden GM Tommy Boustedt:
Qualification Playoff games Feb. 18:
Russia [and Pavel Datsyuk] vs. Norway 7:30 AM EST
Czech Republic vs. Slovakia [and Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco] 12 PM EST
Quarterfinal games Feb. 19:
Sweden [and Daniel Alfredsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Jonas Gustavsson, Gustav Nyquist and Niklas Kronwall] vs. winner SLO-AUT at 3 AM EST
Finland vs. winner RUS-NOR [and possibly Pavel Datsyuk] at 7:30 AM EST
USA [Jimmy Howard's playing caddy] vs. winner CZE-SVK [possibly Jurco and Tatar] at 12 PM EST
Canada [Mike Babcock's team] vs. winner SUI-LAT at 12 PM EST
As of this ungodly hour (I come from a long line of night owls, so I'm looking forward to next Monday and no longer having to get up at 2 AM EST because Sochi's 9 hours ahead of Southeastern Michigan time), what Red Wings-related news I have comes from Team Sweden's practice, as the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Gustav Nyquist may have drawn a short straw...
And while she reported that no one wash hurt when Erik Karlsson ran over Daniel Alfredsson and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at Sweden's practice, Alfredsson admitted that there were some hairy moments:
They are on him about slowing down in practice, though, because Monday morning at Bolshoy Training Rink, Karlsson knocked down star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist giving chase to Loui Eriksson, and wiped out star scorer Daniel Alfredsson.
"That's a tough thing," Alfredsson said, "because he really wanted to catch Loui on the breakaway and threw himself down, and Henrik was trying to make the save, and they just pummeled each other. We can laugh at it now because it wasn't too serious, but it gave everybody a big scare."
Alfredsson ended up taking a spill doing a drill with Karlsson. "He has one speed that most of us don't," Alfredsson said. "I had to cheat."
The incident happened near the end of practice. Lundqvist was crouched on the ice for a few minutes after the hit, then skated off to watch from the boards. Lundqvist declined to talk to reporters, but coach Par Marts said Lundqvist is fine. "Such things happen all the time," Marts said. "No problem."
St. James also posted a "local angle" article regarding East Lansing native Ryan Miller's performance against Slovenia on Sunday, she praised Team USA's grit, and again, she's reporting that Henrik Zetterberg will return to Detroit on Tuesday to visit a back specialist. She also bumped into Slava Fetisov on Sunday as he, Igor Larionov, Pavel Bure and other Russian hockey legends took in the Russia-Slovakia game:
A though he hasn’t been with Detroit since 1998 — and I missed his appearance at the Winter Classic alumni game because I was covering the Wings’ practice at Michigan Stadium — he greeted me like an old friend.
Fetisov, 55, is a legend in hockey and nowhere more so than in Russia. He’s a two-time Olympic champion, seven-time world champion and the captain of the national team and the Central Army squad. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001. He was on the committee that brought the Olympics to Sochi. He’s a member of the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia.
He was a great guy to cover in Detroit, because he was accessible, thoughtful and kind. Doesn’t seem like he has changed. Glad I looked to see who it was, because I came away with a snapshot I’ll always treasure.
Russia Today--which I must note is funded by the Kremlin, so please take its "honest" reporting with some salt, because it is in fact Vladimir Putin-sanctioned journalism (there is no real "free press" in Russia, of course, but Russia Today is very literally a slickly-produced, American-English-friendly propaganda machine)--conducted a TWENTY-SEVEN minute interview with Igor Larionov...
And it must also be noted that Larionov both left the KHL because of its politics and chose to decline serving as Team Russia's Olympic GM because the Russian Hockey Federation would not assure him that he would be able to make personnel decisions sans political pressure.
Here's part of the transcript of the interview (it's not embeddable) conducted by Russia Today's "SophieCo":
SS: How fair is it to lose in the shootout – some thinking it’s probably like a lottery, it doesn’t really define which team is better if you win in the shootout…
IL: I’m not a big fan of a shootout system, which was implemented a few years ago, but that’s the rules, international rules, and NHL rules during the season; but, in the play-offs, usually they add overtime in North America. In Europe or international scene this is kind of different. So because of that I don’t think it’s fair because you want to go out and win the game in five-on-five or four against four in overtime, but not in shootout. But it brings some excitement to the game and fans were cheering and there was actually very nice atmosphere in the building.
SS: If you look at the America’s team, and they are like super young, they have no Olympic experience – is that even a factor? Is that better?
IL: No, they have some experience, they have a few guys coming back from the Vancouver games and their team is very strong. I know really well the GM of team USA, Brian Burke and Fred Shero, by my NHL days and even now my agency work, so these people, they know the game well; and, obviously, the coach – Stanley Cup champion coach Dan Bylsma, he knows the game well too, so it’s a young team, but it’s well-assembled and there is really good chemistry between these young players and they can go far in these Olympics.
SS: Most of these players are now playing in the NHL. Is this more important to play there and make money then actually prepare for the Olympics and forge a team chemistry together? Because it takes time…
IL: No, no, no. It’s been since 1998 first time NHL took a break in the season when they’ve sent all the NHL guys to play in Japan in the Nagano Olympics and today…
I mean, the hockey is the main event – I don’t care what anybody says about figure skating and all in that respect, and other sports, but hockey – because you got so many superstars coming to play and they play against each other, so it’s not every time you can see top teams from around the world playing. It’s like a World Cup of soccer. But this is NHL players coming and playing especially at Olympics, and for the players to come and play and to be proud for their country, so I think it’s kind of historic event for the players because of that.
It’s once in 4 years, and you have a chance to represent your country and you have a chance to go for the gold, or you can lose, for example, and you’ve got to wait next four years and there’s no guarantee you would be playing again for team Russia, for team USA or team Canada. In the NHL you sign a long-term contract, six, seven, eight years – so you are secured. You can go for Stanley Cup every season: you lost this year so you can take a break for 4 months, and go back in September and have your goal set to go again for the Stanley Cup, so it’s kind of different scale.
SS: So you’re saying in a way, Olympics are even more important than Stanley Cup.
IL: Well, it’s for the country, and obviously, to have in your resume – let’s put it that way – to play for your country and to bring the gold, because “Olympic champion” – it’s going to be with you for the rest of your life. Stanley Cup champion also, but it’s only played in North America, and Olympics is a global event.
This is the most Red Wings-pertinent question:
SS: Why do you think Pavel Datsyuk was chosen to be captain of the team?
IL: Well, you know what, he has been most consistent player, and for the last ten years, among the Russian players - number one, number two, he is the oldest guy in the team right now, he is 35, number three – he has been recognized as of the best players of the game today. So, obviously, to have a guy who won two Stanley Cups, who won the World Championships and been playing for the top team in NHL, Detroit Red Wings, there is no other choices.
This ain't bad, either:
SS: There’s always a debate going on whose role is more important – the coaches or the captains in the hockey team. What do you think?
IL: I can tell you, in the Vancouver games, team Canada, if I’m not mistaken, they had 14 captains, from different NHL teams.
SS: So it is the coach?
IL: Coach runs the bench, coach makes their line combinations, seeing the game, matching the lines; it’s kind of the hockey terminology, matching the lines and who played against who. But the players you have, so they all are 14 captains, they all leaders in the team, so they know what it takes to sacrifice, to go to the next level, to support your line-mate and teammate, and block the shot and make second effort to help the goalie, to make a save. That’s the combination of the coaches and the players, and more captains you have, more success you going to have too, because those people, they know how to make the team play well and bring the team together when it struggles – that’s the privilege to have so many captains in one team.
This part of the interview is quite spiffy: If you want to download it, all 199 megabytes of it, you may do so!
Igor still lives in Metro Detroit, and if you're not familiar with his new role, he's an NHLPA-certified player agent, representing young Russians like Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk.
He brings Russian-born youngsters to the OHL or QMJHL because he believes that North American junior hockey is the best path to the NHL, and he's quite passionate about molding young men into proper professional athletes...
And he's also just as thoughtful and well-spoken if you happen to run into him on the street around here or at a rink (he moved back to Metro Detroit from California because his son Igor Junior's hockey progression was more important than living close to the vineyards which produce his wines, so Igor Junior plays for Detroit Honeybaked).
Larionov apparently had this to say about Datsyuk when asked about him by R-Sport (and all the foreign-language stuff I'm about to post is roughly translated):
On Monday, vice president of the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame Phil Pritchard showed the Stanley Cup to reporters at the media center in Sochi. Stanley Cup-winners Vyacheslav Fetisov and Igor Larionov and Olympic champion and Stanley Cup winners Valery Kamensky and Vladimir Malakhov attended the press conference.
"Today, Datsyuk defines the game for Detroit and the Russian team. He's certainly a superlative player. He's in every game, and during every shift he's doing everything possible to ensure that the team wins. He thinks very quickly, and this is the most important thing in hockey today. A lot depends on how you read the game as you play with your teammates. That's how you define the best player," said Larionov to reporters.
"I first saw Datsyuk in 2001, when he came to Detroit's top training camp. I didn't know who he is. Pavel came up and said he came to try out for Detroit. I gave him the keys and said to go play. And when Pasha took the ice at that camp for the first time, it became clear that he's an extraordinarily thoughtful man, who knows hockey. This is a player with capital letters. Every moment of his playing displays tremendous creativity, but he needed some time to adapt to the new league."
Heading back to Team Sweden news, Sport-Express actually snagged quite the quote from one Niklas Kronwall regarding his status as having inherited Sweden's captaincy from Niklas Kronwall, though this is translated from Russian and not Swedish:
Swedish defender Niklas Kronwall was named captain of the team at the Sochi Olympics instead of forward Henrik Zetterberg, whose tournament ended prematurely due to an injury. He promised to do everything necessary to justify the confidence of his coaching staff. Accordigng to Kronwall, the players don't need to focus on negatives, and they're obliged to move forward.
"It was nice to be named captain of the team, but I didn't want it to happen thanks to sad circustances," the Olympic News Service quotes Kronwall as saying. "Zetterberg is a real hockey star and a great person. I will do everything necessary to justify the high confidence of the coaching staff. There's no dout that Henrik is one of the most important players on the team. No, we can't count on him being there, but that doesn't mean we can't move on. We need to move forward."
The Swedes took a team picture after their practice on Monday...
And Daniel Alfredsson had this to say about Sweden's line changes when speaking with Expressen's Mattias Ek:
"We haven't played our best, but we've still managed to win every game. I think that's a strong point for us," says Alfredsson.
I've avoided Slovakian news for a simple reason--I've been attempting to roughly translate Swedish and Russian for over a decade now, but Czech and Slovak are almost as bad as Finnish in terms of being almost indeciperable via online translation, so I try to stick with what I'm able to do tolerably decently. Thankfully, Expressen's Mattias Ek spoke with Tomas Tatar about Henrik Zetterberg's injury, so I can give you a decent translation of what Tatar had to say:
"To be honest, I haven't wanted to know how long we will miss him,"says Tatar to SportExpressen.se.
"I heard about it and met with our general manager (Ken Holland) right after it happened, and he told me about it. He's out for Sweden and the Olympics, and won't play for the Red Wings," says Tatar to Sport-Expressen after Slovakia earned a point against Russia in a shootout.
Slovakia had a rough start to the Olympics and now awaits a qualifying round match against their arch-rival Czechs to reach the Olympic quarterfinals, where the tough Americans will be waiting.
"We have to focus on doing our part. There's a lot going on here. I hope that Zetterberg will be okay and I want to see him in Detroit again," says Tomas Tatar, his Red Wings teammate.
If you really, really want to watch Mike Babcock's presser after yesterday's Canadian win over Finland (a 4-2 decision), you may most certainly do so, via NHL.com and RedWingsFeed. Twelve minutes of Babcock talking and Finnish coach Erkka Westerlund mostly sitting and listening!
Babcock gets hilariously annoyed at the 4:25 mark. It is INCREDIBLY obvious that Babcock despises having to sit and listen to questions instead of being able to say, "See you, guys" and leave when he feels like he's done answering questions.
Which takes place after about 3-and-a-half minutes' worth of questions.
Back over on this side of the pond...
1. MLive's Ansar Khan is asking readers to ask fans to weigh in on the Olympics and the following, sending in questions for an, "Ask Ansar" column...
Those Red Wings who didn’t go to Sochi, Russia, will return to practice 2 p.m. Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena, following a 10-day break.
The Red Wings’ next game is Feb. 26 at Montreal. They play in Ottawa the next night and after a four-day break visit New Jersey on March 4.
The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. on March 5.
2. Regarding said break...
That's one Mike Modano taking a trip to what looks like Mexico with the Mrs., some business pals and Justin Abdelkader...
3. In the prospect department, in the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon didn't register a point in the Victoriaville Tigres' 2-0 loss to Blainville-Boisbriand, and in the WHL, Marc McNulty didn't register a point in the Prince George Cougars' 6-4 win over Swift Current;
4. And the Red Wings' Alumni Association spent this past weekend playing in St. Ignace, Cheboygan and Alpena, MI, raising money for charities along the way. The Alpena News's Eric Benac reports that all went well in the later game:
Anybody concerned that the Red Wings Alumni game at the Northern Lights Arena would be a stuffy affair with grim ex-professionals going through the motions would no doubt have rested easy after watching former Red Wings tough guy Joe Kocur photo bomb scoring legend John Ogrodnick during an interview with WBKB sports reporter Jeff Kolb.
Ogrodnick scored 55 goals in the 1984-85 Red Wings season and scored 402 goals and 425 assists for 827 career points.
Kocur's anticts indicated the lighthearted mood shared by the Red Wings Alumni and Alpena Flyers alumni teams. Alpena players were excited to play with and against former legends and to help raise funds for the Alpena Wrecks youth hockey team.
"These are guys you've watched play on TV when you were growing up, looked up to and idolized. And now you get to play on the same ice as them," Alpena Flyers player Phil Tulgetska said.
The Flyers were also ready for a tough game against players who might not be at their peak form anymore, but who played at a higher level.
"The thing about it is, you figure out really quickly that they're professionals. Everything's so consistent and its pretty accurate. It's kind of hard to look good in front of a bunch of pros," Alpena Flyers player Eric Saddler said with a laugh.
That's what I've got for you for now. I'm going to curl back up for a bit and will be preparing to broom off the cars and move them out of my condo complex's shared lot tomorrow morning as we're going to get 3-6 inches of snow this evening...
And I hope that being around has been useful. I still don't feel like myself and I'm still not exactly being "comprehensive," but I'm doing what I can to get by as my head heals. I hope that the concussion symptoms will ameliorate a little bit by the time that the Wings get back to work on the 26th in Montreal--if not the trade deadline.
My car's back in the shop because a wobbly warbly sound appeared at highway speeds, too, so at least I know that I didn't simply bump my head (the repair bill prior to the return was $3,700), and now it's just about taking things day by day and doing what I can.
Update: MLive's Ansar Khan's first "Ask Ansar" column of the week's up:
Q. Devastating news hearing about Hank. Do you think his injury makes (general manager Ken Holland) have more emphasis on improving the roster or just staying pat, and maybe setting themselves up for the off-season and next season?--Zack
A. Before Zetterberg’s injury I thought the Red Wings would stand pat. There doesn’t seem to be many attractive options on the trade market. With only a few teams out of the playoff picture (Buffalo, Florida, Islanders, Edmonton and Calgary), there’s not many sellers. That’s going to increase the price for even average rental players. And with the Red Wings being up against the salary cap once Stephen Weiss comes off long-term injured reserve after the Olympic break, in order to acquire a player they would need to shed an equal amount of salary, which could be tough to do. Of course, if Zetterberg goes on LTIR or is declared out for the season, that would give them cap relief.
In that case, I could see them stepping up efforts to acquire a scorer. But, again, pickings are slim and the price will be high with several teams bidding for players like Thomas Vanek (Islanders), Matt Moulson (Buffalo), Mike Cammalleri (Calgary) and Brad Boyes (Florida), who are slated to become unrestricted free agents in July.
So I still think the Red Wings will stand pat.
Q. I’ve been reading that (Zetterberg’s injury) may be season ending and even career threatening, which worries me. If he is out for the season what could the Red Wings do, find a temporary replacement for this season? The Wings have an obvious need for a top-four defenseman. Is there any chance of this happening and is there any chance to acquire Brian Campbell from the Panthers?--Nadeem
A. I think it’s too soon to speculate if Zetterberg’s injury might be career-threatening. I agree that prior to this injury their most pressing need was on defense.
However, I don’t see them trading for Campbell. He has two more years on his contract at $7.1 million per season. That is way too much to pay for him.
The trade pool seems thin on defense. The Red Wings have some interest in Andrew MacDonald of the Islanders, who leads the league in blocked shots, has 24 points in 60 games and makes the minimum ($550,000). But I don’t think they’d be willing to relinquish a lot for a rental. Other teams will offer more.
There’s no question that the Swedes are one of the major contenders in the 2014 Winter Games. They entered this tournament as one of the favorites to win gold and were the only team to win all three of their preliminary round matches in regulation time.
Sweden also has a history of early exits in the knockout stage though. After a similarly dominant preliminary round in 2010, Sweden ended up losing in the quarterfinals to Slovakia. It was the same story in 2002, only in that case the team that ousted Sweden in the quarterfinals was Belarus.
Daniel Alfredsson was a member of both of those losing squads, but he also won a gold medal in 2006. Given his wealth of experience, what has he been sharing with his teammates as they prepare to battle the winner of Slovenia versus Austria?
“I don’t think I need to tell them anything about that after the group games we’ve had,” Alfredsson said, per the Olympic News Service. “We are going to be the favorites, no doubt about that, so it’s just about balancing our energy the right way. We can’t focus on what we have to lose but on what we can win.”
Upate #3: Also:
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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.