The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/30/14 at 01:51 AM ET
Among this morning's Red Wings-related stories, and after one busy day (Abdelkader suspended, Samuelsson to Sweden, mid-day chatter, Holland on the radio, Mattias Backman profiled...Can the Wings maybe slow down a little so that I don't have to freak out about going on vacation starting Saturday, or at least get inking DeKeyser and lining up some assistant coaches done?) and ahead of another one:
The Slovak news media's been a little preoccupied with Tomas Tatar's personal life lately (to quote Kermit the Snitch, "That ain't none of my business"--and it isn't), so Tatar gave an interview to his official website regarding his new 3-year contract extension.
The interview, conducted by Valerian Lukacko, is straightforward-enough to roughly translate, and it reflects the Slovak media confusion regarding "restricted free agency" that's been present from the start:
Tatar after signing: "I'm happy"
"The Negotiations weren't easy"
Tomas Tatar's signed a new 3-year contract with the team the Detroit Red Wings. TomasTatarOfficial.com brings you an exclusive interview regarding this event.
Why did you decide to go with Detroit?
"I only had so much to choose from, and it was right for me. There was only one way to go to another NHL team, but it didn't come to that. Overall, I'm glad that I made a deal with the Red Wings and that I can continue my career there."
Were negotiations difficult regarding your new contract?
"They weren't easy, it was a little slow, but eventually we managed to come to an agreement."
Did you informally contact other teams?
"No, no, this is prohibited. I think they would've first had to contact the league and then make me a contract offer. Then the league would've assessed whether their offer was higher than Detroit's and whether, on that basis, negotiations would begin. But I did get an offer from Russia that I didn't respond to. I didn't think about going to the KHL at all..."
What do you think thus far about Detroit's chances for the new season?
"If I were to guess, I think that Detroit will find one more defenseman. There aren't many players on the open market, so they will have to get someone through a trade. It would be even more interesting to see which player the team fishes out. I hope we manage to put together a good team."
We're going to stick with foreign-language news, though I'm less certain about the text of Hokej.cz's Vaclav Jachim's interview with Andrej Nestrasil. I'm gonna give it a go, but hat follows is very very roughly translated as Jachim tends to prefer flowery language:
"There are always doubts, but I didn't give up," says Nestrasil. Finland waits, but he will continue to fight for the NHL!
Trying to break into the NHL requires you to sacrifice everything. Some Czech players prepare for a bit of sightseeing across the Atlantic, but the players are sent to a farm team where you don't hear much from them. However, the attention they deserve, with regarding to patience, which is constantly walking behind one's big dreams. Such an example is Andrej Nestrasil. The former Slavia Prague forward has been in the Detroit organization for 3 years ant at one time, he had to go to the East Coast Hockey League, the team's back-up farm club, and didn't play much. But last season, everything changed.
The two-time World Junior Championship participant finally broke through. And maybe he didn't expect it. "In Grand Rapids, I started on the fourth line, and I definitely wasn't satisfied with the first half of the season. But then things turned around. Detroit had some injured players who they replaced with guys from the farm team. I got a spot in the lineup and finally got some space," he says, relieved.
I'm not the type who would let something discourage me and start to mess me up
Andrej had the opportunity that he'd waited for since the time that he was drafted. "I picked up the first two goals and in the last 25 games I did something at some point in every game. It made me very happy because I've played on the farm team for three years, and it hasn't been that long. Maybe some thought that I'd have to play adult hockey. But I believed, I just needed a chance," he says.
The Detroit organization is specific about its young players. Even the best junior aces rarely get an immediate ticket to the first team. The farm club's included Hudler, Kindl, Tatar and other players, some of whom couldn't handle the grind and went elsewhere. "I was prepared to wait and fight. I'm not the type who will let something discourage me and start hanging around. I had to be patient, though I admit that sometimes I thought about possibly returning to Europe. You always have some doubts," he continues.
He knew that he had to earn trust. "I worked on my skating since I was on the fourth line, I tried to work on defense. The coach appreciated it. He knew that if you put me in the game, we woudn't give up goals. And I shot more. During the last year on my youth team I had 20 goals and 50 assists, but last year I stopped thinking and started shot at the net instead." His stats speak to the streak of good chances. Nestrasil's played in 120 AHL games, and he's registered 22 goals and 24 assists.
I could have gone to Finland, but it wasn't about money
He registered 40 points, but for many weeks he played on the fourth line. "I knew I had to wait longer for my chance, and then came the moment when I made it happen. That's how it goes in life. The coach put me on the top lines and I began to score. More and more, I believe, I felt confident. Then you end up at the net, and that's one of the things that you never get to do on the fourth line," he says, smiling.
The end of the year meant satisfaction and reward for the Slavia product. "I admit that during the season, I actually thought about going to Europe. When Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson joined the team, I was playing with players who've played many games in the NHL, and I couldn't see a good future. For five or six games, I sat in the stands and I started thinking that I needed to shop around for engagement in any game."
In the spring, the Finnish Liiga team Assat Pori expressed interest in him. "It was a good offer, I certainly would've made more than in Detroit. At the end of the season, my feelings turned around. Though I'd doubted, I didn't give up. The NHL is my dream, and I want to go on," he says.
The move to Scandinavia will wait. "I'm going to try again, for Detroit, I signed a new contract. Regarding the extra money, I don't need much. I don't have a super car or expensive clothes. It's clear to me that I wanted to have the opportunity to continue pursuing the NHL" he says.
How to dream? Was sorry to leave it all
The situation's clear. "I think that in Europe, you can return any time from North America, but going in the opposite direction is definitely much harder. When my situation in the organization turned around, I felt I'd be sorry to leave it all," he admits. The player who scored a winning goal against the Texas Stars in the second round, after winning a Calder Cup the previous season, felt a huge hockey appetite in the spring. Nestrasil proved that he could. He wasn't a wilting talent that once had promising potential.
Now he knows that he has to follow the process. If you head to the farm team in Grand Rapids, you need to battle for an elite spot while cutting a sharper point. "Yes, I'm training properly," he says. "After the season, I spent a week in North America dealing with some things, but then I immediately flew home. I'm not the vacationing type, I get tired of lying on the beach, I don't need the sun. I was with my family and then I started to train. I hate doing nothing, I'm not a slacker who can only lay around," he says, in a good mood.
During the preseason he's following the same model that he did last season. "I changed my fitness coaches and I have to say that it helped me. Even Detroit was satisfied. And I'm happy to say that [Slavia Prague GM] Vladimír Pitter is allowing me to train with the Extraliga team. There's a big difference between training with Extraliga players and juniors. Since training camp doesn't begin until September 19th, I have enough time. But I'm still not underestimating anything. I'll do my best to build on a great year and to compete for a chance in the NHL," he says.
The Red Wings posted a video profile of another prospect, defenseman Mattias Backman (who gave a superb interview to Corren.se) on Tuesday evening, and the team's added text to the mix via a no-author-listed article:
Backman, Detroit’s fifth-round pick in the 2011 NHL draft, is a 6-foot-3, mobile defenseman that joined the Grand Rapids Griffins after his Swedish team, Linkoping, was eliminated from the 2014 Swedish Elite League playoffs.
Backman appeared in two regular-season games with the Griffins, and scored one goal in one playoff game with the defending Calder Cup champions.
Prior to joining the Griffins, Backman helped Linkoping reach the SEL semifinals, recording seven assists in 13 games.
The defenseman enjoyed a successful postseason campaign after struggling during the regular season, as Backman suffered injuries that stalled his development heading into the 2013-14 season.
“Last summer, he had some health issues and it stalled him a little bit,” said Jiri Fischer, Detroit’s director of player development. “He went into the season and physically, he didn't take the next step that he needed to really become the go-to guy in Linkoping. He was inconsistent, but thanks to wanting to get better, he has. His consistency is better and better and better.”
Backman earned six goals and 15 assists in 54 games with Linkoping during his third and final SEL campaign.
“Last year, he established himself as one of the top young defensemen playing outside of the NHL,” Fischer said. “In Linkoping, he played on the top pair and he had a fantastic season. He ended up being on the national team.”
Here's the Wings' video profile of Backman, and it includes some comments from Backman himself:
In other English-language news, most people shrugged their shoulders regarding Justin Abdelkader's 3-game IIHF suspension for hitting Vladimir Sobotka in the head during the World Championships, but the Free Press's Helene St. James criticizes Abdelkader this morning, and it's deserved in my opinion.
Here's the hit...
And St. James duly notes that Abdelkader had a rough World Championship in the discipline department--he was also kicked out of another game for a knee-on-knee hit, not exactly actions befitting of a team captain--and when Abdelkader tries too hard to be a physical player, he does...Dumb things:
The tournament showed both the good and ugly in Abdelkader’s game. He had three goals among four points in seven games — but he also managed to get suspended for two separate incidents. It was the severity of the second one — a hit to the head of Czech forward Vladimir Sobotka — that resulted in Tuesday’s announcement by the International Hockey Federation of a three-game suspension. The suspension would take effect at the 2015 world championship (of course, there’s no guarantee Abdelkader will appear in the tournament).
Abdelkader, 27, is a physical player, but he has a history spanning continents of transgressing past hard-hitting to hurting.
His poor decision-making impacted the Wings in the 2013 playoffs during their first-round series against Anaheim, when Abdelkader slammed so hard into Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman it led to a two-game suspension. Explanation from the NHL focused on Abdelkader elevating at contact, “turning a hard, full-body check into a high, violent check with significant contact to the head, that caused an injury.”
The Ducks scored on the power play that accompanied Abdelkader’s penalty during the game (at the time, Abdelkader was playing on Detroit’s top line, next to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk). Anaheim won that game, and one of the two during which Abdelkader was suspended.
Via We All Bleed Redd on YouTube, the Lydman hit was strikingly similar. Same stuff--running at a guy, seeing his head down, charging toward someone's head, leaving his feet to launch himself into the hit:
Abdelkader has to play physical to be effective, but he also has some really awful habits in terms of getting his elbows and shoulders up, targeting players' upper bodies instead of their "center of mass," leaving his feet, and of course getting into scrums after whistles.
Whoever the Wings hire as their new video coordinator ought to show Abdelkader some footage of the player Pavel Datsyuk would like Abdelkader to emulate, Tomas Holmstrom. Holmstrom was anything but polite--he'd go ahead and slash, hack, whack, punch or jab right back at a defenseman or goalie during play--but as soon as the whistle went, Holmstrom would do little more than shove to protect himself, and he kept himself out of the penalty box by understanding when to be a human pincushion and when to be a human porcupine.
I'm going to be blunt: Abdelkader's 27 now, and as far as I'm concerned, if we're looking at "vulnerable" players on the roster, if Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen or Mitch Callahan end up making the team, I would expect them to supplant an Abdelkader, Andersson, Miller or Glendening ahead of a Franzen or Zetterberg.
I believe that this season is absolutely essential for Abdelkader in terms of clamping down upon a long-term future in Detroit, and he's got to not only show up more regularly on the scoresheet via going to the net on a regular basis, but he also has to make sure that when he plays physically, he doesn't hurt the team.
He's never going to be a big point-producer, but he's a very useful player when he doesn't disappear for shifts, periods and sometimes sets of games.
The next set of Wings prospects are more likely than not to challenge Abdelkader, Andersson, Miller, Glendening and even Helm or playing time, so numbers 8, 20 and 43 have to step up. That involves playing smart.
Otherwise...If you find yourself in Mount Clemens, MI today, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness makes an incredibly compelling case for you to attend the L'Anse Creuse North Alumni hockey game, which will benefit former L'Anse Creuse player Joel Zito;
WZZM 13 posted a pretty spiffy video about two members of the Grand Rapids "Sled Wings," but it's an auto-play clip...
And finally, while the real Pavel Datsyuk was busy mastering the art of barefoot fishing on Tuesday...
The Free Press's Steve Schrader reports that a harness-racing horse named after Datsyuk is making a name for himself:
The posts were drawn Tuesday for the $1 million Hambletonian, and Datsyuk will race from the four slot in the first jewel of harness racing’s Triple Crown, Saturday at the Meadowlands.
“Good post!” Kevin Greenfield told the Free Press via email. “Father Patrick, the prohibitive favorite, drew the 10 hole, very bad. We have a puncher’s chance.”
Greenfield is a Toledo attorney, owner of Hickory Lane Farm in Findlay, Ohio, and a Red Wings fan who named the horse Datsyuk. After the four-legged Datsyuk was bred at Hickory Lane, Greenfield sold him in 2012.
“Before I took him to the yearling sale, I attended the season-ticket holder autograph signing day at Joe Louis,” he said. “I took the United States Trotting Association Registration title for Datsyuk to the signing and went to Pavel’s table. When I gave it to Pavel to sign, he looked at it curiously and asked me what it was. I told him I named my yearling trotter after him. He asked me, ‘Is he winner?’ I responded, he is just a yearling but he is bred to be the best. He said, ‘OK, I sign.’ ”
Datsyuk, trained and driven by Charlie Norris, has three wins in seven races this year.
Greenfield added he has his sights set on the other Euro Twin, too: “My goal is to sell one of my yearlings to Henrik Zetterberg because he told me he owned trotters back in Sweden.”
Update: Yes, this is how the European press is framing Mikael Samuelsson's signing with Djurgardens IF:
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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.