The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/17/12 at 01:09 AM ET
Updated 2x with news about Jonathan Ericsson's playing plans at 3:07 AM: Of Red Wings-related note this morning: WXYZ's Brad Galli spoke to Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg about the post-Nicklas Lidstrom era of Red Wings hockey being placed "on hold" by the lockout, as well as the ramifications thereof, before the players left Joe Louis Arena on Friday, and while most of the interview's light in tone, the pair become very serious very quickly when talking about the lockout, with Kronwall saying, "The last few years, the people in th stands, it's just crazy, the whole state of Michigan just breathes hockey," and both expressing dismay with the current state of affairs
Zetterberg also spoke about the lockout during a Q and A with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
Are you surprised the two sides are so far apart, it seems?
Not really. If you look at how the last (lockout) went in 2004, nothing really happened for months into it. Now, here we are again. That's the approach the league has taken in the past.
Will you continue to stay in the (Detroit) area, or will you go back to Sweden and possibly play there?
I'm going to stay. A lot of us will be skating and working out. You have to be ready to play. I want to be part of the solution (of getting an agreement worked out).
Many fans feel the Red Wings could be in decline without Nicklas Lidstrom, and with largely the same roster as last season.
We have some work to do before the season starts but we'll have a good team, a great team. We have some great additions, too. As soon as we get started, we'll be fine.
Kulfan's provides us with a lockout Q and A, offering his educated guess as to when the 2012-2013 NHL season will begin...
[A] settlement that would allow a midseason start figures to be a goal. The Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs is scheduled for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Jan. 1, and the All-Star game is slated for Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 27. In an indication of how much training time is needed, the 1994-95 lockout ended on Jan. 11 and the season started nine days later.
And he notes that the Wings' players aren't optimistic about a deal being reached soon:
"My guess is we're not going to start the season on time," said forward Danny Cleary, a Red Wings player representative.
Red Wings players hope fans will understand this current situation and return to enjoy the game.
"Why would there be any sympathy for us, or for (the owners)?" said defenseman Ian White, understanding the fans' frustration.
Still, a lockout doesn't hurt just players, but also fans and businesses.
"A lot of us went through it in '04," said Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, who was part of the NHLPA negotiating committee. "It's not just the players that are hurting, but it's the fans, and everyone in the building (working). All the businesses around hockey are going to hurt. We're trying to solve the problem and find a fair deal."
Many players agree the game has rarely been stronger on or off the ice. Part of the reason for the increased revenue is the parity on the ice. In this past season's Stanley Cup Finals, the Kings, the No. 8 seed in the West, defeated the Devils, the No. 6 seed in the East.
"The league has grown well; hockey has never been in a better place than it is now," Cleary said. "Another full year (lost), the implications would be catastrophic. Last time, they weren't."
But today, Red Wings players aren't preparing for training camp. They're making other plans, including playing in Europe for some.
Said Cleary: "It's not looking great."
Detroit — Pavel Datsyuk is likely to play in Russia as long as the NHL lockout continues — but he hasn't signed yet.
Datsyuk's agent, Gary Greenstin, said a report that Datsyuk has signed with Ak Bars Kazan in the Kontinental Hockey League for the duration of the lockout is premature.
"We'll decide in the next few days," said Greenstin, reached Sunday in Russia. "We'll make a decision. Pavel wants to play."
Russia's Sports Express said Datsyuk had signed to play with Ak Bars Kazan. Datsyuk played for Ak Bars Kazan in 2000-01 before beginning his career with the Red Wings. During the season-long 2004-05 lockout, Datsyuk played with the KHL's Moscow Dynamo.
The Russian league has permitted its 20 teams to sign a maximum of three locked-out NHL players. Expect other Red Wings to sign with European teams in the days ahead. Jakub Kindl is expected to play in the Czech Republic. Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton and Jonathan Ericsson likely will attempt to land roster spots in Switzerland or Sweden.
Again, Kindl hasn't stated where he's going to play yet, but my best guess is that he'll play for HC Pardubice, his former team, and for the record, Pro Hockey Talk's James O'Brien reports that former Wing Jiri Hudler is going to play for HC Lev Prague--the Czech Republic's only KHL team--during the lockout.
in terms of hockey that's actually being played in Michigan, the Plymouth Whalers are holding training camp this week, and will begin their regular season on Friday; college hockey teams begin playing in early October, and if the Tampa Bay Times' Damian Cristodero is to be believed, we'll see or hear of the Red Wings brass next when the Grand Rapids Griffins begin their training camp on October 1st, as the Tampa Bay Lightning's staff plans on taking in their AHL affiliate's camp and preseason.
Red Wings prospect Gustav Nyquist told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he doesn't mind playing in the AHL for a wee bit longer...
Three players there were slated to begin the season in Detroit – Gustav Nyquist, Damien Brunner and Brendan Smith – were assigned to Grand Rapids, the Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate.
All three players are exempt from waivers.
“I want to go there,” Nyquist said if there would be a lockout. “It’s a great place and we’ll get (Jeff) Blashill as a coach now so that will be fun to have him down there. It worked for me last year and it’s a great group of guys down there, so I’m just excited to start playing.”
And noted on Sunday afternoon, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill told the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner that he's not exactly upset about receiving reinforcements that would otherwise be playing in the NHL:
“The league already plays at a high level and this would have an opportunity to bring it even higher,” Blashill said. “That’s great for our fans. From that aspect it’s a positive. From where we sit, we deal with the hand we're dealt and go from there.”
From that standpoint, Blashill sees the Griffins in the same position as other AHL teams.
“We’ll have an opportunity to coach some players we might not otherwise have, and we might not have some players we could have had,” Blashill said. “So, really, the whole league is in the same boat. It has the potential to bring the talent level of the league to an extremely high level.”
The coach said he doesn’t spend time wondering what we happen.
“I don’t worry about things I can’t control,” he said. “Ultimately these are decisions that are well beyond my control. So, as far as the Griffins go, will look to maximize the opportunity with the players we have.”
Heading back to the "blame game," it's worth noting that MLive's Ansar Khan has taken a stance on the subject...
I blame the previous lockout mostly on the players. Former NHLPA head Bob Goodenow was too hard-headed to realize what was obvious to many – the owners were going to get their salary cap even if they had to shut down for an entire season. And players blindly followed Goodenow off a cliff, losing a year's salary, only to have a $39 million cap and 24 percent rollback of existing contracts shoved down their throats to boot.
This time, although both sides deserve blame, most of it should be pinned on the owners, who got everything they could have asked for in 2005 and now want more. Judging by the early results of an MLive.com poll, most fans overwhelmingly agree.
How hypocritical is it to shell out $98 million to a player (Ryan Suter) who has never been a finalist for the Norris Trophy and dole out another $98 to a player (Zach Parise) who has never won a scoring title or league MVP award, and then claim the system needs a correction.
But, that's what Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold did this summer.
So, here we are, in the midst of the sport's unprecedented fourth work stoppage since 1992. The NHL has lost 1,698 regular season games due to labor issues during that time, more than baseball (938), the NBA (504) and the NFL (0) combined.
When will it end? Unlike the dark cloud that hovered over the 2004 lockout, most observers feel this season will not be scrapped. Many believe they'll reach an agreement by early December.
The NHL surely won't want to cancel its marquee event – the Jan. 1 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs before an anticipated record crowd of 110,000-plus at Michigan Stadium.
And while I'm with the players on this one as well, I can't help but admit that Howard Berger's discussion with an anonymous hockey exec who suggested that the players' desire to continue playing by heading to Europe more or less equates to having no balls to be able to stick together for a long fight--which is a stupid suggestion--has me thinking that a certain former Red Wings GM who is both a Hall of Famer, a wonderful contributor to the organization and a very old, stubborn and anti-labor, anti-player force who said this to Berger in August is the source of such a suggestion:
That quote still frustrates, infuriates and baffles me, and shows us all how out of touch the hard-line NHL executives are with reality and the concept that they're playing with fans' money.
Zetterberg's gone so far as to tell the Swedish media that he's wary about the concept of taking other players' jobs (it should be noted that the KHL's advised its teams to not release or stop playing those who will be benched for NHL talent's sake) as it might be "fun" for the NHL'ers, but isn't "fun" for the hockey leagues where other players lose playing time, and he, Kronwall and the players who've talked about the lockout have done at least a tolerable job of suggesting that they're entitled to be treated fairly by management as they're the "talent" the owners charge fans to see on a pricing basis that has nothing to do with the salaries the "talent" are paid (tickets prices are determined by supply and demand) or the performances of NHL teams, and balancing that with the admission that fans are the reason that they get paid the money they do, and that rink workers, team employees and local businesses will suffer most as the result of this utterly stupid "work stoppage."
The owners and higher-ups who've gone on the record on an anonymous basis have reminded us why Gary Bettman's dropped a ban on CBA talk upon the Board of Governors and team execs. They fully expect you and I to patiently wait while they cancel more games in order to stick their hands into their employees' wallets--despite spending nearly $200 million in supposedly committed funds to re-sign players in the days leading up to the lockout. They're out of touch and then some.
And in terms of the businesses being hurt by the lockout, there's some irony that, as the Detroit Free Press's Christina Hall notes, a sports bar owned by a Wings team employee who was one of the NHLPA's staunchest advocates is at the tip of the spear in terms of depending on Wings games and Wings fans' discretionary incomes for survival:
Downtown Detroit bars and Red Wings faithful are hoping for a quick resolution to the National Hockey League lockout that started Sunday. “It affects us big time. We’re only open for games. It might be a substantial part of the winter we won’t be open,” said Nick Stepanski, manager of Cheli’s Chili Bar, on East Adams Street, which was open Sunday for a special event.
Dani Valentine, bartender at Harry’s Detroit, said the bar on Clifford Street survived the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out the entire season and expects to survive another lockout, but "it’s definitely gonna hurt."
“It’s our mainstay (until) Tigers season -- January, February, March and April. You’re looking at 35 to 40 games,” she said.
Valentine worked at the bar during the last lockout and said it was “slow. It was very, very slow. But we remained open. We always find a way to get by.” She said the bar started happy hour specials during the last lockout, specials that still run today.
Bookies Bar & Grille general manager Adam Grove said while baseball is its mainstay, hockey is second at the bar on Cass Avenue
“We’ll definitely miss our hockey fans,” Grove said. “We have deep Detroit roots and a nice little community base as well.”
But hockey fans drop a chunk of change during the season -- money that won’t be coming in if there’s no games to watch. Glen Board, 48, of Wyandotte, said he can spend $200 a night when the Red Wings are in town between tickets, parking and beer before, during and after the game.
“When we go to a game, we always go some place. Z’s (Villa) on Piquette. We do it all. Greektown, Fishbones has certainly had a fair amount of my cash. I think it’s gonna put a hurt on a lot of businesses. It’s the last thing we need.”
The Free Press also posted something of a lockout primer, but as of the time I'm writing this, its author is uncredited.
As for the Red Wings' website, they're stuck promoting alumni, so Andrea Nelson's penned an article promoting Ken Wregget as a "Dual Citizen" with Maple Leafs and Red Wings alumni status...
And around here, I've hung up my Wings hat and Wings t-shirts in my closet (okay, I've placed them in the appropriate piles--I am a guy), I've taken the ever-present Wings magnet off my Pacifica's trunk lid and I've even taken the dangly Wings gloves off of my rearview mirror...
Update: Blick's reporting that Damien Brunner will be skating with EV Zug today. He'll remain in Switzerland until the Griffins' season begins.
Update #2: According to Norran's Elin Ala, Jonathan Ericsson wants to be able to play with his brother Jimmie on AIK Skelleftea, but as the Swedish Eliteserien's teams can't sign NHL'ers without a full-season committment, Ericsson will remain in Detroit for now:
"Right now, I'll stay here in Detroit for a week and then see what happens. Then I'll try to guess how long this will coitninue, and then maybe I'll find somewhere to play.
Is AIK Skelleftea a possibilty?
"Skelleftea is close to my heart, because Jimmie is playing there and I have my family there. But it could be difficult becasue the Eliteserien has said no to short-term contracts. I don't want to risk signing a long-term contract and then missing the NHL's start.
Many of his teammates in Detroit [are in the same situation].
"I think most will wait a little. But the longer you wait, the more players leave, and the fewer spots are left [to play]."
According to Radiosporten, however, Allsvenskan team Sodertalje SK has been speaking to Ericsson about possibly playing there.
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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.