The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/14/14 at 03:06 AM ET
For Red Wings fans, these dates will define our "summer"...
Monday marks the beginning of a buyout period that we hope will bolster the relatively thin crop of unrestricted free agent-to-be defensemen...
And these Tweets, from Newsday's Arthur Staple, and via Pro Hockey Talk's Cam Tucker, are reasons for hope:
According to the Miami Herald's George Richards, we'll find out whether Tom Renney or Bill Peters will head to Florida on Monday (via Tucker again)...
And as NHL teams have to incur a significant financial penalty (something like $240,000) for signing European-born players after June 15th, we should find out whether this gent named by TSN's Bob McKenzie a few days ago joins Tomas Nosek in the fold by Monday as well:
McKenzie: And there's another free agent we should keep our eye on who most people haven't heard of: a 22-year-old Czech by the name of Jiri Sekac. He went through the NHL Drafts and never got picked up. He was once cut by the Peterborough Petes but he had a strong year in the KHL playing for the Prague team. Right now he has more than a dozen firm offers on a max entry-level deal for two years. He's expected over the next couple of days to make up his mind as to which team. This is a guy who is in great demand. He's a 6'2, 190 pound left winger who many believe is ready to step in NHL-ready.
I understand why my fellow Wings fans are edgy right now: we've just watched the Los Angeles Kings win their second Stanley Cup in 3 years, and all the Wings have done since Ken Holland, Mike Babcock, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg told us that "just making the playoffs" wasn't acceptable any more is to find that the Wings are about to sign Tomas Nosek.
Who's this Nosek guy? I didn't know who the 6'2," 201-pound left-winger was until about 3:20 PM on Friday, when I read Wings Eastern European scout Vladimir Havluj gush about the young man's potential as someone who'd slipped through two draft years.
If we are to believe MLive's Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness's reports, the Wings weren't the only team interested in Nosen, but MLive's Khan summarized Nosen's status as a player whose development remains "in progress":
Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said 6-8 NHL teams were pursuing Nosek, who had 19 goals and 44 points in 52 games for HC Pardubice in the Czech league.
Red Wings European scouts Vladimir Havluj and Ari Vouri are high on Nosek. Jiri Fischer, Detroit's director of player development, said, "I'm really excited about him."
Nosek played on the 2012 Czech World Junior team that Fischer helped coach as an assistant.
"He's a very smart two-way center who can play the wing," Fischer said. "He's very responsible defensively, makes good plays. He's more of a playmaker than a natural finisher. He just gets better every year."
Fischer said Nosek was Pardubice's best player.
"He'll have to get stronger, work on his skating," Fischer said. "He is a hard worker."
Nosek's agent, Ales Volek, also represents Red Wings forward Tomas Jurco. Volek liked how Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill helped develop Jurco, which aided the Red Wings in their efforts to land Nosek.
All I can tell you about Nosek thus far is that his player profile page on HC Pardubice's website shows pictures still-gaunt player, searching for him on YouTube reveals that he and a Czech bodybuilder share the same name, that it's wiser to search for his last name and team name--for interviews, not highlight clips...
And in terms of "quality of competition," 19 goals, 25 assists and 44 points in 52 Czech Extraliga games reflect scoring totals for a player who had a strong season in a middle-of-the-pack professional league. The Czech Extraliga isn't as slick as the Swedish Hockey League, it isn't as gritty as the Finnish Liiga, and it isn't as peppered with former NHL'ers as the KHL...
So it's very hard to say what Nosek's "upside" might be. We're talking about a signing of a Colin Campbell, Jared Coreau or Trevor Parkes as opposed to a Danny DeKeyser or Damien Brunner (who was much older and wiser at 26), and that we could be talking more about a player who's similar to Mattias Janmark--a late-bloomer who may in fact have some strong offensive potential and natural size and bulk--as opposed to an Anthony Mantha.
So, "Swell," you think, "Why are the Wings signing these guys and considering re-signing this guy"...
"Instead of preparing to go after Thomas Vanek (the highlight of this summer's unrestricted free agent forwards) and Matt Niskanen (the gem of the defneisve crop) and Ryan Miller (the best of the goaltenders)?
First and foremost, the Red Wings' restricted free agents-to-be (Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser and Riley Sheahan), their possible unrestricted free agent-to-be re-signings (Daniel Alfredsson and/or Jonas Gustavsson) and the simple fact that players like Stephen Weiss, Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff are more likely than not to begin training camp on the Wings' roster take care of quite a bit of the Wings' available cap space...
And second, it's easy to say, "Play all the kids!" in November and then to suggest that the Wings' management should, "Sign all the free agents!" in July...But you don't get to see the kids play if you sign a bunch of free agents, either.
The Red Wings explain their situation as "rebuilding on the fly." The team's coaches and management have been stating that they didn't plan on tanking for five to eight years to accumulate top-five draft picks, a la the Chicago Blackhawks, since long before Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Tomas Holmstrom or Kris Draper hung up their skates, and the team is sticking to that plan.
We witnessed the Wings both show some roster holes in terms of the foundation of their puck possession game on the blueline and have to deal with some significant "learning the hard way" moments by "kids" who are now their primary and secondary scorers up front. If the youth movement is what you've been rooting for, and the youth movement that the team only very reluctantly embraced is what you want to see through, sometimes you have to endure what the New York Times' Lynn Zinser described as follows...
The Red Wings are usually penciled in as Stanley Cup contenders every year, but they are going through a rare period of rebuilding.
And perhaps it's better to not be the competition:
It has not helped that one of the most stocked Eastern Conference teams, Pittsburgh, seems to have imploded in some toxic mix of talent and immaturity led by Sidney Crosby in a semi-constant whine.
The Wings theoretically have a significant number of defensemen on the cusp of NHL-readiness in Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Mattias Backman, Alexey Marchenko and possibly Adam Almquist, the Wings will, by design, head to camp overflowing with forwards...
And instead of attempting to replicate another Lidstrom-Rafalski defensive pairing, whoever the team targets via free agency or trade is far more likely to anchor the second pairing--so that the team has two sets of defensemen whose ranks include a puck-mover and a stay-at-home partner instead of having to rely on Kronwall and Ericsson so very heavily to provide offense.
In terms of the younger players who have yet to "steal jobs" like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Luke Glendening have stolen jobs, the Wings will probably head to camp with players still on the roster in the way of the aforementioned young defensemen, in the way of Petr Mrazek, Mitchell Callahan, Landon Ferraro and Anthony Mantha because the team has to prepare for another worst-injury-case scenario.
Historically, the Wings have tended to go after one or two free agent targets, and then they've headed to training camp "overbuilt" so that young players have to force the team's hand in terms of jettisoning players who are there to contribute and compete in case the youngsters aren't ready.
This time around, the Wings will enter the season with some cap space to accommodate recalls and won't have the kind of heavy-contracted veterans that were impossible to move this past season (the rest of the league won't be so cap-strapped that they can't take some of the "leftovers" if the Wings have to shed roster spots and salary, too), but in all likelihood, aside from saying goodbye to Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Cory Emmerton, David Legwand, Kyle Quincey, Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo and possibly but not probably one or both of Jonas Gustavsson and Daniel Alfredsson...
The team's not going to look all that different from the one that lost to Boston, and that's by design.
Somewhat ironically, the Dallas News's Mike Heika provides a strong reminder that the Wings "winning atmosphere" and strengthening developmental pipeline--the Grand Rapids Griffins won the Calder Cup last spring--are serving as an inspiration to the team whose AHL franchise beat the Griffins in May:
When Jim Nill was sizing up the Stars as a potential new home, one of the first things he did was analyze the AHL affiliate. Nill, who helped run the Red Wings’ minor league team for almost two decades, said he was swayed by the proximity and the success of the Texas Stars. That was one of the major reasons he decided to make the leap a year ago into the general manager’s chair for the first time in his career.
“You have to build through the draft and grow your players, so you have to have the organizational structure to do that,” Nill said, referencing how the Grand Rapids Griffins are managed in Michigan and how the Texas Stars have a similar setup.
“Having been close in Detroit, I know how much location matters,” Nill said. “These players need to know you’re watching. They need to know you’re watching when they do good things; they need to know you’re watching when they do bad things.”
That's been the case in Grand Rapids, and it's paid off for Sheahan, Jurco, Tatar, Nyquist, Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser, and to a lesser extent, Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff, Joakim Andersson (who's become a spare part) and Glendening.
“Winning is contagious,” Nill said. “We talk all the time about building a winning culture, and this is a big part of that.”
During the regular season, the Red Wings' break-out "kids" both discussed the fact that the atmosphere in Grand Rapids and Detroit were extremely similar, from the way that the teams played to the ways in which the coaching staff and veterans treated the younger players in an egalitarian manner....And the break-out "kids" admitted that coming up to the NHL level was a difficult challenge in terms of the amount of on-ice, during-practice and in-the-weight-room learning that they still had to master to produce offensively and to contribute to the defensive cause on a regular basis.
The Red Wings' coaches, management and players insisted that this past playoff's spring was a stark reminder of the fact that the organization absolutely cannot simply accept making the playoffs as the standard of excellence to which the team strives--the team wants to improve from within and without to engage in much longer spring playoff runs--but the three parties also insisted that the blueprint was already in place, and that a few astute personnel additions, combined with the lessons learned by their younger players and a strong "push" from the Manthas and Marchenkos, should be enough to push the team back toward Conference Final and Cup Final runs.
Will they be proven right?
*#$%@& if I know. We haven't even gotten to the *#$%@& draft, never mind free agency. We don't know what the cap compliance buy-out market will hold, whether the Wings will make a draft-day trade that involves bodies as well as draft picks, and we don't know whether they'll be able to out-compete other teams for free agent talent.
After that, we won't know whether any of the prospects make, "I'm ready to steal someone's job" impressions until July's development camp and September's prospect tournament, and after that, we'll find out who earns spots on the roster and who will end up exiting the organization until training camp takes place and exhibition games are played (and some players inevitably suffer injuries thanks to the fact that hockey is a contact sport).
In many ways, even for the teams that have been eliminated weeks and months ago, the end of the NHL's playoff campaign represents the beginning of a concentrated period of off-season changes that will help shape the face of the team's roster for the following season.
I know that many of you are aggravated and agitated by the fact that you've been able to watch other teams battle for the Cup while the Wings have "done nothing," but three weeks from this morning, I'm going to be preparing for the second day of the Wings' summer development camp.
The Wings will have drafted at least six new players by then (via the draft on the 27th and 28th), and the team will probably have made its free agency moves by July 5th, if they haven't wooed any of the compliance buy-outs beforehand, and they may or may not make a draft-day trade, too.
The Wings held a free agency powwow between June 2nd and 4th, and the pro and amateur scouts are likely to hold at least one more meeting before the draft to refine their master plan. What other teams do between now and the draft, and then July 1st, will force the team to utilize contingency plans, and that's why they hold multiple meetings.
They need to prepare for the unexpected, too, and in this salary-capped league, "the unexpected" happens very, very regularly.
For the Kings, this morning represents the start of a summer-long party. For the Rangers, this morning represents the start of a summer-long recovery from a staggering defeat.
For the Red Wings and their fans, this morning represents a reminder that there are two weeks until the draft, sixteen days until free agency begins, three weeks until the summer development camp and a little under three months until training camp begins.
The team will have to make good on the promised tweaks to its trajectory in short order.
Long story long, it's about to get interesting.
[Edit: I think it also bears mentioning that the Red Wings are trying "something new" in not completely tanking while shifting from one generation of players to the next. The Kings, Blackhawks, Penguins, Bruins, Penguins, Ducks, they all purposefully stank on ice for multiple seasons in order to stockpile high draft picks, and the Wings are trying something that tends not to build championship rosters over the long haul. It's been challenging for the Wings to climb back to the top thus far, but I'd much prefer this method to watching Detroit go in the tank for half a decade for the sake of prospects who may not pan out. /end edit]
Q: Do you think there is intelligent life on other planets?
A: Yes, I do. The universe is so big, it’s hard to imagine there not being another place like Earth somewhere, just ‘cause it’s so big.
Q: What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
A: Octopus, that’s the weirdest thing.
Q: If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be?
A: I’d probably choose the President, believe it or not, just to see what a day in the life that would be, how busy it would be and exactly what you have to go through.
Q: If you could meet one historical person, who would it be?
A: Jimi Hendrix.
Q: What song is on replay on your iPod right now?
A: Right now, a lot of the Rival songs.
In much less light reading, I can't make you read the National Post's Sean Fitz-Gerald's interview with Andrew McKim, who was recently awarded a $1.6 million judgment due to a career-ending hit delivered by former Wing Kevin Miller, but it's...A good read. A hard read, but a good one;
In the programming department, CBS Detroit's Carol Cain noted that Plymouth Whalers GM Mark Craig and director of communications Peter Krupsky will be on TV this weekend:
The city’s convention business is making a comeback as evidenced by Cobo Center where events have doubled from three years ago, Tom Connors, general manager of Cobo and regional vice president for SMG, said during taping of “Michigan Matters.”
Connors, who has run the facility the past four years, said conventions at Cobo has jumped from six three years ago to 14 so far this year.“It’s the highest level in many years,” said Connors, who gave credit to the Detroit Regional Convention Authority, the Metropolitan Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, a customer advisory board, and much needed renovations.
Connors appeared with Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Delaers Association, who is also on that Cobo advisory board. The DADA stages the North American International Auto Show there, and Denise Ilitch, CEO of Ilitch Enterprises, also was part of the panel.
...Also appearing on the program was Mark Craig, newly hired general manager of the Plymouth Whalers, the Ontario Hockey League junior team that plays at the suburban Detroit arena.
Craig and Peter Krupsky, who does broadcasts and handles communications for the team owned by Peter Karmanos, talked about the franchise which has made the playoffs 23 years in a row. Both men discussed changes at the team and the next season which kicks off in late September.You can hear the conversation by watching “Michigan Matters” 11:30 am Sunday on CBS 62.
And finally, I'm not thrilled about asking, but I do need to ask:
Over the three years that the Wings have held development camps in Traverse City, I've asked for your help in raising the finances to cover my hotel and gas bills, and you've been amazingly and remarkably kind in affording me the opportunity to "work for you"; due to my present financial circumstances, I'm afraid that I have to ask for your assistance again.
If there's any way that you can lend a financial hand in my attempts to get up to Traverse City for the summer development camp and/or eventually to attend the prospect tournament and main camp in the fall, I would be incredibly grateful for any help.
I'm sticking with Paypal as it's the most direct route (though I will also do the whole, "Give me your address and I'll send you a check or a few bucks in the mail" thing, too), and you have to use my email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, as the recipient.
Here's the button:
If you can aid the cause, I'd be incredibly grateful; if you can't, I understand, and as usual, literally any amount helps. You'd be surprised how many $5, $10 and $20 donations end up paying my way. Thanks.
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About The Malik Report
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.