The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/28/13 at 03:50 AM ET
I've tried to leave discussions of the "back end" of the Red Wings' forward roster alone as, put bluntly, with Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist left to re-sign, the Wings needing to clear cap and roster space and, in my opinion, anyway, there's no way in hell that the Wings will do anything less than give the AHL's Jack Butterfield Trophy-winner as the playoff MVP regular ice time--because Tomas Tatar has earned it.
We don't know if Darren Helm's back will heal, nor do we know whether Todd Bertuzzi's healthy enough to contribute, and the same may or may not be true for Mikael Samuelsson. If all three are healthy, yes, Jordin Tootoo is an endangered species, if you will, and the same can be said for Cory Emmerton and Patrick Eaves.
As far as I'm concerned, the discussion's kind of moot until training camp begins and we find out who's healthy and who's not. Despite Saturday night's Tootoo trade talk, the drying-up of the unrestricted free agent marketplace, the complete and utter lack of trades and the fact that NINETEEN TEAMS are within $5 million of the salary cap's upper limit all add up to Tootoo, Emmerton, Eaves, Helm, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, Drew Miller, Andersson, Nyquist and Tatar showing up in Traverse City and competing for six roster spots' worth of regular playing time and 8 jobs.
Two players will depart somehow unless somebody gets hurt or comes up "lame"--and while we're at it, let's get things straight and point out that the Wings can exceed the salary cap by up to 10% ($6.4 million; the team's currently $1.044 million under the cap by Capgeek's estimations) to re-sign Andersson and Nyquist, who are clearly the team's priorities at present.
I don't believe that Andersson, Nyquist, Tatar, Miller, Helm or Bertuzzi are going anywhere, and it's looking more and more like Samuelsson's hanging around, yielding two of Tootoo, Emmerton or Eaves saying goodbye to the Wings in some way, shape or form between now and the last day of the exhibition season on September 28th--because the Wings will need to comply with the salary cap's upper limit and the NHL's 23-man roster limit by 5 PM on the following day, and the "Wade Redden Rule" means that nobody can be buried in the AHL in a manner that would meaningfully reduce the Wings' cap figure.
Who's going to win jobs?
Beats the hell out of me.
Who's going to get hurt? That's probably the operative question for both the Wings and their potential trade partners as injuries that other teams sustain during training camp and the exhibition season may determine Tootoo, Emmerton and Eaves' futures just as much as the Wings roster's state will determine their eventual 2013-2014 season employers' addresses.
As MLive's Ansar Khan suggested on Friday, the Wings will probably have to find some sort of role for Samuelsson if he does stay healthy; Helm may not be the best 3rd line center in the NHL, but he's incredibly important as a two-way forward, and while I know that Todd Bertuzzi's been the subject of many Wings fans' trade suggestions, I agree with the Free Press's Helene St. James' scouting report as to what Bertuzzi has to offer should he recover from his back issues:
Looking back: The 2013 season was a rough stretch for Bertuzzi. He was falsely diagnosed with mononucleosis just as the season got under way in January. What he really had was a bad case of flu. He joined the lineup four games in, scoring two goals that night against Minnesota. Two weeks later he hobbled out of Scottrade Center in St. Louis as a nerve was shooting so much pain into his back and down his right leg that Bertuzzi ended up hospitalized for a few days. Bertuzzi was ready to play by the last week of the regular season, though he did not reappear until Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against Anaheim. He was scratched all but the first game of the second-round series against Chicago.
Looking ahead: Unlike fellow back-pain sufferer Darren Helm, who was no closer to playing at season’s end than at the beginning, Bertuzzi was able to play in May. That, combined with an off-season spent working out, should make him a viable contributor for the 2013-14. At 6-feet-3, 220 pounds, Bertuzzi, 38, is one of the biggest forwards on the team. He has demonstrated a willingness to play in front of the net, so he could push for some power-play shifts. He’s also one of their best converters in a shootout, a not insignificant asset in today’s NHL.
Bertuzzi has worked well as a winger for Pavel Datsyuk in the past — including the first two weeks of this past season — but that role now belongs to Justin Abdelkader. Where else can Bertuzzi fit? Mike Babcock likes a third line with Bertuzzi and Helm, but the Wings still don’t know whether Helm will able to play.
Bertuzzi is very motivated entering what is almost assuredly his last NHL season, not the least at the prospect of playing in the Winter Classic. Where he'll fit remains to be seen, but a healthy Bertuzzi could be a solid contributor for the Wings.
Bertuzzi can provide elements that none of the Wings' trade candidates can in a significant amount of size and intimidation--he's a "nuclear deterrent" to other teams taking physical liberties on the Wings by his presence alone--and he can still score goals and shootout winners.
Yes, he's an inconsistent scorer, and yes, he's 38, but he, Justin Abdelkader, Miller and Andersson arguably play the "grittiest" games of all of the Wings' forwards not named Tootoo, and if there are any concerns regarding the team's ability to keep up with a bigger and meaner Eastern Conference, Bertuzzi should provide part of the Wings standing up to any intimidation with a scary player of their own.
In news regarding "questions" of a different kind, I spent Saturday trying to recharge my batteries, but when I thought about the Wings' move to the Eastern Conference and its status as a team in something of a stacked "Atlantic Division" with Boston, Montreal, Toronto, and then the wannabe teams in Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay...
I believe that the team's attempts to "learn the East" ultimately rest on Mike Babcock and the coaching staff's shoulders.
Mike Babcock, Detroit – He is the best and most consistent coach in the game. He is probably the NHL’s equivalent of Don Shula, the legendary Hall of Fame coach of the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins. Bum Phillips once said Shula could take “his’n and beat your’n, and then take your’n and beat his’n.” While Phillips was grammatically challenged, it’s clear what he meant and the same thing applies to Babcock.
In addition to being a Stanley Cup winner, he has also won Olympic gold as Canada’s head coach in 2010, and he was selected to serve in that capacity again in 2014. When it comes to motivation, teaching, strategy and matchups, Babcock is without peer.
No team gave the Blackhawks more of a run for their money than the undermanned Detroit Red Wings, and the Blackhawks and the rest of the Western Conference are thrilled that the Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference.
But I will let you reread the Toronto Star's Cathal Kelly's ramble about the risks Babcock's taking in attempting to repeat as a gold-medal winning Canadian Olympic team coach, as noted by the Free Press's Steve Schrader, on your own.
Given that Sochi, Russia is 8 hours ahead of Eastern time, I'm guessing that I'll be getting up at 4 AM every morning to catch noon games in February. Not looking forward to that.
In the prospect department, the Red Wings have planned on having Marek Tvrdon turn pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins after dealing with a trio of injury-plagued seasons, but the Vancouver Province's Steve Ewen reports that Tvrdon's WHL team, the Vancouver Giants, want to keep Tvrdon on the West Coast:
The Vancouver Giants aren’t about to give up on Marek Tvrdon and Dalton Thrower as part of their 20-year-old trio. As of Friday, Riley Kieser won’t have to wait around as a back-up plan.
The Giants traded Kieser, a centre who’s about to start his overage season, to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. WHL teams are only permitted to use three 20 year olds, and Vancouver is set to have left winger Cain Franson back for a fourth campaign and is also aiming at using Tvrdon, another left winger, and Thrower, a defenceman.
Twenty year olds are also eligible to play in the minors, and players with signed NHL contracts, like Tvrdon has with the Detroit Red Wings, usually do just that. Tvrdon, a fourth-round pick of the Red Wings in 2011, missed large chunks of two of the past three seasons with the Giants so far with injuries. Vancouver brass think because of that he could be back based out of the Pacific Coliseum. Detroit does have a history of taking time with their prospects, too.
Giants general manager Scott Bonner said it wasn’t fair for Kieser, who played a season and a half with the Giants, to wait for a Tvrdon decision.
And in a different vein, I've got to warn you that the Detroit Athletic Company's website mostly sells merchandise before duly noting that I'd be remiss to not point out that Bruce Mason reminds us that Jimmy Devellano may have rebuilt the Wings, but he ended up hiring Ken Holland, eventual Rangers GM Neil Smith, the Lidstrom-finding Christer Rockstrom and the first Russian scouts for a reason--his draft record kind of stank:
Hey, Jimmy Devellano has been on record several times saying he wanted to draft Pat LaFontaine instead of Stevie Yzerman. LaFontaine was a Waterford product who Devellano viewed as a player who could connect with locals and put fans in the Joe Louis Arena seats. Thankfully, LaFontaine was selected third overall by the New York Islanders, and Yzerman fell into Devellano’s lap the very next pick.
From there, it was all downhill for Devellano’s draft record. In 1984, he selected Shawn Burr instead of Shayne Corson, who went one pick later and was a three-time all-star. In 1985, he took Brent Fedyk instead of Dave Manson, who turned into a perennial tough guy and two-time all-star on the blue line for Chicago.
Then came a couple of head-scratchers: With the 11th pick in 1987, Devellano took defenseman Yves Racine. Four picks later, Quebec selected a future Hall of Famer by the name of Joe Sakic.
And with the third overall pick in 1990, Devellano selected Keith Primeau (619 career points). Two picks later, Jaromir Jagr (1,688 career points) was taken by Pittsburgh.
Primeau ended up as part of the Wings' deal for Brendan Shanahan, so things turned out just fine in that regard Cup-wise, but he ended up sending a college free agent signing named Adam Oates to St. Louis for one season of both Bernie Federko and Paul MacLean, and that move baffles me to this day.
Other first-round draft picks under Devellano from 1983-’90: Joe Murphy (1st overall, 1986); Kory Kocur (17th overall, 1988); Mike Sillinger (11th overall, 1989). To be fair, the drafted players hovering around Murphy, Kocur and Sillinger’s slots did not fare any better, so Devellano deserves a break here. (And Sillinger, who was traded to Anaheim in 1995 that brought Stu Grimson to Detroit, turned into a solid competitor who played 1,049 career games.)
Technically, someone could criticize Devellano for selecting Murphy instead of Jimmy Carson (2nd overall, 1986), since Carson averaged 95 points a season during his opening three years. But it’s a moot point: Carson came to Detroit in a blockbuster trade that involved Murphy during the 1989-90 season.
The article omits the superstar draft class of Fedorov, Lidstrom, Dallas Drake, Sillinger and some guy named Vladimir Konstantinov back in 89, but by then, Devellano had begun to establish the foundation of the strong scouting staff that the Wings employ today...
And the draft may have had 12 rounds instead of 7--despite far fewer teams making 12 picks back in the 80's and early 90's--but it was so much more of a crap-shoot than it is an educated guessing game today. Teams simply didn't employ as many amateur scouts, and if you didn't see players take part in multiple games, you were working on scouts' hunches or stats and stories from other people.
These days, aside from Hakan Andersson's "nobody's seen him but me" Swedish picks, the Wings' scouts have access to so much more information in terms of video of more widely-televised and webcast games, digital video recorders, more meaningful stats, coordination via email-filed scouting reports instead of faxed, phoned or mailed-in dispatches, and of course access to a centralized draft combine that it's light years removed from the days when teams would make 12 picks and sometimes strike out completely.
Nowadays, the Wings realistically attempt to pick 1 or 2 NHL players out of 7 picks, and while it is most certainly still a guessing game as players' bodies, brains and hockey skills do not always converge by the time teams have to make decisions regarding signing players to pro deals, nor do they turn out as pro players.
One of the nicest people I've met in Tom McCollum was barely retained after being the Wings' first-round pick in
2010 2008, grinding forward Brent Raedeke just signed with the German league's Iserlohn Roosters, and if you're interested in reading garbled Russian, Derek Meech--remember him?--chose to leave his hometown Jets' farm system to sign with Dynamo Minsk of the KHL, and he gave an interview to HC Dynamo Minsk's website, and Championat.ru re-posted it.
His most interesting observation? Minsk's climate is just like that of its sister city, Detroit, with not-too-cold but very humid winters.
Otherwise, I know that some of you are still engaging in a spirited debate regarding the public portion of the Wings follow-on rink's funding, and I'm going to have to disagree with the Free Press's John Gallagher's suggestion that the Ilitches' rink development could go "off the rails" like other previous Detroit real estate projects.
There's too much on the line for the Wings--anywhere between $8-10 million in added profit per season, Mr. I's legacy on the line given that he's 84 (he and Pavel Datsyuk share the same birthday, July 20th) and a HUGE spotlight on the City, Wayne County, the State of Michigan and the people the Wings employ to design and build the rink given that the Joe was such a boondoggle ($30 million in late 70's dollars was a ton of money to pay for a rink with no press box and a rapidly-aging status) that it has to be constructed on time and on-budget.
And on Twitter, Jordin Tootoo's status as a Wing may be tenuous, but he continued to engage in something of a charitable tour of Nunavut communities on Saturday...
While Wings prospect Landon Ferraro shared in Grand Rapids Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan's day with the Calder Cup in British Columbia:
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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.