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Red Wings overnight report: on Brunner, the ‘Griffins championship bump’ and ‘Studio P’

Updated at 7:05 AM: As we've discussed over the past week or so, the Red Wings appear to be ready to move on from Valtteri Filppula, they've got a hard decision to make about Daniel Cleary, and in terms of both their restricted free agents (Joakim Andersson, Jakub Kindl, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith) and free agents-to-be, the Wings find themselves in the most peculiar pickle regarding one Damien Brunner, who seems quite intrigued by the prospect of testing the unrestricted free agent marketplace on July 5th.

With an extremely limited NHL resume, an incredibly inconsistent 2013 season to his credit and few "comparables" salary-wise, it's hard to say what the 27-year-old forward could earn on the open market, but there's no doubt that he could  more than double his $1.35 million cap hit , and while the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Brunner's agent, Neil Sheehy, and the Wings are talking contract turkey, she wonders what the Wings might do, and whether Brunner's worth the investment:

So what salary and what term is Brunner worth? It’s tricky, because who is he — the dynamo of the first half of the season or the guy who struggled in the second half? Brunner doesn’t kill penalties, and he doesn’t go into corners and doesn’t forecheck — his forté is scoring goals.

There are several factors in his favor: First and foremost, he scored in the playoffs. Many offensive players have quiet stretches during the regular season, and that’s easily forgiven if he delivers when it counts most. Second, Brunner never had gone through anything like the hectic pace of the NHL, a pace that was exacerbated when the lockout squeezed 48 games into 99 days. Nor was he accustomed to the travel, which was brutal starting in mid-March.

He should have a much easier second season, when the schedule returns to a more leisurely three-games-a-week average and the Wings shift to the East, reducing travel.

With bonuses, Brunner’s salary last season was $1.35 million (adjusted for the lockout). Is he worth $2 million a year now? $2.5 million?

Ultimately, both sides must gamble. In some ways, a one-year deal makes sense: If Brunner has a monster year, he can cash in next summer; if he comes in around 20 goals, he’ll still get a new contract. In other ways, a multiyear deal is safer: Brunner gets more job security, the Wings get a lower price.

I get the feeling that a one or two-year deal makes the most sense. If Brunner proves that he can hack an 82-game season and can register 20 goals and 40-50 points, sure, give him $3.5 million, but right now, is he worth that kind of money? I'm not sure, and given that the Wings are likely to pursue (depending on what happens in terms of cap compliance buy-outs) a big Abdelkader-style forward and/or a puck-moving defenseman after re-signing Brunner and spending a million or so bucks on each of the four restricted free agents, every penny of the team's $10.6 million in cap space matters right now.


The Grand Rapids Griffins have mostly hauled ass to their summer homes after capturing the Calder Cup on Tuesday and celebrating with their fans on Wednesday. RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest discussed the progress made by both Jack A. Butterfield Award-winner (the AHL's playoff MVP award; Tatar registered 16 goals and 21 points over the course of 26 playoff games) and certain Wings-graduating Tomas Tatar and the rest of the Griffins during their Calder Cup run. Here's his take on the other Griffins players:

It was a phenomenal run for the Griffins, who had never won the Calder Cup. Other prospects who made a big impression up front were two-way center Landon Ferraro (five goals, 11 assists), slick winger Tomas Jurco (eight goals, six assists), former first-round pick Riley Sheahan (three goals, 13 assists, plus-7) and grind-line type Mitchell Callahan (six goals, five assists).

Callahan was a revelation in the final two rounds, where he produced five goals and four assists in 13 games to push himself back on the Red Wings’ radar as a potential role player. Jurco’s productive run was impressive given his status as one of the league’s youngest players.

Adam Almquist chipped in with three goals and seven assists from the back end before suffering a concussion in the final while Red Wings Central’s No. 1-ranked prospect, Petr Mrazek, was a worthy MVP candidate in his own right, playing every minute of every game en route to a 15-9 record, four shutouts, a 2.31 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

Four prospects who had already graduated from Red Wings Central’s list — Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff — also played key roles in the win. Nyquist and Andersson bumped fellow forwards Teemu Pulkkinen and Louis-Marc Aubry from the lineup after being reassigned in late May following the Red Wings’ playoff run.

My Czech and Slovak are terrible, but Mrazek gave a short interview to Hockej.cz, and here are the highlights:

1. In quite the understatement, Mrazek describes winning the Calder Cup as "something you don't do every year," though he admits that winning the championship still feels surreal;

2. He's pals with Syracuse's Ondrej Palat, so he congratulated his friend;

3. He says that the best moment of the plane ride back to Grand Rapids was when Andrej Nestrasil and Tomas Tatar interviewed a reporter (more than one):

4. He was both very happy to celebrate the championship with the deserving fans in Grand Rapids and shave off his playoff beard;

5. He made sure to thank his mom and dad;

6. And he's heading to Mexico for a long vacation before returning home on July 10th, which means that he won't be taking part in the Wings' summer development camp...

And Tatar gave another interview to Sport.sk. Amongst his comments:

1. As you might imagine, the Griffins had a sudsy time on Red Bird III and didn't sleep after winning the Calder Cup, at least not until morning broke;

2. Tatar believes that winning the Calder Cup is just as important as any other championship--being the best is being the best;

3. He felt that the Griffins won the championship because they were wonderfully-coached by Jeff Blashill and were a tight-knit team;

4. He wasn't thrilled with not being able to win the Calder Cup at "home," and he was particularly pissed off about the way the Griffins dropped Game 5, but he felt that in Game 6, the Crunch snapped when Brennan Evans scored the game-winner with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd period;

5. He's read the press clippings and now knows that the Red Wings and Ken Holland expect him to play on the team's NHL roster, and he's both thrilled and relieved to hear it;

6. He says that the Wings' management and coach Babcock were watching the team very intently during the Calder Cup Final, and the Griffins' players were very aware of the Wings' presence;

7. As you hear many players say, he absolutely adored flying on Red Bird III, even though he was a bit...tipsy...during the flight

8. He was at least temporarily allowed to keep the playoff MVP trophy, and he knows that the Griffins will have their names inscribed on the Calder Cup and will get championship rings;

9. And he'll arrive home in Dubinca, Slovakia today.

For the record, the University of Notre Dame posted a press release praising their Calder Cup-winning alums in Riley Sheahan and Jordan Pearce, too.


When I talked about the Wings' new rink being built in a "slightly dangerous place" on Thursday, I wasn't kidding. The Cass Corridor north of I-75 remains both blighted and downright shady, and MLive's Eric Lacy's list of 10 locations that stand to benefit from the rink and its surrounding development, he was giving you the serious-ass highlights.

If you've ever been to a concert at the Masonic Temple (Tenacious D, yeah!), if you go down the wrong street, you're quickly reminded that there are still places in Downtown Detroit where you need to "dash" from location to location with your eyes peeled and your head on a swivel lest you get mugged.

My dad was a probation officer in Detroit during the 70's and 80's, and he wasn't afraid to take little G.J. (dad was also George but had no middle name, so until he passed away, everybody called me G.J.) into some shady areas (albeit downtown, and not in the neighborhoods he navigated to speak to prisoners' families and generate profiles to determine fair sentences) to teach me how to handle myself without being stupid...

But even as a 250-pound bald man with a scraggly goatee, there are places where I was taught that it's plain old healthy to be scared for your personal safety, and I apply that to places like the Cass Corrdior (dad was not one for machismo: he could talk his way out of shady situation because he could charm the pants off of anyone [I wish that had been genetically passed down to me, but no luck], but he didn't believe that being "smart' was anything less than stupid) on a very liberal basis.

WXYZ's Kimberly Craig filed a report (via RedWingsFeed) that optimistically discusses the revitalization of the area, but let me tell you, it's got a LONG way to go over a short period of time for white suburban folks to feel safe between Cass and Woodward avenues north of I-75. Shit gets real down there *#$%@& fast.

And, as Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner suggests, while we may love Joe Louis Arena...

Its "quirks" make it an adventure to work in. There's a reason there's a urinal in "Studio P," where the Wings call-ups and playoff scratches occasionally have to make their home, and Regner used to brodcast:

For several years I  broadcasted the Red Wings' pregame and postgame shows at Joe Louis Arena from a women’s bathroom, which I fondly called “Studio P.”  

It was a great location because it’s just outside the Wings dressing room. Before each game began, the Wings would line up to go onto the ice and I could see and hear them through the doorway of the bathroom.

Many times players would look at me and nod or laugh because of my location. But what really stands out was how the Wings would yell encouragement to one another just before they took to the ice.

For a guy who grew up in Detroit, that was as close as I was ever going to be to fulfilling my childhood dream of playing for the Red Wings.


Imagine being a highly sought-after free agent being shown around the fortress on the river, aka — Joe Louis Arena. Detroit’s workout facility is circa 1960s Jack LaLanne inspired. The wives/girlfriends/family lounge is like a doctors waiting room. The ancient scoreboard is from Cobo, the new video screen is not state-of-art and the out-of-town scoreboard never worked. The suites are a hundred miles away, you have two levels that empty into one concourse and the Olympia Room resembles a prison dining hall. There isn’t one window in the entire place and it’s located on the riverfront.

I cherish the unique charm of the Joe, but to a high-rolling free agent that has his pick of the litter, the Joe is a perfumed scrapheap.

As Helene St. James suggested on Thursday morning, as did MLive's Ansar Khan on Thursday afternoon, that "perfume" tends to resemble a lovely blend of stale beer, peanut shells and pizza boxes, and I can tell you for a fact that both the press box and media room smell like the spilled coffee and pop were never mopped up, and those bar stools in the press box and folding chairs in the media room are not exactly comfortable.

Players are busy people, but they do read the press on occasion, and aside from the fact that the Joe's visitors' locker room remains a spartan place and that you can read the Minnesota, Edmonton, Calgary and LA folks openly mock the Joe in their blogs and articles as "decrepit" or as a plain-old "pit," well...That doesn't reflect well upon the organization, regrettably.

In order for the Wings to attract top-notch free agent talent and keep their marquee players, they must play in an ultramodern arena. The landscape of today’s NHL dictates that it must be so.


If you really want to read the official development-and-rink-related press release from Ilitch Holdings (as a PDF), they did make it available to their Wings and Olympia Entertainment mailing lists.



In sort of tangential news, we learned this past season that one of the reasons the Wings value Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi so highly involves their status as rah-rah compliments to the quieter Zetterberg and Datsyuk and the soft-spoken but vocal Niklas Kronwall, and I have to admit that this quip from Sportsnet's Mark Spector made me smile, even though he was talking about Brent Frickin' Seabrook:

History records with great accuracy all the championships won and records set by the championship teams of yore, each accomplishment readily available in the National Hockey League’s Guide and Record Book. At your finger tips, with no need or room for characterization.

But when it comes to leadership, and the forces that truly enabled all that winning, it gets a little more anecdotal. We know of all the captains and the speech makers, but over time, the support group can fade.

Until a day like Thursday, when we are reminded that behind every Bob Gainey there was a Guy Lapointe; for every Steve Yzerman there was a Kris Draper or a Vladimir Konstantinov.

(My consolation regarding both the Bruins and Hawks remains the following: it's June 21st. Training camps begin between September 10th and 13th, and the teams will be playing until at least June 24th, if not June 26th. They're going to have little time to recover, and especially given that the Bruins will be in the Wings' division next year, that's not a bad thing)



If you missed it, part 1: the Wings posted an official press release regarding tomorrow's season-ending equipment sale at Hockeytown Authentics:

The Detroit Red Wings will hold a special equipment and memorabilia sale at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy (1845 E. Big Beaver Rd.) this Saturday, June 22, from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.  For the first time, Red Wings fans will have the opportunity to purchase game-worn jerseys from the team’s recently completed 2012-13 campaign, featuring Henrik Zetterberg’s sweaters from his first season as the 36th captain in franchise history.  In addition, various game-worn jerseys from previous seasons will be discounted and available for purchase.  This one-day-only sale also includes both used and unused hockey equipment such as team practice jerseys, sticks, skates, gloves and locker room Reebok hoodies with each individual player’s number.  Autographed items including pucks, photos, skates and sticks will also be available for fans to add to their collections.  Quantities are limited for all of these one-of-a-kind sale items.

Red Wings season ticket holders will have one hour of exclusive access to this special equipment and memorabilia sale on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  The sale will then open to the general public from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.  Those fans who cannot attend Saturday’s sale can still make a purchase by calling Hockeytown Authentics (248-680-0965).  Phone orders will be taken beginning at 1:00 p.m.

If you missed it, part 2: The Grand Rapids Griffins' Calder Cup celebration video is awesome:



And the prospect camp fundraising has taken a bit of a hit lately...As in donations have crawled to a standstill. I know that it's summer and that readership is down, but if you could spread the word, I'd be grateful.

I would like to attend the Red Wings' summer development camp from July 9-17 in Traverse City, MI, but I am a blogger. My paycheck is not very big, and due to health crap, this is the only job I've got. As such, I do not have the funds to pay for gas to get me to Traverse City or 11 days of a hotel stay.

During previous years, I've asked you to lend a hand and you've come though in a big way. I need to ask, if it is at all possible, that you might consider tossing a few bucks into the Paypal tip jar. I've generally found that the smallest donations, $5, $10, stuff like that, end up paying for gas and a huge chunk of my stay, and anything more is a bonus.

So if you want to donate, that's awesome, if you don't want to donate, that's cool, and one way or another, I hope to get up there and provide you with in-person, every-day coverage.

My "ID" is my personal email address, rtxg@yahoo.com, and you'll need to use that as the person you're sending $ to.


Update: WXYZ also filed a report pondering Joe Louis Arena's future:

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Nathan's avatar

From St. James:

Brunner doesn’t kill penalties, and he doesn’t go into corners and doesn’t forecheck — his forté is scoring goals.

Did she watch him play this season? The only thing correct about this statement is that Brunner doesn’t kill penalities.

Part of the reason he scored so well the first half of the season was that he absolutely DID go into the corners and go to the front of the net. He did not shy away from the tough areas because he clearly has an understanding that if he wants to score goals, that’s where his bread is buttered. Now, he certainly floated more once the puck stopped going in consistently. But let’s not put unreasonable expectations on a first-year, late-blooming forward.

If St. James watched the stretch run and playoffs, where they had Brunner playing with Andersson and Nyquist, she would’ve noticed that he was absolutely forechecking. To be fair, It’s not like he was or ever will be Darren Helm or Kris Draper. But once that forward unit found chemistry, all three guys had a good commitment to getting in on the D, and working hard on the backcheck, Brunner included.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/21/13 at 09:00 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

Maybe I’m missing something George but I’m not biting my nails over Brunner.  Sure his comments left the door open for him to test free agency, but the guy would be dumb to say “yeah I’m staying with Detroit” before he has a contract signed.  The guy wants a bigger payday and I can’t say I blame him. 

I think the time he has spent under Zetterberg’s mentorship, and the time he has spent with the Wings has to factor heavily as well.  I’m confident KH will get him signed.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 06/21/13 at 09:28 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/21/13 at 09:00 AM ET

She also says the Wings are NOT going after a top 6 UFA forward and are definitely going after a top 3 Dman….whoever the hell that would be. I think she’s starting to lose it.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 06/21/13 at 09:32 AM ET

DocF's avatar

George, I think your approach to keeping Brunner makes sense.  I am not yet convinced that he is/will be a huge offensive player in the NHL, but another year can tell the story.

If he wishes to leave, that will open a spot for Tatar to play regularly on a line where his skill set will fit very well.

I am not at all in favor of hanging on to Ballerina Bert.  He wastes a roster spot that should go to a more deserving player up from Grand Rapids. 

Cleary probably has one more productive year left and I would want to get the last bit out of him as he does a lot of the things that the Redd Wings need.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 06/21/13 at 09:44 AM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Vote for the Wings!  http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013130620013

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 06/21/13 at 09:47 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

..the Wings are likely to pursue (depending on what happens in terms of cap compliance buy-outs) a big Abdelkader-style forward...

Can you imagine anyone writing a line like that a year ago? Or even six months ago? It’s pretty amazing what Abby was able to do with the unexpected opportunity he was given. In the beginning, I hated the move. Now, I have to admit that Babcock may actually know more about the ability of Wings players than I do. Who woulda thunk it. smile

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 06/21/13 at 10:38 AM ET

Primis's avatar

People in MIN, CGY, and EDM make fun of the Joe because it distracts them from the absolute crap the orgs in those respective cities are.

They can make fun all they want.  Last time i checked, EDM had not signed a notable big free agent in what, two decades?  Yeah, they really should be commenting on other orgs…

Posted by Primis on 06/21/13 at 12:48 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Brunner has speed to push the puck up the ice, and he can snipe. How many players on the wings roster have Sniper in their skills set? Not many. 

He’s not a “must sign” at all costs, but he’s close. No reason we can’t resign him and a power forward while buying out Bert, Sammy, and trading Carlovokio

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 06/21/13 at 12:51 PM ET

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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.