The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/31/14 at 12:54 AM ET
MLive's Ansar Khan kind of stole the "overnight" thunder by reporting that Ken Holland plans on extending both Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill's contracts, and Holland also said something to Khan that's particularly relevant given this morning's crop of Red Wings stories:
"Our scouts identified good players and Jeff Blashill has done a fabulous job in the development of those players," Holland said. "We're trying to develop another group of players who'll be key contributors to us having playoff success. It's important that they learn to win at the American Hockey League level. This season and next summer is a critical time in Detroit as we transition young players into being Red Wings. Jeff Blashill is an important guy as we go through that transition. He's excited to continue to have an impact on the Red Wings."
The Red Wings ideally would like to sign Babcock to an extension before the season.
"We'll be together during our pro scouting meetings (Monday through Wednesday) and at the draft (June 27-28 in Philadelphia)," Holland said. "In the month of June we'll sit down and talk. Because of our relationship, I wouldn't categorize it as formal negotiations. I'd like to get him signed to an extension. It might take 10 minutes, it might take two months."
The Wings' scouts have been at the NHL's scouting combine in Toronto, likely interviewing the vast majority of the 119 players in attendance ahead of today's fitness tests (the draft takes place in Philadelphia on June 27th and 28th; the Wings' pro scouting meetings firm up the draft list and form the basis for the team's free agency plans).
In terms of the team's prospects in tow, Mattias Janmark's currently the darling unrestricted free agent of the Swedish Hockey League, visiting 8 teams as the 21-year-old takes part in a very rare process for Swedish players--usually their rights are locked up by their parent club, but AIK Stockholm faced the double-whammy of both being relegated to the Allsvenskan and finding their contracts with most of their top players expiring--so he's going to remain in Sweden for the upcoming season.
With the Wings' graduating a significant number of centers to the big club, Janmark definitely fares in the organization's future plans, as the Free Press's George Sipple notes...
“I didn’t know much about Mattias going into him coming over,” Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think it’s very, very difficult for guys to jump into a new environment, at that time of year especially.
“What struck me with him is I thought he was extremely smart both defensively and offensively. He’s a 200-foot, two-way player. ... I thought he was exponentially better with good players.”
Janmark, who shoots left, saw his role diminished after Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco returned to the Griffins.
“I think he’s definitely got a chance to be a real good player,” Blashill said. “It’s not going to be on his own ‘wow-you’ physical skills. It’s going to be more through his high-end smarts offensively.”
But something that Sipple wrote a few days ago slid through the cracks, and it's worth repeating. The Wings have had a very productive past 3-4 drafts, but Cory Emmerton's decision to head to the KHL basically put a bow on a particularly poor 2006 draft class that's a reminder of the fact that player development is not in fact an exact science:
In 2006, the Red Wings traded the No. 29 overall pick in the first round and a fifth-round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for a pair of second-round picks. The Coyotes used the picks to take Michigan defenseman Chris Summers in the first round and Jordan Benfeld in the fifth.
The Red Wings drafted Emmerton with the 41st overall pick in the second round and Shawn Matthias with the 47th overall pick.
In February 2007, the Red Wings traded Matthias and a second-round pick to the Florida Panthers for forward Todd Bertuzzi, who then signed with the Anaheim Ducks in July 2007, before returning to the Wings as a free agent in 2009.
Forward Jan Mursak, a sixth-round pick in 2006, was the only other member of that class to play for the Wings. He had two goals and two assists in 46 games in parts of three seasons (2010-13). Mursak spent the 2013-14 season in the KHL, with Khabarovsk and CSKA Moscow.
Forward Dick Axelsson, the Red Wings' third second-round pick, played in 17 games with the Griffins in 2009-10 before returning to Sweden. He played last season for Frolunda.
Goaltender Daniel Larsson, a third-round pick, spent two seasons with the Griffins (2008-10) before returning to Sweden. He spent last season with AIK.
Forward Nick Oslund, the first of two seventh-round draft picks, spent four seasons at St. Cloud State. In one season playing professionally, he spent the majority of his time with the Toledo Walleye in the East Coast Hockey League.
Defenseman Logan Pyett spent four seasons with the Griffins (2008-12) but never played for the Wings. He spent last season in the KHL, with Chekhov Vityaz and Vladivostok Admiral.
This year, the Wings have the 15th overall pick in the 1st round and the 15th-ish pick in rounds 3-7 (a compensatory pick or two awarded in the 2nd round will likely bump the team to sixteenth or seventeenth in each round), and as Holland told Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Matt Dery that he's going to pick a skater...
Looking at the NHL's rankings of North American and European skaters, the Wings' emphasis on finally drafting "bigger" players runs into a decided lack of "'size" among the crop of prospects available below the first five picks (after which there's little consensus as to who goes where). I thought that Rotoworld's Gus Katsaros' mock draft might reveal a player that the Wings are leaning toward:
15. Detroit - Brendan Perlini (RW): The Red Wings like his skill and skating ability on the wings. Not known for his grittiness, Perlini's skill and shot will be a welcome addition on the right side. Perlini exploded for 34 goals and 71 points for Niagara of the OHL after picking up eight goals and 12 points in 59 games the season before, split between Barrie and Niagara.
I've seen a significant number of Wings-centric websites' mock drafts suggesting that the Wings should pick Waterford, MI's Dylan Larkin, fellow US NTDP forward Sonny Milano, or that the Wings might be hoping that Halfiax's Nikolaj Ehlers somehow drops out of the top 15, but I distinctly remember the Sault Ste. Marie Star's Peter Ruicci--a reporter who's chronicled Ryan Sproul's exploits as a member of the Soo Greyounds--reporting, maybe three or four years ago, that the Wings were interested in Nick Perlini and his older brother Brendan, who ended up being picked by the Ducks.
The NHL's profile of Perlini notes that he's a bigger player with some local ties of his own:
North American Skater - Niagara, OHL
Final Rank: 8 Midterm Rank: 8
Position: Left Wing Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 205
Born: April 27, 1996 Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Born in: Guildford, ENG
• Perlini led Niagara during the 2013-14 season with 34 goals in 58 games, and finished second on the team with 71 points. He was named the most sportsmanlike IceDog for 2013-14.
• He began playing hockey in the United Kingdom where his father, Fred, worked as director of a hockey program after his playing career ended in 1997 with the Guildford Flames of the British Hockey League. He wears No. 11 as a tribute to his father, who played eight games with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being drafted in 1980 (158th overall).
• Perlini registered four points (3-1—4) in seven games for Canada’s bronze medal winning entry at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship.
• His minor hockey career began with a national championship with the Guildford Junior Ice Club in Surrey, England. His family then moved back to North America where he played three seasons of minor hockey in Sault Ste. Marie before joining the Belle Tire program in Michigan when his family relocated to Detroit.
• Brendan’s brother, Brett, played four years at Michigan State University and was drafted by Anaheim in the seventh round (192nd overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He currently plays in the ECHL for the Toledo Walleye.
If I were to hazard a guess as to who the Wings would draft on June 27th, I'd put my five bucks on Perlini.
Otherwise...The Free Press's Jamie Samuelssen had this to say about Mike Babcock's status among the Detroit sports scene's coaches with the "most job security"...
4. Mike Babcock
(last year — 6):We’re going to spend the summer scrutinizing every Babcock move in much the same way we’re going to continue to scrutinize Ndamukong Suh and Max Scherzer. He’s the most powerful coach in the game, but we’re not 100% convinced that he wants to be in Detroit. Both the Maple Leafs and the Penguins are expected to make strong overtures towards Babcock. And he’s yet to commit to Detroit beyond next season. Gut feeling? He wants to be here. He loves living and coaching here. He’s just not into these public displays of negotiations and security that some other coaches are. That said I’d sure love to see his signature on the dotted line.
The Windsor Star's Jim Parker reports that Darren McCarty will have at least one Hall of Fame title to his credit, sooner than later...
The ranks of the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame will grow by eight this year as the 2014 induction class was announced Friday at the WFCU Centre.
Five members will join the hall in the athletes’ category and another three in the builders’ category at the hall’s induction banquet, which will be held Oct. 24 at the Caboto Club.
Leamington native and former NHL Detroit Red Wing forward Darren McCarty is set for enshrinement. The 42-year-old McCarty spent parts of 15 seasons in the NHL and the majority with the Red Wings where he played on the Grind Line and won four Stanley Cups.
“If I didn’t grow up in Essex County, I wouldn’t have four Stanley Cups,” said McCarty, who wasn’t able to attend Friday’s announcement. “I was definitely taken aback and completely honoured.
“My first thought was for all the people in Leamington and the coaches I had, whether it was hockey or in baseball, that influenced me and got me to where I am. I look at this as representing a lot of people’s hard work and believing in me when I was young.”
I guess I ought to say something about the news that Peter Karmanos is considering selling or relocating the Plymouth Whalers "after next season," as first reported by Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples and the Free Press's Sipple, and confirmed by the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
[D}espite the success on the ice and the steady amount of young players who have gone on to become NHL stars (Tyler Seguin, James Neal, David Legwand, Stephen Weiss, James Wisniewski and Gregory Campbell, among others) hockey fans have yet to consistently flock to Compuware Arena.
"It's not anything we didn't expect," said Karmanos, noting Detroit is a major professional sports town, with a highly popular NHL team just down the road. "The players want to play in a building that's full. When you put a quality team on the ice and you win every year and you're in the playoffs 23 straight years, sooner or later people have to start coming.
"(But) sooner or later, we have to do something."
The Whalers were 28-33-7 last season (63 points) and ranked 19th of 20 teams in the OHL with average attendance of 2,478 (64.3 percent capacity), totaling 84,265 fans in 34 games.
"I'd much rather prefer having more people in the building (than moving)," Karamanos said.
Speculation has centered around two possible destinations — Flint and Hamilton, Ontario — as possible landing spots.
Okay, saying something that will yield stepped-on toes:
Karmanos doesn't run Compuware anymore. He's got a second career, he's got a second wife and young kids, he's in the process of "moving on to the next thing" in many parts of his life, and it doesn't surprise me that he views the Whalers as something of an "old" passion--or something that no longer appeals to his ego.
But even before the Whalers were the Whalers, when they were the Detroit Junior Red Wings and they played in Joe Louis Arena, there was always a separation between Karmanos and Mike Ilitch, who were feuding at the time. When Karmanos bought the Hartford Whalers, moved them to Carolina, and then tried to swipe Sergei Fedorov from Detroit, that rift grew deeper, and when the Hurricanes played the Wings in 2002 and then won the Cup in 2006, there was a significant amount of hockey brinksmanship going on in this town.
Throughout that time, the Plymouth Whalers have always done solidly enough in attendance given that Plymouth used to be the very brink of the western burbs (that's changed over the past eight years), and yet there's been no attempt whatosever to work with the Wings to boost attendance, despite the fact that the Wings' management lives on the West Side and that the Wings' players occasionally work out or skate there during the summer.
Karmanos has drawn front-office representatives from Plymouth (with Mike Velucci being the latest one), and he's often ensured that the Hurricanes draft at least one Whaler into their system per draft. That part of the team, its connection to Carolina, has been played up, but it doesn't "sell" anything in Metro Detroit. Nobody gives a rat's butt about the Hurricanes.
I had some hopes that when the Wings practiced at Compuware at the end of the last lockout, when they named Henrik Zetterberg captain there and held their intra-squad scrimmage, there would be some sort of thawing of the rift between the two organizations.
Since then, however, there's been nothing. Wings amateur scouts attend just about every Whalers and Windsor Spitfires home game, and while we've heard quite a bit about the Griffins and the bang for your buck they provide, we never see so much as a Tweet from the Whalers or any other Michigan news outlet saying, "Hey, Andreas Athanasiou's Barrie Colts are in town, come watch them play in Plymouth, where there's a great hockey team you might not know about!" or, "Hey, Zach Nastasiuk, Tyler Bertuzzi, etc. etc. are in town, see 'em for only $10 at Compuware Arena on Saturday!"
The Whalers have established themselves as a little franchise that could do things on its own, stand on its own and promote itself on its own, but maybe that's not the case anymore, and maybe their strongly-fought status as an entity fiercely independent from the rest of the Detroit sports establishment needs to change. You mention the Red Wings to a Compuware employee and they get kind of huffy. Maybe it's time to embrace "the competition" and to foster the kinds of business ties that help everybody instead.
Let the past be the past. If the Whalers are to survive, maybe they need the Red Wings more than they think.
And in promotional news of a different kind...
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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.