The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/18/12 at 02:41 AM ET
Updated 2x at 4:42 AM: I've been saying this for a while now, and I'm sticking to it: while a good third to 40% of the Red Wings' roster probably plans on playing overseas at some point during the lockout, the younger, more interchangeable and most importantly cheaper-to-insure are the only ones who will find gainful employment, at least with a Datsyukian KHL exception. Jakub Kindl kind of let it slip that he's heading over to play for Oclari Trinec of the Czech Extraliga on Twitter...
Though he had quite the adventure on the flight over...
But ESPN's Pierre LeBrun offered a fine example as to why the same recession that has the NHL demanding a "retrenching" makes it prohibitively expensive for players on long-term contracts to find work:
or so many of these high-end players, insurance is such a factor. For KHL-bound Evgeni Malkin, for example, a source told ESPN.com that he’ll need to pay about $250,000 per year for two years’ worth of coverage on his $9 million salary, although it’s believed the premiums will be paid monthly and can be cancelled without penalty once the NHL lockout is over.
Still, it’s a huge chunk of change and that’s why NHL stars will tread carefully before heading over. Remember, as I wrote in Friday’s blog about the rules of the lockout, an NHL team has the right to suspend a player without pay once the NHL season resumes until he’s fit to play if he injures himself while playing in another league during the lockout.
Players like Jakub Kindl and Cory Emmerton will find immediat work because their cap hits and thus insurance premiums are minimal; at some point, a KHL team will be able to insure Pavel Datsyuk's contract, and it's more likely than not that Valtteri Filppula will sign with Jokerit Helsinki because he's in the last year of his deal; Jonathan Ericsson's desire to play for either Vita Hasten of the Swedish first division--an IHL/CHL style league--or Skelleftea AIK might be a pipe dream, however.
Via RedWingsFeed, Aftonbladet's Hans Abrahamsson and Tomas Ros provided a perfect and quite literal example of the problems even wealthy teams like Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Allsvenskan (they played in the Eliteserien last year, and are based in Stockholm) will have difficult decisions to make:
Both Djugarden and Sodertalje want to round out their teams with NHL players.
But Sportbladet's compliation shows that the differences in insurance costs for different players are huge.
"It's definitely something we weigh into our decision," says Djugardens coach and general manager Charles Berglund.
Niklas Kronwall would cost $728,283 dollars a month for Djugarden to insure.
Kronwall also plans on staying in Detroit unless he gets an indication that the lockout "goes long"--again, the Wings' players took part in Ted Lindsay's charity golf tournament to raise funds for autism research, and they'll kick off independent practices next week--but insurance issues not only limit his playing options, but also offer a low return on a high investment unless he plays for Djugardens for more than a month or two.
And again, while the 5 or 6 biggest-market KHL teams tend to be swimming in money from either petro-dollars, industrial ties or other natural resources (the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek spoke to Barry Smith about said concept), a Jokerit can afford to spend money and HC Davos, which signed Rick Nash and Joe Thornton on Monday, is looking for a huge PR boost, those teams tend to be the exception to the rule. Unless this lockout goes very long, I think it's going to be harder for Wings players to find overseas playing time than any of them have imagined.
In terms of the Wings' coaching staff, Mike Babcock may be the only member of the staff to remain in Michigan, and he told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff that his job description will change for a little while...
"We're over-ready as coaches," Babcock said as the NHL lockout entered Day 2."Those coaches that don't have family here, I'm probably going to send them home. I'm going to watch my kids and watch hockey as much as I can and go places where, hopefully, I can get better."
In this scenario, with management battling players, coaches tend to be caught in a form of hockey no man's land. They can't really say much. To speak out against the players could hamper future relations between them and to criticize his employer's stance would simply be a foolhardy venture.
"I don't know if we're in the middle of anything," Babcock said. "I think the players want the game to go and I think the owners want the game to go and the coaches do. We just haven't figured out a way to make it go. The bottom line is I'm going to embrace the time to watch my kids play their sports."
Trying to remain positive, Babcock and his staff are still preparing as if there will be a quick settlement to hockey's latest labour strife.
"As a coaching staff, we've brought in (former Edmonton coach) Tom Renney (as an assistant coach) and (Jeff) Blashill's going to run our minor-league team (in Grand Rapids), so we brought everyone together to get at what we're going to do and to work through last year's stuff and Oilers stuff to try to figure out the best way for our group to play this year and be successful," Babcock said. "Then we got training camp all planned like we always do. We'll get our exhibition schedule planned and go through all our probables just like we always do."
And it's that abbreviated season and a lack of a regular training camp or exhibition slate that worries him:
"No question," Babcock said. "And it doesn't allow for competition. We have too many forwards, which we are hoping to watch and figure out the right way to do it. Competition is an important thing."
Most of the Canadian Hockey League's teams--the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League--begin their regular seasons this week, and I can tell you that the Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit have made it very, very clear that their training camps are open to locked-out media, as are their press boxes (which is actually flattering and nice to hear).
Some players, including Wings prospect and Vancouver Giants forward Marek Tvrdon, hope that their teams will capitalize on the lockout to gain fans and momentum, as Tvrdon told the Vancouver Province's John Colebourn...
Vancouver Giants left-winger Marek Tvrdon likes the idea of being in the spotlight going into the start of the Western Hockey League’s regular season.
The Slovakian sniper — like others at a press conference the Giants held to announce cut-rate ticket prices — knows that with the NHL work stoppage, many eyes will be focused on his highly rated junior hockey team.
“It is going to be good for our team and league, for sure,” Tvrdon said at the launch of a seat sale the Giants unveiled to fill up the Pacific Coliseum while the NHL is idle.
The Giants also launched a new retro uniform at the announcement.
“We know we will have more people in the stands, we are practising hard and we are ready,” added Tvrdon.
And there's no doubt that Wings fans wil hae increased opportunities to watch Jake Paterson tend goal for the Spirit or see Soo Greyounds defenseman (and possible captain?) Ryan Sproul as the Whalers, Spirit, Windsor Spitfires, Sarnia Sting and Greyhounds play in the same division. The Sault Star's Mike Verdone points out that Sproul will help lead the Greyhounds' defense this season...
They say defence wins championships, which means the Soo Greyhounds have some work to do if they hope to make a playoff run this year.
The Hounds were fourth worst in goals against in the Ontario Hockey League last season, giving up 272 markers in 68 games, an average of four per game. That was not where they wanted to be.
“We had a lot of goals scored against us last year and it probably was one of our biggest downfalls,” said head coach Mike Stapleton.
He says the pieces are in place to make strides on the back end this year. Stapleton is looking to Ryan Sproul, 19, overager Colin Miller, second-year player Darnell Nurse, 17, and Alex Gudbranson,18, to lead the defensive corps this season.
“The big thing for our success this year is going to be taking care of our own end and everybody buying into the system, and being committed to our end,” Stapleton said.
Newly hired assistant coach Joe Cirella, who runs the defence, agrees with Stapleton that the four blueliners will be key this year.
“Those are your veteran guys, so those top-four guys are going to be relied on quite a bit,” Cirella said. “They're veteran guys who hopefully will lead by example and with their work ethic.”
But some Wings prospects are dealing with, how do I want to put this...Teenage problems, as the Peterborough Examiner's Dale Clifford reports regarding Peterborough Petes forward Alan Quine:
[Injured defenseman Alex] Robinson will be joined on the sidelines for the opener by forward Alan Quine, who has been diagnosed with mononucleosis, according to GM Dave Reid.
Heading back to news about the big club, the Free Press's Helene St. James offered two intriguing tidbits in a chat held on Freep.com on Monday morning...
I'm not taking the bait on "snow balls" Helene... sounds like the punchline of a dirty joke btw... the lockout happened before the announcement of if Hernik Zetterberg would be wearing the "C" or not... is he still the clear frontrunner?
by Norris Smythe
St. James: Hi Norris, the Wings debated announcing Zetterberg as the new captain last week, but then there was so much noise about the NY meetings, the timing never really worked. Plus they want Datsyuk to be on hand for the announcement, too. Something to look forward to when season begins.
and why not Pavel for C?
St. James: Zetteberg is already committed to being lifetime Wing, who knows what Datsyuk will do in two years when his deal is up. Zetterberg has been groomed for this since before Steve Yzerman retired.
Just wondering why you think Datsyuk might NOT re-up?
St. James: Maureen, he may want to go home to Russia, be closer to his daughter. He'll be 36 then, have spent a decade and a half here. But I'm not saying it's certain, he could re-up.
My hopes are not as high for the Free Press's Drew Sharp's chat at 11 this morning...
And finally, Paul and I made a very conscious decision to go "light" on content as NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told sob stories about the poor, put-upon NHL and Mathieu Schneider and Donald Fehr fired back with appropriate "WTF?"-ness given that the NHL is suggesting that it's only "fair" that the players give at the office to the tune of over a quarter billion dollars each season for the next five-to-seven years despite the league's insistence that its current business plan works just fine (???), the Free Press's Helene St. James offered an addition to USA Today's Kevin Allen's story on Fehr's communication skills and sense of duty to his constituents:
One of Fehr's objectives was to make sure that European players were getting information with the same level of efficiency as players in North America this summer.
"He really wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page, regardless of what time zone you're in," said Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
Again, I cannot begrudge the players' right to earn their living, and I support the PA in no small part due to the NHL's insistence that the only problem with its current business plan is that it pays the players "too much" because the CBA Daly wrote after locking out players and fans for an entire year is "too fair," and needs to be tweaked to idiot-proof it.
As long as the cap is determined by averaging league-wide revenues, it will continue to rise in an "inflationary spiral" driven by the big market moneymakers, and in my opinion, the league's position will place us in the same position, talking about another owners' lockout, half a decade from now. The only difference is that the owners will continue to raise ticket prices on a supply-and-demand basis, irrespective of player compensation, so we fans will be paying much more than we already do to watch the game we love so much.
It's a little early for me to call it an overnight report, but I'm playing through my virus, which has migrated down the gastrointestinal tract, and I don't want to miss any more time.
Update: I hate my sense of duty sometimes. I'm still up and still working because I wanted to check every nook and cranny for news before hitting the hay, and the Free Press's Helene St. James offers us more about Mr. Fehr's communication skills...
"He's amazing," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Amazing. He's very interesting to listen to. He's done a great job making sure that everyone is informed. He really wants to make sure that everyone was and is on the same page, regardless of what time zone you're in. So far, he's been doing a great job making sure everyone knows what's going on."
Bob Goodenow headed the players association in 1992-2005, resigning after the 2004-05 season was wiped out as players sought to stave off owners' demands for a hard salary cap. Ted Saskin served less than two years before the players association executive board terminated his employment following alleged misconduct. Paul Kelly was brought in next amid much trumpet blaring, but he was fired in less than two years.
With nearly a quarter of a century of experience running the Major League Baseball Players Association, Fehr appealed to the PA board as they sought steadiness and experience. One reason Fehr already is a big hit with players is how he's keeping them informed of every aspect of what was going on during summer negotiations and what the PA's stance is overall. The PA is taking advantage of social media and created an app to keep players informed.
"He always sends out a mass e-mail, or he sends a note to our app that we've all downloaded to our phone," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "I think Don's doing a great job. He breaks it right down into layman's terms for us. It's great to have a guy like him running the show for us."
Several veteran Wings said eight years ago they weren't entirely sure of what the divisive issues were beyond a hard salary cap. This time, a player would have to be a borderline Luddite to not be well versed.
"We're definitely a lot more unified, a lot more together, a lot more informed," forward Danny Cleary said. "Guys are a lot more involved, and we're all on the same page."
The Free Press will also hold a chat with Plymouth Whalers coach Mike Vellucci at 11 AM EDT on Wednesday...
And while Jonathan Ericsson wants to play for Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Eliteserien to skate with his brother, Jimmie, Ericsson's dad, Sven, told Folkbladet's Par Andersson that he's holding out hope that Jonathan will end up playing for the team he coaches, Vita Hasten of the Swedish 1st division.
Update #2: According to the Tennessean's Joshua Cooper, Jordin Tootoo's skating with his former Nashville Predators teammates...for now...
Former Predators Jordin Tootoo and Alexander Sulzer took part in drills. Sulzer, who plays for the Sabres, lives in Nashville during the offseason. Tootoo, who spent eight seasons with the Predators, is packing up his Nashville condo this week. He signed a three-year deal with the Red Wings in the offseason.
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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.