The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/18/13 at 05:22 AM ET
Updated 2x at 6:58 AM: For better or worse, Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall entered last season as the de-facto #1 defenseman, and while playing 24-27 minutes a night (or more) yielded both a minus-5 plus-minus rating and a tempering of his physical play to simply hold up under a tremendous workload...He proved that he could at least fill part of Nicklas Lidstrom's long shadow.
This morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James' player profiles continue with an assessment of Kronwall's literal and figurative value (in this day and age, a $4.75 million cap hit for a defenseman earning $6 million in real-world dollars for the next three seasons seems almost ridiculously cheap by "open market" standards), and at present, there's no doubt that Kronwall is absolutely integral to the team's success as its "MVP on D":
Looking back: Two significant events last summer had particular impact on Kronwall. Nicklas Lidstrom retired, pushing Kronwall to the forefront of the defense, and Brad Stuart departed, leaving Kronwall without his steadiest partner of the previous four years. Kronwall opted to spend the lockout staying put rather than signing with a team in his native Sweden. When the season began, he was partnered with Jonathan Ericsson, whose steady play in his own zone enabled Kronwall to jump up in plays, something he loves to do. Kronwall finished the season leading the team in blocked shots and minutes, both at even strength and with the man advantage. His plus-minus numbers reflect a defender who is always out against an opponent’s top stars.
I'm not allowed to tell you what I say when Ericsson decides that he's allowed to pinch, too.
Looking ahead: Kronwall, 32, has been a go-to guy for the Wings for the past handful of years, their top minute-muncher and shut-down guy, someone who could save the wear and tear on Lidstrom. The defense this past season was a question mark because of all the changes, and Kronwall helped steady the course.
Kronwall was known as “Nik Junior” for a while because he shared a first name and Swedish nationality with Lidstrom. Kronwall, though, always has had a bit of Vladimir Konstantinov in him, too, evidenced by some nasty open-ice hits and a knack for irritating opponents. Most important to the Wings, Kronwall is good with the puck, helping to generate offense.
The Wings have liked Kronwall since he was little more than a teenager playing in Stockholm, picking him 29th overall in the 2000 draft. As he embarks on his 10th season with the team, his level of skill and physicality and a cap hit that looks refreshingly reasonable make Kronwall a top-value asset
The Wings' defense remains something of a work in progress after Kronwall and another player who grew into a top-pair role (albeit belatedly by Wings fans' standards) in Jonathan Ericsson, and I was surprised that NHL.com's "30 in 30" profiles of the team didn't suggest that the potential growth of the defensemen behind Kronwall and Ericsson may in fact be the biggest "question" the team faces, as well as its possible "X-Factor" going forward.
Given that the Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars had to surrender draft picks and, respectively, commit 4 years and $21 million to 35-and-a-half-year-old Mark Streit in Philly and 2 years and $10 million to 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar in Dallas (all figures from Capgeek), the Wings simply couldn't accommodate Jimmy Howard's contract extension, paying nearly $5 million to whoever they'd employ as their second-line center, adding a scorer to the mix AND acquiring a top-pair defenseman who would've slowed down the team's youth movement by a couple of seasons.
The free agent marketplace was and is, like pessimists suggest of the Wings' blueline, full of third-pair defensemen, so there just wasn't any point in overpaying for someone when the team can more affordably choose to add a top-four defenseman at the trade deadline.
For now, Kronwall's the crown jewel of the Wings' defense, and the team's crossing its fingers that Jakub Kindl, Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey can more frequently take up the ice time slack to save Kronwall and Ericsson's energy over the course of an 82-game season.
In theory, players like Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Adam Almquist, Mattias Backman and Nick Jensen will be able to lend a hand a couple years from now, but for the next 5-or-so years, Kronwall and Ericsson are highly likely to remain the top dogs on the Wings' blueline.
Otherwise, it's a "slow" morning, mostly because I chose to get the latest round of Daniel Alfredsson stuff (a solid slate of clips from Mike Babcock's Detroit Sports 105.1 interview and some annoying fluffernutter from Steve Simmons) online on Saturday evening instead of figuratively "saving" the stories like a squirrel hiding nuts. That yields a slimmer entry but at least an honest one, even though I've got to admit that I'm even more tired of the Alfredsson-Senators divorce angle than I was 24 hours ago.
The Free Press's Steve Schrader wades into the Alfredsson morass (both Merriam-Webster definitions, "a situation that traps, confuses, or impedes" and "an overwhelming or confusing mass or mixture," sum up the situation nicely) with tongue planted firmly in cheek, awarding Alfredsson a "Stevie" while perhaps poking fun at the equally stupid fact that our congressional representatives have the utterly disgusting gall to play the "government shutdown" card after allowing the "sequester's poison pill" to take effect (seriously, I'm not gonna get political much as I know you have varying views, but that shit pisses me off to no end)...
The "Gridlock" award: To Daniel Alfredsson, who said his signing with the Red Wings is purely a money thing. The longtime Ottawa captain said he thought everything was in place for a new agreement to stay there, but the deal never came through with the Senators. Maybe it stalled in the House of Representatives.
And he adds a factoid to the mix:
Former Red Wings coach Jacques Demers told the Canadian Press he won’t quit the Senate in disgust over some colleagues’ expense scandals as he once threatened he might.
Canadian senate. They're either not quite as terrible as ours or worse, depending on whom you ask.
If I'm gonna play the "slow morning" card, I may as well remind both you and me that we are in fact all of six days away from the unofficial start of an extended 2013-2014 campaign, because:
- Pavel Datsyuk and the Russians' preliminary Olympic roster will hold their orientation camp this Friday, August 23rd and Saturday, August 24th in Sochi, Russia. There's still no word whether the deepest-pocketed hockey federation of them all snagged the contract insurance necessary to get their NHL'ers on the ice with the KHL's preseason well underway (the KHL's regular season will begin on September 4th), but I'm guessing that they'll at least have their European pros skate if only to fire a raspberry at everybody else;
- The Canadian Olympic Orientation campers won't skate in Calgary between Sunday, August 25th and Wednesday, August 28th, but you can sure as heck believe that the press will descend on southern Alberta to eagerly dissect Mike Babcock's every word (and Ken Holland will probably be there as he's one of Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman's advisors);
- And the Americans may have the lowest-key orientation camp between Monday, August 26th and Tuesday, August 27th at the Washington Capitals' practice facility in Arlington, VA, but Jimmy Howard, Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser will be signing autographs on Tuesday the 27th--if you gobble up tickets for the event by tomorrow.
• Dino Ciccarelli
• Kris Draper
• Joe Kocur
• Manny Legace
• Dave Lewis
• Darren McCarty
• Kirk Maltby
• Kevin Miller
• Eddie Mio
• John Ogrodnick
• Wayne Presley
• Brian Smolinski
• Mathieu Schneider
• Jason Woolley
• Paul Ysebaert
• Mickey Redmond
• Ted Lindsay
Tickets are going fast for that event, too:
In terms of the Red Wings' events held at Joe Louis Arena, pre-season tickets are already on sale, and single-game tickets will go on sale on Saturday, August 24th at 10 AM (don't expect to find tickets for the Winter Classic or Nicklas Lidstrom's jersey retirement game on March 6th--those tickets are likely being held for half-season and partial season-ticket plan buyers)...
I can at least say that the Wings have also posted their 2013-2014 season's promotional schedule on their website, so giveaways including "Fathead Fridays" and bobbleheads (conveniently, there's a Daniel Alfredsson bobblehead giveaway scheduled for the Senators' visit on November 23rd).
Don't forget that the Wings' home opener is--somewhat unusually--the first game of the season, on October 2nd against Buffalo.
And in terms of the events held in Traverse City, the prospect tournament will take place between Thursday, September 4th and Monday, September 9th, and the Wings' main training camp begins on Thursday, September 12th. I'd imagine that there are still tickets available via faxing Centre Ice Arena.
The training camp schedule on the Left Wing Lock includes a golf classic on September 11th, an alumni game on September 14th, a red-versus-white game on September 15th, and--although this puzzles me a little bit--practices on Monday, September 16th and Tuesday, September 17th despite the fact that the Wings open the exhibition season with "away games" in Pittsburgh on the 16th and Chicago on the 17th.
My *best guess* is that:
A) The Wings will separate their campers into "teams," with whatever team is scheduled to take part in the first half of back-to-back exhibition games (the Wings have 8 preseason games, and six of them take place on back-to-back nights) heading to Pittsburgh and the second "team" practicing in Traverse City on the 16th;
B) And who the hell knows for the 17th as the "A team" might as well head to the Joe for a game against Boston on Thursday the 19th and the "B Team" will head to Chicago for the game taking place on the 17th.
That's a bloody long period of time for events to take place in Traverse City--13 days--so I'm honestly a little bit worried about being able to afford attending. Between you and me, I ruled out taking part in my friend Mark's "destination" bachelor party at the end of the month because there was no way I could hack doing that and going to TC, I'm skipping the Queens of the Stone Age's concert at the Filmore on the 12th and aside from a t-shirt, I've completely nixed the personal spending since...uh...before the summer development camp.
I have a salary, obviously, but I can only be honest in stating that it ain't enough to send me up to TC on its own, though it's going toward the trip.
I'm a...I think somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of the way to going up there (just checked room rates...more like a fifth).
So if you can lend a hand, I would greatly appreciate it.
I'm sticking with PayPal as folks are familiar with it, and the email address that you use as my "recipient" ID is my personal email address, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Update: Anything from the Detroit Athletic Co. comes with the disclaimer that this stuff comes from a website whose main purpose involves selling sports apparel, but Bruce Mason at least offers an intriguing train of thought in wondering what Pavel Datsyuk's point totals may look like if he was neither a defensively-minded forward nor a player whose career has involved a season-and-a-half's worth of lockouts:
Datsyuk (767 points) just passed Ted Lindsay (728) and Norm Ullman (758) on the Wings’ all-time franchise list for points. But here is the sad news: He should be well beyond them at this point for three reasons.
1.) LOCKOUTS: Datsyuk’s career stats have suffered through two work stoppages. He’s been shafted out of 116 games – yes, 116 games – thanks to a year-long lockout in 2004-’05 and the subtraction of 34 games in 2012-13.
He’s averaged nearly a point per game in his career, so it’s fair to say he’s lost 110 points, at least.
2.) DEFENSIVE RESPONSIBILITY: We contend that if Datsyuk was placed into a highly-concentrated offensive system, he would’ve produced 100-plus points every year between the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2009. Maybe beyond that in years and points. Hey, he’s demanded to spend a considerable amount of time deep inside his own zone. Look at his Selke Trophies.
But imagine if Datsyuk was selfish and concentrated solely on offense. Imagine if he was born in the same era with Gretzky, Lemieux and Yzerman, and faced those dinky goalie pads that were actually the size of a human’s legs and torso, instead of today’s sizes that resemble an inflated sumo wrestler.
Yes, you can make that latter point for any player in today’s generation. But how many of them have Datsyuk’s abilities?
3.) USED SELDOMLY EARLY: Datsyuk was a third-liner during his rookie year in 2001-02. He played 13:39 minutes per game on a team loaded with future Hall of Famers such as Yzerman, Shanahan, Fedorov, Hull, Larionov and Robitaille.
Update #2: Somewhat ironically in the classical sense of the term, Expressen's Cecilia Edstrom asked Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Tallinder and one Niklas Kronwall to offer advice to three potential NHL rookies in Toronto's Peter Granberg, the Rangers' Oscar Lindberg and Vancouver's Joacim Ericsson.
Here's what the trio had to say:
Mikael Samuelsson, Detroit Red Wings:
Tip: Don't argue with veterans as a rookie.
Warning: Don't buy an expensive car after your first season. You won't have that much money.
Henrik Tallinder, Buffalo Sabres:
Tip: Practice writing a short autograph.
Warning: Don't rely on the older players on the team.
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings:
Tip: Don't think too much.
Warning: Don't think too much. I think that's enough.
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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.