The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/01/14 at 05:25 AM ET
The Red Wings' post-Olympic schedule is certainly...Different. After playing back-to-backs in Montreal and Ottawa this past Wednesday and Thursday, the Wings will return to practicing today with no game scheduled until Tuesday's road tilt in New Jersey...
But Tuesday's game kicks off a set of 5 games to be played over the course of 8 nights, including next Thursday's Nicklas Lidstrom jersey retirement night against the Avs; the Wings then host the Devils on Friday the 7th; after a day off, Sunday the 9th's home game against the Rangers is now a 12:30 PM EDT start to accommodate NBCSN (Spring Forward, boo!), and the Wings will tangle with a Wild Card playoff spot rival in those damned Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday the 11th.
After a two-day break, the Wings will play every other day for the rest of March (i.e. 10 games over the course of 18 nights), and the Wings will play 7 games in 12 April nights--including a pair of back-to-backs--to close out the season. The schedule gets particularly Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference-heavy (the Wings have 6 of their remaining 22 games against Western foes), though the Ott-and-Miller trade certainly throws a local flavor into the end-of-the-season road tilt in St. Louis...
But Friday's Red Wings news involved Chris Neil being a dick, some trade talk, and other than that, absolutely no injury news (Weiss's groin? Datsyuk's knee? Franzen's head? We know nothing!), which clearly means that no-practice days are the best Wings news days of them all.
Via the Free Press, USA Today's Kevin Allen duly noted that there will be a Red Wings-related topic of general managerial note that will receive some "traction" after next Wednesday's trade deadline (and again, I think that the Wings will do very little other than explore adding a second-or-third-pair defenseman given that the team's 1st round draft pick and a certain Anthony Mantha aren't in play)...
OT changes possible: From March 10 to 12, the league's general managers will discuss extending the length of overtime, among other issues, at their annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.
It seems as if there is growing support to have more overtime games decided before the shootout. Detroit GM Ken Holland is among those leading the charge to change the format starting next season
Eight- and 10-minute overtimes have been discussed. There has been talk of switching to three-on-three at some point in overtime, but that doesn't seem to have strong support.
But obvious story is obvious:
Streak in jeopardy: The Detroit Red Wings are trying to extend their playoff qualification streak to 23 seasons, and they will have to do it without captain Henrik Zetterberg.
He had surgery to repair a herniated disk and will be gone for the remainder of the regular season.
For the record, I don't expect us to know how bad Pavel Datsyuk's knee is doing until the regular season and/or possible playoff run ends, and even then, he probably won't be the one telling us how badly he's hurt.
In terms of Red Wings news, however, Friday did kick off what is essentially Nicklas Lidstrom week in Metro Detroit.
Lidstrom was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and in addition to pointing you toward numerous picture Tweets from DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji and the Wings' official account...
Lidstrom appeared on WXYZ's evening newscast, speaking with Tom Leyden...
The Red Wings posted a tribute to Lidstrom...
Nicklas Lidstrom looked as if he could lace up his skates and dominate for the Red Wings.
Jason Hanson appeared as fit and focused as when he was kicking 50-yard field goals for the Lions.
Alexi Lalas, who had been away from his sport by far the longest of the trio, hadn’t changed much since he played with the U.S. Olympic and World Cup soccer teams in the 1990s, although the red hair and beard were shorter.
The three former area sports stars were inducted into the 58th Michigan Sports Hall of Fame om Friday night at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.
They were joined on the list of inductees by longtime University of Michigan and Lions radio broadcaster Jim Brandstatter, former Michigan and Lions receiver Dorne Dibble, Cy Young Award winner and Tigers minor leaguer/Braves pitcher John Smoltz and legendary Detroit Catholic Central football coach Tom Mach.
If one word could describe how the inductees felt at the packed ceremony watched by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and a number of his Wings players and former Lions Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders, it was humbled.
“It means a lot to me, especially having played my whole career in Detroit,” said Lidstrom, the ex-Wings captain and seven-time Norris Trophy winner of his entry into the hall. “Getting recognized like this is very special, especially after retiring a couple years ago and moving back to Sweden and losing a bit of contact with the people in Michigan. Being able to come back and be honored is something extraordinary.”
And the Detroit News's Josh Katzenstein (photo gallery embedded within the story)...
Lidstrom laughs at the nickname “Mr. Perfect,” bestowed upon him by Kris Draper and Chris Osgood, but few came as close as he did during his 20 seasons with the Red Wings, winning four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies.
While he’s visiting from Sweden, Lidstrom will return to Joe Louis Arena next week to have his jersey retired for a career that far exceeded his own expectations because he said he just hoped to stay with the Red Wings for a few years.
And during his nearly two seasons away from hockey, Lidstrom said he has moments where he wishes he was back on the ice.
“I miss playing,” he said. “I miss being part of a team, but I also knew I didn’t have that drive to do it every day. I knew it was my time to step away from the game.”
One of the people in the audience was local music promoter Robert Dempster, who talked about an ambitious plan to build a complex that would house the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, music museum and Auto Hall of Fame.
“They all work together; it’s a natural,” Dempster said. “The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame needs a home. Where can you go to see muscle cars? There is no place to see them. We don’t have a solid (backer) yet, but they are chirping if you know what I mean.”
It really makes no sense to elect such a wonderful class and not have a home for these wonderful athletes. My kids play soccer because of Lalas. But they cannot see a bust of him.
Instead, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame has a traveling exhibit, and its plaques...Reside in Cobo Hall's basement. There is no Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and that's a shame.
Slowly moving from "past to present and future," former Red Wing Kevin Miller held a charity hockey game on Friday...
And the Lansing State Journal's Chris Solari reports that a good time was had by all:
In so many ways, it was a dream come true for Kevin Miller.
He scored a goal. He got nervous watching his daughter’s figure skating exhibition. And he got to once again experience the forever bond of playing hockey with his brothers, of both blood and team colors.
But most importantly, Miller gushed and glowed about the 4,000-plus fans who ringed Munn Arena to watch teams of Michigan State and Detroit Red Wings alums and support three charities in the process.
That, above all else, made the first of what he hopes will become an annual event special.
“We’re gonna try to do it again,” said Miller, who played for the Wings’ team and beamed from the bench during daughter Hannah’s performance in between the game’s two periods. “With the way this went and the amount of money we raised for the charities, you always want to do it again. The guys had a great time.”
There might have been a lot more huffing and puffing going on from their former idols than fans may have remembered, perhaps a few more gray hairs and pounds, as well. However, the fun had by all easily trumped all of that, and the thousands of dollars raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, The Steadfast Project and United Way 2-1-1 more than dwarfed it all.
In "past-and-present" news, I was not able to help you read all the praise and accolades parlayed toward one Mike Babcock after he guided Team Canada to the defense of its Olympic gold medal, but WDIV posted all 4 minutes of Babcock's first post-Olympic chit-chat with the media...
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff took note of a very important detail in a Friday evening-posted article:
It’s a little-known fact that coaches don’t get official Olympic medals – only athletes do – but that matter is of little concern to Babcock.
“Well I mean they gave us a medal last time,” Babcock said. “They found a way to get us a medal last time and a nice ring and I’m sure they will again this time, so I’m not that concerned. The other thing I’d say to you is when you win you win.”
As to the memory he’ll treasure the most from his latest Olympian triumph, Babcock insists just being there and being a part of it all is what matters the most.
“I mean being an Olympian is a special thing,” Babcock said. “Obviously being with all the other Canadian athletes and sharing the Olympic experience with country members is a special, special thing. Anytime you get to hear your national anthem sung in a different part of the world it makes it that much more special, so those are all things I’ll remember. But our team played hard and played well and was organized, was determined, and in the end we were rewarded for it.”
Interestingly, the Newark Star-Ledger's Randy Miller found that the Red Wings' director of pro scouting, Mark Howe, would prefer that Babcock and other NHL participants abstain from participating in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea:
"I just like the amateur so much better," said Howe, a Jackson, N.J. resident who is director of scouting for the Detroit Red Wings. "The reason I do like it better, you get the stories of the Mike Eruziones and the Jim Craigs."
Mark, older brother Marty and father Gordie all were in the NHL playing for the Hartford Whalers in 1980 when Eruzione and Craig were the biggest heroes in the Miracle on Ice game, one in which the USA's team of amateurs beat the Soviet Union's unofficial pros on its way to one of the most improbable gold medals ever won.
Eruzione, the team USA captain, became a living legend by scoring the winning goal against the Soviets and then retiring, while Craig was a star goalie for the Americans before going on to play just a few NHL games.
"Mike Eruzione never played pro hockey and that was his two weeks, his chance at fame," Howe said. "Jim Craig stood on his head and just never panned out as a pro. But for two weeks, that was his time to get some glory. I think it's an awesome story, and it created so much more interest in hockey in the United States."
Come 2018, Howe thinks American hockey fans will get into the Olympics with amateurs. He mentioned how the World Juniors are becoming more and more popular, and that teen-aged juniors and college players in the Olympics would top that.
"Going back to the amateur, there will be a superstar come along who will break out," Howe said. "I know the caliber of hockey won't be as good, but I think the outcomes probably will be less predictable and it still would be very exciting."
I like Wings associate coach Tom Renney's suggestion that a 23-and-under tournament be adopted instead, but that's just me...and I also don't believe that the NHL will ever fully extricate itself from the Olympics because it's still a moneymaker and exposure-builder.
For the present moment, and perhaps for the balance of the regular season, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan notes that the Red Wings are highly likely to (with the exceptions of Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall), "Stick with the kids" as the team allows a quartet of players who've won spots on the NHL roster to help lead the charge...
This deep into the season, with the pressure mounting and every game so important for the Red Wings, the line of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco is producing. Meanwhile, Gustav Nyquist has 15 goals, and Luke Glendening has solidified the fourth line.
Yes, the Red Wings’ young forwards continue to make an impact beyond expectations.
Take Thursday’s 6-1 rout in Ottawa. Somewhat lost amid Johan Franzen’s hat trick was the production of the Jurco-Sheahan-Tatar line. Each had a goal, while Tatar and Jurco were credited with an assist.
That’s five points for a trio of players who have played so well they’ve alleviated greatly the need for general manager Ken Holland to acquire a forward at the trade deadline.
“I feel good with the way the young forwards have played,” Holland said. “The development of Tatar, (Gustav), Nyquist, and Jurco and Sheahan ... hopefully some of the good things that have happened over the last six weeks pay dividends.”
Tatar has 14 goals and 12 assists, capitalizing early in the season after earning his spot in the lineup, which he has not lost.
Sheahan has four goals and eight assists in 20 games, and Jurco four goals and five assists in 21 games, both having come aboard in December when injuries decimated the roster.
And lest we forget, here's what Holland told MLive's Ansar Khan on Wednesday:
Holland said Wednesday that he is not going to spend valuable assets (top prospect, first-round draft pick) on a rental player. He also said he is not going to be a seller.
He’d like to make a trade for a player who can help the club now and in the future.
“What’s the expense of the rental?” Holland said. “When you’re one point up on the last playoff spot it’s hard to trade a top prospect or a first-round draft pick to rent a player. At the same time we’re always looking to upgrade. If there’s a hockey trade out there – I call a hockey trade a trade that affects your team going into next season – I’m obviously open to it. Those days in the late ’90s and early 2000s when you would trade one or two or three first-round picks to acquire players is hard to do when you’re in our position.”
“I think this time of year you’re always looking for defensemen, but obviously there’s a lot of teams looking for defensemen,” Holland said. “We’ll see. It depends on what’s available. I don’t see us playing a big price on a rental. I don’t believe that’s the direction we should go but you never know when you get to Wednesday.”
“We’re set in goal,” Holland said. “With the development of (Tomas) Jurco, (Gustav) Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Riley) Sheahan, -- if you have a healthy (Johan) Franzen, (Pavel) Datsyuk, we expect to get (Stephen) Weiss back next week – we feel up front (they’re set).
In, "News regarding future events," bummerific version: The Canadian Press's Allison Jones reported that what now seems like an inevitable court date for one Todd Bertuzzi in the civil suit Steve Moore and his attorney, Tim Danson, are bringing against Bertuzzi, the Canucks, the NHL and other parties is contentiously rolling toward a trial date next fall...
In,"News regarding future events," sunny and/or "in my backyard" version: As the Free Press's George Sipple notes, the Ontario Hockey League's regular season is winding down, and as per usual, in Plymouth, that means it's time for another Plymouth Whalers playoff run--maybe?
The Plymouth Whalers are 7-3-0-1 this month and host a pair of games this weekend at Compuware Arena. The Whalers (24-30-0-6) have a seven-point lead over Kitchener for the final playoff spot in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference and are five points behind Owen Sound for the No. 7 seed, with eight games remaining. The Whalers host Barrie (31-25-1-2) at 7:05 tonight and Windsor (35-22-3-0) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.
The Barrie Colts are led by Detroit Red Wings draft pick Andreas Athanasiou (41 goals, 41 assists, 82 points) and defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who could go No. 1 in the 2014 NHL draft.
Barrie defeated Plymouth 2-1 in a shootout on Friday, with Athanasiou scoring a goal, and Plymouth coach Mike Velucci had this to say to Sipple about Athanasiou...
On Athanasiou, who was drafted by the Wings in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL draft: “His speed is dynamic. As a defenseman, you’re always going to know when he’s on the ice. The second he gets that puck, he’s going be behind you. He’s a very good player. I think he’s a great pick for the Wings where they got him.”
And this about the Whalers' surprisingly tenuous grip on a playoff sot:
On the final eight games of the regular season, which ends March 15: “We need wins. Owen Sound is only five points ahead of us, and we play them one more time. If we can string some wins together and catch them, that’s good motivation.”
(Owen Sound is captained by Wings prospect Zach Nastasiuk)
Regarding myself? I'm trying to make it a point to not talk about my health, but 2014 has been a rough year thus far. I'm still feeling the effects of that concussion I suffered in my New Year's Day spinout, though I can work through it, and the combination of getting back just in time to deal with Olympic jet lag and having a massive anxiety attack (see: a panic attack is where you feel the physical symptoms of fight-or-flight; an anxiety attack's where you feel similarly, but don't have the physical symptoms) knocked me back a bit.
All I can say is that I'm doing my best to "play through" but that I'm not in top shape. Some days I may have to half-ass it and some days I'll have to lay low and recover. That's all I can do.
In a question-and-answer session with the Redmen, he was asked by one of the players how he compared winning the Stanley Cup to an Olympic gold medal.
“When you have both you don’t have to compare,” quipped Babcock, who has one Cup and two Olympic titles under his belt. “When you win the Stanley Cup, your name is on it for the rest of your life… but an Olympic gold medal is absolutly spectatular. So you want to win both and win them multiple times. I want to win that Cup again. The one you don’t have, I suppose, is the one you want the most.”
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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.