The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/19/14 at 04:44 AM ET
This is going to be a very busy and a very long day for me and possibly for you if you're interested in both watching the Olympic quarterfinals and reading about the Red Wings non-Olympians' return to Joe Louis Arena's ice.
This morning, we've got a slate of four quarterfinal games taking place, and the Red Wings have either player or coaching representatives on four of the eight teams playing...
And this afternoon, we're going to find out how Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen and several other Wings are doing, though the absences of Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson and Petr Mrazek (two Olympic "third stringers" and someone playing for Grand Rapids) make me wonder who the Wings will be shooting at:
Regarding the sticky wicket that is Olympic participation, the Detroit News's on-hand Olympic correspondent, Gregg Krupa, suggests that the NHL's tepid reception to taking part in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea (Gary Bettman, IIHF president Rene Fasel and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr held a bullshit-fest on Tuesday) doesn't reflect the wishes of its players...
In Sochi, the players say, the arrangements all have provided for their desire to play and play hard for their countries. You should have seen the Swedes during practice Tuesday. Some toughness in the corners.
It seems especially important to provide the opportunity in hockey, a true United Nations of a sport, where men from Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Slovenia, Switzerland and other countries all play.
To a man, every player asked says they like the accommodations in the Olympic Village, the easy access to the venue, the quality of the facilities, the food. And they say, as they did in Vancouver, that one of the coolest aspects of it is meeting other world-class athletes from their country and other countries around the village, especially in the cafeteria.
“From a players’ standpoint, this has been an unbelievable experience,” said Niklas Kronwall, the Red Wings defenseman and captain of Sweden. “Sochi’s done an unbelievable job, the Russians have done a great job, of pulling everything together. We’ve had a tremendous experience, from the village, to the food, to the facilities. It’s been first class.”
Kronwall said he believes “it’s a given” the players want to play.
But Krupa believes that the NHL wants to hold a "World Cup of Hockey" instead, and that they want to do so for a very simple reason: controlling player participation, sponsorship and broadcast rights = a safer moneymaker given what the NHL has to surrender to the IIHF and International Olympic Committee in order to participate in the Olympic games:
For what a partnership with the IOC forbids is the use of NHL marks on licensed equipment and souvenirs for sale in arenas and on display around the ice. In a world tournament of its own devising, the NHL could own everything, rights to video, copyrights to printed material and other intellectual property.
More importantly, the NHL also would have the broadcast rights.
At the Olympics, that all belongs to the IOC. And there is no sport agency in the world more hawkish on its intent to control its brand and more demanding in that regard.
In the end, Krupa believes that the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF should take note of the fact that players like Pavel Datsyuk, who pack their hockey bags to take part in the World Championships if their playoff runs end early, even if they're banged-up or they find themselves having to fly to a far-flung location...
But the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren suggests that it's scientifically proven that the NHL's Olympic participation is a bad thing for the teams whose representatives attend the games:
Post-Olympic NHL fatigue is no myth. Just look at the math.According to an exhaustive study by University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor Neil Longley, NHL teams which have a heavy load of players at the Olympics suffer a noticeable letdown in the final stretch of the season.
He lists the Wings' participants before suggesting that the Senators will leapfrog Detroit:
Detroit currently leads the Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals by one point in the battle for the final wild card position in the Eastern Conference. The Senators have 23 games remaining, the Red Wings have 24 left to play. Yet the history of post-Olympic results shows that the Senators will have a significant edge over the Red Wings in terms of goals for and goals against as the season winds down. Longley crunched the numbers after NHL players participated in the 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 Games and discovered some intriguing results.
“For every player and NHL team sends to the Olympics, they can expect to see goal differential reduced by 0.1 per game, compared to pre-Olympic performance,” Longley wrote in his study, originally published in the 2012 International Journal of Sport Finance.
If those numbers stay true following Sochi, the seven player difference could amount to a 16 or 17 goal differential between Ottawa and Detroit as the season winds down. Could it result in an additional two or three losses for Detroit down the stretch? Similarily, the history would suggest that the Nashville Predators stand a decent chance of catching the Vancouver Canucks for the final wild card spot in the West. Vancouver currently leads Nashville by one point in the wild card race, but Vancouver has eight players in Sochi, compared to the Predators’ two Olympians. “It did surprise me, to some extent,” Longley said in a telephone interview with The Citizen Tuesday. “I thought there might be some effect, but that perhaps it would be the opposite, that maybe the Olympics would serve as some sort of inspiration when players return. “I would say this is pretty significant, especially for teams on the bubble (of making the playoffs)."
Warren continues, but that's the thrust of his article, and as far as I'm concerned, we're so far into unknown territory in terms of the Wings' playoff positioning and injury-ravaged status that, well, how do I want to put this?
I have absolutely no *#$%@& idea what the *#$%@& is going to happen, and because I'm not a betting man or a fan of brash prognostication, I'm not going to change my forecast, which is this:
"Are the Wings going to make the playoffs? Ask me again after 6 PM EST on April 13th. The Wings' season-ending game in St. Louis should be wrapping up around then."
We don't know whether Henrik Zetterberg will need or will have back surgery, we don't know whether Pavel Datsyuk will return to Detroit healthy, we don't know when Johan Franzen will return, we don't know whether Jimmy Howard's knee's gotten the rest it's needed, we have no clue whether Stephen Weiss will fit or whether the Wings' cap situation and/or 23-man roster will allow the team to keep Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco or Luke Glendening on the roster, we don't know whether the Wings' one relatively consistent defensive pair (see: Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson) will continue to provide offense and we don't know whether the team's going to make a deadline move.
"We were waiting for a chance on the power play," Tatar said. "I thought that would be how we could tie the game, but we didn't get anything."
And while the New York Times' Karen Crouse reports that Erik Karlsson is working with an equipment company called Stable 26 to develop a better and more cut-resistant sock to protect the backs of players' legs, Daniel Alfredsson says he's not quite willing to use his pal's equipment...
It could be a tough sell. The Red Wings’ Daniel Alfredsson, 41, who played with Karlsson in Ottawa and has been reunited with him on the Swedish team here, played in the game when Karlsson was hurt. The image of Karlsson writhing in pain is seared in his memory.
And yet, after experimenting with high-tech socks in practice, Alfredsson decided he was more comfortable risking injury than discomfort.
“I find them too hot,” he said.
Though Crouse found that the Red Wings' players have been strongly, strongly advised to wear cut-resistant socks:
Jimmy Howard, a goaltender on the United States Olympic team who plays for the Red Wings, was among the N.H.L. players who started wearing them. He said Detroit’s equipment manager had encouraged all of the players to switch to socks offering more protection. Howard was happy to comply, he said, given that around the net, “you see skates going everywhere.”
In the multimedia department, Darren McCarty wanted the world to know that he spoke with Chris Jericho for...An hour? Yeah, an entire hour...
And finally, Luke Glendening wasn't allowed to play for Grand Rapids during the NHL and NHLPA-mandated player break between February 9th and today.
Any prospect who took part in 75% of their NHL rights-holders' pre-Olympic games couldn't take part in AHL games, so Glendening took part in some Griffins practices and mostly laid low. I believe that he's now eligible to play in AHL games--and the Griffins will at least have Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan in their lineup for their 3-games-in-3-nights weekend home stand, if not Glendening as well--but rule-interpretation remains fuzzy in that regard.
On Tuesday, he visited his alma mater, skating with the University of Michigan Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena, and the Michigan Daily's Alejandro Zuniga took note of Glendening's presence:
After graduating, he signed a one-year contract with the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins, helping them win the AHL championship and take the Calder Cup in 2012-13. By the following season, the Detroit Red Wings had noticed his success and called him up to the National Hockey League. And on New Year’s Day this year, he took the opening faceoff for the Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in front of a crowd of more than 100,000.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Glendening said of his time in the pros. “It’s been a dream come true, and it’s been everything that I could ever ask for.”
The NHL is currently on sabbatical for the Winter Olympics, and many of the Red Wings are in Sochi representing their respective countries. Those who aren’t receive a much-deserved break, but they also try to avoid rust by training elsewhere during the time off. So when the Michigan coaching staff contacted Glendening, he jumped at the opportunity.
“He just needs ice,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He just wanted to skate for a day or two.”
Yost Ice Arena looks different than it did when the forward played there. Large windows interrupt the brick of the north and south ends of the building, and some of the bleacher seats have been moved further away from the ice. But to Glendening, it still felt like home.
“It looks a lot different than when I played here, but it’s still a special place to me,” he said. “So many great memories, and it’s fun to be back.”
Even if he has to finish this season with the Griffins, it's very apparent that the suddenly pesky and pest-y Glendening will have a job with a younger, leaner and meaner group of Red Wings forwards next season. He's stolen Joakim Andersson's job (Andersson seems unaware of this fact) and it certainly appears that Glendening, Sheahan and Jurco will be playing in Andersson, Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary's respective steads to start the 2014-2015 season.
Update: SI's Michael Farber penned a superlative profile of Team USA and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, and this part of his profile makes me smile:
If form holds, Team USA will reprise the Vancouver 2010 gold-medal game in the semifinals on Friday against Canada. Mike Babcock coaches the Canadians. He also coached Bylsma for two years in Anaheim and worked with him in spurts in Cincinnati during the 2004-05 lockout. When asked to characterize his relationship with Babcock, Bylsma paused, seemingly parsing his thoughts, rolling the words in his brain the way he rolls lines on the big ice in Sochi.
“Our relationship … he’s a matter-of-fact, very forward, there’s a little bit of abrasiveness in his demeanor as a coach,” Bylsma said finally. For the next few minutes, he spoke slowly, in ellipses, softly and sometimes inaudibly because he did not want the words recorded.
“So I know him as a coach for two years.” Pause. “I had a number of coaches. Maybe 12 coaches I had for any period of time. And I would label Mike and Andy Murray as the top two. So there are things that I picked up on, learned from him as a coach … he built a foundation of how your team plays and is expected to play in practice and in his meetings with his team that I had not seen from any other coach. There’s a lot of that in what I do as a person and as a [coach]. I took some of his drills. I took some expressions … There’s a fair amount of verbiage that I use that if you knew both of us, you’d say, ‘Ah, they’re acquaintances.’”
Did you like playing for him?
Did he pick on you?
Pause. “That would not be an exclusive group. Not one or two guys. It’s an inclusive group.” Pause. “He’s abrasive. There’s some abrasiveness there. I also learned some of that. It’s helped me develop as a coach, and I understand some of it more. There are times when I say ‘OK, [time to] go all Mike Babcock.’
“Now my relationship with Mike … you know, we talk once or twice a year. We talked in postseason two years ago. We lost to the Flyers. [Babcock’s Red Wings] lost to Nashville. And I think he picked up the phone this time. We had a two hour-plus conversation about this and that, and why and what happened, and was it because the game had changed. We whipped noodles at the wall to see what stuck. We tried to make some sense of things. It was an exhaustive talk. I think I needed a nap afterwards.”
For the record, this is why I believe that Tom Renney is so absolutely essential to the Wings, power play struggles or no power play struggles. Renney is a players' coach, a "good cop," and having someone with lots of time as a head coach as your "good cop" equivalent lengthens your shelf life by years. Between Renney and the lockout, Babcock's had to reinvent himself and become more player-friendly. He's still a Type-A personality and a Grade-A hard-ass, but he's learned and grown. A bit.
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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.