The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/01/13 at 03:23 AM ET
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard's new mask mostly pays tribute to the City of Detroit, but WXYZ's Brad Galli duly noted that its backplate's American flag-themed background wouldn't be out of place atop a Team USA jersey.
The Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with Howard about his uphill battle in terms of out-dueling Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson and Cory Schneider for one of three available spots on Team USA's 2014 Olympic roster (depending on the "expert," Howard's either expected to back up Quick, duke it out with Anderson for the #3 spot or not make the team at all).
Howard told St. James that he understands the first three-or-so months of the regular season will determine whether he'll book a ticket to sunny Sochi...
“You just have go out there and you take care of business for your own team, and you just make it tough on the advisory staff,” Howard said. “Every goalie that can possibly make those three positions are top-notch goalies, and it’s going to be very tough to pick the three.”
Making the selections falls to Team USA general manager David Poile and an advisory staff that includes Ray Shero and Stan Bowman and coach Dan Bylsma.
Two other Red Wings are vying to make the U.S. squad: Forward Justin Abdelkader and defenseman Danny DeKeyser. The Wings also will have players on the Swedish and Russian teams, and Mike Babcock is coaching the Canadian team.
Making it to Sochi, much less playing there, is heady stuff for Howard.
“It’s always been a dream to play for an Olympic team,” he said. “Getting a first taste being a part of the under-18 program and wearing that jersey every single day, you come to a realization how much of an honor and how special it really is.”
The Free Press just happened to post a photo gallery of the American and Canadian Olympic orientation camps as well, and I must say that, of the Olympic camps, the Canadians and Russians seemed to work the hardest to convince people that they were serious about pursuing Olympic gold.
The Russians played cat-and-mouse with journalists regarding a possible visit with Vladimir Putin at his summer home in Sochi, and then the Russian Hockey Federation ensured that Vladislav Tretiak and coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov gave stump speeches (and all but planted the captain's "C" on Ilya Kovalchuk's jersey); the Canadians very obviously knew that the media was going to stir itself into a frenzy, and Mike Babcock and Steve Yzerman both very sincerely made their camps "teaching" events while playing off the media very smartly.
The Americans, on the other hand, mostly engaged in some meet-the-coaches, learn-the-system stuff, took their mugshots and engaged in team-bonding, and that was basically the way the Swedes, Finns, Swiss and Czechs ran their camps.
The Slovaks took a unique approach--perhaps because their pool of talent is a little smaller--and took the players sightseeing in the Tatras Mountains, played golf, encouraged photographers to hang out with them while engaging in a mostly skins-vs-skins tennis tournament.
Inevitably, I can tell you that the real grunt work in each and every camp involved having players take mug-shots and input their personal info for player profiles and possible travel plans/visa-issuing (as well as what to expect in terms of bringing their families to Sochi given that the Caucasus Isthmus is a very...different...place), they were likely given pretty basic info as to what the teams are looking for in terms of player performance and, as Babcock and Yzerman repeatedly pointed out, the fact that being on an Olympic team is not an All-Star Team, so players who're willing to take supporting roles despite star status and those who are willing to play out of position are more likely to win jobs (though the first three months of the regular season are the real "selection camps").
Of course they were introduced to the drug-testing regimens involved as the Olympics follow World Anti-Doping Agency protocols, and the WADA bans most antihistamines and any sort of steroidal use, including cortisone. To me, that's the most interesting aspect of the situation, because players might not just be taking Viagra for altitude's sake--they may have to explore all sorts of unconventional but legal means to deal with colds, respiratory infections and the various "flu bugs" that spread like wildfire in locker room, and they are definitely going to be dealing with a little more pain than their teammates because so many anti-inflammatories are simply off limits.
As a whole, these camps took place in July and August, and even the Russians didn't pony up for the insurance to allow their players to skate, so they really were basic primers, lots of busywork and some team-bonding. I don't think that anybody did a "better" or "worse" job; the approaches were simply different and interesting, perhaps reflecting the personalities of the coaches and executives involved more than anything else.
The rest of this entry's content will be as herky-jerky as the news cycle on Labor Day weekend, and this story is just downright odd: Mattias Janmark-Nylen didn't register a point in Sweden's 3-0 win over the Czech Republic in the Czech Games, the first leg of the Euro Hockey Tour set of tournaments, but he wasn't wearing his own jersey, either.
According to Expressen, Aftonbladet, Iltahleti and iSport (with photos), when the Swedes traveled from St. Petersburg to Prague, SOMEbody stole Janmark-Nylen, Daniel Brodin and Robert Rosen's jerseys out of the Swedes' equipment manager, Anders "Pudding" Weiderstal, found this out when the team arrived in Stockholm. Janmark-Nylen wore the team's only spare jersey, donning a #29 instead of his #24, and after warming up in practice jerseys, Rosen wore the jersey of one of the players who was a healthy scratch.
In news of prognostications, fantasy hockey observations and questions answered, respectively, Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager suggests that Jake Paterson's Saginaw Spitfires may have the personnel to make an OHL title run in answering "Questions" about the OHL's Western Conference teams...
Saginaw Spirit — Do they step up to challenge Plymouth for that second seed?
Saginaw has a lot of the pieces, starting in goal with rock-solid Jake Paterson. The Spirit also seem to have built for the playoffs by adding size in the summer with deals for two 19-year-olds, left wing Cody Payne and defenceman Sean Callaghan, and overage centre Kristoff Kontos. Logically, as a 20-year-old drafted in a late round, 97-point man Eric Locke should be returned by the Buffalo Sabres to continue to work on his skating and fill a lead offensive role. What probably makes or breaks the Spirit is how much 18-year-old forwards Andrey Alexeev, David Perklin, Jimmy Lodge and Nick Moutrey develop this season. The former two went undrafted this summer.
Puck Daddy and Dobber Hockey's Steve Laidlaw states the obvious about Niklas Kronwall's fantasy hockey potential....
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings – No longer in the shadow of the great Nick Lidstrom, Kronwall is now the top defenseman on the Red Wings and producing like it.
And the Sports Forecaster answered a mailbag question as to where former Wing Damien Brunner will land:
Q: Where do you guys think Damien Brunner will wind up? Is he a good fit in a particular place, or is he going to have to wait until injuries open up a spot for him in the NHL?
Mo A. (Richmond, BC)
Fantasy Inbox: Frankly Mo, we're surprised Brunner is still at large. It seems there aren't a lot of people in the NHL that trust him to continue producing solid numbers going forward. However, we still see a little upside in Brunner's game. He adjusted fairly well to the National Hockey League game last season, and should be able to adjust even more in Year 2. Furthermore, the 27-year-old Brunner has the kind of hands you can't teach. He is a natural scorer, so we would be very surprised if he remained un-signed at the NHL level by the time training camps open up in a few weeks. A team like Phoenix would be a good fit for Brunner, as they currently have an apparent opening among their top-six wingers. Another team that might take a shot at him is Pittsburgh, who were reportedly interested in him before Detroit signed him last year. We like Brunner as a super-sleeper going into the 2013-14 campaign.
I'm not even going to comment on what the Free Press's Brian Manzullo found selling for $20 on NHL.com.
Why do I feel like this is "recidivist" history? On Saturday afternoon, SenShot's Jared Crozier suggested that Teemu Selanne's decision to re-sign with the Anaheim Ducks proved that Daniel Alfredsson was much less concerned about his legacy than his financial bottom line, and the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons posited a strikingly similar observation on Saturday night:
When his final season ends, Teemu Selanne will be 44 years old and just a hop, skip and jump away from the Hockey Hall of Fame. And you what’s impossible: Finding anyone to say a bad word about him.
He is two years older than Daniel Alfredsson, and not just a superior player in most tangible ways — with 249 more goals — but he displayed a sense of himself, a sense of belonging, a loyalty that Alfredsson walked away from in Ottawa with his new deal with the Ducks.
Selanne was willing to play his last season in Anaheim for $2 million, not because that’s his likely pricetag, but because that was what his team could afford. Alfredsson left the Senators, ostensibly over money, severing a career long relationship all in the name of bottom line.
Alfredsson had been paid $55 million by the Senators in his career and jumped to take $5.5 million in Detroit. Selanne would never have made such a move.
Let's not tell them that Selanne didn't make his decision until he very vocally told the Ducks--through the media--that he wasn't going to return if he was expected to serve as a mentor or anything less than a top-six forward, and that he wanted assurances that he would not be stuck on the third line, and let's not tell them that the Ducks and Senators' management groups seem to treat their players a little bit differently...
Speaking of convenient coincidences, I happened to mention that HockeySverige's Uffe Bodin found a fine Henrik Zetterberg documentary on YouTube, and wouldn't ya know it, my Google News email alerts informed me that somebody on Hockeybuzz just happened to posit the video on his blog as if it was his own discovery (always cite your sources, folks, always cite your sources)...
Judging from the personnel involved, the length of Zetterberg's hair and the equipment logos, this looks like a "Fox Sports Spotlight" program from around 2006 or 2007 given that it ends with discussion of Team Sweden's gold medal-winning performance in Torino in 2006.
In charitable news, the Plymouth Whalers' website reports that Plymouth and the Windsor Spitfires battled to a 5-5 tie in an exhibition game played in Livonia, MI:
The Plymouth Whalers could play their rivals, the Windsor Spitfires, in a parking lot in the middle of July and sparks would fly in a competitive game.
Tonight - on August 31 - the Whalers and Spits played to a 5-5 tie not in a parking lot, but in front of a sellout of nearly 1,000 fans at Eddie Edgar Ice Arena in Livonia.
The game was played for charity. One hundred percent of the proceeds were donated to the Livonia Fallen Heroes Monument and the Larry Nehasil Park in Livonia.
A price couldn't be assessed to the smiles of Plymouth and Windsor fans, plus some other fans perhaps seeing the Ontario Hockey League for the first time. It's great to know that Whalers hockey is back for the season.
If the proceeds raised in the game went to charity, Plymouth and Windsor were not quite as cordial. The game featured runs for both teams. The Whalers raced to a 3-0 lead early in the second period only to see Windsor score four straight goals to take their first lead of the game late in the second period. Plymouth then came back to re-take the lead a 5-4 before Josh Ho-Sang tied the game with 41 seconds left.
Plymouth received two goals from OA center Zach Lorentz and singles from Carter Sandlak, Francesco Vilardi and Matt Mistele.
Besides Ho-Sang's equalizer, Slater Koekkoek, Steven Janes, Nick Ebert and Brady Vail also scored for Windsor.
All four goaltenders played in the game. Alex Nedeljkovic started for the Whalers and left half-way through the game in favor of Zach Bowman, who made his Whalers debut. Nedeljkovic allowed four goals, Bowman one. Dalen Kachemy started for Windsor and allowed three goals; Brendan Johnson made his Spitfires debut and allowed the final two Plymouth goals.
Outside of the goal crease, head coaches Mike Vellucci and Bob Boughner played rookies making their respective OHL debuts. Besides Bowman, Connor Chatham, Cullen Mercer, Bryce Yetman, Spencer Lee, Josh Wesley, Mathieu Henderson, Yannock Rathgeb and Vince Scognamiglio all played in the first OHL games for the Whalers and did not look out of place.
Plymouth and Windsor meet again on Monday in Windsor at 2 pm
In the Twitter department...
And finally, I'm still singing for my supper--all but literally. I'm still raising funds for the Traverse City trip because two weeks of hotel, gas, food, etc. = $$$. If you can lend a hand in the, "Food and gas, but not hopefully at the same time" department, 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.
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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.