The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/12/13 at 03:51 AM ET
Beware: auto-play highlight clips lurk within (sorry): I've at least spent a bordering-on-ridiculous amount of time talking about the Red Wings' possible free agency plans and their possible ramifications for current roster players, and I made sure to suggest that it is entirely possible that the Wings may simply try to re-sign UFA's-to-be Damien Brunner, Daniel Cleary and Drew Miller, ink their RFA's in Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl to new deals, to swing hard at a top-six, goal-scoring forward and/or a top-pair defenseman and, if they strike out...
Do nothing save prepare for Tomas Tatar's graduation to full-time NHL player status, buy out Mikael Samuelsson, and then wait until the eve of the regular season to see how the team's glut of forwards and defensemen (see: the possible returns of Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi possibly making Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton and even Jordin Tootoo trade bait, and the incredibly high likelhood that the team moves Carlo Colaiacovo) compete against each other during training camp and the exhibition season, allowing the players to determine who stays and who goes by the time that the Wings have to comply to the $64.3 million upper limit and 23-man roster on "the last day of training camp" (i.e. after the last exhibition game).
While we've been talking about building the Wings' roster from the top down via free agency, and Ken Holland's been talking about building it from the foundation--i.e. through drafting and developing players and retaining their own picks--upward, MLive's Ansar Khan reports that the Wings are more than willing to exceed that 23-man roster limit and perhaps even the cap to attempt to retain a "strong middle," if you will, in working particularly hard to retain Cleary and Miller's services:
The Red Wings will head into next season with more players under contract than available roster spots but will make room for Cleary and Miller, a pair of hard-working forwards who fill a variety of needs on the ice and fit in well in the dressing room.
Cleary, 34, struggled during the regular season (nine goals, 15 points) but performed well in the playoffs (four goals, 10 points), despite playing with a separated shoulder and broken finger.
Cleary is a versatile two-way player who can skate on a top-two line or the third line. He provides a net-front presence on the power play and kills penalties. And he's one of the leaders in the room. He has spent eight seasons in Detroit. His 2012-13 salary was $3 million.
Cleary's got some hard miles on his body, but I can't deny as a fan or a pretend objective blogger that he did a remarkable job of proving that he's still worth the team's investment in terms of both money and a roster spot during the playoffs.
Miller, 29, is a fourth-line energy player who plays well defensively and is a good penalty killer. He also can contribute offensively, scoring a career-high 14 goals in 2011-12, the NHL's last full season. He was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 11, 2009. His 2012-13 salary was $850,000.
As I've said preivously, Miller may be harder to sign because he could probably earn $2 million from a team that sees his ability to kill penalties, occasionally sub as a first-or-second line forward and post a ridiculous amount of offense given that he plays only 8-12 minutes a night, and in all honesty, he's got a career-defining payday ahead of him from someone who wants to overpay for his service.
The Red Wings also are trying to re-sign forward Damien Brunner but the sides have had trouble determining his market value based on one NHL season that featured extreme highs and lows.
That's to be expected. Brunner's agent, Neil Sheehy, is one of the best in the business, and he helped negotiate Ryan Suter's mega-deal with the Wild, so I don't think that the Brunner deal is going to get done (yes, I do think the Wings are willing to pony up $2.5-3 million to sign him) until the last minute, and it may be literally so.
Khan also reports something that we've kind of known all along:
It does not appear as if the Red Wings will re-sign 29-year-old forward Valtteri Filppula. He initially was seeking more than $5 million per season and then experienced one of his worst years (nine goals, 17 points in 41 games).
He also suggests that the Wings will indeed look for an offensively-minded forward, and while it really is boom or bust on the open market, the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the Wings are indeed interested in the three forwards everyone's assumed the team's targeting (Hawks' efforts to re-sign one of them be damned):
One name has been popular: Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell. He has gone from third line to first, and increased his value ahead of impending unrestricted free agency next month.
His stellar play has him on many teams’ radar, including the Red Wings’. They want to add a scorer, they want to add a top-six winger, and Bickell has used this stretch of springtime hockey to audition as both. His 13 points trail by one Chicago’s trio of leading scorers, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane. Bickell’s eight goals tie Sharp for best on the team. Two goals helped dig the Blackhawks out of a 3-1 series deficit against the Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals.
Bickell, 27, is 6-feet-4 and 220-plus pounds, the size that could make him a valuable net-front presence. He could be all the more important to the Wings if they don’t get Daniel Cleary re-signed; those talks will heat up next week. Bickell, meanwhile, will be seeking a significantly larger deal than the three-year, $1.625-million contract he just played through.
One of Bickell’s teammates also is en route to UFA status: Viktor Stalberg, another 27-year-old who’s big (6-3, 210). He’s a much faster skater than Bickell, but Stalberg has just three assists in 15 playoff games. He was benched the first two games of the Detroit series, supposedly for complaining about not getting more power-play time. The Wings don’t like me-first types, but maybe Stalberg could fit in a locker room full of fellow Swedes.
Stalberg just completed a two-year deal for $1.75 million. He’ll get juicy offers, too — almost any remotely decent forward this summer will. Once Anaheim re-signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, both potential UFAs, the market went from promising to plebeian.
Not to leave out the Bruins: They have Nathan Horton headed for unrestricted free agency. He’s another guy with good size at 6-2, 230 pounds, but his attractiveness is red-flagged by severe concussion history.
This might not make any sense, but in June, July and August, Ken Holland and the Wings' brass--who are holding their organizational, pre-draft, pre-free-agency powwow at Joe Louis Arena this week--attempt to overbuild their roster like a Michigander who strolls into the showroom of a local car dealership and says, "I want a pickup truck with 4-wheel drive, skid plates, tow hooks and an engine block heater."
You overbuild when you're able, because rainy days, injuries and snow always eventually fall.
In the, "Oh, thanks for *#$%@& reminding me, captain asshat!" department, the Chicago Blackhawks have spent the last five days saying that they really got their shit in gear and found championship-worthy form in rallying from their 3-1 deficit against the Wings, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of some of those comments (and trust me, this is just skimming the surface...I've very purposefully ignored 99% of this stuff)...
Chicago won three consecutive games to take the series, which included a gripping Game 7 in which a disallowed apparent Blackhawks goal in the final 90 seconds sent the game into overtime. That series seemed to inspire the Blackhawks, who eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in five games in the Western Conference finals.
“We were able to get to the top of the league and stay there for most of the time,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews of his Presidents Trophy-winning (best regular season record) team. “(But) I don’t think you get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup without going through moments like we have. You got to persevere. The feeling and the confidence that we got from coming back from that 3-1 deficit against Detroit, that gives you a lot of confidence.”
The Blackhawks have won seven of their last eight games and look much like the team that went 24 games to begin the season without a loss in regulation time.
“We’ve had an interesting playoffs,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “As we progressed here, on the ropes three games against Detroit, we’ve gotten better as we’ve gone along in these playoffs. We certainly went through an emotional series with Detroit.”
A significant chunk of my gratefulness regarding the Wings moving to the Eastern Conference involves the fact that the team will only have to play against Patrick Sharp twice a year.
Sharp drives me nuts for two reasons: 1. He's a Wing-killer; 2. He's one of those rare opposing team's players that absolutely gushes about how much he respects your favorite team and how he loves its tradition, its fans, and relishes the opportunity to compete against such a great organization...Before beating the snot out of it. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun asked Ken Holland about Sharp's play in an eve-of-the-Cup-Final player profile, and Holland stated the obvious:
Not sure the day will ever come that Sharp will play himself out of the shadows of Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, but as the playoffs yet again show, he's an equally important part of the Chicago Blackhawks' equation, tied with Hossa and Kane for the team lead in scoring with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 17 games.
When Toews struggled early in the second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Sharp picked up his team and was a catalyst in helping the Blackhawks climb out of a 3-1 series hole, their season very much on the line.
"Sharp played very well against us," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Monday. "He is dangerous because he has scoring touch but also the ability to create scoring chances for his linemates."
Holland just happens to also be part of the Canadian Olympic team brain trust, alongside Team Canada boss Steve Yzerman.
"Plays all three forward positions well, plays power play and the penalty kill, good on faceoffs," Yzerman told ESPN.com via email Monday. "He's a very valuable player."
In other news, needles are sharp. HA. In case you haven't figured it out by now, three weeks after the Wings were eliminated, yes indeedy, I'm still pissed off.
In more "captain obvious" news, let's all be surprised that the Detroit Free Press reports the following...
Austin Jackson, Jimmy Howard, Greg Monroe and Joique Bell, you earned your keep and more, the biggest values in Detroit sports. Victor Martinez, Mikael Samuelsson, Corey Maggette and Cliff Avril, not so much.
That’s according to ESPN the Magazine’s upcoming Money Issue. One feature, using various metrics, looked at every player in the four major team sports and whether they’re overpaid or underpaid.
The Tigers’ Jackson, for example, made $500,000 last year and was worth $14 million, a top value.
A few more tidbits:
■ Tigers: To be fair, their numbers are based on 2012, so Martinez was a $12.5-million liability because he was hurt all year. But Prince Fielder was next, overpaid by about $10 million.
■ Red Wings: The overpaid list (like the Pistons, based on 2012-13) included Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula.''
Yes to door #3?
And given that we've been talking about ESPN and captain obvious, and that I've been pretty harsh on playoff officiating, I can't help but admit that I almost rolled my eyes when ESPN's Scott Burnside declared that the incredibly different standards of playoff versus regular-season officiating might not be super for "the state of the game":
We think back to the second-round series between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, when Michael Frolik was given a penalty shot in the third period of Game 6. It was a great call; Carlo Colaiacovo whacked Frolik on the hands just enough to force Frolik to lose control of the puck. And yet there was much discussion about the call. Should it have been made? Would it have been made by another set of officials?
It was another indictment of the playoff mentality that an obvious call is a topic of discussion, not the player who committed a foul that allowed the game and, in this case, series to turn as Chicago won Game 6 to force a deciding Game 7, which the Hawks won in overtime.
Yeah, in no small part because a weird call on a scrum at the Wings' bench that had nothing to do with play was assuaged by not calling David Bolland's boarding of Gustav Nyquist, which directly led to the mismatch that allowed Brent Seabrook to walk in and put the series winner off Kronwall's skate and over Jimmy Howard.
We spoke with one team executive who said the problem with the dramatic difference in how playoff games are called from game to game and period to period -- especially as it relates to the standards set in the regular season -- is that it makes casual fans feel at best confused and at worst stupid.
They watch a game in the regular season and see a player make contact with an opposing player, impede his progress, obstruct him, take his hand off his stick and grab him, and the referee's arm goes up and a penalty is called. They get that. They come to expect it, and that understanding gives them a connection to the game.
A week later it's the playoffs and there's no guarantee that the calls get made. And if it's overtime or a Game 7, well, the odds that you'll see calls made decrease further.
"This lack of objectivity makes [fans] feel they're not in the know," the team executive said.
Does this lack of clarity have a negative impact on the game's growth? If it does, it's something team owners and players should have a keen interest in improving given that they share the revenue pie.
It does, and, according to Burnside, the lack of any sort of consistent standard of officiating--save the almighty make-up call--has the NFL telling its referees to very specifically do their best to not make calls on a purely situational and/or season-vs-playoffs basis.
We'll shift focus to the Grand Rapids Griffins' game against the Syracuse Crunch tonight (7 PM EDT, AHLLive.com/WOOD Radio) by focusing on an irrtant for Wings fans in the broadcasting crew.
According to the Crunch's Twitter account, the Time-Warner Cable coverage will replace Crunch community relations manager Dan D'Uva with an NHL broadcaster.
The Columbus Blue Jackets' TV play-by-play man.
Because the Columbus Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate for the vast majority of their existence was the Syracuse Crunch, and as such, one Bob McElligott has promised to provide completely objective coverage:
CavsjMike would be John Michael, the Cleveland Cavaliers' radio play-by-play announcer.
So they're going with professional-level Crunch cheerleading.
As the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner, NHL-level checking's also in play in the Calder Cup Finals thus far. The Griffins have done a wonderful job of shutting down the Crunch's top two lines with two checking lines of their own--and two checkline lines that have ended up out-scoring the Crunch by a wide margin...
The Crunch come into Grand Rapids with their top scorers Ondrej Palat and league MVP Tyler Johnson still held in check, and some of the credit goes to shutdown lines of Luke Glendening, Jeff Hoggan and Jan Mursak along with Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan and Triston Grant.
The trios haves been equal parts pest, brawn and speed in leading the Griffins to a 2-0 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.
Palat, who started the series – and remains – the top scorer in the playoffs with 21 points (5-16-21), and Johnson, third in scoring (9-9-18) after a league MVP-regular season (37-28-65) each had an assist on Brett Connolly’s power-play goal in Game 2, and Johnson assisted on an earlier power play as well. That’s been it so far.
“Obviously our D plays a part, but I think the big thing for us to shut down that line is the back-checking by our forwards,” said defenseman Nathan Paetsch. “Those guys have a lot of speed and, if you can’t take them three on two, they’re going to make a play. But our forwards have worked real, real hard to try and prevent that.”
While Palat and Johnson have been bottled up so far, the same could be said for the Griffins top trio of [Joakim] Andersson, [Gustav] Nyquist and [Tomas] Tatar, with a combined four points. On Sunday, the only points came from Tatar’s goal on a Nyquist helper to open the scoring, and, in Game 1, Andersson assisted on Nyquist’s power play goal.
The difference has been the other lines. In Game 3, Ferraro had a goal and two assists, Grant got his first postseason goal and Pare had the go-ahead goal in the third. In Game 1, Callahan got the first goal.
Coach Jeff Blashill, however, remains cautious of what the Syracuse top line – as well as others - can do.
“I think they’re a lot like us where they have a real good top line, and they have great depth,” Blashill said. “… They’re like us, anybody can score. I thought their top line had chances (in Game 2). I’m sure they would think they could play better and I know our guys think they can play better, so it should make for a good game Wednesday.”
In fact, as Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan told WOOD TV8's Casey Jones (his real name), the Griffins understand that their 2-games-to-none series lead can evaporate in a hurry, and given that the next three games take place over five days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), the Griffins need to keep a lid on a Crunch team that had lost all of one playoff game until the Calder Cup Final began:
"I think you just look at it as being 0-0," Griffins Captain Jeff Hogan said. "You approach it like every other game, you know? You don't want to take away from where you're at by thinking that you're almost there. You know, you need two more."
As far as they are concern, this is a brand new series to help them keep the pressure on Syracuse.
The Griffins know the Crunch are capable of stealing back a few games at Van Andel Arena, or even winning four straight. They've done that three times in their other post-season match-ups this year, and they have yet to lose a road game this post-season.
Grand Rapids, meanwhile, is concentrated on sticking to the plan that got them this far.
"We didn't get the two wins easy there in Syracuse and it won't be easy here at home. So we just have to play all together and we have to play our best games and we're going to do it." center Tomas Tatar said.
There's a video accompanying the story, and it's something that's becoming more and more rare these days--it doesn't auto-play!
Our sidebar Griffins stories involve one text-based one and two videos. We'll start with text from Fox 17's Mitch Fick, who notes that Tomas Jurco's status as ninth in playoff scoring among all AHL players belies the fact that he had an incredibly difficult first half of his first professional season, and that we all have to remember that Jurco is:
A) All of twenty years old;
B) Still growing into his body and learing how to be a professional hockey player in terms of his on-ice skills, his off-ice commitment to conditioning and his plain old maturation as a human being;
C) Which are all easy to forget when you watch his YouTube videos or see him deke and dangle in warm-ups and think that he's going to start pulling Pavel Datsyuk-quality moves consistently RIGHT NOW.
Which just isn't going to happen for a while yet.
The 21-year-old Slovak native finished the regular season with 14 goals and 14 assists – but didn’t feel confident in his pro abilities until midway through his first season.
“It was February,” he says, ”and I did a couple nice moves a couple games in a row. I told myself, ‘This might be the time.’”
“He could have gotten real down,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill says. ”I was hard on him lots early. I think he understood I was hard on him because I just wanted him to be great. He kept working to get better and better and I’m real proud of him.”
Jurco’s early success has turned the head of a living legend – former Red Wing great and volunteer Griffins assistant coach Chris Chelios.
“Physically, there’s no question he’s ready – his size and his strength, and his skill,” Chelios says. ”It’s still a big adjustment – being a pro – and he figured it out a lot quicker than a lot of people thought he would.”
Proving to those people that Jurco isn’t just a one-trick pony.
“I was trying to get my name back as a hockey player,” he says, “and I think it’s working.”
It's working, but we shouldn't expect Jurco to make some sort of immediate jump to the NHL. Even Datsyuk took until he was 24 to make "the show," and he wasn't an immediate superstar. Jurco is learning and growing, and what his full potential may be is uncertain at this point.
Quite frankly, what I've heard from the Wings is that they hope he turns out to be a Tomas Kopecky-style big, physical winger with better scoring ability, or, put even more bluntly, what they'd hoped Tomas Kopecky was going to turn out to be in a 2nd or 3rd-line guy who could skate incredibly hard, bang bodies and score 15 goals. As far as anything above that is concerned, the Wings see above and beyond Kopecky-ness as a bonus.
The Wings believe that Petr Mrazek's a potential starting NHL goalie, too--but they signed Jimmy Howard to the contract that they signed him to because the Wings don't want Mrazek to sit on the Wings' bench for 50 games for the next three seasons. They want him to start at the AHL level, continue to develop as a professional hockey player, and to earn his way up.
That being said, he's been a frickin' rock, as Fox 17's Steve Amorose notes (and these videos have to be paused after you hit play, because they roll on to whatever is next on the website's playlist):
And at the other end of the spectrum, Amorose notes that the Griffins have a significant number of players who are attempting to capture what may be their only professional hockey championship:
In the audio department, Gustav Nyquist appeared on ESPN 96.1 FM's "It is What it is" with Sean Baligian on Tuesday...
As did Danny DeKeyser:
If you haven't seen it, EA Sports released its NHL 14 trailer, and as you might imagine, Pavel Datsyuk was prominently featured (though not on the cover, damn stupid Bobrovsky and Brodeur fans, and honestly, if Brodeur's on the damn cover, it'd be nice if EA could engineer some, "Not every goaltender plays a strict butterfly style" mechanics)...
And finally, this is a link of a link of a recorded TV commercial, but my Google Alerts search engine monkeys sent me to LetsGoWings.com's message boards, where OctopiDetroit found that Sports Talk 313's Ryan Larimore learned the hard way that Mickey Redmond is not the only member of the Red Wings' organization who's endorsing outdoor products:
Babcock. Chainsaw. Makes sense to me.
Update: the Detroit News's Mike Martindale posted an update from the Howe family's latest lawsuit against former business manager Del Reddy...And it's a bit disturbing. I don't want to cover this in any particular depth as it's just...It's not hockey-related per se and I don't believe in milking sensationalism or anyone else's pain. It's not a topic I want to discuss unless absolutely necessary as it involves the private life of a very public person.
Update #2: Per Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman, here are the Wings Swedes' Stanley Cup Final picks:
Nicklas Lidstrom: "I think it will be a very even series. Chicago's been strong throughout the year, and while Boston's defense wasn't seriously tested [during the regular season], some people have been wonderig whether they were too young or couldn't keep up. But they've really shown what they can do. They were impressive against Pittsburgh. The Bruins play well as a team, they don't give their opponents much and Rask has played outstanding in goal. While Chicago has a good run going, and I think it's going to be a tight and long series, I think Boston will win in the end."
Niklas Kronwall: "I hope for Chicago for their Swedes' sakes, but I believe in Boston. They've looked strong, they're big and heay and play very structured. So 4-2 Boston.
Mikael Samuelsson: "I believe Chicago, 4-2 in games."...
Tomas Holmstrom: "It will be interesting. Boston looks strong, Chara can check Kane, Sharp, Hossa and Toews. And they're deeper than that. But I say 4-2 to Boston. But you never know, it could go seven games, too."
Hakan Andersson: "I've been taking the West in every instance for a while now, so I say Chicago. But I also hope for Chicago because of the type of hockey they play, too. It's a little like our style in Detroit."
Jonathan Ericsson: "It feels like it could go either way, but I think Boston's strong defense will shut down Chicago's offensive stars, and say they'll win in six games. But I wouldn't be surprised if Chicago won 4-0!"
Jonas Gustavsson: "4 games to 2, Boston."
I liked Henrik Zetterberg's answer...Mostly because I think Bjurman copied and pasted the wrong prediction--a pre-season one:
Henrik Zetterberg: "St. Louis wins in 5 games and Alex Steen will be the MVP."
Update #3: Two more from Bjurman:
Gustav Nyquist: "I actually think that Boston will win it and they'll take it 4 games to 2. They were impressive in terms of how they took care of Pittsburgh in the Conference Finals."
Joakim Andersson: "I think Boston will take it. It seems like they've gota solid team with great depth. The Blackhawks have that, too, but I haven't seen any of their games against LA. But I saw Boston play against Pittsburgh and was really impressed. and since Chicago beat us out, I want to see the lose, too, ha ha."
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About The Malik Report
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.