The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/17/13 at 04:24 AM ET
This entry is going to be a little more rambly than usual, so please bear with me:
First and foremost, Pavel Datsyuk is facing off against St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen in TSN's Play of the Year semifinal, and he is trailing by a SIGNIFICANT margin. Voting ends at Midnight EDT on Tuesday (i.e. 11:59 PM on Monday night).
There is some good news on Datsyuk's goal vs. Jonathan Quick battling Jake Allen stopping a Flames shot with a turnaround save: James Duthie says that Datsyuk's goal through all the Nashville Predators' players will be in the other semifinal.
Here's the goal vs. Quick...
Here's Allen's save...
And if this isn't the play of the year, I don't know what to think.
Now I have to talk about optional participation of a very different variety, and it involves
begging for money TMR finances or the lack thereof.
I would like to attend the Red Wings' summer development camp from July 9-17 in Traverse City, MI, but I am a blogger. My paycheck is not very big, and due to health crap, this is the only job I've got. As such, I do not have the funds to pay for gas to get me to Traverse City or 11 days of a hotel stay.
During previous years, I've asked you to lend a hand and you've come though in a big way. I need to ask, if it is at all possible, that you might consider tossing a few bucks into the Paypal tip jar. I've generally found that the smallest donations, $5, $10, stuff like that, end up paying for gas and a huge chunk of my stay, and anything more is a bonus.
So if you want to donate, that's awesome, if you don't want to donate, that's cool, and one way or another, I hope to get up there and provide you with in-person, every-day coverage.
My "ID" is my personal email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and you'll need to use that as the person you're sending $ to. And RTXG is just a product line of goal sticks that Hespeler once made, and I thought it'd be a snappy email address.
Regarding said prospects, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reported that the Wings will lend Red Bird III to the Griffins to reduce their commute to Syracuse, NY from 12+ hours, driving around the southern shore of Lake Erie in two "sleeper" buses, to about 90 minutes so as to reduce wear and tear as the Griffins prepare for Game 6 of the Calder Cup Final on Tuesday (7 PM EDT, will air on AHLLive.com):
The Grand Rapids Griffins have received approval from the Detroit Red Wings organization to fly Monday to Syracuse on the Red Wings charter place, assistant general manager Ryan Martin confirmed.
The Griffins, who were given Sunday off following Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Crunch, will depart 10 a.m. and are expected to practice late Monday at War Memorial Arena in Syracuse.
Game 6 of the series is 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Griffins lead the series 3-2 but lost back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.
It is not the first time the Griffins have used the plane. The Red Wings made the plane, Redbird III, available to the Griffins in mid-January after the team participated in a scrimmage to help the parent club prepare for the late start to the season.
It's interesting to note that while Martin remains the team's "capologist" in technical terms, he's now being referred to as the "assistant GM," or Jim Nill's successor.
Nill ran the Griffins, and that's what Martin will do, but he's always been more than a salary cap expert thanks to his law degree and status as as a former player agent.
He's taken part in pro and amateur scouting since day 1, he's sat in on and offered his opinion when the team made big decisions regarding signing players and prospects, free agents-to-be, when the team's targeted unrestricted free agents and when the team's drafted players, and he's offered sound hockey opinions as well as, "This is how things fit into our cap situation and how we can best utilize our rights under the CBA" advice.
And if you don't already know how the front office shuffle passed after Nill left the team, the management team decided to have Joe McDonnell, who's been the team's director of amateur scouting for as long as I can remember (and I can remember the Holland administration taking over in the late 90's), so it made sense to have the guy who's been coordinating the amateur scouts' player preferences and essentially making the final decisions as to which players the team would target...Make the call himself.
Anyway, regarding the Griffins' success, we know that the Dallas Stars and Nill want to interview Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill for their head coaching position, and it would be incredibly ironic if Blashill did join the Stars as the man he replaced beind the Griffins' bench, Curt Fraser, was allowed to leave to become an assistant coach in Dallas in no small part because he wasn't able to deliver playoff results during 3 years as the Griffins' coach.
Blashill's guided the team to the Calder Cup Final during his first season as the team's coach, but Blashill told the Detroit Free Press's Aaron McMullin that he would prefer to defer credit for his success to a team effort:
[He] doesn’t want to talk about it himself. “I’ll let other people assess (my) job,” he said.
Forward Joakim Andersson, who has claimed residency with the Griffins for the last five seasons along with stints in Detroit the last two seasons, said Blashill has been a big part of the team’s historic playoff run.
“We have a lot of young guys here, and (he) and the veterans have done a great job leading them,” Andersson said. “We’re successful because we find ways to win, and he’s been a big part of that.”
“I took the assistant job in the NHL with the goal of one day becoming a head coach in the NHL,” Blashill said. “But I knew there was no way I’d become a head coach in the NHL if I didn’t coach in the American Hockey League.”
Blashill constantly stresses a “process” approach to his teams. In other words: Do the fundamentals right, and good results will follow. And teams have responded for him. He led Western Michigan to the CCHA championship game in 2011, its first since 1986, and he led the Indiana Ice to a franchise-record 39 wins and a United States Hockey League Clark Cup title in 2010.
And the Griffins have responded this season, with a 42-26 regular-season record, a Midwest Division title and the Calder Cup playoff run — all while watching key players (Andersson, Gus Nyquist, Brian Lashoff) come and go.
“My approach is that as you go, you do the best job you can,” Blashill said. “That’s all you can do.”
In free agency news, the buzz surrounding the CBC's Elliotte Friedman's report that the Red Wings have asked the Florida Panthers about unrestricted free agent-to-be Stephen Weiss's availability has yet to fade. The Detroit News's John Niyo had reported that the Wings inquired about Weiss's status at the trade deadline, so he wasn't surprised to hear Friedman state that the Wings were kicking a familiar tire:
The Detroit News took note of the report in text form, too:
The Wings have inquired on the rights to Panthers center Stephen Weiss, Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night on "Hockey Night in Canada."
According to Friedman, the Red Wings, Stars and Maple Leafs have asked the Panthers about Weiss, 30, a former Plymouth Whaler who has spent his entire career in Florida and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 5.
Weiss had one goal and three assists in 17 games last season, but he has scored 20 or more goals four times. His best season was 2009-10, when he had 28 goals and 32 assists.
Weiss turned 30 this past April, and he's listed at 5'11" and 190 pounds, and the Toronto native suffered a season-ending wrist injury very early during the 2013 season, but he'd previously posted 57, 49, 60 and 61-point seasons, averaging about 20 goals and 30-35 assists.
"You know what? It would be awesome to finish my career here," said Weiss, whose six-year, $18.6 million contract expires July 1. "I've been here for a long time. You don't see that too often nowadays, guys staying with one team for a long time. So that would be great. But saying that, first of all, are they going to want me back? And if they do, those will be decisions that I'm going to make here at some point. I'm going to look at all the options and decide what I feel is best for me moving forward. That's about it."
The scary part of Weiss's appeal is that he's battled chronic wrist problems throughout his career:
Weiss had surgery on the same wrist following the 2008-09 season, and had surgery on his left wrist in 2006. He said the decision to have surgery now came after meeting with a doctor Monday and having an MRI and X-rays taken. The night before, in what may have been his last game in a Panthers uniform, Weiss got 16:37 of ice time and was kept off the score sheet in a 3-2 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Weiss, the fourth pick of the 2001 NHL Draft, is hoping this latest surgery can put his wrist problems behind once and for all.
"That's why I waited this long," Weiss said. "I didn't want to have a second surgery. This is my last resort. I would have played the rest of my career with some wrist soreness or whatever as long as I felt I could compete and do the things I wanted to do. But unfortunately that's just not the case right now. What the doctors say is that if you get this done, it's going to do nothing but bring it back to 100 percent. There's something wrong that's causing this issue and there's a procedure that'll be done that'll fix it and take the stress away from what's bothering you. So I'm confident this is going to do nothing but help me become 100 percent and be even better moving forward."
The Sun-Sentinel's Harvey Filakov noted the Weiss's rights report on Sunday, and he added a wrinkle to the equation:
Weiss, 30, who is coming off an injury-decimated season and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 5th, is the all-time leader in games played. But although he said he'd like to come back if the price is right, for the first time after the season ended, seemed almost resigned to playing for another team for the first time in his 10-year career.
Here's what Weiss had to say to the Miami Herald's George Richards at the end of the Panthers' season in April, as well as an explanation of where the Panthers are cap and roster-wise:
“I think the consensus is they want me back and I want to be back,” said Weiss, who made his debut with the Panthers in 2002. “It’s just a matter of the numbers game. It’s a business. Sometimes those things don’t fit and don’t make sense. I understand that. We’ll see what we can do.’’
How to handle the Weiss situation is just one of the many issues facing general manager Dale Tallon heading into this offseason.
Tallon, coach Kevin Dineen and many players talked about how the direction of the franchise shouldn’t be judged on 2013’s last-place finish. The Panthers lost a number of key players — Weiss included — for much of the 48-game season because of injuries. Weiss is Florida’s only major unrestricted free agent going into the offseason, although the team seems to have interest in bringing back goalie Jose Theodore to compete with Jacob Markstrom.
Shawn Matthias, Jack Skille, T.J. Brennan and Peter Mueller are restricted free agents.
“I want us to get better. I want to win,” Tallon said. “I want to build on what we did last year and not tear down everything just because we had a 48-game season that wasn’t an effective one. I’m going to erase this and keep adding pieces to the puzzle.”
Technically speaking, Weiss is essentially a more defensively-responsible center who possesses Valtteri Filppula-like speed. He's a year older, but he's not physical, not big, doesn't play "heavy," but he's a good playmaker and he's a little more consistent than Filppula is. I don't necessarily believe that the Wings need to replace Filppula with a Filppula-like player (see: help, team still misses Tomas Holmstrom's net-front presence, big forward who goes to net and hacks and whacks rebounds in, please apply for several-million-dollar position).
And, quite frankly?
All this stuff really tells me is that the Wings are probably also resigned to the concept of Filppula playing for another team, too, and that, at best, the Wings will flip the inconsistent 29-year-old Filppula's rights prior to the start of free agency, probably at the draft.
It's all speculation at this point, but I've heard Filppula's name linked to Columbus because of Jarmo Kekalainen's presence as the team's GM and the former GM of Jokerit Helsinki, and he's been linked to Nill and the Stars as well, but who the hell knows?
I think that Filppula can indeed land $5 million on the open market due to the "romance" with his skill set, but I don't think the Wings should pay him that, and I know the Panthers have the cap space to re-sign Weiss to a similar $5 million deal.
I also know that the Wings are facing a roster crunch (see: accommodating Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson's graduation to the big club on full-time bases, hoping that Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi will return to health, and complying with the 23-man roster rule by the end of the exhibition season) and only have about $10.6 million in cap space to decide whether to re-sign Daniel Cleary, whether to pay Filppula's asking price, to ink restricted free agents Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindls to deals that will take at least $4 million of that cap space away (though the Wings have the option to both exceed the summer cap by 10% and they have 2 cap-compliance buy-outs at their disposal0, and whether the team wants to pursue Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Nathan Horton or another free agent forward instead...
And then there is the case of Damien Brunner. We know that the Wings and Brunner's agent, Neil Sheehy, haven't been able to figure out what Brunner's "worth" based upon one inconsistent season, as MLive's Ansar Khan reported, but the speedy 27-year-old sniper is probably going to land a contract at or around $3 milion bucks, and Brunner issued some intriguing comments to Sport.ch's Tobias Wust after returning to Switzerland.
What follows is a pretty dang faithful translation of Brunner's conversation with Wust (I did take 4 years of German in high school, 2.5 years in college, and I cross-checked words I was unfamiliar with with dict.leo.org):
"I never had to touch my bags"
Damien Brunner's currently enjoying a well-earned break in Switzerland. Sportpanorama spoke with the Schweizer about his contract, his teammates and why the engine of his car's always hot at the right time.
It was "sudden death," after 97 games played. So the Swiss soldier is only a month removed from his NHL season. The sudden death wasn't due to fatigue, but instead, the Chicago Blackhawks. The 2010 Stanley Cup winners defeated the Red Wings in the seventh and deciding game of the Conference semifinal thanks to an overtime goal.
During most games the Schweizer played on the top line
Thus ended the first overseas seasonof the best goal-scorer in Swiss history. Brunner's disappointment was understandably large--but with some time and space he can now determine the value of his outstanding season, though it should be noted that he wasn't expected to do anything less [than succeed].
"You should never be surprised by yourself. If the coach wants you to play, he'll give you a chance." Brunner said that much was made easier [by a teammate]: "Henrik Zetterberg was obviously very helpful, but the rest of the team also made it simple. If I made mistakes during practices, for example, I was always forgiven."
Life in the NHL's known to be difficult. Due to the lockout, the schedule was even harder. "In terms of phases, we played almost every day," said the former EV Zug forward, but he also found a positive: "The travel was first-class. I never had to [carry] my bags, everything was brought to you. When we came back, our car's gas tank had been filled and the engine was already running and warmed up."
Signals point to return
The future of the 27-year-old center is still uncertain, but at the moment, he's still unsigned. "I can only talk to the Red Wings until July 5th. If we don't reach an agreement by then, I can go to the marketplace," Brunner explains. But he's seen that foundation has been laid for a contract extension. "During my exit interview, they gave me clear signs that they wanted me back."
He also did very well. "They delivered everthing that they'd promised me." Even his parents were flown in for one of his games. In terms of forecasting [his future], it's still too early. But it's safe to say that he'd like to return. "But we'll have to see."
What do I think he means?
Well, Brunner's never been "unsigned" this late in the year. In terms of European hockey, this is "August"--in reading about Jonathan Ericsson's brother Jimmie's decision to remain with Skelleftea AIK, I found out that June 15th's the deadline for international players to sign "first contracts" with NHL teams, regardless of their age (HockeySvergie.se's Robert Pettersson noted that Jimmie's 33, and didn't want to sign a 2-way deal), and in many cases, players have already engaged in dry-land training and meet-and-greets with fans in May and June (think NFL "mini camps"), and their training camps and exhibition seasons begin in late July or early August, so most teams' rosters are all but set in most European leagues.
In European leagues, playing is more like a 12-months-a-year job: as soon as leagues' playoff runs end, the World Championships take place, the aforementioned "mini camps" take place, the players might get a month off in June, and they're doing dry-land training in July and are hitting the ice in August, regular seasons start in September, end in late February or early March, and championships are won by the end of March at the latest...And the "silly season" is analgous to European soccer, where you start hearing rumors about players signing with different teams during the final month of the regular season, and within days of the playoffs ending, the top free agents are snapped up.
For Brunner, this is an entirely different experience, and he does seem intrigued by becoming a free agent.
His agent, Neil Sheehy, is also a notoriously tough negotiator (and a bit of an odd duck: Ryan Suter's agent is based in International Falls, Minnesota, not Toronto, New York, LA or a big Canadian city), so I'm sure that he's pushing the highest "comparables possible."
What do I think will happen? In the end, I expect Brunner to re-sign for around $3 million, probably on a short-term deal as opposed to a long one, but it won't get done until the very cusp of 12 PM EDT on July 5th. Sheehy will make us sweat.
Otherwise, I've re-watched the Windsor Star's Bob Duff's interview with Niklas Kronwall, prior to Kronwall's fulfillment of his duties as the Grand Marshal at the MIS 400 on Sunday, repeatedly. It's great stuff...
And if you don't have 8 minutes to watch Kronwall speak very softly, the Free Press's George Sipple noted that Kronwall hopes that the Wings can find a way retain Filppula's services...
There will be some tough decisions made in the off-season with the Wings. Some players won’t be brought back. Some will leave on their own to play elsewhere.
Kronwall said he hopes Valtteri Filppula, an unrestricted free agent, comes back.
“Fil's one of those guys that you don't want to lose,” Kronwall said. “He's a puck possession guy, a real good player and a great person, really good in the room, works hard. He has all the tools. Hopefully we'll be able to keep him.”
And the Detroit News's David Goricki noted that Kronwall got downright gushy when praising Danny DeKeyser:
Kronwall is very impressed with DeKeyser who signed a free-agent contract "I don't think there's a limit to how good he can be," said Kronwall of DeKeyser. "I don't think people realize what he did this year, coming in from college and playing like he did. I don't know if he should be able to do that, to have that big of a presence to be honest with you. I was very impressed with how he handles himself both on and off the ice. He has great work ethic, great attitude. The sky's the limit for this guy, that's how good he is.
"He never puts himself in trouble. I kind of felt like he kind of played a little bit like Nik Lidstrom that way. He was just very smart and just read the situations. He was able to find solutions to situations out of the blue and not a lot of guys can do that coming straight out of college, just really impressive."
While Kronwall's still pissed off about the Wings' loss to Chicago, he does feel that the progress made by the team's young players bodes well for the future...
Absolutely, just over the course of the year we had a lot of injuries this year and the younger guys that came up were given a chance and they really made the most of it," Kronwall said. "You look at it, just (Tomas) Tatar, (Joakim) Andersson, (Gustav) Nyquist, (Brian) Lashoff and (Danny) DeKeyser when he came in, even (Petr) Mrazek did a great job when he came in so we know there's more to come in the minors, and the younger guys have really proven they can play at the top level, and just the experience they get alone in the playoffs have been great."
And he offered a predictable take on the possibility that things might get too physical for the Wings in the East:
And, of the Wings moving to the Eastern Conference next year, Kronwall replied: "It will be different for sure, a different type of game, probably meet some big, heavy teams like the Boston Bruins for example. I'm sure it will be a little different, but at the same time hopefully we can just just kind of keep trying to play our structured game and that should give us some success."
Also of Red Wings-related note: the Detroit Free Press is asking fans to pick their favorite sports championship in a bracketed poll (seven of the Wings' 11 Cup championships are listed), and while I know that the Wings will do well, I'm just guessing that the Detroit Tigers' 1968 or 1984 World Series wins will...Win out;
I hate to agree with SI's Al Muir on this one, but he's spot-on regarding the standard of officiating in the Stanley Cup Final...
More quarrels with the officiating: The standard was set from the start of this series: pretty much anything short of performing a transhumeral amputation on an opposing player in the midst of a breakaway is unlikely to move either official to raise his whistle. Fans of both sides will recite evidence of the obvious bias being displayed against their team (at least, that’s what my mail leads me to believe), but the fact is the officials have called the games evenly. Sure, they’ve forgotten half of the infractions in the rule book and it is beyond aggravating, but as long as the standard remains consistent, no one should have any complaints.
I come from a tribe fo tinfoil hat-wearing Wings fans, so I understand that subjectivity yields conspiracy theories, but at least the refs have been consistently calling absolutely nothing this time around. It's terrible but it's predictable.
And finally...I will be out of the office for part of Tuesday afternoon and the vast majority of Thursday afternoon, and I have to find a way to return my friend Stephy's betta fish to her, so I'm going to be in and out this week.
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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.