The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/29/14 at 02:42 AM ET
The Red Wings checked an extremely important item off their offseason to-do list in signing Tomas Tatar to a 3-year, $8.25 million contract (at present, Capgeek only knows that Tatar's contract's cap hit is $2.75 million per season), and you and I found that the team has yet another assistant coach to replace as the Free Press's Helene St. James reported that video coordinator/assistant coach Keith McKittrick's leaving to join the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.
So, in terms of player personnel, the Red Wings have a Capgeek-estimated $5.75 million in cap space, which the team will use to re-sign restricted free agent Danny DeKeyser and to possibly sign Daniel Alfredsson to a moderate-base-salary-and-bonuses deal if his back's feeling up to snuff in September...
And in the coaching department, at the NHL level, Mike Babcock now needs to find both an assistant coach to replace Tom Renney and a video coordinator to replace McKittrick, and at the AHL level, Jeff Blashill has to find a pair of assistant coaches to replace departing Grand Rapids Griffins assistant coaches Jim Paek and Spiros Anastas.
Given that Babcock's contract is up after this upcoming NHL season, and given that that the same's true for Ken Holland, whose managerial staff is just starting to settle into the post-Jim Nill world, the coaching-and-managerial flux makes me a little jittery.
The Wings at least seemed to know that Tom Renney and Bill Peters were likely to exit, and Spiros Anastas was named the University of Lethbridge's next coach during the Griffins' playoff run, so those absences were expected, but the amount of turnover in the coaching, managing and scouting staffs (see: director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell and scout Mark Leach leaving for Dallas) over the past two or three seasons...
May or may not help explain the reasons that the team has struggled to attract player personnel over the past three seasons. There's been a significant "brain drain" in the form of the aforementioned names and Paul MacLean a summer ago, and while I have faith that the organization has more than enough warm bodies with big brains to keep the Big Red Machine running, the Red Wings have always believed that continuity of player personnel is essential to build a winning team, and the coaching and front office staffs have not enjoyed roster continuity of late.
Maybe I'm in pre-vacation worry mode (I am) and maybe I'm just being your typical jittery Wings fan instead of Pretend Detached Blogger, but late July is the time to find bargain bin free agents, not top-flight assistant coaches, and for those of us not in the know, it's a little jarring.
In any case, locking up Tatar for three more seasons is a coup, and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness spoke with Holland about Tatar's earned raise:
In his first full season in the NHL, Tatar, 23, scored 19 goals, had 20 assists and was a plus-12 in 73 games.
“His best years are still ahead of him,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview. “He plays hard and goes to the hard areas. He’s a very important player on our team.”
Tatar, along with a number of other young forwards, was thrust into the spotlight last season due to the overabundance of injuries the Wings suffered.
“He’s probably one of our top line forwards,” Holland said. “We’d like to roll three lines out there that can score. That’s the way we’ve built our team for a lot of years. We need to continue to get offense from a lot of our kids with Tats being one of them,” Holland added.
Tatar, whose salary cap his was $630,000 last season, will still be a restricted free agent when the deal expires in 2017. Players don’t reach unrestricted free agency until the age of 27. Tatar will be 26.
The Wings now have 14 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies signed to one-way contracts, which brings their payroll close to $64 million, leaving them just over $5 million in cap space. This year’s salary cap is $69 million.
That money will be used to sign DeKeyser and possibly Daniel Alfredsson, who won’t know if he’s returning to the team until a couple weeks before training camp that begins Sept. 18 in Traverse City.
The Free Press's Helene St. James made me cringe when she suggested this:
The only RFA left to be re-signed is defenseman Danny DeKeyser. That one could be trickier - DeKeyser’s camp knows how highly the Wings deem DeKeyser, and defensemen increasingly make premium dollars these days. At 24, DeKeyser doesn’t have a lot of games under his belt (76) but he may well consider that since he’s part of the top-four mix, he should get money similar to the $4.25 million Kyle Quincey will make annually after re-signing with Detroit on July 1.
Somebody pass the Tums...Stupid unearned raise. I've heard estimates closer to $2.5-$3 million as DeKeyser isn't established, but who the hell knows at this point.
If you want to feel even less comfortable, you can glance at the Wings' summer roster page, which lists Any Miele and Kevin Porter on the "big club's" roster, but not the waiver-exempt Tomas Jurco...But it is late July, and the roster page has hiccups from time to time. I think. I hope!
In other news, the Red Wings are still receiving free agency raspberries from the out-of-town press, including the Bergen Record's Andrew Gross...
Red Wings: Hockeytown was not a prime hockey destination for the free agents the perennial power coveted. In the past, the lure of chasing a Cup playing for Mike Babcock was usually enough. That dynamic has clearly faded as the Red Wings whiffed on defensemen Matt Niskanen (Capitals) and Christian Ehrhoff (Penguins).
Regarding one of the departing assistant coaches, Fox 17 posted two videos offering "snippet" interviews with Jim Paek, but it's refreshing--and very "Jim Paek--to hear him make sure to thank everyone he possibly can for contributing to his next endeavor as Korea's coach and the head of the Korean Ice Hockey Association...
Regarding one of the Red Wings' Atlantic Division rivals, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose posits his second "Previewing the East" article, surveying the state of the Florida Panthers (he's already examined the Buffalo Sabres)...
ARRIVALS: Forwards Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland, Shawn Thornton, Derek MacKenzie, defenseman Willie Mitchell, and goalie Al Montoya.
DEPARTURES: Forwards Scott Gomez, Krystofer Barch and Jesse Winchester, defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Tom Gilbert, and goalie Scott Clemmensen.
SEASON SCOPE: Everybody gets overpaid in free agency and the Panthers weren’t bashful when it came to opening the checkbook to sign UFA centers Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen. Both veterans have been around winning organizations in the past – Bolland has two Stanley Cup rings with Chicago – and they can certainly help change the hockey culture in South Florida. The Panthers have ranked at or near the bottom in league scoring the past two season, so the addition of Jussinen, who is coming off a tremendous season – he produced 21 goals and 57 points in Pittsburgh – should bolster the offense.
In all, the Panthers signed six players on the first day of free agency, including forwards Shawn Thornton and Derek MacKenzie, defenseman Willie Mitchell, and backup goalie Al Montoya. The 37-year-old Mitchell joins a very young, but extremely defensive unit that includes Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov, Alex Petrovic and Aaron Ekblad, this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
Roose continues, discussing Roberto Luongo's return and listing the Wings-Panthers dates on the upcoming schedule...
In the alumni department, the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson reports that one-time Wings antagonist and one-time Wing Todd Gill will coach the AHL's Adirondack Flames, and if you weren't aware of the fact that Keith McKittrick's likely to both serve as an assistant on Portland Winterhawks coach Jamie Kompon's staff and that he'll coach Wings prospect Dominic Turgeon, now you know...
And finally, the ECHL's Toledo Walleye are holding a set of outdoor games at Fifth Third Field in late December and Early January--hosting Kalamazoo on December 27th and Fort Wayne on January 3rd--as part of their "Winterfest," nd the Walleye are holding an open house at the ballpark on August 9th.
The Walleye sent out this infographic via email late last week...
The Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe penned a lengthy article discussing the Walleye's Winterfest:
Preparations for a 10-day winter extravaganza in downtown Toledo are beginning to snowball. The momentum has been steadily building for more than two years. Now that the Winterfest event is a mere 150 days away, the excitement is palpable. Fifth Third Field will be the site of the ECHL’s first outdoor hockey game. A full-size hockey rink will be the centerpiece for two Toledo Walleye games.
Mike Keedy, special events manager for the Walleye, said a tremendous amount of work has put the organization in great position to make history.
“It's starting to feel more and more real. This will be the most exciting thing that has ever happened in Toledo hockey and at Fifth Third Field,” Keedy said. “This is the biggest sports event Toledo has ever hosted. It will be 10 days of nonstop entertainment.”
The event, which will be held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4, will include college, high school, and youth hockey games. Keedy said one of the main goals was to make Winterfest a true “community event.”
“The cornerstone will be the Walleye games. But first and foremost it's open to the community,” Keedy said.
The Walleye will play Kalamazoo on Dec. 27 and then Fort Wayne on Jan. 3
The event also will include a college game between Bowling Green State University and Robert Morris University and more than 100 youth, high school, and adult games. An alumni game featuring former Toledo pro players against Fort Wayne players also will be held.
The U.S. National U-18 Team will play Adrian College, while a youth tournament also will take place. A Brewfest, featuring more than 250 beers from over 50 breweries, has been planned.
Monroe continues at extended length.
Quick update: One more thing! The Score's Justin Bourne penned an article about 5 NHL players who use "unique" sticks, including Phil Kessel and Zdeno Chara.
During my time fiddling around with pro stock sticks and doing a little too much fiddling around at Hockeytown Authentics for the staff's nerves (I guess that's this morning's theme), as well as some stories I've heard:
1. Brett Hull's stick was all but a wet noodle. Bourne talks about Phil Kessel's stick being a sub-70 flex (stick flexes for adult sticks go from 70 or 75 to 110 or 115, and most players use 85 or 95-flex sticks), and I believe Brett Hull's Easton Z-Bubble was a 62. He also used a banana-curve blade that would've made his father proud;
2. Pavel Datsyuk doesn't like it when people ask about his stick, but I've heard that it's very "blade-heavy," which is the opposite of what most players want in a stick. Datsyuk obviously uses that heavy blade to overpower players in battles for the puck, but it takes some effort to lift it. He has a textured grip on his newer Reebok and CCM sticks, but he still uses melted hockey tape to goop up the sticks with more "grip," and I can tell you that there are at least a couple of curves, "Pasha," "Pasha 2," "Datsyuk" and the occasional stick that says "Lidstrom" or some other curve;
3. I've been told that Sergei Fedorov's sticks broke so very regularly because he wanted his sticks to be so light and stiff that he basically wanted a carbon rod (inanimate) minus any extra layers of shielding, Fiberglas or any sort of protection for the shaft. He used a 110 flex, which is quite stiff (though not as bad as Zdeno Chara's rumored 140-flex sticks, with "flex" numbers usually corresponding to the pounds of pressure needed to flex the stick one inch), and the combination of stiffness and lack of any sort of protection yielded a ton of snapped graphite;
4. I've generally found that Czechs and Slovaks do tend to prefer the Hossa-style toe curve, and some of their curves are pretty dramatic. There are more and more toe curves these days;
5. Nicklas Lidstrom's retail curve--which is my favorite, a classic heel curve with a ten-degree twist to lift pucks--wasn't anything like his real curve, a very, very moderate mid-curve, and most players' retail curves have very little in common with their actual stick curves. There are some "authentic" curves, like the Zetterberg curve, but most have some variation;
6. More players than not use consistent flexes and curves, but there are always Datsyuks who employ multiple curves and stick flexes, and yes, there are players that have "3rd period" sticks that aren't illegally-curved (the NHL's decision to allow sticks to have a 3/4" curve instead of a 1/2" curve eliminated most illegal sticks);
7. The fact that Reebok-CCM sponsors Major Junior teams and AHL and ECHL teams definitely has a, "Hooray, I don't have to use one brand!" effect upon graduating pros, but pro reps are also very good salesmen, and while players might not get more than a set of golf clubs or a very small endorsement fee if they're support players, I've been told that Detroit is seen as an "A Market" for hockey equipment companies, so just about everybody in the room probably has a deal to use a certain stick, a certain brand of skate, certain helmet, visor, gloves, pants, etc;
8. Good luck finding a stick made in the U.S. or Canada these days. If you're lucky, you'll find a made-in-Mexico stick; most companies make their sticks in China these days, and of course they're not passing on the lower labor costs to the public. We could get into a debate as to whether Chinese manufacturing quality is equal to the quality of stuff made by people who've played hockey or have significant experience with the sport, but that'd take a while;
9. If you were wondering, and I know you weren't, I'm a bit of a dinosaur as someone who uses a heel curve as a player and a heel curve as a goaltender, both the whippier the better (you don't find many 6," 250-pound guys using 75-flex player sticks). A "mid curve" (Yzerman, Sakic, Zetterberg, Iginla, etc.) is the most common curve; people who tend to twist their hands over and point their blades down by the time they're done shooting are more likely to use toe curves,while people like me, who keep their hands open throughout the shooting motion, tend to use heel curves.
One more one more thing: Datsun...Datsyuk?
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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.