The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/05/14 at 05:02 AM ET
The Red Wings' beat writers have completed their set of grades as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness issued a more holistically-based set alongside those of MLive's Ansar Khan, the Free Press's Helene St. James and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, and again, I'm quite curious as to both what you think about said grades and whether you'd be receptive to some alternate set of assessments...
The Detroit Red Wings won’t buy out winger Johan Franzen, even though he’s an exasperating big-man talent (red-hot or a non-factor). The Mule has a nice salary-cap hit number of $3.9 million for the next six years. The Wings would consider moving him for a top four D-man, though. Detroit badly needs a right-shooting blue-liner. Dallas and Detroit are the only NHL clubs with all left-handed shooting defencemen.
Franzen's massive contract and the potential of having to pay a cap recapture penalty if he retires before the 2019-2020 season aren't exactly incentives for teams to go out and acquire the inconsistent Franzen, but if a lower-salary team were to offer, say, a Christian Ehrhoff in a dollar-in-for-dollar out basis?
I could see it happening in that sort of situation. And this kind of comment moves along yesterday's discussion as to whether the Wings should attempt to acquire a free agent, trade for a defenseman or just let "the kids" struggle and grow.
This much from Matheson, we already know...
The Wings, in an injury spiral, dealt for David Legwand at the deadline, giving up one of their best prospects, centre Calle Jarnkrok. But it’ll be a one-and-done for the unrestricted free agent centre, who wound up playing on Detroit’s fourth line in the playoffs. The Wings have Stephen Weiss at centre next season (Year 2 of a five-year deal) after his first Detroit season was a total writeoff because of groin issues. He played only 26 games. The Wings won’t be bringing back Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi, either.
And I'm not sure if Matheson heard Ken Holland state that he's a little tired of becoming something of a "developmental league" for other teams' coaching and managerial staffs before suggesting the following in his "Short Shifts"--or if he listened when he heard Mike Babcock say that he's happy in Detroit, for that matter:
Predictably, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland says he’ll deny all requests for teams to talk to his much-coveted farm team coach, Jeff Blashill, this spring. He can’t afford to let the Grand Rapids coach leave if he can’t get Mike Babcock on a long-term deal, although Babcock told a Detroit radio station “this is a good place to hunt and water ski and my wife likes it and it’s an original six team.” That doesn’t sound like he wants to leave. Blashill is the safety net in case Babcock, who has one year left on his contract, changes his mind though.
Not going to happen.
Matt Niskanen’s going to be the most popular free agent on July 1 if Pittsburgh can’t re-sign him. He’s had a breakthrough year (46 points, plus-33) and is the ideal No. 2 puck-moving defenceman. The Avalanche would definitely go after him. So would San Jose, if the Sharks let Dan Boyle walk. The Washington Capitals and Detroit would love him, too. Big plus for Niskanen is he’s a right-hande shot and every team is looking for those defencemen. That’s one reason the Minnesota Wild went so hard to sign college free agent Christian Folin (Massachusetts Lowell). he shoots hard and shoots right.
It's worth noting that Matheson believes that Steve Yzerman's Lightning will be battling the Wings out in the acquire-a-defenseman marketplace (again, the names are pretty limited: Niskanen and Boyle highlight a relatively weak class of free agent defensemen; the Edlers and Ehrhoffs of the world are out there as trade targets, but most teams aren't looking to divest themselves of defensemen, and Jiri Fischer certainly told RedWingsCentral that the Wings have six viable alternatives to trading or signing someone):
One of the problems the Tampa Bay Lightning faces is their back end isn’t that mobile and can’t get the puck up to Steve Stamkos and Co. They badly need a Duncan Keith/Kris Letang/Boyle type puck-mover. “They have to lug the puck a long way,” said one NHL executive.
I kind of had to roll my eyes here given that the Wings have done pretty well with mostly left-shooting defensemen over the past 20 years...
[Scotty] Bowman says the best NHL teams have the perfect complement of defencemen. “Three rights and three lefts, like Mike Babcock had at the Olympics. That’s why (Brent) Seabrook and (Duncan) Keith are so good together, a rightie and a leftie. When the Kings won the Stanley Cup, they had three rights and three lefts. It really helps making passes,” said Bowman.
And Matheson's Short Shifts keep on giving:
Former NHLer Jason Woolley, who is now a player agent, knows why it’s so hard to take the puck off Jaromir Jagr along the boards: “He’s got a butt the size of a dishwasher,” said the former defenceman.
Topic change time: you and I are quite familiar with Eddie Olczyk's long-standing campaign against the Red Wings' "subtle interference" and occasional "deception," and we witnessed Claude Julien's insistence that the Wings "subtly" hook and hold to prevent his players from getting to pucks pay off, but the truth of the matter is what pisses me off so very much about their assertions:
1. First, the Red Wings, like any other team, Boston included, tend to play well when they get "on the inside" of puck battles, and the protestations of the Olcyks of the world ignore the concept that, in the NHL, a player pursuing the puck has no responsibility to simply get out of another player's way instead of making his opponent skate around him;
2. In the words of Anthony Mantha, the Wings, from Bowman on down to Babcock, have taught their players to protect the puck by allowing their butts, arms and legs out to block their opponents' route to the puck. If you're not actively grabbing or grappling with an opponent to prevent them from getting around you, simply putting something in the way of the opponent's path is not interfering.
Cue the 1:45 mark of this interview from last fall:
Jaromir Jagr's made a career out of "subtle interference." He doesn't just get in players' way--he sticks his ass out and uses his thigh and core strength to bump players away from him, he'll stick his leg out, his elbow out, or he'll lean into his opponents with his shoulder (you'll note that the Crosbys and Toewses of the world tend to draw penalties by leaning into their opponents and then letting themselves fall if their opponents disengage from their checks).
If you're not actively grabbing or grappling with your opponent to hold his stick--if you're continuing to skate forward while you're allowing your body position to force your opponent to stick their stick around you or to skate around you to gain body position and leverage, that's playing smart hockey, not interfering. Hooking, holding, slashing, grabbing, clipping, that stuff is interference.
Some of Jagr's very active attempts to not just use body position and parts of his body to get in the way, but to also actively grapple with his opponents, are interference penalties, but you don't have a national TV network's broadcast team lamenting the fact that Jagr will stick his ass out, and then when you engage him, he'll grab your stick, trip you up, lean into you and fall over, etc.
This spring's penalty-du-jour involves players literally grabbing other players' sticks and tucking them up under their armpits or simply lifting their sticks and feigning a slashed hand, a hook or--in David Krejci's case--a high stick.
It drives me *#$%@& nuts, and it works because it tricks referees on the lookout for a horizontal stick foul to bite on instinctual motions. It's one of the few instances where I have sympathy for the refs and linesmen, because in real time, the calls look legit; on replays, however, you can see how much work the "sellers" are putting into their finished products.
The "One and Done?" award
To Mike Babcock, who said he’s quite comfortable with going into the final year of his contract with the Red Wings without an extension. That’s the kind of thing you usually hear from a coach who isn’t being offered an extension, yet Ken Holland says he wants to work on one. So what’s Babcock up to? Is he sending some kind of message? Is he bluffing? Has anybody noticed if his hair has moved?
WXYZ's "7 Sports Cave" also discussed Babcock's future...
And whether the Wings deserve "love or tough love" (and there's always that *#$%@& Blackhawks fan...)...
And finally, in case you didn't already know by now, Jonas Gustavsson posted solid stats during his 2013-2014 campaign, as underscored by DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's "By the Numbers" look back at Gustavsson's year (last?) with the Wings:
16: Games won in 27 starts as backup for the Red Wings. He won his first three starts in October and received the NHL’s First Star of the Week for those victories over Boston, Columbus and Colorado. Only Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen (20), Minnesota’s Josh Harding (18), St. Louis’ Brian Elliott (18), and Boston’s Chad Johnson (17) won more games with 27 or fewer starts during the 2013-14 campaign.
6: The number of goals that he surrendered on 22 shootout attempts for a .727 save percentage in the regular season. Gustavsson was 2-4 in shootouts with wins at Toronto on Dec. 21 and against Chicago on Jan. 22. Only Vancouver’s Eddie Lack (4-of-25) and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury (5-of-28) allowed fewer shootout goals on 22 or more attempts in the skills competition.
23: Games missed due to five separate injuries involving the groin, neck and shoulder during the 2013-14 regular season. He missed 18 games with groin problems (Oct. 2-10; Dec. 30-Jan. 20; March 9-18); three games with neck injury (Nov. 1-4); and two games with sore shoulder (April 11-13).
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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.