The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/01/14 at 03:56 AM ET
The Red Wings took Monday off to watch Opening Day and apparently drink some terrible beer in the owners' suite at Comerica Park...
But the team will resume practicing today at Joe Louis Arena, preparing for a stretch of 3 games in 4 nights (against Boston on Wednesday, against Buffalo on Friday and in Montreal on Saturday) and then a season-ending stretch of 4 games in 6 nights (in Buffalo on Tuesday the 8th, in Pittsburgh on Wednesday the 9th, at home vs. Carolina on Friday the 11th and in St. Louis on Sunday the 13th; I highly recommend MonkeyWrench32's desktop schedules).
The Wild Card standings are still quite messy and Washington keeps winning, but there is some good news regarding the Wings' ability to stand up against the Beasts of the East on Wednesday (NBSCN game no less), and it comes from the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa:
The Bruins enjoyed a day off Monday. It was a reward well-earned for completing a punishing March that produced magical results.
The Bruins played 17 games jammed into a 31-day month. They played six sets of back-to-backs, all involving travel. They reeled off a 15-1-1 run that plopped them 9 points ahead of second-place Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference.
“When you play 17 games in 31 days and you lose one shootout game, that’s pretty impressive for this group,” said coach Claude Julien. “They’ve stayed focused. They’ve stayed humble. They’ve stayed determined. So I’m pretty proud of the way we handled this month.”
They will now reap the benefits of that run. Starting Wednesday against the Red Wings, they will begin the process of resting their lead dogs. It’s possible that some players may not make the two-game swing to Detroit and Toronto. It’s just as likely the big boys will stay home for the two-game trip the following week to Minnesota and Winnipeg.
The Bruins can make three more recalls from Providence before the conclusion of the regular season. They will exercise all or part of that option.
Yay? Given the Wings' struggles against Pittsburgh last month, and the fact that the Blue Jackets are 2 points behind Detroit's 82 with a game in hand (and 38 wins to Detroit's 35 and 33 regulation-or-OT wins to Detroit's 30), the Capitals are 3 points behind the Wings (with 34 wins and 28 ROWs) and the Leafs and Devils aren't quite dead yet.
The Wings will take all the help they can get, and given their predictable habit of laying eggs against bottom-dwellers, the team's pair of games against Buffalo and home finale against Carolina might be as uncertain in terms of, "Can the Wings keep up with the competition" as the tilts against Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of the team's status on Monday evening...
“We have a lot of teams (in the mix) and everyone is going to be playing for their playoff lives,” Gustav Nyquist said. “It’s a good thing we have it in our own hands. We’ve got Washington breathing down our necks, and Columbus is right with us here. Toronto’s in the mix, too.”
“We’re just plugging away, grinding away,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re trying to find a way to get into the playoffs.”
The schedule appears to favor the Red Wings heading into these final days. There are seven games left, but included in that mix are two games (one home, one away) against Buffalo -- the worst team in the league with 49 points. The Red Wings also host Carolina April 11, a team on the fringes of playoff contention.
Games next week on the road against Pittsburgh and St. Louis would appear to be difficult tasks, but both the Penguins and Blues could be locked into playoff seeds by that juncture and may not have anything to play for.
Wednesday’s game against Boston, and the road game Saturday in Montreal, appear to be the Red Wings’ most difficult games remaining.
The Wings remain without Pavel Datsyuk, who the Free Press's Helene St. James reported will try to ramp things up today, without Stephen Weiss, who proclaimed his groin OK last Friday, sans Henrik Zetterberg, who won't be back unless the Wings get to at least the end of a 1st-round run, the ever-broken Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson are out...
And we haven't heard anything about Jonathan Ericsson, whose absence due to a broken finger has turned the Wings' third defensive pair into an adventure. Jakub Kindl's pair of assists on Sunday were awesome, but they didn't make up for the fact that Kindl and Brian Lashoff have proven themselves only partially capable of being thrown over the boards without Red Wings fans clutching for their paper bags, anxiety medication and liquor, and Brendan Smith + Niklas Kronwall trying to force offense =
But the inconsistent David Legwand (when Legwand, Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson are on the same line, it's bouncy-ball-puck-time as the trio seem to have the "liveliest" blades on the team, and as such, they either take passes superbly, or instead, pucks bounce off of the heels of their sticks like nobody's business) received one helluva compliment from Mike Babcock on Sunday, as DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson noted:
Five veteran players accounted for six of the game’s eight points, as Legwand earned two points (1-1-2), while Niklas Kronwall, Daniel Alfredsson, Darren Helm and Johan Franzen recorded assists.
“Our veteran leadership group, Alfredsson and Legwand, neither of them were on the ice at the end after the timeout, but both guys were in helping out in the timeout,” Babcock said. “Mule’s really stepped up. Kronner has been fantastic all year. And we have a bunch of kids working real hard. We’re trying to find a way to get in the playoffs.”
My "thought" is this: the Red Wings' forward lineup currently consists of Franzen, Legwand and Nyquist on the first line; Tatar, Sheahan and Jurco on the second line; Miller, Glendening and Abdelkader; and the fourth line consists of Andersson, Helm and Alfredsson (who's battling through either a broken pinky and/or ring finger on his right "shooting" hand).
If the Wings get Datsyuk back, and Gord forbid, if the Wings also get Weiss back, who do you sit given the performances of the forwards in the lineup over the past month? I have a hard time picking, and to me, Andersson and Miller get the short straws first--though Miller's penalty-killing skills remain superb.
Going forward, with the Wings essentially stuck with Weiss unless they choose to buy him out "the regular way" or can trade him, with the team keen on retaining Legwand, with Alfredsson at least an even bet to having earned a spot on next year's team, and with Landon Ferraro and Mitchell Callahan out of waiver options, it's not that difficult to suggest that the Wings can do better with their defense than the job the seven gents (Kronwall, Ericsson, DeKeyser, Quincey, Kindl and Lashoff) have done on the blueline...
But looking toward next fall, even assuming that Sheahan and Glendening will remain with the team, and with the betting even that Jurco might find himself Nyquist'd starting next season due to Ferraro and Callahan's statuses, I don't know how the heck the Wings' coaches and management (who will likely bid farewell to Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi, will buy out Jordin Tootoo and simply won't qualify Cory Emmerton as a restricted free agent, making him unrestricted) are going to balance the needs of a team whose "fifth line" at present consists of the injured Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Weiss...
With the needs of a team that seems intent upon not making a move that gets in the way of the possible development of at least one or two of Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman, Nick Jensen, Alexey Marchenko and/or the non-waiver-exempt Adam Almquist while attempting to improve the team's defense.
Per Capgeek's roster chart, Wings will have to re-sign Sheahan, Tatar, Glendening and DeKeyser as restricted free agents, and they have to decide whether to bring the Jonas Gustavsson back as an unrestricted free agent, but the free agent class on defense isn't particularly superb, and unless a Daniel Alfredsson falls into the Wings' laps--or somebody is bought out on the cap compliance marketplace--I can't see the team doing anything up front.
That's not a terrible thing to say about a team that lost Valtteri Filppula and Damien Brunner to free agency last summer and Jiri Hudler the year before, and said goodbye to Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Brian Rafalski over the past three seasons.
The Red Wings won't continue to be a premier destination for free agents if they're barely making the playoffs every season, so there's certainly an argument to be made that the team needs to upgrade its blueline, but I think that Sheahan, Glendening, Jurco, Tatar and Nyquist have more than proven that they're ready for prime time, and, "If Darren Helm can stay healthy"...
Are they set? What would you do if you were the coaching staff and GM and this team made the playoffs, even if it lost in the first round? Would you make trades? Would you go after free agents?
Or would you blow up the comments section by stating that you're not the GM and that while you and I can speculate, all we can do is make our guesses and hope that the management makes the proper decisions?
In other news, yesterday was Gordie Howe's birthday, and today is Darren McCarty's birthday. McCarty's still on his book tour, and he spoke with WWJ 62's Carol Cain recently. The Free Press posted part of McCarty's conversation with Cain...
“My last fight is my constant battle with alcoholism,” he said. “I have good days and bad days. But I have a great support system.”
He describes himself as a functioning alcoholic.
“I don’t drink like I used to. I could drink a fifth of alcohol and 20 beers. I don’t do that anymore. Today, I have just a few beers.”
McCarty describes his third wife, Sheryl, a neonatal intensive care nurse who lived in Clare whom he met in 2010, as his lifesaver.
“I would have died without her,” he said.
They married and he has a 20-year old stepdaughter and 18-year-old stepson. McCarty also has four children from his first marriage. The couple moved to Clearwater Beach, Fla., 18 months ago and have been in Michigan since December as he promotes his book.
“She’s opened my eyes to a lot of things,” he said of his wife.
As did CBS Detroit:
McCarty, who helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups, now lives in Clearwater Beach, Fla. and was in Detroit taping “Michigan Matters.” He talked about his new autobiography, “My Last Fight: the True Story of a Hockey Rock Star.” He appeared along with Dennis Mannion, president of the Detroit Pistons, and Denise Ilitch, CEO of Ilitch Enterprises.
For Mannion, the “two teams equally exemplified the tenacity of Detroit.” Ilitch, whose family owns the Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, said being tough and gritty are simply hallmarks of Detroit’s sports teams. The trio also discussed other issues including gay athletes in pro sports.
While Michael Sam is entering the upcoming NFL draft after announcing he is gay, and Jay Collins now playing for the NBA Brooklyn Nets as the first openly gay player in pro sports, there isn’t a single openly gay NHL player.
“No. It wouldn’t have made a difference,” said McCarty when asked if he ever played with a gay player. “I wouldn’t have had any problem playing with a gay guy.” “I don’t think it is a big deal. I support gay marriage,” McCarty said.
When asked for comment about the Red Wings’ prospects for the playoffs, McCarty said: “Despite the injuries, they are healthy coming down the stretch. I still believe they will make the playoffs.”
“Thank God they are in the Eastern Conference (this season) and not the Western Conference (which is tougher and they left last year),” he added.
I think we can all agree about that point.
The City of Detroit approved what will be the Red Wings' last lease of Joe Louis Arena on Monday, and while I haven't covered that issue in detail partially because, well, I've been battling severe depression of late, but mostly, I've left Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry's take on the issue, the letters to publications like the Detroit News, Deadline Detroit's note that The Guardian's Dominic Rushe spoke with skeptical residents of the Cass Corridor and the Free Press's discussion as to whether the new lease will yield a net loss in parking revenues....
Because we've talked about this stuff before. I've tried to give it fair coverage throughout the process, over my entire tenure with Kukla's Korner and going back to the days when I worked at MLive, both explaining my resignation to the process and trying to give voice to the analyses of the situation.
In the city where I was born, people do a lot of yelling about projects like this, but the yelling accomplishes much less than trying to figure out whether these situations involve any sort of transparency or any sort of oversight that is something other than as corrupt as the City's government has proven itself to be over the course of my lifetime.
There's no way to justify the partial subsidization nor essentially-city ownership of a $450 million rink in a city that's filed for bankruptcy. There's no way to not say that the money could be spent better in a prosperous city or region.
All I know is that the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Downtown Development Authority have picked up where the Ilitches let off in the 90's, delivering the Campus Martiuses, Quicken Loans and Compuware headquarter relocations and economic jump-starting that the City doesn't do very well.
And all I know is that, as WDIV noted, the latest move in the process of building that follow-on rink remains controversial...
The city council has approved a new lease with the Detroit Red Wings for the NHL team's final years at Joe Louis Arena.
The deal approved Monday, 5-4, includes $5.2 million from the team to settle a dispute over cable TV fees. The Red Wings will pay $1 million a year in rent, retroactive to 2010. The lease ends in 2015 although it could be extended.
The Red Wings hope to move into a new arena as early as 2016.
Council member Mary Sheffield voted against the agreement, saying the city deserved to get millions more in the cable TV dispute. Attorneys advising the city say Detroit didn't have a strong case.
As their video indicates:
In prospect news, the Red Wings have one NCAA prospect still active: as Sports Illustrated's Mike McMahon noted, Ben Marshall and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers advanced to the Frozen Four this past weekend, and Minnesota will battle the University of North Dakota on Thursday, April 10th in Philadelphia, hoping to advance to the NCAA hockey championship game on Saturday, April 12th.
In the power rankings department, ESPN's Scott Burnside...
14. Detroit 35-26-12 Last Week: 14 Injury-ravaged Wings keep impressing with key wins like Saturday's come-from-behind effort in Toronto and then a win over Tampa less than 24 hours later. In lockstep now with Columbus for the two wild-card spots in the East. How good is Gustav Nyquist?
CBS Sports' Brian Stubits...
14 Red Wings [last week 14] Another game, another Gustav Nyquist goal, up to 27 on the season. The Red Wings had a small skid but are back on track and alone in playoff position now, no tie-breaker needed.
And TSN's Scott Cullen penned power rankings lists (oh good, it's Cullen, who demotes the Wings when they win and demotes the Wings when they lose)...
This Week 21 Last Week 21 Detroit Red Wings 35-26-14
Let's not bury those Red Wings' playoff hopes just yet. 4-1-1 in the past six games, with LW Gustav Nyquist scoring seven goals, Detroit has suddenly climbed into playoff position, but there is much work to be done in order to hold it over the final 11 games.
Key Injuries: C Stephen Weiss (groin), LW Henrik Zetterberg (back), C Pavel Datsyuk (knee), D Jonathan Ericsson (finger).
For what it's worth, USA Today's 11-or-12-person panel has the Wings listed as their 15th-best team.
Teams above the Wings in Cullen's rankings? Winnipeg, Nashville, New Jersey, Washington and of course Columbus.
And finally, the hockey season's coming to a close in just about every non-North American Pro league, but the Livingston Daily Press & Argus's Lisa Roose-Church reports that the Red Wings Alumni Association will be skating in Brighton on Saturday, April 5th:
The Brighton Ice Hogs are hosting the second annual Sparky Defibrillator Challenge charity hockey game in the hopes of raising money to purchase automated external defibrillators and provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation training scholarships throughout the community.
The Ice Hogs team will take on players from the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association. Among the alumni slated to play are Joe Kocur, John Ogrodnick, Kevin Miller, Brent Fedyk, Jiri Fischer and Eddie Mio.
The game begins with a ceremonial puck drop at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hartland Sports Center, at 2755 Arena Drive, east of U.S. 23 in Hartland Township. At center ice, organizers will give two automated external defibrillator, or AEDs — one each to Special Olympics and the Livingston County Salvation Army.
Tickets for the SparkyDefibrillator Challenge are $10 for general admission. Children younger than 7 are admitted free. All proceeds will go toward purchasing AEDs and/or CPR training in Livingston County.
The event includes raffles for Detroit Tigers tickets, Plymouth Whalers tickets and other miscellaneous items.
For more information, call 517-304-9134 or go to http://www.sparkydefibrillator.org.
Update: THIS IS FROM PIERRE MCGUIRE TALKING TO NHL.COM's Dan Rosen AND IT FRIGHTENS ME AND NO I DO NOT DO APRIL FOOL'S JOKES:
Who does Gustav Nyquist remind you of and why?
"There is a lot of Glenn Anderson in him, in terms of his speed and his ability to finish plays off the rush. There is a little bit of Teemu Selanne in him, in terms of how he can skate and explode, especially when Teemu was younger. I see so many different players in him because he can score from long range, he score from in tight, and he doesn't bail out of difficult situations. I see a lot of different players in him.
"The thing that amazes me the most about him is his desire to want the puck. There are a lot of guys who need the puck to come to them; he goes and gets it, and he's really good at it."
The broadcasters vote for the Jack Adams Award. What factors do you consider for your vote, and who is in the running to lead your ballot?
"I'll tell you one I'm voting for right away. I won't tell you the other two, but I'll give you Patrick Roy. He is one of my votes.
"Ken Hitchcock is going to be in the discussion. Mike Babcock is going to be in the discussion. I think you have to have Lindy Ruff in the discussion. I really think Todd McLellan in San Jose needs to be in the discussion. This has been a phenomenal year for coaches. I think Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay needs to be in the discussion. So this isn't something you just throw up against the wall and see what is going to stick. If you're voting for an award, you have to take it seriously.
"But I don't think there was anybody before the season started that had Colorado making the playoffs and potentially being a home-ice team in the first round. So no matter what, Patrick Roy is getting one of my votes. I have to think about the other two, but Roy is definitely getting one of them."
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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.