The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/19/13 at 08:15 AM ET
After a very-early-morning practice at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings will tangle with the Boston Bruins tonight at 7 PM, and the game will air on Fox Sports Detroit. Four of the Wings' six remaining be televised as well, with only Saturday's tilt against Boston (I will be attending that one as a fan) and the Friday, September 27 game against Toronto not airing on TV.
If you plan on watching tonight's game, you might want to know that a) the Boston Herald's Steve Conroy reports that Gregory Campbell may play for Boston but Patrice Bergeron will not, b) Teemu Pulkkinen's heading to New York instead for an in-person hearing with Brendan Shanahan as it sounds like his first five NHL games will involve spending time in the press box...
C) it is highly likely that I will not be working for the balance of today as I've got to make the 230-mile trek home from Traverse City, topped off with a Wal-Mart run, so Paul will be handling the duties. I'm not sure whether the plan will involve coming back on Friday or Saturday as I haven't been able to crash at the hotel, so I have the feeling that being in my own bed may yield, "Blammo, kaplow!" crashing. If that's okay with you, I hope it is--because I ended up penning an off-day report and noting the Wings' partnership with Made in Detroit--and if it's not, well...I don't want to burn out before the dang regular season starts, and I'm sure that yesterday's activities have pushed me over 200 hours of work over the past fifteen days.
I will delicately describe this morning's crop of Red Wings-related news as befitting what happens when the team took Wednesday completely "off". Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner penned an article about the crop of defensemen who must give Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson some minute-munching relief...
“I had no idea (Brendan) Smith and (Danny) DeKeyser and (Jakub) Kindl could do what they do,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Smith and DeKeyser are in their second year, so are they going to fall off the face of the earth or be like they're capable of being? That's going to determine lots of what happens around here.''
The Wings have such an overflow at forward -- tying up roster space and salary-cap room -- that getting a veteran blue-liner is darn near impossible. Detroit will have to begin the season with their youngsters on the blue line and hope they don’t miss a beat after last season’s encouraging performance. Again, it’s not that the Wings are lacking confidence in Smith, DeKeyser, Kindl or even Brian Lashoff; however, if they suffer an injury -- especially to veterans Nik Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson or even the disappointing Kyle Quincey -- their lack of experienced depth could spell trouble.
Quincey has to play better, and since he’s in the last year of his contract, the time to produce is now. Smith and DeKeyser should only improve the more they play. The risky Smith might have his detractors, but along with the unflappable DeKeyser, the Wings feel that they’re the least of their worries.
Kindl, 26, is the wildcard of the bunch. Written off as a bust by -- let’s be honest -- everybody, Kindl emerged out of nowhere last year to establish himself as a levelheaded and reliable two-way defenseman. Averaging 18:33 of ice time, he had 13 points, 28 penalty minutes and was a plus-15, second-best on the team. In June, the Wings rewarded Kindl with a four-year, $9.6 million contract.
Standing at 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing 213 pounds, the Wings hoped that the Czech native would become a physical force similar to Jiri Fischer, but Kindl 's development was much slower than anticipated.
“I’ve come a long way," Kindl said. “I was drafted when I was 17 in the first round, and here we go. I spent three years in the minors, and when I looked who was ahead of me, there were guys there that I couldn’t crack the lineup. Obviously, I wasn’t going to take (Nick) Lidstrom’s spot or Stewie’s (Brad Stuart) or (Nik) Kronwall’s spot. All of the sudden, the door got opened last year, and our back end became such young guys.”
Or, as Regner suggests, the Wings may have to import some defensive help given that Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Alexei Marchenko aren't quite ready for prime time.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of the "push from below" in a more general sense, discussing the Wings' seemingly deepening pool of prospects while noting that the Grand Rapids Griffins won the Calder Cup and that the prospects won their tournament for the first time ever...
“It makes for hard decisions and makes your team better,” Babcock said.
Beginning his ninth season, Babcock said this is the best group of prospects he’s seen in the organization since his arrival. And it was reflected in the intra-squad scrimmages last week in Traverse City.
“Our third and fourth lines in the Red and White games were way better than since I’ve been here,” Babcock said. “It’s hard to just stand out for players.”
No position has looked as deep this training camp as the defense. Young players such as Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff already hold spots on the roster. But Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, both 20, have shown poise and skill against veterans.
“There are young kids knocking on the door and want to grab someone’s jersey,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “That’s the way you want it to be.”
But it’s just not the defense. Petr Mrazek (Calder Cup) and Jared Coreau should supply the Griffins with solid goaltending. And, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Landon Ferraro, Calle Jarnkrok and Luke Glendening and just some of the forwards who have real NHL potential.
“We’re very happy with our young players, we feel we have some very good kids,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “It’s a process, and we’ve been fortunate in that we haven’t had to rush anyone. We let them develop at their own pace.”
In a topic regarding tumult of a different kind, Fox Sports Detroit's Darren Eliot, writing for Michigan Hockey, discussed the significance of preseason hockey for various participants...
Locally, the [pro try-out] scenario played out in a bizarre manner for the Red Wings and Dan Cleary. First, he was to attend the Wings’ camp under that pretense and then reportedly signed a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. Cleary instead inked a one-year contract with the Wings, saying Philly was just a PTO opportunity. It all worked out for Cleary and the Wings, with a role defined, a coach’s confidence and roots here in Detroit. Meanwhile, Tim Thomas tries to restart his career in Florida after a year hiatus and Hal Gill tries to extend his in Philly. These games have real meaning for both of those players – different obviously than the importance of the games they competed in as part of Stanley Cup teams, but vital to their careers in the moment.
If you missed it, Cleary's changing his number from #71 to #11 when the regular season begisn...
What hasn’t changed is what training camp and the preseason games mean to young players. In some cases, they are trying to secure a roster spot, which often times means proving they are ready and able to unseat a veteran player. That uncomfortable unspoken undercurrent remains a part of September for NHL players as it has throughout history. Contract status plays a part in the equation – as it always has – but at the root of this dynamic is competition from within. Strong organizations thrive on it and manage it – the Wings with Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist come to mind – while struggling teams pluck from the draft and insert kids into the lineup before they are ready. The Edmonton Oilers are an example of that over the past decade.
The other scenario for young players in September involves making a good impression even though making the big club out of camp is out of the question. Again, we’re talking about deep clubs here, like our Red Wings. Take the first preseason game in Pittsburgh. Adam Almquist is a smallish defenseman in an organization that is very deep on the blue line. He played last season in Grand Rapids and will surely begin the season there again – probably without a call-up. But by scoring twice and playing well, he may have moved up the depth chart and put himself in a position to get called up under certain circumstances. Or, in the big picture, a strong preseason showing may turn a previously little known player like Almquist into a tradeable commodity that helps the team down the road and advances his personal career.
Almquist's likely to stick with the Wings and perhaps be the first on the call-up list. Even having gained 10 or 15 pounds, he's still a scrawny 170-175, but he's got a helluva shot and a better pass using an incredibly short stick, and he doesn't take any guff.
Moving from the personnel, to the personal, to finally the practical, every year the league introduces new rules and the preseason games provide a forum for players, referees and fans to get acclimated to the changes. Goalies are dealing with equipment modifications, hybrid icing is being looked at and player safety is at the forefront, with charging, boarding and headshots all potentially carrying heavier penalties. Prospects Teemu Pulkkinen and Mitch Callahan both found out the hard way in the Red Wings’ second exhibition game, as both received five-minute boarding majors and game misconducts. Referees Dan O’Rourke and Justin St. Pierre were inclined to levy the maximum and set the standard heading into the regular season. That it happened to be two kids used as examples, well, that is part of preseason, as well.
It's also stupid...
An extension of player safety is the hybrid-icing rule being tested this preseason. Fans of local college hockey will recognize it and it isn’t all that complicated. The linesman determines who will win the chase for the puck on a potential icing play as the players approach the top of the face-off circle instead of the goal line. If the offensive player is deemed to have the best chance to get to the puck first, icing is waved off. If the defender is deemed to have the advantage, icing is signaled without requiring a touch of the puck below the goal line. The theory is to avoid unnecessary collisions along the end boards when players are moving at top speed. The league will vote near the end of the preseason whether or not to adopt the new rule for the upcoming season.
The goalies, well, they will adjust. A couple of inches off the goal pads in an effort to proportionately right size the fit of the gear won’t make that much difference. If I’m wrong, look for Craig Anderson and Corey Crawford to struggle. They were two of the ‘tenders that maxed out the height of their pads and with great success I might add.
Jonas Gustavsson looks more mobile and poised with 2 inches chopped from his pads and a "break" installed at the bottom of his knee, but that's just my take.
In the prospect department, as Paul noted, the Wings sent Anthony Mantha back to the Val-d'Or Foreurs in the QMJHL, Andreas Athanasiou back to the Barrie Colts of the OHL and Marc McNulty to the Prince George Cougars of the WHL.
They also made official a story already known in Barclay Goodrow being released from his try-out because Goodrow declined an AHL deal and decided to play one more year with the North Bay Battalion before moving on to pro hockey...
But I've been trying to find Rasmus Bodin, who up and vanished after the prospect tournament, and DRW Prospects on Twitter found him:
Rambling Rasmus is playing for Linkopings HC's 20-and-under team (I needed to check EliteProspects.com to find out where he was playing this year), and he didn't register a point in LHC's 3-2 OT loss to Orebo.
As for this gent...
2013 draft pick and sniper David Pope didn't take part in training camp or the prospects tournament because he's heading to Clarkson University next year, and as such, he would've had to pay his own way from Kelowna, BC to Traverse City for two weeks. Instead, Pope remained with the BCHL's West Kelowna Warriors and in addition to his goal in the Warriors' 5-3 win over the Vernon Vipers on Tuesday evening, he's registered 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) over the course of 5 BCHL games thus far.
The Wings prospects' who remain with the team engaged in something completely different on Wednesday evening:
The Tigers lost 8-0 to Seattle. Now you know who to blame
In promotional news...
1. This is real, per the Syracuse Post-Standard's Geoff Herbert:
Central New York's newest professional hockey team has lined up some big names for the first game of its inaugural season.
NHL legend Gordie Howe, '80s rock band Night Ranger and the Hanson brothers from the movie "Slap Shot" are all scheduled to attend the Utica Comets' home opener on Wednesday, Oct. 23. The new AHL team, announced in June, is the minor league affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.
Sponsored by Galaxy Communications, the Bud Light Utica Comets Fan Fest starts at 4 p.m. at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Night Ranger, best known for the 1984 smash "Sister Christian," will kick off the pre-game festivities with a free outdoor concert -- and may play some new songs as the band recently told Billboard about plans for an album in 2014.
David Hanson, Steve Carlson and Jeff Carlson, who played the bespectacled Hanson brothers in the 1977 sports comedy "Slap Shot," will sign autographs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The movie, starring Paul Newman, was partly filmed at the Onondaga County War Memorial and the Aud in Utica.
Howe, a four-time Stanley Cup winner who also attended the Syracuse Crunch's debut in 1994, will be on hand to sign autographs from 4 to 6 p.m. The 85-year-old "Mr. Hockey" will later drop the puck for the start of the game against the Albany Devils at 7:35 p.m.
2. The Grand Rapids Griffins released their 2013-2014 season promotional schedule on Wednesday, and here are the highlights thereof...
The Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday released their promotional schedule for the 2013-14 season, highlighted by a variety of giveaways, popular promotional nights and their inaugural outdoor game at Comerica Park. Throughout the year, fans will have opportunities to collect an array of Calder Cup-themed memorabilia as the team celebrates last season’s championship.
The action kicks off when the Griffins host the Milwaukee Admirals on Opening Night presented by Huntington Bank on Friday, Oct. 18. The Griffins’ 18th season at Van Andel Arena will begin with a banner-raising ceremony to recognize the 2013 Calder Cup champions, and the game will be followed by the season’s first post-game open skate. The home opener, as well as all Friday games this season, will feature $2 beers and $2 hot dogs.
Single-game tickets for all 37 regular season home games at Van Andel Arena will go on sale to the general public this Friday, Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. Advance ticket prices are $14, $16 and $18 in the arena’s upper level, and $18, $22, $26 and $32 in the lower level. (Additional $2 per ticket on day of game.)
Griffins tickets can always be purchased in advance of game night through the following methods (all purchases subject to a convenience charge):
• In person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena. All fans who visit The Zone between 10 a.m.-6 p.m. this Friday can see the Calder Cup!
• In person at Star Tickets outlets;
• Online through http://www.griffinshockey.com/buytickets;
• By phone through Star Tickets at 1-800-585-3737.
On game night, tickets may be purchased without a convenience charge at the Van Andel Arena box office, beginning 90 minutes before game time. Fans who attend multiple games can avoid charges and receive a discount from the single-game price by purchasing a 10- or 20-game partial season package. These plans, along with full-season and group ticket packages, may be ordered through the Griffins’ office at (616) 774-4585 ext. 2.
This season’s premium giveaway schedule provides fans with many opportunities to receive exclusive Griffins memorabilia, including a 2014 team calendar (Nov. 30), Calder Cup championship DVD (Dec. 7), mini championship banner (Dec. 14), Griffins snow globe (Jan. 11), Joakim Andersson bobblehead (Jan. 18), Jeff Hoggan Calder Cup figurine (Feb. 15), Griffins team trading card set (Feb. 22), Petr Mrazek bobblehead (March 29), and Griffins replica championship ring (April 5).
Fans will recognize many key promotional dates including the 13th Annual Matinee Game (Nov. 6), the Teddy Bear Toss (Nov. 29), the inaugural outdoor game at Comerica Park (Dec. 30), the 17th Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration (Dec. 31), Salute to Heroes (Feb. 21), the third annual Purple Community Game (March 7), and Star Wars Night (March 8).
3. Next Saturday, September 28th, will be a busy day. The Red Wings are holding their "BrewHaHa" at the Joe, the Griffins will host the Lake Erie Monsters at Plymouth's Compuware Arena, and they'll reprise roles at Windsor's WFCU Arena on Sunday the 29th...
And the Red Wings will be playing in Toronto to play the Maple Leafs, with the team's last exhibition game airing on Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL Network U.S.
4. A Total Hockey store will be opening in Novi, MI this Saturday, and both the Novi and Troy locations will have giveaways on Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd.
The Red Wings' prospects had to deal with an "embedded" Fox Sports Detroit crew filming an all-access special during the prospect tournament, but the Wings have not, as of yet, anyway, had to deal with the HBO 24/7 crew. Paul noted that both the Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno and the National Post's Michael Triakos report that the Leafs were unfazed by the crew's appearance at their practice on Wednesday given that the Leafs face a media maelstrom all the dang time.
For the Wings, it's definitely going to be different. Yes, the Joe can be nuts when another big-market team comes to town, but it's usually the Free Press, News, MLive, Macomb Daily, Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1 FM, the Windsor Star, Michigan Hockey and the Wings' website representing the "home team," and the players are well-insulated.
I will tell you this much: don't expect to meet the next Ilya Bryzgalov. You'll see and hear people swearing, but I have yet to meet a player (and I've interacted with most of them) who's any different than what they come across as on TV and the radio. They're genuine guys who are more involved with charities than you might expect, but they are who they are.
They'r'e intriguing fellows and are very smart and funny (Datsyuk's brilliant), but they're a genuine lot, too, and sometimes "boring" is beautiful.
And he may be off to a bumpy start stats-wise, but Sportsnet's Mike Johnston suggests that one of the Wings' two "new guys," Stephen Weiss, will have a "breakout" year:
Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings: The former fourth-overall pick in the 2001 NHL Draft had some solid seasons with the Florida Panthers and has been consistent throughout his career. But now, with the chance to play alongside the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen, his game should go to another level.
Weiss won’t be expected to bear the load like he was in the Sunshine State, and that will play to his advantage. He’s very skilled down the middle, and the thought of him playing in between Franzen and Alfie should have Wings fans salivating.
The Panthers squads Weiss played on weren’t playoff-calibre teams – apart from in 2011-12 – but Detroit is a perennial contender. It will be exciting to see if Weiss can flourish on a mature team with a coach like Mike Babcock.
Babcock's sure as hell let Weiss know that the bar's set even higher for #90 than it was for Filppula.
And looking in the rear-view mirror, the Free Press posted a 27-image gallery from the Wings' 2-0 loss to Chicago on Tuesday night.
That's it for me for now. I'm going to try to peek around when I get up at 9, but I'm packing the car at 10, I'm going to have a late breakfast and get a double order of onion rings for my mom at the Lone Pine Restaurant in Grayling, and then it's a 3-and-a-half hour trek from Grayling to South Lyon, and I've got to make a lovely Wal-Mart run at the end. I may or may not be online at all after I scoot, and I'm leaning toward taking Friday off. Again, I hope I've earned the respite!
Update: Lest I forget, from the Detroit Free Press's James Jahnke...
The Memphis Grizzlies have been crowned the Best Sports Franchise in North America, as determined by ESPN the Magazine’s 11th annual Ultimate Standings survey.
As for Detroit teams, the Red Wings lead the way at No. 13 overall, and the Tigers are No. 22. At the other end of the spectrum, the Pistons are No. 84 and the Lions No. 111 (out of 122 teams). The Sacramento Kings are last.
Last year, the Wings were No. 30, the Tigers No. 52, the Lions No. 56 and the Pistons No. 80.
This year’s results are featured in ESPN’s “Franchise Issue,” which hits newsstands Friday.
LeBrun: No. 64 Johan Franzen, Red Wings -- I don't know what it is, but I always feel like Franzen leaves me wanting more. I just feel like he's always had the talent to be a 40-goal scorer in this league given his 6-foot-3, 223-pound frame, his soft hands and wicked shot. He scored 28 goals in 2010-11, 29 goals in 2011-12 and 14 goals in 41 games last season in the lockout-shortened year. Those numbers are good, but I feel like his talent should produce more.
Update: I believe we'll call this a difference of opinion: As far as I'm concerned, Cory Emmerton's $533K cap hit and status as a center yield a relatively easy-to-move player on a team that has to toss at least two bodies off of its roster and three when Darren Helm returns to meet the NHL's 23-man roster limit.
Helm's $2.125 million cap hit + the Wings being $2.387 million over the cap per Capgeek = the team doesn't have to move a ton of salary to get under the cap...yet...But seventeen forwards minus Helm = sixteen bodies, and in my opinion, that means that Emmerton, Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo are g-o-n-e.
With so many teams "capped out," as far as I'm concerned, anyway, moving Emmerton is an easier proposition than finding new homes for Patrick Eaves' $1.25 million cap hit or Jordin Tootoo's $1.9 million cap hit given that we haven't really witnessed a ton of injuries over the preseason's first three days (that will change).
The Free Press's Helene St. James believes that Helm's cap hit and status as a center who can kill penalties means that the Wings will find a way to keep Emmerton around, at least until Helm returns:
Emmerton, 25, emerged as a serviceable fourth-line pivot last season, when he ended up playing all 48 games as Darren Helm was unable to return from a sore back. Playing around 10 minutes per game, Emmerton got to work on his face-offs and helped out killing penalties.
“The biggest thing was definitely getting on the penalty kill,” Emmerton said. “You know when you’re on a special teams, you’re in the game more. Nowadays penalties are such an important part that if you’re not playing on the power play or penalty kill, you’ll be sitting for a long time, and it’s hard to play like that. So last year was good, just to be out there in important situations, and it helped me a lot.”
Helm’s status still hangs in the air — he has been sidelined since camp began because of a groin injury — so once again, Emmerton is in demand.
“I’ve got an opportunity to show that I’ve grown some more from last season to now,” Emmerton said. “It’s going to be how I play, still. There’s still lots of forwards and they’ll take the best forwards when it comes down to it, so you just have to play well in the preseason.”
Coach Mike Babcock lauded Emmerton for becoming a better player, especially defensively and as a penalty killer, saying, “that’s why we have so much depth — because a guy like this is getting better and better.”
Drew Miller can take faceoffs. Gustav Nyquist can take faceoffs. Johan Franzen may find himself moved back to center on a different line given that he was more engaged at that position during the playoffs. Hell, Daniel Frickin' Roster Mess Creatin' Cleary can take faceoffs. I just don't believe that Emmerton's status as a "natural center" makes him utterly and irrevocably essential to the team's cause.
Update #2: The Sudbury Star's Bruce Hedman spoke to Guelph Storm winger Tyler Bertuzzi about his prospect tournament and training camp experiences...
"It was pretty exciting," Bertuzzi said of his NHL experience. "It was a good week and a half. I played in the rookie tournament against Buffalo and a bunch of teams and it was a good experience. There was a really good compete level and it was a big eye-opener for the size, speed and skill at that level."
Bertuzzi never felt out of place, however.
"It was good and I felt pretty good," he said. "The first few games I was nervous and then I got more comfortable and I started playing with the puck more and gained more confidence."
Bertuzzi stuck with the hard-nosed, in-your-face style that got him noticed by the Red Wings in the first place.
"I just have to play my game," he said. "I went there playing my game and got more confident as it went on. I felt bigger, faster and stronger after a good summer of preparation. There is a lot of skilled guys at the NHL camp, but I wasn't going there to be defensive, just chip it in and play my rugged, tough game. I had to play the same way I do in Guelph because that has always been my game. I have to work on my stickhandling and get faster and just have confidence and poise with the puck and make plays and bear down and score some goals this year with Guelph."
He got some good feedback from the Red Wings brass and took it to heart.
"They said go back to junior and play your game, we enjoyed having you and you had a pretty good camp. And they will be watching me the whole way and, again, just keep playing my game. Everyone needs to work on things, and for me that more skill-wise with the puck and stuff."
And, via RedWingsFeed, the QMJHL's website's Ghislain Chauvette penned a French-language article about Wings prospect Phillipe Hudon, who's going to play for the Victoriaville Tigres this upcoming sesaon, and I agree with Hudon's assessment that he's probably AHL-ready, but the Griffins are too stacked and the Wings have too many contracts to add another grinder to the mix at present.
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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.