The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/08/13 at 01:47 AM ET
The Red Wings' summer development camp begins on Wednesday and Traverse City, and while Darren Helm may be its most high-profile attendee (the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau confirmed that Danny DeKeyser is not scheduled to take part in the six-day camp).
I know that may Wings fans tend to want to see the team's latest draft picks skate in red and white for the first time, but Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill told the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple that a) geting antsy a month removed from winning the Calder Cup and b) the players who will be at his disposal this fall in Grand Rapids are the ones who pique his interest:
“I’ve had enough time off,” Blashill said Sunday. “I’ve had time to sneak away for a couple nights with my wife on a little vacation. I’ve had enough times to play with the kids and work around the house. I’m excited about the camp for sure.”
Coaches. Babcock was waterskiing when the Free Press's Helene St. James called him on Sunday, and Blashill's getting antsy to be back on the ice--and he'll be coaching a roster of players that's evenly split between try-outs and non-Griffins (with one exception in Luke Glendening), including the vast majority of the Griffins' 2013-2014 season's blueline:
Several defensemen who are expected to be in Grand Rapids next season will be participating in the prospect camp, including Ryan Sproul, Nick Jensen, Xavier Ouellet, Ben Marshall, Alexei Marchenko and Richard Nedomlel. Sproul scored 20 goals and 46 assists for 66 points in 50 games last season for Sault Ste. Marie and was named the Ontario Hockey League’s defenseman of the year.
“Some of the guys were with us at the end of our season and skated with us…so I got a little bit of feel for them as players and people,” Blashill said. “Jensen was in town for the longest period of time, but we didn’t have lots of practices as we were moving along. All of them probably got in five to 10 practices, and all of them showed me they have ability to be good players.”
And then there's the next, well, Jurco?
Among the other players Blashill said he looks forward to seeing in Traverse City is forward Martin Frk, the 49th overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft who scored 35 goals and 49 assists for 84 points in 56 games for Halifax (QMJHL) this past season.
“I haven’t had a chance to be on the ice with Martin Frk,” Blashill said. “I think there’s a good amount of expectations on him and I’ll be excited to see him skate. I watched him, just briefly in the Memorial Cup when we were in Toronto.”
Frk suffered a groin injury during the first or second day of last summer's camp, and he was a particularly grumpy off-ice participant for the remainder thereof, so I'm guessing that he'll want to show what he can do as well.
And as for Glendening, who's essentially beaten out Daniel Cleary for the 50th and last spot on the Red Wings' NHL-limited roster, there's no doubt that he's a grinder, but he's a grinder who embraces his role:
“The thing about Luke is he has an extraordinary work ethic and an extraordinary capacity to learn and get better,” Blashill said. “Those two things, for me, mean he’s going to continue to improve as a hockey player. It’s not big things, but just little things. He’ll continue to find ways to be successful.”
That sounds a little bit like Darren Helm's recipe for success.
Regarding the development camp's schedule, from the Left Wing Lock...
8:30 am – 11:00 am Team Lidstrom physicals
9:30 am – 11:00 am Team Yzerman physicals
12:00 pm – 12:50 pm Team Lidstrom practice (Admission Free)
1:00 pm – 1:50 pm Team Yzerman practice
8:00 am – 9:50 am Team Lidstrom Practice (Admission $5)
8:00 am – 9:45 am Team Yzerman off-ice workouts
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm Team Lidstrom off-ice workouts
2:00 pm – 3:50 pm Team Yzerman practice
5:00 pm intra-squad scrimmage (Admission $5)
8:30 am Training Camp Ticket Sale (no on-ice activities)
8:00 am – 9:45 am Team Lidstrom off-ice workout (Admission $5)
8:00 am – 9:50 am Team Yzerman practice
2:00 pm – 3:50 Team Lidstrom practice
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm Team Yzerman off-ice workout
8:30 am – 10:15 am Team Lidstrom practice (Admission $5)
8:30 am – 9:45 am Team Yzerman off-ice workout
10:30 am – 12:15 pm Team Yzerman practice
10:45 am – 12:00 pm Team Lidstrom off-ice practice
This is a little slimmed-down from last year's festivities, probably in no small part due to the on-the-fly scheduling and roster-making due to the Griffins' Calder Cup run. Both the first day and last day are slimmed down--in previous years, those were full-day affairs as opposed to half-days, at least in terms of the on-ice activities.
As far as I know, the physicals were generally performed on the players' first day in Traverse City (they arrive on Tuesday), and the practices tend to run a little longer, but Curt Fraser usually added another half hour to practices, and Jim Paek's pace was quicker last summer. I'm guessing that Blashill's going to offer a more Babcockian effort, emphasizing a little less time on ice at a higher pace, but we'll have to see how things roll as he's introducing 8 Griffins-to-be to a system of play that they may not be familiar with.
In any case, I hope that if you are in Northern Michigan between the 10th and 15th, you spend a little time at Centre Ice Arena, because there really is nothing like getting an in-person glimpse at the Wings' "next wave" of prospects.
As something of a reminder, don't forget that on Tuesday, around the time I get on the road, the Hockey Hall of Fame is going to announce its 2013 Induction Class, and Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios are all but assured to occupy two of the up-to-4 available "roster" spots.
Regarding the rest of the week and the rest of the Wings' roster, as well as the unrestricted free agents who have yet to find a home...
It is highly likely that, as MLive's Brendan Savage reported, the Wings will name the replacements for departing director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell and Eastern U.S./Canada scout Mark Leach during the development camp
In terms of the roster crunch, however--and Savage, St. James, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness have all addressed the Wings' need to shed bodies and carve out some cap space (though the Wings can exceed the summer cap by up to $6.43 million, with that figure not needing to drop until the last day of the exhibition season, and that money's probably budgeted to re-signing restricted free agents Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith; the team can also exceed the cap by 7.5% to pay Daniel Alfredsson his $2 million in attainable bonuses during the regular season)--I'm not willing to make any sorts of forecasts.
I know that Ken Holland would prefer to move some bodies sooner than later, and as Pleiness noted, the Wings can alleviate some of their cap issues by either sending Mikael Samuelsson to the AHL, which would yield a $2 million instead of $3 million cap hit for Samuelsson, or they can plain old buy him out when he's deemed healthy to play, with the team charged $1 million for this season and $1 million next season...
But the team's got to wait for Samuelsson to get healthy, and it sounds like the team's not likely to move any of Jordin Tootoo, Cory Emmerton or Patrick Eaves until the team knows that Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi are either good to go or aren't ready to play, and that won't happen until training camp.
Uncertain health tends to lend one to believe that the Wings are more likely to retain players going into training camp in case Helm and Bertuzzi can't play.
Again, Holland wants to continue to move bodies off the roster to both possibly re-sign Cleary, and to perhaps sign some of the try-outs taking part in the summer development camp to contracts (though the Wings can do the same they did with Glendening and Brennan Evans in signing them to AHL-only deals), if not some of the Grand Rapids Griffins' returning veterans (see: Nathan Paetsch and Triston Grant as likely candidates to be signed to two-way deals to serve as #8/9 defensemen) to two-way contracts, but at this point...
It appears that GM's either spent this past weekend celebrating the holiday weekend in the U.S., they headed up to their cottages in Canada, or they were more likely reassessing the state of the marketplace, and after the Friday splash...Signings come and go in fits and starts.
There's a decent enough crop of players out there, but many of the teams not hampered by the cap or budgets have made their moves, and others will spend the rest of the month taking care of their restricted free agents and/or dealing with salary arbitration hearings (and I believe all of the Wings' RFA's can file for arbitration, though doing so coming off one's first NHL contract isn't a particularly bright idea as the Wings try to avoid those hearings at all costs).
I don't know where Damien Brunner's going, or whether the Detroit News's Kulfan's suggestion that Brunner will land a $4 million payday is accurate. I have no clue whether Daniel Cleary's willing to sit for another month until the game of musical chairs plays out and a few players find themselves without employment, and then a few depth players move to and fro.
Long story short, the line, "It could happen at any minute" regarding Brunner's fate could be accurate, but, "We're probably in for a long wait regarding both Wings roster moves and finding out what the hell's going to happen with Samuelsson and Cleary" is a more reliable guesstimate.
While I'm doing timeline talk, the NHL will release its 2013-2014 regular season schedule on July 17th, and it is highly probable that we will learn the new division and conference names at that time, as well as the playoff format for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final.
The Sunday sports shows in Metro Detroit included some discussions of the Red Wings' free agent signings, and you can watch Pat Caputo and Sean Baligian talk about Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss's signings on Fox 2's Sportsworks if you wish (the link goes to an auto-play video, thus no embed).
In the statistical vein, somewhat coincidentally(?), TSN's Scott Cullen assessed the possible impact of Stephen Weiss's addition to the Wings' roster...
Weiss, 30, is a reliable two-way centre who is coming off a disastrous season in which he was minus-13 in 17 games, scoring only four points, but his season was shortened by wrist surgery. Considering Weiss' production in previous seasons -- between 49 and 61 points in each of the previous four seasons -- there is a temptation to write off 2013 as an anomalous lost season due to injury.
In Detroit, Weiss fits into the second-line centre spot, a role that seems more natural to his skill set. While he had some productive seasons (back-to-back seasons with at least 60 points in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010) as the number one centre in Florida, Weiss shouldn't be expected to be a top scorer on a playoff team.
Initial indications are that the Red Wings will be putting Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on the Wings' number one line, perhaps with newly-signed Daniel Alfredsson, which would still leave some quality wing options for Weiss, including Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist or Todd Bertuzzi.
Even if he has strong linemates, it's going to be difficult for Weiss to produce like he did in his peak with Florida because there aren't a lot of second-line centres getting 20 minutes of ice time per game. A reasonable expectation might be somewhere around 45 points, lower than his best years in Florida, but Weiss is in his 30s, coming off injury and likely to play fewer minutes.
Florida could have really used Weiss, because they don't have much proven talent down the middle. 2013 first-round pick Aleksander Barkov, Shawn Matthias and Marcel Goc are at the top of the Panthers' centre depth chart, so Weiss' departure will mean more quality ice time available to them. At least Weiss' absence from the lineup last season helped the Panthers make some adjustments at the position, so this change isn't going to be abrupt.
Signed for five years and $24.5-million, Weiss will be well-compensated and it's possible that, by the end of it, he may not be providing ideal value, but so long as there aren't lingering effects from last year's wrist injury, Weiss should be a fine addition for the Red Wings. He's a year older than Valtteri Filppula, whom he effectively replaces in the Red Wings' lineup, but Weiss should be more consistently productive.
And I had to smirk because Cullen then proceeded to publish another "Numbers Game" article discussing what Valtteri Filppula might bring to the Bolts:
Filppula, 29, is coming off a season in which he scored 17 points in 41 games, his lowest per-game (0.41 ppg) point production since his rookie season of 2006-2007, yet he put up his best possession numbers, so there was a certain amount of bad luck involved in that scoring dive.
One of the challenges that Filppula will face in Tampa Bay is that he spent most of the past couple seasons in Detroit playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg, one of the game's premier puck possession players and, no matter how skilled his linemates in Tampa Bay, they probably won't be as complete as Zetterberg.
Signed for five years and $25-million, Filppula is going to be expected to replace Vincent Lecavalier's production in the Tampa Bay lineup.
Filppula could be a productive secondary scorer; he notched a career-high 66 points in 2011-2012, but that's the only time in his career that he's scored more than 40 points in a season. How many times, in seasons when he will be aged 29 through 33, should he be expected to surpass that threshold over the course of his five-year deal? Based on Filppula's track record, getting more than 40 points three times would qualify as a success.
Had the Lightning not signed Filppula, they could have had AHL MVP Tyler Johnson penciled in as the second line centre for next season. The 5-foot-9, 22-year-old had 65 points in 62 regular season games, adding 21 points in 18 playoff games, in addition to six points in 14 games with the Lightning, but now his path to playing time in Tampa Bay appears more complicated.
The Red Wings replaced Filppula with Stephen Weiss and, given the similarity in their contracts (five year, $24.5-million for Weiss), it sure looks like the Red Wings chose what they perceived as an upgrade for that second-line centre position.
Certainly, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is very familiar with Filppula from his time in Detroit and Tampa Bay has enough skilled forwards to give Filppula a chance to produce, but he wasn't consistently productive while playing for the Red Wings, so it's not easy to forecast better things for him with the Lightning.
It will be interesting to see which player has greater success with their second NHL employers' teams, but Wings fans know from experience that Filppula's statistical shortcomings weren't the sole reason the Wings chose to swap him out for someone who may or may not have less offensive "upside" in Weiss.
Filppula was, to some extent, a tale of two players--when he played as a center, he registered 35 or so points a season, but seemed preoccupied with his defensive responsibilities, and when he played on the wing, save the 2011-2012 season, anyway, he'd flourish initially and then fade away--and the Wings are hoping for a more consistent effort from Weiss. They didn't save all of half a million bucks over the course of Weiss's contract versus Filppula's for spite's sake.
In a different kind of numbers game, I'm rather annoyed at the Sporting News's Jesse Spector for suggesting that Gustav Nyquist would be an excellent target for a restricted free agent offer sheet (as part of a list of five potential restricted free agent targets):
Nyquist, 23, has not gotten much of a chance to impress in Detroit, where he just finished a two-year, entry-level deal with a season in which he played 22 games and averaged 13:02 of ice time. He had three goals and three assists before adding two goals and three assists in the playoffs.
It would be a gamble on Nyquist's potential, but it could also be a low-risk move, because the Red Wings might not have the cap space to pay Nyquist even as much as $2 million a year, not with Joakim Andersson and Brendan Smith left to re-sign.
An offer sheet of between $1,682,194 and $3,364,391 per year requires the signing team to give up only a second-round choice if the offer is not matched, and Nyquist showed loads of promise in the AHL the past two seasons. He had 45 goals in 114 games while shuttling between Grand Rapids and Detroit.
The low cost and potential of high reward should be enticing to teams in need of young, speedy, scoring forwards — which is just about every team in the league.
1. The Wings have the cap space to match anything he could be offered at present--they will move bodies and salary accordingly;
2. He's probably going to get a million-and-a-half bucks anyway given the money the team spent to retain Kindl ($2.4 million per season);
3. See the ready availability of at least a dozen established players who could be had for the price of their contracts who produced more offensively last season, and could be had without pissing off both Holland and the league by testing the new RFA system;
4. See also the restricted free agents the vast majority of the teams with tons of cap space left have to sign, including the first player on his list in New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan, or perhaps St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart or defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
I think that Nyquist is just under the radar enough to not be a candidate for an RFA offer sheet, and I think that if the Wings do make roster moves in short order, they'll spend more time avoiding the first salary arbitration hearing since Jiri Hudler's and the second since Ray Sheppard's instead of trying to squeeze Daniel Cleary immediately onto that 50-man roster.
You've got to take care of what you have before you take care of what you don't at this stage of the "game."
And yes, once again, we are heading back to Ottawa for even more Alfredsson fallout. I promise that we won't do this for much longer, but I've got to mention pertinent stories even if they're uncomfortable to read.
Emphasis on pertinent as opposed to gratuitous, however. Again, I'm not here to rub things in regarding a fan base that really did witness the equivalent of a Cup-less Nicklas Lidstrom saying, "Seeya, off to Chicago," but if there are opportunities to understand what Senators fans are going through, and to remind ourselves to be grateful that the Marian Hossas of the world tend not to play in Detroit, I'm gonna direct the discussion in that direction.
I guess the "long story short" way of putting it is simple: Alfredsson's going to be booed and bad things are going to be written about his controversial decision, and as Wings fans, we kind of have to deal with that. There's no point in getting into a snit fight with an understandably upset Senators fan about whether the Wings are a "better" or "worse" team, or whether Alfredsson had the "right" to walk away. Those are the kinds of conversations worth walking away from, even if you're prone to boredom and/or instigating in the middle of the summer.
In theory, anyway, we're supposed to be better than that (though, in practice, of course, it's never the case), and I'd rather "understand" why Senators fans are saying what they're doing instead of dismissing their issues while sticking my thumb on my nose and wiggling my fingers in their direction, "Neener neenering" them because Alfredsson's a Wing.
The Ottawa Citizen's Kelly Egan wrote an article worth reading because her tone is heartfelt, and because she offers the most direct comparison
The story also speaks to the relationship between pro athletes and fans. We think we know them. We don’t. Not only that, we misread them completely. We thought we had a plan for Alfie to ride into the sunset on a Senators steed, have his number retired, take a corner office upstairs, be an all-around ambassador, continue his admirable community work, and serve as a reminder that loyalty is a precious commodity in the money-grubbing world of professional sport. He would be our Steve Yzerman.
Trouble is, that was our plan. It wasn’t his.
This breaking of the bonds of loyalty is probably the most troubling part of the story. We didn’t just admire him because he was a great player. We cherished him because he never went away. The C was tattooed on his chest, was it not?
The shame of the unexpected departure is that some will question his commitment to the city and whether his community work was merely a required gesture by one more overpaid, babied athlete. Of his sincerity, however, there can’t be much doubt. Only a person of good heart and noble intentions could take on an issue as difficult, as un-sexy, as mental health and really stick with it.
The Royal Ottawa, in particular, will be indebted to Alfredsson for a very long time.
It was interesting that Alfie himself used the word “selfish” to describe his motivation to leave town for Detroit. We forget, perhaps, that the greatest athletes, even in team sports, have to be. Michael Jordan was not passing the ball in the last 10 seconds of a big game. Gretzky doesn’t score 92 goals in a season by being a selfless teammate, just happy to be another Oiler. Credit Alfredsson for being honest: this time, it is all about him.
Conceit probably plays a bigger role than we think. He made it clear in his remarks that he isn’t prepared to just play out the string with the Sens next year, be a good mentor, enjoy his farewell tour, be satisfied with a first or second-round playoff exit and be gracious after a collective ass-kicking at the hands of the Penguins and Bruins of the world.
And she continues, wondering if there was more going on (clearly, that's the case)...
But the "no rubbernecking" and "no posting gratuitous stuff" clause comes into effect regarding the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan's article entitled, and I quote, "Quit worshiping at the altar of hockey heroes and spare yourself the heartbreak," because it reads like something Drew Sharp--or worse, Mitch Albom--would tell us to do.
If you'll excuse my swearing, I don't give a *#$%@& about the concept that real-life heroes are more worth our investment of time, energy and effort. We all know that, but hockey fans buy jerseys with players' numbers and names on the back for a reason, and if cheering for our sports heroes makes us feel better, there's nothing "wrong" with it. The last thing I'd ever want for a sportswriter to do is to tell me that my "anger" at an athlete's departure, as admittedly small in the grander scheme of things it may be, isn't valid, and I think it's a dick move for Scanlan to do so.
Speaking of "dick moves," I will mention the tail end of the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan's "spirit of the thing" column in which he suggests that the Senators must sign Jaromir Jagr (yes, he uses the word "must") to complete their "Alfredsson-and-the-guys-they-traded-for-Bobby Ryan + the signing of Clarke MacArthur + adding Jagr = take that, Alfredsson, the Sens are better!" equation.
Oh, you're gonna like Brennan. You're gonna like him a lot. The following kinds of digs will be normal post-Wings-Senators-game fodder for him, so they serve as a warning regarding what's to come in the Brennan rhetoric department:
Is it possible Alfredsson always wanted to finish his career in Detroit -- and alongside Henrik Zetterberg -- and that the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference was enough to bring him over? Can't believe he would have made the jump if they were still in the travel unfriendly West ... Alfredsson is now going to have to take back the puck he grabbed for his "kids" from his last game as a Senator. Never really did buy that one, did you?
And, of course, it gets better:
Twitter shows us Erik Karlsson and Ryan are already talking about the "tap-in" goals they'll hook up for as Senators. Karlsson has been communicating with the newest Ottawa star while vacationing in Rome with his wife.
Take Bob Wojnowski's emotion, add Art Regner's unabashed passion for the Wings, Pat Caputo's sometimes acerbic writing style and put them inside a person with the disposition of the love child of Evil Drew Sharp and Rob Parker (and maybe Dater on a bad day). And that's a Brennan.
So be prepared. It's going to be interesting. On the Brennan front, at least, I'm willing to jab and mock, because Alfredsson and the Wings will get more than their share of nastiness, and just as it ain't easy to keep a stiff upper lip when talking to a Senators fan about the departure of their captain being a good thing for us Wings fans, it's not going to be easy to stomach some of the stuff we're gonna read from the shift-disturbers of the Eastern Conference's teams' press corps.
And finally, regarding my own accountability, I will be out of the office for significant chunks of Monday due to errands, and I've got to pack this evening and prepare for the 215-mile trip on Tuesday. Tuesday I will obviously be out of the office for a big chunk of time, and after that...
Well, you've all paid my way up to Traverse City, and I'm incredibly, incredibly grateful for that, so I'm going to do my best to both deliver a solid product and listen to your requests in terms of focusing on players or pursuing interviews, as usual, but I would like to at least make a dent in this whole concept of being a little kinder and gentler to myself this upcoming week. I have no problem living out of the hotel and rink instead of taking in the sights, but I do hope to get a little more sleep and feel a little less zombie-burnt-out when I come home. I want to try to enjoy things a little more--you're just going to have to trust me when I say that while I'm remarkably relaxed at the rink and during interviews given my anxiety disorder, the worry worry worry factor is always there, and it makes even the best parts of my job very difficult to enjoy on a semi-regular basis (thankfully, the work in itself is therapeutic)--and I hope that's okay with you.
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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.