The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/14/14 at 03:19 AM ET
The Red Wings' prospects and scouts are most definitely busy bees at present. Anthony Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs won't have much time to celebrate their QMJHL championship as they'll haul tail to London, Ontario to open the Memorial Cup with a game against the London Knights on Thursday (Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm will play the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday);
The Grand Rapids Griffins hope to build upon last night's win over Texas as they host a back-to-back affair tonight at Van Andel Arena;
Over on the other side of the Atlantic, at the World Championships, Jakub Kindl's Czechs play Italy at 9:45 AM EDT, and Tomas Tatar's Slovaks hope to bounce back from Monday's 5-3 loss to France (and Tuesday's tumble) when they battle Norway at 1:45 PM EDT...
And if you find yourself lamenting the lack of NHL hockey on Thursday, Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser's Americans battle Latvia at 9:45 AM on NBCSN, and Gustav Nyquist's Swedes tangle with France at 1:45 PM)
Norway gave Gustav Nyquist's Swedes quite the run on Wednesday, and Nyquist described his game-winning 2-1 goal to IIHF.com's Peter Westermark:
Seven minutes into the third, Tre Kronor fans could begin to exhale. Linus Klasen banged in a rebound to give Sweden the 2-1 lead after Gustav Nyquist carried the puck to the Norwegian net.
"I got a cross-ice pass out wide from Tim Erixon," Nyquist explained. "It was a one-on-one battle, kind of, and I just tried to break through to the net. I went around and tried to put it back door for Klasen. He was able to put it in so that was nice."
Nyquist spoke to the Canadian Press as well:
Sondre Olden put Norway 1-0 ahead on a breakaway in the second half before Joakim Lindstrom tied it for Sweden on a power play.
"It was a tough game," said Nyquist, a Detroit Red Wings forward. "They were tight on us, they had a lot of guys back and we had to go through five guys the whole time. We didn't create enough chances that's something we got to work on."
As the Free Press's Helene St. James notes, the World Championships go on for quite a while--the preliminary round doesn't end until Tuesday, May 20th, and the Gold Medal game takes place on May 25th:
Nyquist set up the game-winning goal by Linus Klasen's Tuesday that improved Sweden to 3-0 with a preliminary round 2-1 victory against Scandinavia neighbor Norway, which scored first. It was Nyquist's second point, and first assist, of the tournament. He joined Sweden for the tournament in Minsk, Belarus, after a disappointing playoff series with the Wings that saw Nyquist go scoreless through the five-game first-round series against the Boston Bruins.
Sweden started the tournament with victories against Denmark and the Czech Republic. Sweden won its ninth World Championship title last year, captained by Staffan Kronwall, brother of Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
Other Wings at the Minsk tournament include Justin Abdelkader, captain of the U.S. team, and compatriot Danny DeKeyser. Slovakia's Tomas Tatar, who gained fame Tuesday for falling off a bench while taking an on-ice team picture, but he was not hurt.
Preliminary round play runs through next Tuesday for the 16-team event, followed by quarterfinals.
In fact, here's a handy-dandy highlighted schedule (please note that 16:45 Minsk time = 9:45 AM EDT, and 20:45 Minsk time = 1:45 PM EDT, with all U.S. games slated to be aired on NBCSN)--and I am far from an artist...
In light of Mantha and Bertuzzi's respective junior hockey championships and the Grand Rapids Griffins' progress, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan compiled a list of the Wings' top 15 prospects via-photo-gallery, and his remarks include the following:
Xavier Ouellet, defenseman, 6-1, 190. Drafted: 2011, second round. 2013-14: Grand Rapids (AHL), 70 games, 4 goals, 13 assists, 17 points. Of all the Wings' many defensemen prospects, Ouellet could be the closest to NHL-ready. He doesn't make many mistakes on either end of the ice, is physical and was a captain in junior hockey. Not flashy, a player coaches love because of his steady, smart play.
Andreas Athanasiou, left wing, 6-2, 200. Drafted: 2012, third round. 2013-14: Barrie (OHL), 66 games, 49 goals, 46 assists, 95 points. Somehow slid on draft day, and the Red Wings may have scooped up a productive offensive player. Displayed a much more confident offensive game this season, with excellent hands. Now, can Athanasiou do this in Grand Rapids next season?
Athanasiou probably projects to be more "the next Darren Helm" than he does an elite scorer, but still
You'll have to excuse me for responding to the following with ???
Adam Almquist, defenseman, 5-11, 178. Drafted: 2009, seventh round. 2013-14: Grand Rapids (AHL), 73 games, 4 goals, 49 assists, 53 points. Made his NHL debut with the Red Wings this season, and scored his first NHL goal. The lack of a size is a concern. Almquist could head back to Europe after seemingly being passed on the organizational depth chart by other young defensemen.
And I suppose this gentleman is a prospect:
Jeff Blashill, head coach: Blashill, 40, guided the Griffins to a Calder Cup championship last season and into the playoffs this spring despite numerous call-ups by the Red Wings. Under contract to the organization for one more year Blashill, whose strengths include preparation and attention to detail, is expected to be an NHL coach in the not-too-distant future
Regarding the Wings' coaching situation, Fox Sports Carolinas John Manasso believes that Wings associate coach Tom Renney's a top candidate to become the Carolina Hurricanes' next coach (I don't expect Renney to stick around given his body of work)...
Tom Renney: Renney is well-respected as both a tactician and for his ability to communicate with players. As a result, he is viewed as more of a players' coach.
Like Ron Wilson, Renney has also not experienced the NHL playoffs since 2008, when he guided the Rangers to their third straight postseason berth ... after that franchise had missed the playoffs party for seven consecutive seasons.
In his final two seasons, Renney helped the Rangers advance to the second round; and when he was fired in 2008-09, New York had a 31-23-0 record.
He has spent the past two seasons as associate coach with the Detroit Red Wings under Mike Babcock, perhaps the game's premier coach.
I really do expect Renney to snag an NHL coaching job, and now that he's been made available to other NHL teams (as the Free Press's Helene St. James rather stunningly revealed last Friday), Bill Peters to explore his NHL coaching aspirations, so my "most interesting Red Wings move(s) of the summer not including adding a defenseman" involve finding out who's going to flank Mike Babcock's shoulders next season.
Blashill sounds like he was separated from Babcock at birth--and Jim Paek's certainly ready to take over if Blashill wants to return to the NHL--but even if Blashill does return to the Wings' bench, Babcock's going to need to add a player-friendly voice, and someone who's gifted at special teams play at that, so the "coaching search" will prove far more interesting than I'd ever imagined.
And finally, Pavel Datsyuk posted a picture of himself working out with a gentleman named Brock Mealer. Why is this important? An article from last July's Toledo News Now, penned by Nick Bade, explains the situation:
It has been six and a half years since Brock Mealer was told he would never walk again. The Wauseon native was seriously injured in the Christmas Eve 2007 car accident that killed his father and brother's girlfriend.
Mealer has already beaten that prediction, leading the Michigan Wolverines out of the tunnel at the Big House on September 4, 2010.
"I've made tremendous progress," said Mealer, who has worked with strength trainer Mike Barwis. "Getting rid of my ankle braces…that's been going really well for me, as far as walking, because since I don't have to have braces on, I'm walking more naturally, walking farther, standing up straighter, all those things that are important to me."
Mealer used canes to aid him when he walked out onto the field at Michigan Stadium. After proving the doctors wrong, he set another goal: to walk without canes. But it's where he wanted to do it that will bring a tear to your eye.
"Being able to walk at my wedding was an awesome thing, but having someone that I was marrying understand that goal for me, and when I was going to try to do it, was pretty big for me," he said. "It just made it that much more special. To make the wedding about her, even though I had this goal in the background, was pretty awesome. To have her share that moment with me and make this special day that much more special."
Mealer continues to inspire. He speaks regularly about the obstacles he has overcome, but he isn't ready to stop spreading his positive message.
"Even after I led the team out, I wanted to set the bar higher and think, ‘What can I do next?' The wedding was something I couldn't have expected to accomplish, being able to walk without canes. I certainly have a bunch of different goals when it comes to walking, that's inspiring to me."
That's pretty damn cool.
Update: This story comes from RedWingsFeed, it's roughly translated from Swedish, and it requires an explanation:
At the Olympics and the World Championships, the locker rooms are closed to the media, but the players don't take part in press conferences. Instead, the players have to walk through something called "the mixed zone" on their way to and from locker rooms.
It's basically like a red carpet situation. The players have to first either speak with or dodge TV broadcasters, and then they have to deal with the print media, and THEN they can get to the locker room and peel off their gear.
Regrettably, and sometimes inevitably, a media member will break decorum and ask for an autograph, or worse, they'll play the, "I have a kid, let me shove him at you and then you try and decline something I'm gonna sell on eBay, buddy" situation to its hilt.
As you can probably tell, I'm not a fan of the practice in general. I've found that players are far more willing to speak when they've been given the opportunity to peel off their jerseys and get a drink of water or Gatorade, and I may be an unabashed Red Wings fan, but when you interact with players, you learn that both the locker room and wherever they're walking to and from, before, during and after the game are basically sacred space.
When you're credentialed, you're afforded the privilege of interacting with the players, but their workplaces extend beyond the locker room, and just as asking for a picture or an autograph in the hallway at your office might aggravate you, it annoys the players.
Thankfully, they're pretty charitable when weird things happen--and let's just say that weird things happen pretty regularly at the World Championships, where the lines between "professional journalist" and "person who's a partisan fan" are much more blurry.
Expressen's Magnus Nystrom shared the following tale from Tuesday's Sweden-Norway game:
Nyquist can be considerably better, but he was still the game's best player. And that he's no ordinary Joe was also noticed in the Mixed Zone afterwards.
A slightly nervous Belorussian reporter read out all their neatly-written-down questions. A French colleague took a fan picture and got an autograph.
But Nyquist was super professional and made everyone happy.
Then came a fan from the stands, who managed to sneak down amongst the journalists and players, and the fan thundered forward and lined up to pose for a picture with the Swedish star from the Detroit Red Wings.
A guard saw what was happening and exploded in anger: "NYET, NYET," he shouted.
The fan tried to get the guard on their side. "NYET, NYET," shouted the guard.
It was most interesting to see how artfully Nyquist stood there and waited for a little while. He didn't mind being in the picture. He can conduct himself--a 24-year-old from the Limhamsvagen Limeburners, who became a really big star in the top league.
He can play on the ice as well, although we haven't seen his best hockey yet.
But he was awfully quick. We saw glimpses of it during the Olympics. The best he's shown in the NHL. But only pieces. Here, too.
But I think we'll see it. Maybe it requires a line change--I'm not so sure that Nyquist and Linus Klassen are a great combination. Klassen has his moments, but he slows the momentum a little too much and hangs onto the puck a little too long to match Nyquist.
That's not something Nyquist himself would say to someone like me.
For oh, how polite he is.
The Belorussian colleague said so many fine words about the beautiful city of Minsk, about the fancy stadiums, the perfect hotel, the good food, the beautiful city--so President Lukashenko will go into a tizzy when he read the newspaper today.
The French colleague got lots of quotes about what a "great team" France is.
And the rest of us were told how good Norway is and how good Nyquist's teammates are.
What about you, can you get up to speed a little more?
"Yes, I think so. I have much to work upon."
Was it tough to find space on the big ice?
"Yes, it is, actually. And it's a different game here. It's faster in the NHL, and there's less time, so you pass faster."
Do you have to pass more quickly here, too?
The Tre Kronor has to get up to speed in its game. That the polite Nyquist says, and it's impossible to misinterpret him. He wants the puck quicker.
For his teammates, there's only one option: to obey him.
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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.