The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/11/13 at 04:51 AM ET
Beware yet again, dear readers: an auto-play highlight clip lurks within:
The Grand Rapids Griffins spent Sunday night and Monday morning busing back to Grand Rapids from Syracuse, New York, where some might argue that a bizarre standard of officiating helped the Griffins take Games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup Final.
Today, the Griffins will get back on the ice and prepare for Games 3, 4 and 5, which take place on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (respectively) at Van Andel Arena, and their leading playoff scorer, one Tomas Tatar, spoke with the Free Press's Aaron McMann regarding the competitive advantage he's found playing with Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist affords him:
“The big difference is that (other teams) have to be careful about those two,” Tatar said. “So I’m not a target anymore. Now they’ve got to beat around us, and there’s open space for me, too. The game is now easier for everybody.”
In his stint with the Red Wings this season, Tatar scored four times and added three assists to lead the rookie brigade that included Andersson and Nyquist. He was sent back down to Grand Rapids in mid-March upon Valtteri Filppula’s return from injury and has been on a tear ever since.
He was sent down for a couple of reasons. First, the Griffins needed some scoring help given that Nyquist was basically swapped out for him, and second, the team knew that demoting Tatar would light a competitive fire under his ass, because Tatar felt like most Red Wings fans did after witnessing him play at the NHL level this past season--that the NHL is where he belonged:
In 61 regular-season games with Grand Rapids, Tatar finished second on the team in points with 49. His tear continued into the playoffs with three goals and an assist in the Griffins’ first-round series against Houston and another five goals and an assist against Toronto in the Western Conference semifinals, including two goals in the series-clinching Game 6.
“He had done such a good job in the playoffs and was garnering so much attention that when you add two real good players alongside (him), it’s hard to focus on one guy as much,” Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said last week.
After he was limited by Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals with just one goal in the first four games, the
return of Andersson and Nyquist have allowed him to find space in the open ice. He scored in the series-changing Game 5 and again in the series-clinching Game 7, off a pass from Andersson. He tallied another goal in Sunday’s Game 2 win over Syracuse in the Calder Cup finals, which helped give the Griffins a 2-0 lead with the series coming back to Grand Rapids. Game 3 is Wednesday.
“We’ve been together for a year now, and it’s been fun,” Tatar said. “Those guys belong in the NHL. You can feel it right away when guys like those come to the team and can make a difference.”
Tatar readily admitted to Fox 17's Steve Amorose that the "lighting a fire under his ass" part helped, too:
Clearly, the chip on his shoulder's still there, and that's good.
And in the "more multimedia" department, ESPN 96.1 FM's Sean Baligian spoke to three members of the Grand Rapids Griffins' organization on Monday afternoon.
He chatted with Griffins forward Luke Glendening...
Griffins broadcaster Bob Kaser...
And Griffins coach Jeff Blashill:
We've been spending a significant amount of time looking at the Red Wings' salary cap picture and its free agency options, with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's free agent survey inspiring an overnight report's worth of UFA blather from yours truly, as well as some cap compliance buy-out talk and discussion of Jarome Iginla's future on Monday afternoon, and this morning, Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner suggests that:
A) The Wings will try to retain the services of UFA's-to-be Daniel Cleary and Drew Miller, but he believes that Valtteri Filppula is most certainly gone, and he thinks that the Wings may even let Damien Brunner walk if he wants too much $;
B) The Wings will definitely buy out Mikael Samuelsson and may end up buying out Todd Bertuzzi;
C) The Wings will only attempt to add a free agent defenseman if a cap-compliance buy-out impresses them, because, as he points out, the crop of UFA defensemen is quite poor, and the crop of forwards is at least a bit better;
B) As such, under those conditions:
Detroit isn’t overly thrilled with this year’s crop of free agent forwards either, but they believe there’s a few that could contribute to their currently inconsistent group. After looking the list over, these are the forwards Detroit should target in the free agent market:
Nathan Horton – I have to confess; I’ve always liked Horton as a player and believed he was being wasted in Florida for years. As a Bruin, Horton has been a valuable asset. He’s having a tremendous playoff with 17 points, including seven goals in 16 games thus far. Horton is big (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and young. He just turned 28. His downside is that he has injury issues especially with concussions. When he’s healthy, Horton is a skilled right winger that scores goals. He’ll be sought after by a slew of teams. I can’t see Detroit getting into a bidding war for Horton.
Bryan Bickell – Bickell has emerged as the ‘it’ free agent based on his exceptional postseason play. The 6-4, 233 Bickell has 13 playoff points including eight goals so far for Chicago. He’s a power forward that may have just priced himself out of Detroit’s range.
Jarome Iginla – It doesn’t matter if the Wings weren’t on his list of four teams he wanted to go to at the trade deadline. Hopefully the Wings' run has convinced the future Hall of Famer that Detroit could be a legitimate contender and destination for his services. It’s worth a shot for the Wings to make at least a phone call.
David Clarkson – Clarkson is an agitating winger that has offensive skill. He may not be a gifted goal scorer, but he has a very good all-around game and his offense could flourish with the Wings after being in an offensively challenged New Jersey for the last six seasons.
Viktor Stallberg – Stallberg is a dark horse candidate and could be the steal of this year’s free agent class. A big (6-3, 210) and speedy forward, he has shown offensive ability, but has really tanked it during Chicago’s playoff run with just 3 points in 15 games and zero goals. He should come cheap. He'd be playing with many of his Swedish countrymen and he could be the ‘change of scenery’ type player that the Wings embrace.
The Free Press also posted a photo gallery of the 12 free agent players that it believes the Wings should pursue...
And I get the feeling that Helene St. James wrote the captions, because she's been the only beat writer to suggest that the Wings should simply try to retain Miller and Cleary's services as well as Brunner's, and then take care of their blueline by adding another top-four defenseman to help Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson carry the offensive load and allow Jakub Kindl, Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith to develop under a little less pressure (she also believes that the team will trade both Carlo Colaiacovo and Brian Lashoff; what happens with Kyle Quincey, I'm not sure).
For example, from the gallery:
That gentleman in the first photo was New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, who could turn into the Wings' No. 1 target. He's no Ryan Suter, but he was the Isle's captain and he would fit the Wings' need for a top-four defenseman. On the downside, he'll turn 36 early next season.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell could be the Wings' No. 1 target up front. They need a top-six forward, preferably someone big and young. Bickell fits both. And he and Cleary can hang out in the locker room!
Frankly, both of these guys -- forward Ryane Clowe, right, and Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney -- could be Wings targets. But they'd more likely look at Whitney as a veteran blue-line presence who won't break the bank.
The Wings are likely to try to sign two defensemen, and steady Winnipeg Jets veteran Ron Hainsey seems like a safe investment for a modest price. He hasn't scored in the last two seasons, but he's positionally sound.
Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is still playing in the playoffs, so he probably hasn't given much thought to his next home. He's not big, and he's not young, but he's a serviceable rearguard, and sometimes, that's good enough.
The Wings are likely to try to sign two defensemen? Really? Um,if they sign two defensemen, even assuming that they move Colaiacovo, Lashoff and Quincey, doesn't that shove Smith or DeKeyser right back on to the bench?
And how exactly are the Wings going to retain Cleary, Miller and Brunner, their four RFA's in Smith, Kindl, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist, and then still have the cap space left over to spend $5-6 million on someone like Streit and another $3 million on someone like Hainsey or Ference?
We don't receive any answers from the photo gallery. We simply get a very contrary message to the ones being espoused by Kulfan, Regner, MLive's Ansar Khan, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness and the Windsor Star's Bob Duff.
We've got an outlier suggesting that the Wings' blueline is the front office and coaching staff's main concern as the pro scouts, amateur scouts, coaches and management take part in their pre-draft, pre-free-agency organizational powwow at Joe Louis Arena this week, and the outlier may or may not be more plugged in to the managment than other beat writers.
I've tended to assume what Regner does--that the cap-compliance buy-out market will ultimately determine the Wings' plans, but given both the progress of the team's young defensemen, the fact that a defenseman who can skate in a straight line can earn $3 million as a free agent, and one that can pass can easily demand $5+ million, and given the team's lack of scoring not being able to out-pace its young defense's mistakes during the playoffs, it would target a scorer.
Am I wrong?
In news of the fan participatory variety, Pavel Datsyuk is up for voting in TSN's Play of the Year semifinal against Magnus Paajarvi, and the VOTING IS SUPER CLOSE and ends at NOON EDT today;
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff reiterated Niklas Kronwall's plans for this upcoming Sunday:
Carrying on what’s becoming a team tradition, Detroit Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall will serve as the grand marshal for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
“We are thrilled to welcome Niklas Kronwall to the MIS festivities,” MIS track president Roger Curtis said. “Niklas is an integral member of the Red Wings and the Detroit community who represents the state with pride.”
Kronwall will give the traditional command of “drivers, start your engines,” prior to Sunday’s race, just as Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard did at last year’s race, calling the command in conjunction with his father James Howard II, to celebrate Father’s Day.
Former Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom one-upped both of them in 2010, when he drove the pace car at MIS during the annual June race, then known as the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400.
Kronwall won’t be the only Michigan-area celebrity taking part in Sunday’s race festivities. Swimmer Tyler Clary, like Kronwall an Olympic gold medallist, will serve as honourary starter for the Quicken Loans 400, waving the green flag to get the race underway.
While Kronwall won a gold medal in hockey with Sweden at the 2006 Turin Winter Games, Clary, a 24-year-old Olympian and three-time NCAA champion at the University of Michigan, won the gold medal in the 200-meter backstroke at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. He defeated fellow American Ryan Lochte in the final and broke Lochte’s Olympic record of 1:53:94, finishing the event in 1:53:41.
Seth Gold, one of the stars of the Detroit-based television show Hardcore Pawn, will drive the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi pace car. Gold will lead the 43-car field to the green flag for the race, which begins at 1 p.m.
And finally, in the, "The More You Know" department, I didn't find out that the Maliks I'm descended from hung out in the Czech Republic for only 150-or-so years (technically, the Czech pronounciation is "MAH-lik," though I pronounce it "MAL-ik," with "mal" rhyming with"pal"), and were originally from the Arab lands (as such, "Ma-LEEK" is techically correct, though I find that pronounciation to be a little annoying) until I was 25, so I assumed that my ethnic background was very different from its factual nature for the majority of my life.
As iSportsWeb's Omar Thabet notes, Justin Abdelkader may have been born in Muskegon, MI, but he's technically the first Arab-American NHL player:
Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader is the first Arab-American to play in the NHL. There has been three Arab-Canadians to play in the NHL, but Abdelkader is the first American to play in the league and to also have an Arabic descent.
Justin Abdelkader is the son of Joseph and Sheryl Abdelkader. The surname Abdelkader is Arabic. His paternal grandfather, Yusuf Abdul Qadir, a Muslim born in Palestine, emigrated from the Middle East country of Jordan at the age of 19 to Muskegon, where he later met a Polish girl named Susie.
According to an article on http://www.wzzm13.com, Justin’s uncle, Jamal Abdelkader, said, “They (Yusuf and Susie) eventually fell in love and got married.” “My father died in 1993; my mom passed in March,2009, at age 91. She cooked Middle Eastern food and Polish food. She was equally good at making grape leaves, tabbouleh and pierogi.”
It took a sarcastic pronunciation of Justin’s last name from one of my friends that made me look deeper into the Abdelkader family history. As an Arab-American myself, I have to admit that once I realized Justin had an Arabic background to him, I was close to telling my friends that he was one of my long lost cousins from Muskegon. But seriously though, with all jokes aside, its nice to see someone with the same background as you play professional in any sport. But especially for a sport where its rare for one of his kind to be playing in.
It’s safe to say that with an Arabic background, winning a Frozen Four Championship for Michigan State (the university in which I attend to), and playing for the Detroit Red Wings (my local professional hockey team), Justin has become my new favorite player to watch in the NHL.
Identity is of course, largely both self-and-other-defined.
It depends on your ancestry (paternal grandfather: Czech-and-Boehemian-via-unidentified Arab; paternal grandmother: from the German-Czech borderlands; maternal grandfather: half Irish-from-as-north-in-Irleand-as-you-can-get, half English; maternal grandmother: Italian, but so far north in Italy that her family was headed to be coppersmiths in the Upper Peninsula, but stayed in Detroit for familiar alfredo [not tomato] sauce, so I'm one of those, "The more you look, the less certain you're going to be of 'where you're from,' because it turns out that you're 'from' tons of places where all sorts of people from all over the world met and made babies), your surname, what you look like and what you make yourself out to be.
That being said, given the number of people of Palestinian, Arabic and Chaldean descent in Metro Detroit, maybe more Wings fans might like to know that Abdelkader is "one of them."
[Edit/update: then again, given the Wings' willingness to draft Czechs and Russians in the 80's, Swedes in the 90's and now anyone from anywhere, maybe the most important thing is that Abdelkader's Red Wings don't care which "them" you're from as long as you can play hockey for "us." That's all that really matters, and the Red Wings happen to be an inclusive family.]
I'm going to be out for part of the afternoon today. The mom's every-six-month skin cancer screening is today, and we're hoping for a repeat of last December's, "No, really, there's not even anything I want to chop off" from a dermatologist who almost always tends to find SOMEthing. It'sbeen twelve years since she had melanoma removed, and she's fine and dandy, but every six months, we hold our breath.
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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.