The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/04/13 at 04:21 AM ET
The Red Wings' players have been skating informally at Joe Louis Arena for almost two weeks now, but the day after Labor Day is generally the "official" start of "unofficial" and "informal" skates that happen to be watched by the Red Wings' coaches and management (they're not allowed to interact with the players on the ice until next Thursday, when training camp begins, but hey, they work at the same "office"), and boy howdy, Tuesday was "back to school" day for the Wings' intrepid media corps.
We learned about Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson's initial skates at the Joe, we found that Darren Helm mysteriously took the day off, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness posted four short videos and the Detroit News's David Guralnick posited a 26-image photo gallery of the Wings' new and familiar faces.
In terms of what took place and what was said, without getting too repetitious...
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner took note of the fact that Stephen Weiss's state of near-awe regarding his new surroundings were met by stiff challenges from his new coach:
“We're looking for a guy to generate more in the middle," Babcock said. "So can Weiss generate 50 points playing in the middle, on the second line? I'm going to watch and see. We think he's going to be a way better player here.
Over time, the demand is high. We explained the situation to him very clearly, told him if he wasn't ultra-competitive, he couldn't come here. If he didn't bring it every day, he couldn't come here because he was going to hate it if he didn't. It's real straightforward. If you don't do it right, you're not happy here.''
For his part, Weiss has embraced the Wings' strong work-ethic mantra, but he doesn’t want to be viewed as Valtteri Filppula’s replacement.
“I try to not look at it that way, that I’m coming in replacing anyone,” Weiss said. “I’m going to do what I’ve done over my career and take care of my play out on the ice, and hopefully, that’s good enough. I don’t want to be Valtteri Filppula’s replacement. I want to be Stephen Weiss and come in here and do what I do. And if I do that, we’ll be OK.”
Good luck with that. Valtteri Filppula says he's not in Tampa Bay to replace Vincent Lecavalier, but that's what they signed him to do--at least in terms of point production.
Another player new to the Red Wings, Daniel Alfredsson, who has played against Weiss for a decade, believes that Weiss will be an exceptional two-way player in Detroit.
“He was always one of the guys that the coaches went over when we played Florida,” Alfredsson said. “The good thing about him is that he is very versatile. He can play in all situations, penalty killing and power play. Overall, he’s a very smart player. Weiss has a lot of offensive upside. Injuries hampered him last year, but a healthy Stephen Weiss would be a huge asset for any team.”
Thus the reason that the Wings believe that Weiss has a leg up on his predecessor--consistency.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted that Babcock also gave some insights to the possible line combinations he's going to use (whether these last for five minutes or five months, we never know)...
Babcock said he’ll have Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together, while Stephen Weiss will skate with Johan Franzen.
“That’s all I can tell you,” Babcock said. “I have no idea where (Justin Abdelkader) is playing. Might play with (Darren) Helm, might play with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, or with Weiss. (Daniel) Alfredsson with either Datsyuk or Weiss.”
And as we're on a Babcockian kick, I loved this quip about Jonas Gustavsson, delivered to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
Babcock on Red Wings backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who had a disappointing first season: "He knows and I know, this is real clear, you have to do something to help yourself. Grab your own piece of the pie, otherwise someone else eats it."
Again, as Babcock told the Free Press's Helene St. James, the Wings' coach believes that Darren Helm will be able to put his back issues behind him, but he made sure to tell the assembled media, MLive's Ansar Khan included, that Helm's going to take some time to feel like himself and/or find his game again:
“I didn't see him today, so he must be doing really good,'' Babcock said. “He had another day off, I would assume. Things are going good for him. He must be ready to go.''
Helm said last week he feels better and is making progress but isn't sure if he'll be ready for the start of the regular season Oct. 2 vs. Buffalo. His next big test is contact and physical play during camp, though the Red Wings will ease him into that. Exhibition games will determine whether he is ready for the start of the season.
Once Helm returns, it will take some time to get up to speed, since he played only one game in 2013 and missed the final 10 games and most of the playoffs in 2011-12.
“It's going to he a half-year and it's going to take him some time to be Darren Helm, just strength-wise,'' Babcock said. “There's no way you can be who you are when you've been off this much. But he's got to feel good about himself. The times I talked to him this summer he feels good and is getting better.''
And as for the Wings' roster crunch, well...
If everyone is healthy, the Red Wings will have 25 players – two over the roster limit – and be about $637,000 over the salary cap.
“It'll sort itself out here pretty quick,'' Babcock said. “I think every player on this team is an NHL player. The trimming I have to do or Kenny (general manager Holland) has to do is going to be done by (the players), not by us. We're just going to watch each day.''
It should be noted, as St. James does this morning, that #90 plans on proving his coach and general manager's respective educated Weiss > Filppula guess correct--and #11 spoke with St. James about the Wings' recruitment process:
Weiss is determined to exceed expectations. “This is one of the teams that I think every player in the league would like to play for at some point in his career,” he said. Part of the appeal, Weiss said, is learning from the likes of Zetterberg and Datsyuk, and now Alfredsson.
Alfredsson said part of pre-signing discussions with Babcock and general manager Ken Holland centered on Detroit, “and how is it for a family to live here, and they had great things to say. They’ve got great sports programs for kids. Hockey is wonderful, I’ve heard. It’s exciting times for our whole family.”
St. James posted a superb 2-minute practice video, too, but it's an auto-play clip, so I'm not embedding it.
Alfredsson's comments ended up taking center stage, and MLive's Khan did a superb job of summarizing them. Mostly, Alfredsson felt good to be in a friendly locker room again, even if it wasn't the one that he's become accustomed to...
“It’s amazing, a hockey locker room is pretty much the same anywhere in the world and you feel welcome right away,'' Alfredsson said. “So that’s a good feeling for me.”
“It’s different,'' Alfredsson said. “I’ve been in one spot for a long time. It’s exciting for me to come to a new organization, a new team, and try something else.''
“I knew some of the guys from before; obviously, the Swedes, playing with them on national team,'' Alfredsson said. “I knew Patrick Eaves (his teammate in Ottawa), (Todd) Bertuzzi I would run into quite a few times.''
But this part came as something of a surprise. Instead of having spent mid-August in Detroit to ensure that he, Bibi and their four sons would be ready to go for the start of school, it sounds like the Alfredssons chose to head to Ottawa in mid-August to pack up their North American furnishings, and as such, Alfredsson and his family won't really "arrive" in Detroit until the regular season begins:
His family – wife and four sons, ranging in age from 2 to 10 – arrived on Thursday. He hopes to have the kids in school by the end of the week and the house ready to move into by the middle of the month.
All of that being said, Alfredsson may be a little slow on the familial uptake, but he knows that he's going to have to come to training camp witha fire lit under his rear, especially given that he's 40:
“Camp is much shorter than it used to be, not a ton of time to practice,'' Alfredsson said. “You have to make the most of it. It’s nice to have a place to skate every day, and more and more guys are joining in so you get the feel for the guys. These skates before (camp) are also obviously important because getting the groins used to the heavy load that’s going to come in training camp so we don’t have any injuries. It’s an exciting time for everybody, and obviously for me this year it’s very interesting.”
Again, the dynamic is much different for Alfredsson than it was for Mike Modano, who lived in a condo alone and saw the now-former-Mrs.-Modano (Modano remarried this past weekend) on an occasional basis.
The Alfredssons did sell their house in Ottawa, and while it's not certain whether his time in Detroit will last for more than one season, his family might prefer making a difficult adjustment for more than a one-off campaign:
“The hardest part for me in bringing a family, is for my wife,'' Alfredsson said. “She doesn’t have 20 friends right away, but she has met some of the wives already and we knew some of the people before, so it makes it a lot easier."
The Wings have a very good reputation as a team that makes both players and their families feel welcome and well-connected in short order, so the Alfredsson family has a new family, both official and unofficial, who will go out of their way to make sure that Detroit feels more like Little Gothenburg than the Island of Formerly Disgruntled Stars Who Happily Accept Slightly Lesser Roles in Pursuit of Winning Cups (FDSWHAsLRiPoWCs).
If that was a bit much even by my standards, I've got to admit that I'm particularly bleary-eyed. I am leaving today for Traverse City--Paul will cover the practice gnus today--and I'm making the 230-mile trip "Up North" because the Red Wings' prospect tournament begins tomorrow.
NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale plugged the eight-team tournament (Red Wings, Wild, Stars, Blue Jackets, Sabres, Blues, Rangers, Hurricanes) on Wednesday afternoon, and Paul took note of the fact that the volunteers who make Centre Ice Arena run like a well-oiled machine over the next two weeks also received attention from SI's Stu Hackel, who essentially calls the Wings' tournament the grandaddy of what are now 20 teams' worth of pre-season, prospect-centered gatherings:
[T]he Traverse City tourney remains the most popular with teams and fans. It's the oldest and largest of the rookie competitions, having begun in 1998 and being held each year since with the exception of last season. Because of its large number of teams, Traverse City has become a mecca for NHL scouts who want to evaluate the young talent, perhaps get a read on a player who might not make an NHL organization and be available down the line. Over 100 scouts are expected to watch this week's action.
Traverse City's organizers like to point to the fact that this is the place where some big name players got their first taste of the NHL, among them Pavel Datsyuk, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane, Kari Lehtonen, Alex Pietrangelo, Jimmy Howard, David Backus and Marc Staal. Twenty-seven guys who debuted in this tournament have gone on to play over 500 NHL games.
Yeah, the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau who penned that particular article. The LWL also has the rosters for every team listed, the Wings and their tryouts included, and if you're not following Sarah or the Red Wings Camps' Twitter accounts, you're doing yourself a bit of an informational disservice.
They call Traverse City "Hockey Town North" at this time of year. First, the NHL Prospects Tournament, hosted by the Red Wings, gets going on Thursday with hopefuls from Detroit and seven other NHL clubs -- the Sabres, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Stars, Wild, Rangers and Blues -- facing off during a four day span. They play round robin in two groups -- the Gordie Howe Division and Ted Lindsay Division -- and then a championship round that starts on September 9.
Right after the tourney, the Red Wings open their full training camp in that northern Michigan resort town. So many Wings fans descend on it, and the twin hockey happenings are so popular, that the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau annually has a page about the tourney and the camp on its website.
I hate to say it, but the surest sign that the Wings are coming to town occurs when the Traverse City media alerts its residents of the imminence of what is hockey heaven for some and two exhausting weeks for others, and the 7&4 News's Harrison Beeby sounded the clarion call on Tuesday evening:
Northern Michigan enjoys its baseball and there is nothing quite like the kickoff to a prep football season but a big sporting event has been missing from this area since 2011.
The NHL is returning to Traverse City this week for the Detroit Red Wings annual Prospects Camp with the Wings Training Camp taking place next week. Hundreds of potential prospects from eight different NHL teams will hit the ice over the next five days, all in hopes of extending their hockey careers.
It all takes place at Centre Ice Arena from September 5th through the 9th with games beginning on the 6th. Tickets are just $10 per day. For more information you can head to the Detroit Red Wings main website (http://redwings.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=681240) or the Centre Ice website (http://www.centreice.org/page/show/467296-nhl-prospect-tournament).
The Wings hit the ice at 11:30 AM on Thursday and play against the Wild at 7:30 PM.
I believe that the Rangers may stream some of their games, but they don't play against the Wings in the round robin portion of the tournament (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), so it's highly unlikely that a "Wings online" situation will present itself.
As for training camp, after the prospects conclude their tournament on Monday, the Wings will fly up to Traverse City on Tuesday the 10th and play their annual charity golf tournament on Wednesday the 11th, hitting the ice for practices in the mornings of the 12th, 13th and 14th (there is also a alumni/celebrity game taking place on Saturday the 14th), and the camp would usually end with the Red vs. White game on Sunday the 15th would usually end training camp...
But this year, the Wings are also holding practices on the mornings of exhibition games in Chicago on the 16th and Pittsburgh on the 17th, with--according to the Left Wing Lock--both game-participating and non-game-participating players practicing in Traverse City because the team now brings Red Bird III to Cherry Capital airport.
The Wings will pack up their equipment for good on the 17th, because the team plays in Boston on Thursday the 19th, and half the team will probably take a charter to the Joe.
Very honestly, because I know I'm about to embark upon an exhausting two weeks, I am going to stay in TC for a "sleep day" on the 18th, travel back home on the 19th and either get back to work on Friday the 20th or Saturday the 21st, because...
The home exhibition opener takes place on Saturday the 21st against Boston, and the Wings' afternoon game on Sunday the 22nd will be televised on FSD and the NHL Network U.S.;
The Wings' home game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday the 25th will also air locally on FSD+ and on the NHL Network, and then the Wings wrap up the exhibition season with a home-and-home series against Toronto on Friday the 27th and Saturday the 28th (and the latter game airs on the CBC and the NHL Network).
It should also be noted that the Grand Rapids Griffins will be playing in Plymouth on Saturday the 28th, hosting the Lake Erie Monsters for an exhibition game, and they'll head to Windsor for another tilt vs. Lake Erie on Sunday the 29th.
By 5 PM on September 29th, the Red Wings and every other NHL team will have to be in compliance with the NHL's 23-man roster limit and under the $64.3 million upper limit of the payroll range, and, as Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir notes, the Wings will have to move bodies to clear room:
The Red Wings are over by approximately $637,000, and currently two players above the roster limit, so they have options. Trading Jordin Tootoo (if they can find a taker who would move a pick or marginal prospect in return), would shave $1.9 million off the books. Patrick Eaves ($1.2 million) might be a less popular option with fans, but his jack-of-all-trades role would be fairly easy to fill. Moving Cory Emmerton ($500,000) could be a painless, but only partial solution. Mikael Samuelsson ($3 million) can be a real asset when healthy, especially on the power play, but if he pulls up lame in camp, he’s a possible LTIR candidate. So is Darren Helm, who still isn’t sure he’ll be ready for the season opener.
Tootoo's going to be harder to move as he has 2 years remaining on his deal and a total of $4 million in real-world compensation (per Capgeek); Eaves is in the last year of his contract earning exactly that $1.2 million, and Emmerton's in the last year of a contract whose real-world salary figure of $550,000 isn't much higher than its actual $533,333.33 cap hit.
September is a 30-day month, so whoever makes the 23-man roster will be skating in warm-ups ahead of the team's home and 2013-2014 season opener against Buffalo all of 4 days after the exhibition season ends, on October 2nd, and by then, we'll all have "watched" quite a bit.
- The Saginaw News's Cory Butzin noted that six members of the OHL's Saginaw Spirit will head to prospect tournaments, and five of the six are taking part in the Traverse City tourney:
Five Spirit players who were drafted by NHL teams are heading to Traverse City, Mich. to take part in the Detroit Red Wings’ NHL Prospects Tournament that runs Sept. 5-9.
Detroit is hosting prospects from the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers for the tournament that highlights the best prospects in the various organizations.
Saginaw goalie and Detroit prospect Jake Paterson is attending to suit up for the Red Wings, while forwards Justin Kea and Eric Locke are playing for Buffalo. Nick Moutrey is playing for Columbus and new Spirit forward Cody Payne is playing for Dallas.
- I thought this was pretty cool: InGoal Magazine's Kevin Woodley penned an article about Brian's Hockey's new goal pads, the "SubZero Pro 2" pads, and he revealed that Wings goaltending coach Jim Bedard was involved in the roll-out process (but I'm not going to post the article as it's relatively technical and kind-of commercialized);
- Speaking of hockey equipment plugs...
- Fantasy hockey news continues to roll in, and TSN's Scott Cullen predicts that the Wings will do...OK but not great in terms of the scoring race. Cullen estimates that Henrik Zetterberg will post 79 points, that Pavel Datsyuk will post 75, that Johan Franzen will post 55 points, that Daniel Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall will register 43 apiece, that Stephen Weiss will register 41, Gustav Nyquist 34, Tomas Tatar 28 and Justin Abdelkader 27 points.
That's it for me for now. I hate to leave the tip jar up, but after doing some last-minute shopping for the fam and recalculating, I realized that despite your contributions, I am just barely scraping over the, "I can afford to go if I eat like a college student" line, so if you can toss in a few bucks, it'd be appreciated, but again, you've all stepped up so much that I'm...Kind of scared of having to live up to the amount of support you've shown me over the past summer.
That goes for the non-monetary part, too, because your support is why I keep on plugging through the anxiety and depression as best I can to make some use of myself and to try to be useful to you.
Goodnight and good morning.
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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.