The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/14/12 at 05:40 AM ET
And now things get really weird, even by TMR standards. Half of the Detroit Red Wings' players took part in the NHLPA's player meetings in New York on Thursday night, and the re-signed Justin Abdelkader and his teammates will engage in one final practice at Joe Louis Arena today. After they're done, they'll bag up their gear, their skates and sticks, say goodbye to the equipment managers, trainers, coach Babcock and eventually the man who rubber-stamped the organization's vote to lock its players out in GM Ken Holland.
After today, a little under half the Red Wings' players will attempt to pursue playing options in Europe, and will find a hard road to hoe, while the other half-and-change will skate in Troy or other Metro Detroit rinks for the foreseeable future (probably starting on Monday), hoping that this lockout is a short one. Whether they'll hire their own equipment staff, trainers, or PR people is uncertain, but as soon as Saturday comes, they're on their own.
One would anticipate a crush of media to try to get some final comments from all parties involved today at the Joe, and as such, the Free Press's Helene St. James sets the stage for us, noting the Wings' players are supposed to be golfing with fans in their annual pre-training camp charity showdown a week from today (the prospect camp was supposed to start tomorrow, too). Now they have one last practice together as a group before braving unknown circumstances:
"I think everyone trains for a set date, when training camp is starting, and then when it doesn't happen, you're like, OK, now what?" Justin Abdelkader said. "It's a little different. And now you're locked out of the facility so you can't come to the Joe and train and use the facilities, so that's different, too. But I guess you just kind of go as it goes. We'll just go day by day and see what happens."
Abdelkader, along with teammates like Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Ian White, plan to stick around the metro area and hold informal practices to keep skating. Cory Emmerton anticipates playing in Europe right away, but many Wings don't want to go through the process -- which includes insuring their contracts -- if the lockout is going to be over within a few months.
All are disappointed to have to miss any time.
"It's just tough," White said. "You only have so many years to play, and every game and every weekday you lose, it's a week and a game you're not going to get back. So it's unfortunate. Hopefully, the owners don't have the mind-set: 'If we lock them out a full year, we'll get what we want,' like last time."
While players might miss their paychecks, too, White said most should be in good enough shape to withstand that aspect of the labor dispute.
"We'll be able to stand it financially," he said. "I mean, we've been making quite a bit of money, and most guys are pretty smart with their money, as opposed to maybe some other sports."
Here's hoping that White doesn't step in it today, because he's gotten pretty close.
Henrik Zetterberg was in New York for the player meetings on Thursday, and he shared some...wartime...thoughts with Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika...
"PEACE." The word was written across the chest of Henrik Zetterberg's T-shirt Thursday, and it would be nice to think it was intentional, a subtle sign of protest amid the madness.
But it wasn't.
Zetterberg just happened to wear that particular shirt on this particular day, and when he realized it, he thought it was kind of funny. Because as he stood there with so many of his colleagues – crowding the dais behind NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr, spilling off to the side of the hotel ballroom – there was no doubt about what they were doing. They were showcasing their solidarity. They were sending a message to the owners about the looming labor war.
"If they want one, we're ready," said Zetterberg, the Detroit Red Wings star, who serves on the union's negotiating committee. "We want to play. But if they want to lock us out, we're prepared for that, too."
The NHL will lock out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expires Saturday night. There is little hope of a breakthrough before the deadline. Though NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr were expected to communicate Thursday night, it seemed unlikely the sides would meet informally and even less likely they would meet formally.
"Their deal that's on the table now is totally unacceptable," Zetterberg said. "We can't even start bargaining because we're so far off."
And before he left for NYC, he spoke to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness about the players' stance:
“Revenue sharing, that’s what I think the league needs,” said Zetterberg, who was amongst a number of Wings who attended a two-day meeting in New York to show solidarity by the players. “We have teams that make a lot of money and we have lower revenue teams that are struggling. We’ve got to find a way to help out. Players are ready to join the higher revenue clubs to help the lower revenue clubs,” Zetterberg continued. “If we do that we will give a substantial number to the league and help the clubs that are in need.”
“My biggest fear is they’re going to lock us out for the whole year,” Zetterberg said. “Nothing good comes out of that, not for players, not for fans, not for teams. It shouldn’t come to that. It isn’t that bad. The situation in the league isn’t that bad. If you look at the last seven years, revenue has gone up and up and up, but there are some teams that are struggling,” Zetterberg added. “They will always be that if you don’t help them out. As long as the league doesn’t want to do that we will always have problems.”
This time around the players seem more prepared to ride out however long it takes to get a new deal done.
“A lot of guys that are in here now were here in ’04,” Zetterberg said. “All the young guys that come in, we’ve been preparing them for this because we’ve been through it. If they lock us out, a lot of guys will go play. The KHL was not the same in ‘04 like it is now and I think they will take (more players), they will probably expand the league if that’s the case,” smiled Zetterberg. “If it goes to Christmas, you will see guys leave and play in Europe, so I think it would be a lot easier this time around to not play. This is where you want to play, you want to play in Joe Louis Arena but if they lock us out again, we’re more prepared this time and it will be easier for us.”
“You just got to be prepared for whatever they do,” Zetterberg said. “No one wins on a cancellation of a season. Since ‘04 we’re doing a lot of good things. It took a while before we got back. Once we did it’s been growing every year. We get new fans every year. The last few playoffs have been outstanding. You would be foolish to throw that away, but once again if they want to do that they will do it.”
“Right now, we have a good fair proposal that should work for all the different teams in the different markets,” Zetterberg said.
That's not what the owners want--they want an unconditional bailout for being, according to Bettman, "too fair" over the past seven years--so Zetterberg's bracing for the second lockout of his career.
He'll stick around, and as St. James suggests, more of his teammates will than won't join him. But for now, there's today's last structured skate...
And then the unknown.
For the record, there's been an interesting development regarding one of his teammates' fates: Expressen's Moa Jornmark reports that Niklas Kronwall's old team, Djurgardens IF, has decided that for the moment, it will turn NHL'ers away from the Allsvenskan team due to budgetary issues.
As for one of Zetterberg's other teammates, and perhaps the highest-profile player to possibly head over to Europe, the Red Wings' website chose to offer an ironic bit of content given that they've swapped out player backgrounds on their webpage for a player-less, fan-less look at the Cup banners and retired numbers in the rafters (even the "presented by Amway" part of the picture's gone), looking at Pavel Datsyuk's career and 2011-2012 season performance "By the Numbers":
48: Led the team with 48 assists this season, which gave him a league rank of 14. He has posted 40 or more assists in six of his 10 seasons with Detroit.
700: Collected career point No. 700 – an assist – in a 5-0 victory vs. Buffalo on Jan. 16. His 718 career points with the Wings puts him at No. 8 on the franchise’s list of all-time points leaders. He also played in his 700th career game on Dec. 31 against St. Louis
702: Number of face-offs that he won this season, giving him a 56.2 face-off percentage and putting him seventh on the list of face-offs won by players in the Western Conference.
20:27: With an average ice time of 20:27 per point recorded, he had the best production value of any player on the team.
Datsyuk seems all but guaranteed to head over to the KHL for mostly patriotic and sentimental leanings. He played for Dynamo Moscow during the last lockout and started his pro career with the Ak Bars in Kazan, but I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to find a way to play for the small-market team that represents his hometown, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.
In other European-tinged news:
- From Russia via Bloomfield Hills, Viktor Fedorov had a chat with Sport-Express's Igor Larin, and Sergei Fedorov's dad suggested that the lockout's bad for the NHL, KHL, everybody, though he thinks that the players are "doomed." Strangely, Viktor chose to drop no bombshells regarding his son's possible personnel additions given that Sergei manages CSKA Moscow now, stating that he hasn't spoken to Sergei about it, and that he didn't want to start rumors(!);
- In the Swedish Eliteserien, Hockeysverige's Uffe Bodin reports that Fabian Brunnstrom was held out of the Frolunda Indians' first game of the season because--Frolunda claims--the Grand Rapids Griffins or Red Wings made a boo boo and didn't give them his international transfer card;
- And as some of the Wings' players head over to Europe, something tells me that whoever runs RedWingsProspects on Twitter will begin to provide us with updates regarding the big boys playing in the pro leagues:
Sticking with prospects but heading back over to this side of the Atlantic, Juniorhockey.com's Michael Gosnell takes a look at Andreas Athanasiou, who was traded from the OHL's London Knights to the Barrie Col...Well, I'll let him tell you:
Athanasiou led all London Knights rookies with 11 goals in 2010-2011. Last season he increased his goal total to 22 while adding 15 assists.
He has the speed, hands, and physical skills to be a potential offensive threat at the professional level. However, the Red Wings staff have a project on their hands. While his offensive skill set is adequate, Athanasiou is known to be very inconsistent. Also, his hockey sense is considered to be a bit below average, which will not mix will with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.
If I had to grade this particular prospect, I would give Athanasiou as solid B. He has tremendous speed, which is essential in today's game. Scouts noted that he possesses dynamic skating ability and can play with an edge.
London traded Athanasiou to the Barrie Colts in late August. The Colts will be loaded on offensive with the addition of Athanasiou and the returning Tanner Pearson and Mark Scheifele.
Expect even more production from Andreas, but if we wants to make the transition to the pros smoother, he needs to work on his hockey sense and consistency.
In the alumni department, "City of Champions'" Matt Gajtka spoke to Grand Rapids Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek (this neatly compliments Thursday's interview with coach Jeff Blashill from Kyle Kujawa) about his days as a Pittsburgh Penguin, as well as his current day job's demands:
MG: What type of coaching is effective at the AHL level, where you’re one step away from the best league in the world, yet there can be a lot of uncertainty and change throughout the course of a season?
JP: You have to constantly reinvent yourself and adjust. In the AHL, you have a combination of players with college experience, kids right out of juniors and older players who are very effective at the AHL level but may not necessarily be moving up anymore.
You really have to be kind of a chameleon, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
MG: How do you prepare players for that uncertainty? It seems like a player may have to suddenly take on a larger or smaller role depending on what kind of moves the organization is making.
JP: It’s very difficult at times. I think you’ve got to handle it differently for each player, because everyone’s character is different. No matter what, you have to find ways to motivate guys to perform at a high level no matter what happens. The job ranges from molding guys for the NHL to making sure someone who’s been sent down accepts that and fits back in with the team.
MG: What kind of feeling do you get when players you’ve coached make it to the NHL (Jimmy Howard, Jiri Hudler, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Tomas Kopecky) and excel there?
JP: It’s a fantastic feeling. I’m really a “superfan” for those guys when they make the NHL, whether it’s for Detroit or another organization. I just stand up and cheer for anything they do when I get a chance to watch. I just hope they can compete the way they did when they were in Grand Rapids.
I’ve also had a chance to coach the “Black Aces” [spare players called up during the Stanley Cup playoffs] and work alongside players like [Pavel Datsyuk ] and [Nicklas] Lidstrom, so that’s been a great experience, too.
I guess we'll call this a "similar" story given that it's about the rink where the Griffins will play one of their two preseason games, and it involves the kind of Red Wings player that the Wings can promote during the lockout--alumni--as University of Michigan coach Red Berenson spoke to the Detroit News's David Goricki about the newly-renovated Yost Ice Arena:
Michigan coach Red Berenson is impressed with the renovated Yost Ice Arena, which will host its first game Oct. 7 with the Blue-White scrimmage, followed by an American Hockey League (AHL) exhibition between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Lake Erie Monsters.
The Blue-White game will begin at 4 p.m., followed by a Skate with the Wolverines event, leading up to the AHL game.
Michigan will have an exhibition game against Windsor on Oct. 9, then open the regular season at Yost with a weekend series against Rochester Institute of Technology Oct. 11-12. RIT advanced to the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit in 2010 and the Wolverines advanced to the national title game in 2011.
Berenson talked about the $16 million renovation Thursday afternoon.
"It's going to be outstanding, better than I thought," said Berenson, who signed a contract extension through the 2015-16 season earlier this summer. "I didn't envision how different an old building could be with a renovation. The main focus was seats. That's where it all started because all the seats were wooden on the side and from time to time one would crack or someone would nearly fall through since the boards were here for nearly 80 years."
In inevitable lockout politics talk, if you are interested in "further reading," I loved the CBC's Elliotte Friedman's suggestion that more might be accomplished by asking Gary Bettman to leave the room when Donald and Steve Fehr negotiate with the man who wrote the last CBA, Bill Daly, in criticizing both sides, Sportsnet's Michael Grange points out that Bettman seems to want to correct said CBA's "mistakes" at all costs...
And I laughed my ass off when I read this from Sportsnet's Mark Spector:
Sometimes, it is good to step outside your comfort zone to confirm something you already thought you knew. So we asked economist and author Andrew Zimbalist, a favourite voice from lockouts past, what it means, exactly, when a professional sports league is facing its third lockout in as many collective bargaining agreements?
"It means it is poorly managed," said our frank, 64-year-old professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts, and author of 20 books, including May The Best Team Win: Baseball Economics and Public Policy.
"Mr. Bettman, although he has some qualities that are admirable, has made a lot of bad decisions," Zimbalist said this week, before Thursday's confirmation that we are heading towards Bettman's third lockout since becoming the commissioner of the National Hockey League in 1993. "He has not promoted effective management at the team level, and he is unwilling to admit his mistakes and walk away from them."
Zimbalist is not a hockey man. He doesn't even purport to watch the game.He has, however, studied the various sports economies over his years. Ironically, all of that studying has left Zimbalist in a position to draw the exact same conclusions as anyone reading this column.
"The teams below the Mason Dixon line in the United States are not profitable. Some of them are bleeding tens of millions of dollars a year," he said, as if one needs a PHD to figure that out.
And regarding the shit we're about to deal with?
"If you have another work stoppage, hockey will bounce back in Canada. I don't think there is any question about that," Zimbalist said. "What happens in the United States is another question.
"Hockey is on a very thin string of popularity in the United States," he concludes. "Whether it can bounce back in the presence of all the competition that is springing up around it is another question. Soccer, for instance, is an ascendant sport here. Whether it loses its status as the fourth most popular sport and begins to sink, is an open question at this point."
Instead of concluding with gloom and doom, I'd like to kindly ask that you weigh in on the Lockout Protest Thread and Coping Strategy Ideas thread, and to take a hint from Martin Devon and use the Twitter hashtag "#LockoutCopingIdeas" while pondering what the hell we're going to do with our time...
And via We All Bleed Red on YouTube, here's a story from a truly totalitarian time, from one Igor Larionov, recalling his first visit to Wayne Gretzky's house during the 1987 Canada Cup:
Update: Sigh. There is always an update, even at 5:43 in the morning. Larionov's speaking to TSN's Michael Landsberg as TSN revisits the Canada Cup between Russia and Canada, and while TSN's video streaming page is not working particularly well at this hour, my internet search engine monkeys inform me that you can watch Larionov's full interview about the Canada Cup experience at this-clicky-upon-link thing.
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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.