The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/01/13 at 05:36 AM ET
Updated with some UFA talk at 7:07 AM: The Red Wings cleaned out their lockers on Friday afternoon, with Pavel Datsyuk stating that he'd like to sign a multi-year contract extension over a year before his current deal expires, the Wings' free agents-to-be crossing their fingers about returning to Detroit, Darren Helm speaking about his back issues and the team as a whole reflecting on a season whose late-season and playoff progress, somewhat ironically, will yield much less change than fans had hoped would take place this summer.
Friday's final formal set of media appearances will serve as the fodder for at least another week's worth of "empty out the notebook" stories , and as we slowly but surely read and occasionally listen to the players, coaches and management's reflections on the 2013 season and the playoff run that was perhaps a few breaks from a Western Conference Final appearance...
The Wings' players and management will be a busy bunch down at the Joe.
The players will take part in exit interviews with the coaching staff and management, the injured (which is everybody at this point) will receive final treatment, their workout orders and, in some cases, surgical appointments.
The coaching staff will review its performance over the past season, and I'd imagine that the training and equipment staffs go through the same self-audits (and no, no word yet as to when the team will hold its post-season equipment sale).
On Saturday afternoon, the amateur scouts will return from the draft combine in Toronto, and we already know that Kris Draper and Chris Osgood are in Oklahoma City watching the Griffins take part in the AHL's Western Conference finals, so both the team's strategy for the draft on June 30th and its plans in terms of promoting some players from Grand Rapids, assessing "cup of coffee" -call-up pecking orders and considering possible signings ahead of the start of free agency on July 5th...
But sometime around the summer solstice, by the time that even the players who have kids enrolled in local schools have packed up and headed to their summer homes, the coaches, Ken Holland, Ryan Martin--very possibly double-checking Capgeek.com's Wings chart like the rest of us as well as his own figures and simulations--Draper, Mark Howe, Kirk Maltby and the pro scouts, Joe McDonnell and the amateur scouts, Chris Osgood, Kris Draper and even Jim Bedard and Jimmy Devellano will sit down for a several-day organizational powwow, where the team will make final decisions regarding some of its restricted and unrestricted free agents, which prospects and players who've earned roster spots will have to be made room for on the regular-season roster, and whether the team needs to employ its cap compliance buy-outs and/or trades to pare down the roster before targeting a goal-scoring forward and/or a top-four defenseman--depending on who other teams buy out over the last two weeks of June.
Friday's best news came from a player who will turn 35 in July, but remains nothing less than a superstar who could very well play until he's in his early 40's--and perhaps have his number retired one day given his contributions to the team--as MLive's Ansar Khan noted:
The Detroit Red Wings and their fans might be able to breathe a bit easier this summer – Pavel Datsyuk said Friday that he wants to stay here beyond next season. Datsyuk said he hopes to sign a contract extension with the Red Wings this off-season, putting to rest rumors and speculation that he will return to Russia in 2014-15, when his NHL contract expires.
“It's not 100 percent, but I hope we agree and sign more,'' Datsyuk said. “I'm looking forward (to signing with the Red Wings). I would love to stay.''
Datsyuk, 34, has one year remaining on his contract at $6.7 million. There were concerns within the organization and its fan base that it might be his final season. But, the superstar forward indicated he wants to remain in the NHL for a few more years.He said nobody should read anything into his comments during training camp, when he said it would be his dream to finish his career in Russia.
“(Media) asked me and just I answered it's fun to be home (in Russia),'' Datsyuk said. “But (he left) one home to come to another home (here). When you play too much here, it's nice to come back home (to Russia). I hope so we agree and I sign new deal.''
General manager Ken Holland said he plans to talk to Datsyuk's agent, Gary Greenstin, in the next few weeks. Datsyuk can't sign a new contract until July 5. Asked how long he'd like to remain in the NHL, Datsyuk said, “My time is too long, you never know. Hockey now is so competitive, so aggressive game. You never know. But I'm looking forward.''
Holland made sure to temper expectations that he's going to announce an extension on July 5th while speaking to the Free Press's Helene St. James...
Holland said it was "very important" to re-sign Datsyuk but noted that "he's got options, too. I'm going to make a call to his agent. I'd like to have a conversation. We know he's on the team next year. Negotiations are tough, because the player is trying to find out what's fair for him, and the team is trying to find out, competitively, what makes sense.
"Just because somebody says they want to stay doesn't mean you're going to have a contract done in a month."
And he announced that the Wings' abundance of front office personnel will yield no replacement for assistant GM Jim Nill, as he told MLive's Khan:
Rather than have one person assume Jim Nill's duties, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland is dividing the responsibilities. Nill, Detroit's assistant GM since 1997, was hired as the Dallas Stars general manager on April 29.
Martin has spent three seasons as the Red Wings assistant general manager of hockey administration and eight years overall in the front office. His primary responsibility has been salary cap management and all matters relating to the collective bargaining agreement. He also has been involved in all facets of player contract negotiations and player evaluations at the pro and amateur level. Martin will manage the development of the organization's prospects assigned to its AHL affiliate.
McDonnell is the club's director of amateur scouting. He will get input from the club's amateur scouts before making the final decision on the players to draft. This year's entry draft is on June 30 in Newark, N.J.
“For me to go outside (the organization), it’s not fair to the people that have done the work, so I’m going to spread out the responsibility to the people that have been here,'' Holland said. “I believe we have a pretty good program going and they’re a big reason why.''
Holland also told Khan that he's not going to use an amnesty buyout on Johan Franzen. While the Wings are paying Franzen way more than his $3.95 million cap hit for the next three years (if Franzen were to play out the balance of his contract, he'd be due $22.5 million over the next seven seasons), but even in a year where the salary cap's upper limit's dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, players who score 25-30 goals a season will earn $5 million or more (which, ironically enough, is Franzen's real-world salary for the 2013-2014 season)...
And if the Wings are to retain Damien Brunner's services as a UFA, re-sign RFA's Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, promote Tomas Tatar and possibly even see what Calle Jarnkrok can do, never mind cross their fingers about Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and possibly Mikael Samuelsson getting healthy, or attempt to look for a Bryan Bickell-type net-front guy, the team's $11.894 million in cap space will go poof really quickly.
So Franzen stays...
While addressing the media, general manager Ken Holland was asked about the possibility of using a compliance buyout on Franzen, who has seven years and $22.5 million remaining on his contract. No chance, Holland said.
“Yeah, it's crazy (speculation) for me,'' Holland said. “I don't know where you find 30-goal scorers. There is no hockey store. He played 41 games, he had 14 goals. If you times it by two, that's 28 goals. How many players in the league score more than 25 goals?''
Franzen has been inconsistent for the past three seasons. He started slowly this season but finished strong, with 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in his final 13 games. He struggled in the playoffs, however, with four goals, two assists and a team-worst minus-7 rating in 14 games.
Despite his inconsistency, Franzen has a reasonable salary-cap hit ($3.95 million). It would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace the offense he provides at that salary.
Teams are permitted a total of two amnesty buyouts that can be used this summer (in June) or next summer. They can buy-out a player for two-thirds of the remaining value of his contract and not have any of it count against the salary cap. Holland said the option is “at our disposal'' but that it was too soon to know if he will use it on another player.
But we know that Ian White's gone like a fart in the wind (he probably dug his own grave in terms of both the coaches' trust and the management's favor when he said that he he, "Hadn't asked for a trade yet" while serving time as a healthy scratch, and followed that up with some crappy play when he got back into the lineup), that Drew Miller might be lost to a roster crunch and that Daniel Cleary's superb playoff run also belied more injuries and some hard, hard miles on his body, Valtteri Filppula?
Well, Mike Babcock said this of the Wings' engima wrapped in disappointing performances...
But Holland wasn't quite so sure while both he and Filppula spoke to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness (and yes, he's in a walking "boot" as he's got 6-8 weeks of recovering from a high ankle sprain ahead of him):
Filppula is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5 if he doesn’t reach a new deal with the Wings. When asked if he thought he’d be back with the team Filppula said, “I don’t know. It’s too early to say right now. I just have to wait a little longer till summer and see what happens.”
Friday could have been his last time in the locker room.
“I haven’t thought about that too much, but obviously it’s a possibly that could happen,” Filppula said. “It’d be tough. It’s been a really great place to be. I’ve been so happy here. We’ll see if we go … if that’s what’s going to happen.”
Holland said the Wings made Filppula an offer in August and September before talks broke down.
“I think during the season when you’re doing that, to be honest I wasn’t paying too much attention to it, I was just trying to focus on playing,” Filppula said. “Obviously when you negotiate you hope you get something done but that’s not always going to happen. That’s how it is.”
Filppula made $3 million last season and is believed to be asking for about a $2 million raise a year.
“I gotta go through the next month,” Holland said when asked specifically about Filppula. “He’s unrestricted and I gotta sit with the coaches, sit with the scouts.”
I'm no master of GM-speak, but I know that when I was 5 and asked for the sun, moon and stars for Christmas (or pretty close to it in Star Wars and GI Joe toys back in 1983), I received an, "I'll have to ask your mother" from my dad and a, "I'll have to talk to your father" from my mother, and boy howdy, is that ever an, "I'll have to ask your mother" answer about somebody who wants ALL TEH MONEYZ.
Darren Helm told the Free Press's Helene St. James that he continues to be told that he needs rest and not surgery to heal his sore back...
Helm, 26, said not talking about his predicament helps mentally. “I don’t mention it, my parents aren’t allowed to talk to me about it, my girlfriend isn’t allowed to talk about it. When I’m not talking about it, I’m not upset about it.
“If I feel good, we talk about it. But the days we don’t talk about it, I’m optimistic because I feel good. I feel like I’m doing what I can to get healthy.”
Right now, that’s doing almost nothing, exercise-wise. “I’m happy with the progress I’m making and the treatment I’m doing,” Helm said. “Things are going well.”
Helm was lost one game into the 2012 playoffs when he suffered a deep gash to his right forearm, an injury that came after he’d been sidelined by other ailments down the stretch. All in all, he hasn’t had much fun since the start of 2012. “It’s been tough,” he said. “You want to play hockey. This last year of injuries has been really tough for me.
“I’m kind of curious if I even know how to play hockey anymore. It’s been a long time.”
But Wings coach Mike Babcock was quite blunt when discussing the future of his most-missed player with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
"I live in the real world and we need him at playoff time," coach Mike Babcock said. "We don't know what is going on and where we are today he's no closer today than he was in training camp. That's not a good sign. The optimist in me says he's a young man and … (he and the doctors) have to figure it out."
Helm is optimistic he'll be ready for training camp.
"It has gotten better, slower," Helm said. "Talking with people with back pain and back issues, it just takes time."'
In terms of letting the players speak for themselves, and letting you see what took place, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press posted clean-out-day photo galleries, WXYZ posted a short clean-out-day interview with Jimmy Howard...
And the Wings' website posted videos of Danny DeKeyser...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media, with Babcock speaking for 10 minutes...
I found an interview of Ken Daniels speaking to WGR 550 in Buffalo of all places--for 15 minutes. I'm with Daniels in suggesting that this was by far Mike Babcock's best coaching season and the season in which he adapted his coaching style to accommodate player input, I'm glad that Daniels suggests that Bolland boarded Nyquist on the series-winning goal, and I adore the fact that Daniels admits that Fox Sports Detroit was watching the CBC feed and not NBCSN during Game 7.
Dear Gord, "A GOOD NON-CALL" has become the new "subtle interference."
The Free Press's Helene St. James weighed in as well...
And she posted a video of Darren Helm speaking to the media:
The Wings did post a video of the players thanking their fans (Niklas Kronwall gets gushy, and that's pretty awesome), too:
The players expressed nothing but positives to Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji...
"I think you look back last year standing here, Nick (Lidstrom) retiring, Homer (Tomas Holmstrom) retiring, losing Stuie (Brad Stuart), you didn't really know what to expect this year," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "So standing here now going in for next year, I think you're a lot more positive. We know we have a good group of guys here. Make some additions this summer and keep building on what we have. We know we're going to do good things."
This season, injuries to veteran players like Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Darren Helm and Ian White opened the door for the Wings to incorporate young players like Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff. Many of those players were put in major roles during the postseason and gained experience that can't be taught in practice or even regular-season games.
"I felt like with the young guys that came in and stepped up, played important roles on our team and they were a big reason why we got into the playoffs and got to the second round and took Chicago to Game 7," Justin Abdelkader said. "Hopefully we can build off of that for next season and take that momentum and the experience of the Game 7s, which were big for us, and they’ll be helpful for us."
Also vital to the Wings' success were Danny DeKeyser, the defenseman from Western Michigan who signed as an undrafted free agent at the end of March.
"I was so impressed," Daniel Cleary said. "Playing and coming into the NHL as a defenseman is not easy and he came in and he played so well, his attitude and his confidence and he's such a great kid. He really gets it. He's going to be a great pro, he's going to be a great Red Wing. His ability to make plays and passes and his skating and his steadiness, he's only going to get better."
The Wings got an offensive boost from Damien Brunner, the 27-year-old player who dominated the Swiss League.
"It was exciting and a lot of fun, I mean, my first NHL season and I get a chance to play with the Red Wings," Brunner said. "It was an honor to put that sweater on and I’m happy that it turned out the way it did."
Babcock offered more pluses than minuses to NHL.com's Tal Pinchevsky...
"I don't think we made mistakes from a lack of work ethic ever this year. I thought we competed. I thought this group was spectacular as far as that and energy. I enjoyed coaching this year as much as I ever enjoyed it. I had a great time," Babcock said Thursday. "Obviously I was disappointed, but we're proud of what happened here.
"I also think we revitalized our fan base a little bit. We don't have to talk about the past; we can talk about the present. Sometimes when you've been so successful for so long, you get hung up on the people that went before you. It's about who's here now and we've got a good group."
More than anything, that group went from struggling to find its way early in an abbreviated season to coming within one overtime goal of advancing to the Western Conference Final. The balance that emerged on this team relied primarily on the leadership of returning veterans as well as the play of a strong rookie class that included Danny DeKeyser, Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner.
"Our leadership group, [Henrik] Zetterberg, [Niklas] Kronwall, [Pavel] Datsyuk -- those guys set the bar very high. I think that group helped their coaching staff and helped their teammates as much as any group I've ever been around," Babcock said. "Our upgrades this year were from within, not outside. Obviously signing Brunner and DeKeyser were big coups for us. They both became impactful guys for our team."
The biggest adjustment for the Red Wings next season will be a move to the Eastern Conference. Babcock has already begun researching what he and his team can expect in the East next season.
"I talked to [former Detroit assistant and current Ottawa Senators coach] Paul MacLean; he says it's more physically demanding right from the get-go as far as fighting and physicality," Babcock said. "We'll be excited for short trips and good sleeps."
In "the spirit of the thing," the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa both reflected upon the Wings' season and playoff run while offering more player and coach takes on what transpired during an incredibly manic period of time in Wings history, suggesting that the Wings exceeded expectations...
Losing in overtime in the seventh game to the Blackhawks was a kick in the gut. But no one could have expected them to be there.
For a while, it was easy for any fan or observer to think we were alone in enjoying the experience of watching Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl mature and Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner, Danny DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith enter the lineup, "grab their piece of it," as Babcock likes to say, and not let go. But, as it became apparent late in the season, tons of citizens of Hockeytown enjoyed it.
Anticipating a decline in popularity for the Red Wings, with the departure of Lidstrom? Think again. At every game, the stands were mostly filled. And by the end of the season their emotions were unbridled.
"The fan support we had this year, late in the season and the playoffs, was maybe the loudest, most boisterous we've had since I've been here," Cleary said. "It was amazing; the treatment that we got, how they responded. I thought as a team we really came together."
As a fan base, we really came back together, too, especially given how splintered we were around and just after the trade deadline. Man, it was nasty in here.
"I thought the guys worked really hard," Babcock said. "I thought it was a real competitive group that tried to get better each and every day. You know, I was obviously disappointed like everyone else. I thought we could be playing in L.A. here tonight.But we're proud of what happened here. We're proud of the guys.
"I also think we've revitalized our fan base a little bit in that, you know, it's not a thing of the past. We don't have to talk about the past. We can talk about the present. I think sometimes when you've been so successful for so long you get hung up on the people that went before you. It's about who's here now, and we got a good group."
Or, as Pavel Datsyuk told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff (change of plans, but this article fits narrative-wise):
"My optimism is always on the top," Datsyuk said. "This is how we can play. We played together. I like it. We don't have too many Nick Lidstroms, (Steve) Yzermans or (Sergei) Fedorovs, but we play together and it's a good year for us. I'm looking forward to keeping same team, kind of, and doing the same next year."
Damien Brunner sounded like what he is--a 27-year-old who's never been unsigned past late March...
"I can't say anything bad about the Detroit Red Wings," Brunner said. "I guess I have to think about it in the next couple of weeks and talk to my agent and (Detroit GM) Kenny (Holland), and then we'll see what's going on."
While Filppula was...circumspect...
Centre Valtteri Filppula is an unrestricted free agent and isn't likely to get the $4.5-5 million annual contract he'll seek from Detroit. But wading into a thin free-agent pool, there's likely a team out there that's willing to ante up.
"We have to see what feels right for me," Filppula said. "We'll see."
As was the GM who probably won't re-sign him:
"As we head into the off-season, we've got to figure out ways to get better," Holland said. "We have to find a way to figure out a way to get a little bit better and a little bit different. Is it getting tougher, bigger, younger or quicker? Those are the decisions we have to make."
Yes, yes and yes?
It should not surprise you that the Free Press's Evil Drew Sharp accentuated the negative, ripping into the Wings for falling short, and ripping into Johan Franzen specifically:
The Red Wings failed against Chicago. Just call it for what it was. There has been enough sugarcoating the Wings’ sudden and startling demise against the Blackhawks that had many reaching for the nearest insulin injection. You can’t embrace the peculiar parity of the Stanley Cup playoffs in one breath and in the next argue that you should be ecstatic in defeat because few gave you a reasonable chance of succeeding at the beginning.
The ache should linger. It should anger. It should motivate.
“It’s something that we should keep in our back pocket for the entire summer,” goalie Jimmy Howard said Friday. “And you take it out when you need to push yourself a little harder in conditioning, or if you think you’ve already done enough to make yourself better. This proves that there’s always more you can do.”
In sports, failure becomes fuel. There aren’t many championship tales spun without a prologue that captures the angst of bitter, hurtful disappointment.
Johan Franzen failed. He scored one goal against the Blackhawks. Franzen isn’t the dual threat of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, both of whom made significant defensive impact against Chicago. That didn’t completely offset their limited goal-scoring in the series, but at least you always knew they were on the ice.
Franzen vanished again. And as another off-season begins at the midway point of the playoffs, the question must be asked whether Franzen should just disappear altogether.
Sharp figures that Franzen's career with the Wings hangs upon his 2013-2014 season and playoff performance, and I actually agree with that estimation.
The cap's going to go back up in the summer of 2014, maybe all the way back up to $70 million, and if we are, as I believe, in the middle of a two-year "rebuilding on the fly" process, next year's trade deadline and next summer's free agent period may yield a team whose players, coaches and management are more certain who they are, who they aren't and what they need in terms of personnel to deliver Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall a later-years-of-their-career Stanley Cup championship push. Franzen may or may not fit into that picture a year from now.
I will tell you what I think about the Wings-Hawks series in a couple of days, after the searing pain fades a bit and we watch Captain Pork Chop throw some tantrums while trying to battle against the rugby/football/wrestling-on-ice style of play that Darryl Sutter's teams employ. I don't want to say much right now.
Sharp concludes with some captain obviousness:
Although it’s true the Wings are in a better position now than they were at this same time a year ago after the retirements of Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart, it’s way too premature arguing that they’re back to being serious Stanley Cup contenders after only one transitional season.
But they’ve begun the road back. How fast they travel back down that path will depend on how quickly they accept and learn from the utter disaster that was that final week against the Blackhawks.
The Free Press's Helene St. James has some inklings as to what the team's going to do roster-wise, and I wish I could quote her entire column, so I'll suggest that you read the rest of it on your own as it's just excellent stuff:
By the time next season starts, Filppula is almost certain to have found a new home. He consistently leaves the team wanting. He has great assets — vision, speed — but he doesn’t play hard enough to warrant the $5 million a year he’s seeking. Some team will offer that, at long term, too, and the Wings are wary of handcuffing themselves to such a deal. Filppula said all the right things Friday about wanting to come back, but this is his first time as an unrestricted free agent, and his camp is well aware of what he can get on an open market.
The list of unrestricted free agents leads off with Filppula, but also includes Daniel Cleary, Damien Brunner and Drew Miller. There’s a good chance all three will be back. The team very much wants to keep Cleary, who finished the playoffs as the second-leading scorer, and who provided incalculable leadership in the locker room.
Brunner finished the playoffs with a team-best five goals. He has an unteachable knack for scoring that will prompt the Wings to do what it takes to keep him. Miller adds speed and, like Brunner and Cleary, said his first choice is to remain in Detroit.
However, as St. James notes, the Wings also have to figure Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist into their plans, and with Darren Helm hopefully getting healthy, Todd Bertuzzi dealing with chronic back issues that seem to get worse each and every year, and Mikael Samuelsson needing surgery for a torn pectoral muscle...
Plans are to carry 14 forwards, but the roster doesn’t have to be trimmed until the season is about to start. That should be time for some answers to filter in, like: Will Mikael Samuelsson be able to play after a season segueing from one injury to another? Will Todd Bertuzzi, who was sidelined for a long time by back and leg pain and then wound up a healthy scratch in the playoffs? If nothing else, they will provide depth, and if they can’t make the roster, they can be put on waivers.
St. James has also wondered aloud whether Jordin Tootoo has a future in Detroit. If you watch the Babcock video, Babcock is very insistent, while speaking directly to St. James, that Tootoo will be very important as a regular season player, but that one cannot take penalties in the playoffs, so enforcers have to sit.
I'm not so sure about that, but what do I know? I'm not the coach, and I wouldn't want Justin Abdelkader or Jonathan Ericsson to risk bruising their hands as the team's toughest guys either.
Now here's where St. James disagrees with everybody else, Ken Daniels included, because Khan, Pleiness, Duff and the vast majority of the media think that the Wings need to add a Bryan Bickell-type forward to go to the front of the net and hammer in rebounds, whereas St. James believes that if the Wings are to make one move, they should bolster their blueline (which would obviously necessitate trading one of or both of Quincey or Colaiacovo as a result):
On the back end, another attempt will be made to upgrade. The Wings spent last summer trying to add a top-four defenseman after losing Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, but were unable to reel in anyone. There are far fewer attractive ones headed for free agency this summer — Mark Streit will be targeted, as will Sergei Gonchar, for short-term help. But the Wings bought themselves some breathing room when they acquired Danny DeKeyser, who turned out to be a bigger upgrade than anyone in the organization thought. In the month he played, DeKeyser showed he’s capable beyond his 23 years. He’s 6-feet-3 and mobile, and is only going to get better as he gets stronger.
Otherwise, Niklas Kronwall is locked up, as is Jonathan Ericsson, and together they form a top pairing that can be put out against anybody. Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith are restricted; they’ll be re-signed. Kindl had a transformative season; Smith, a trying one. He can skate and move the puck, but he needs to improve defensively. Kyle Quincey and Carlo Colaiacovo have another year left on their deals. Ian White won’t be back. Brian Lashoff is out of waiver options, and the team doesn’t want to lose him for nothing, but he doesn’t have any skills with the puck. The Wings want to upgrade over what Colaiacovo and Lashoff give them.
Brian Lashoff is one of the nicest people, never mind hockey players, that I've ever met, but even I don't know if he has a future with the team given what DeKeyser can bring to the table and how remarkably well Kindl progressed into one of the few Wings defensemen who rips pucks on net like shooting will be made illegal and hockey sticks confiscated two minutes after he hits the offensive blueline.
The Wings' power play and puck possession system has always been predicated upon forwards getting into the offensive zone and peeling off (sometimes frustratingly) before passing pucks back to defensemen and either heading toward the side boards for passng outlets or going toward the net, and Kronwall, Ericsson, DeKeyser and Kindl get it, and Smith is coming along. I don't know if Lashoff's more than a defensive defenseman, Quincey is...Quincey...And Colaiacovo is fantastically inconsistent.
But top-four defensemen cost $5 million a season in this day and age, and with nobody nearly ready for NHL duty with the kind of size and strength that the Wings would like to add up front (Riley Sheahan's another Andersson-style defensive center), I think they're gonna go with what they've got on defense, Quincey and Lashoff included, to start the season. But that's my opinion.
St. James also believes that the Wings will keep "The Monster," though you and I know that Petr Mrazek's knocking on the door (though sitting on the bench while Jimmy Howard plays 60 games does Mrazek little to no good):
No change is coming in goal. A year ago, Jonas Gustavsson was hired to help lessen Howard’s workload, and while Gustavsson struggled to do that this year, the thinking is he’ll do better next season, when every game isn’t magnified like it was this season.
I sure hope so.
In the prospect department, the Grand Rapids Griffins will presumably play Games 4 and 5 of their AHL Western Conference Final series against the Oklahoma City Barons tonight and tomorrow, with the Nyquist-Andersson-Tatar line reunited...
And we never did find out whether the team signed Belleville Bulls forward Alan Quine, a smallish but speedy center who the team drafted in 2011. The Wings' rights to Quine theoretically expired at midnight on June 1st.
Quine registered 66 points over the course of 54 regular season games played--piling up 41 points over only 28 games with the OHL's Bulls (he'd been traded there from Peterborough), and following that up with 15 points over the course of 17 playoff games played...
But the Wings have a lot of smallish, speedy forwards in their system. He's listed at 5'11" and 188 pounds, and I think that measurement includes his equipment.
One never knows regarding the Wings' PR machine, so it is entirely possible that we'll find out that they signed him on Monday or Tuesday, and it is entirely possible that we'll find out that they haven't done so.
The Wings probably didn't sign Phillipe Hudon, either, but Hudon's a remarkable story and a remarkable person, a 6'1," 196-pound winger (accurate measurements there) who posted 35 points in 65 regular season games and 7 points in 9 playoff games with the Victoriaville Tigres in the QMJHL despite battling a moderate-to-severe obssessive-compulsive disorder, and I get the feeling that Hudon will show up at the summer development camp and fall prospect tournament as a free agent, and will find his way onto the ECHL's Toledo Walleye's roster.
The Wings have signed the rest of their 2011 draft picks, with Alexei Marchenko being their latest signing, and outspoken Russian hockey expert Sergei Gimaev offered the following take on the oft-injured but highly-skiled CSKA Moscow defenseman to Sovetsky Sport:
"If it weren't for his health issues, I would have unequivocally said that Alexei Marchenko is an NHL player," says Sergei Gimaev. "This defenseman really plays well. Let's face it, it's a little disappinting that CSKA Moscow didn't let him play to his full potential. And now he wants to break through to the NHL."
"I don't think he's going to get lost in Detroit's system. He won't spend 3 seasons in the AHL, like Phoenix's Maxim Goncharov. But if he doesn't make it, Marchenko will return to Russia."
And finally, I'd like to let the Wings' players take us out via three "Ask a Wing" segments posted on the team's YouTube channel:
One more thing: do you guys and gals even want me to post some sort of player assessment/grade stuff, or is that tiresome?
Update: MLive's Brendan Savage spoke to the Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be about their desire to stay with the Wings. Daniel Cleary sounds like he'd be devastated if he wasn't re-signed...
"My thoughts are I love Detroit, obviously," said Cleary 34. "That's an understatement. Got a great relationship with Kenny (Holland, the Red Wings' general manager). He said we have to get talking. So we'll figure it out pretty soon."
Cleary, a member of the Red Wings' 2008 Stanley Cup championship team, was Detroit's second-leading scorer in the playoffs with four goals and six assists in 14 games. He said leaving Detroit would be difficult.
"Yeah, it would be," said Cleary, who made $2.8 million this season. "Taking off the jersey in Chicago, I had to take a minute. I don't know. I don't want to get too emotional but certainly the relationship I have with Detroit is very special."
Brunner was diplomatic...
"I can't say anything bad about the Detroit Red Wings," said Brunner, whose base salary was $925,000 this season. "I guess I have to think about it in the next couple of weeks and talk to my agent and Kenny and then we'll see what's going on. It's hard for me to say (what will happen). We'll see what's coming. I'm exciting about talking to them about my future."
Miller wants to return...
"I would like to stay," said Miller, 29. "I gotta talk to (coach Mike Babcock) and to Kenny Holland, figure out what their approach is to coming back. I don't have much more to say other than I'd like to come back. But being in a position to have options is something that could possibly be looked at but my first choice would be to stay and come back."
And Ian White...Well, they made him stick around for the team picture, and he'll take part in an exit interview. After that? I'd imagine his house will be on the market soon:
"I spoke with them a few times," said White, who made $2.875 million this season. "The only think I can think of is I'm a small defenseman and I've been hearing that my whole life, 'You've got to be big to play' and all that. They decided to go with their big defensemen and that didn't include me. I assumed I wasn't going to play (in the postseason). I hadn't played in a month before that. Why all of a sudden I get in the playoffs when we had real crucial games down the stretch too where I wasn't out there? I didn't think I'd be the first one in the playoffs that's for sure."
Babcock certainly sounded like someone who is counting on White next season.
"Whitey, it didn't go the way Whitey wanted it," Babcock said. "Whitey's a real good person, a real good man. We wish him luck.''
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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.