The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/02/14 at 02:46 AM ET
Thursday's biggest Red Wings story involved the coach dismissing media speculation that he's leaving after next season--which was more or less tossed aside as "PC talk" by those who believe that what Mike Babcock suggests about grass not being greener elsewhere is just a little gunk in the rumor mill's greasy wheels--more locker room clean-out-day talk and prospect news.
This morning's Wings reflections run the gamut of the "sympathy meter," and we'll start our survey with the Free Press's Helene St. James' conversation with one Todd Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi, like Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo and Cory Emmerton, lost his job to the Wings' "kids," but Bertuzzi wants to continue playing, and Bertuzzi's words to St. James reflect those of a player whose tenure with the Wings was one of professionalism and surprising mentorship to the "kids" that will leave him looking for employment elsewhere:
“Playing and living in Detroit, it’s been a great place to raise a family, a great place for kids to play sports, and a great place to play in front of fans, who’ve been awesome to me,” Bertuzzi said Thursday en route to Toronto, where his 13-year-old son is playing in a tournament. “I’d put Detroit as my favorite place to have played. California and Florida had their weather benefits, but as far as life style, we couldn’t have lived in a better area. I love playing here, with the ownership and management that we have, the way they run the organization, you’re treated first class.”
Bertuzzi, 39, is coming off a season that saw him contribute 16 points in 59 games. He went from being used next to Pavel Datsyuk in the first half to the fourth line and then had success playing with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar.
Bertuzzi's health continued to get in the way as he battled some back and groin issues, but the Tatars, Nyquists, Sheahans, Jurcos and even Glendenings left him working out in the weight room instead of playing. Bertuzzi still believes that he can play, however...
“I feel like I got off to a good start, then we had a tough month when we weren’t scoring, then I got parked for a month and then we went on break,” Bertuzzi said. “I was disappointed not to get into the mix of the playoffs. I still feel like I can play, and I’d love to come back, but I don’t know if there’s room.”
The Wings have 11 forwards under contract for next season, only one of whom, Tomas Jurco, is waiver-exempt. Joakim Andersson, however, doesn’t seem to be a fit any more, as he was jumped on the depth chart by Luke Glendening. The Wings do have interest in keeping unrestricted free agent Daniel Alfredsson, who is deciding whether he wants to play again.
(one could also argue that Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff are in the Andersson camp)
“If there’s no room here, or the coaching staff doesn’t feel there is a fit for me, I’ll look to see if there is anything else out there,” Bertuzzi said. “But it would have to be a perfect fit for our family’s lifestyle. Both my son and daughter are huge parts of the consideration because they both play hockey, too.”
Bertuzzi became a fan favorite and his status as the Water Bottle Police was less than surprising, but if he chooses to continue to play, it's hard to imagine that he's going to do so with the Wings, especially with Mitchell Callahan and Landon Ferraro no longer waiver-exempt next fall.
In my opinion at least, it's a bummer that Bertuzzi won't finish his career here. He came in as an outcast in 2007, he stayed for one playoff run, chased the Cup past Anaheim in 2008 and Calgary in 2009, and then he returned here and was a superb pro on and off the ice. I'll miss him because it turns out that Todd Bertuzzi's a very decent human being.
For whatever reason, the Detroit News re-posted an edited a John Niyo column in which Niyo discussed Jimmy Howard's up-and-down season with Howard. We all know that while Howard's a swell guy, he was a little harder to sympathize with as he re-injured his knee, groin, and the Wings' goal on a regular basis, thanks to an incredibly inconsistent post-contract extension season:
[A]fter finishing the season with subpar numbers — 21 wins in 50 starts, a 2.66 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage — Howard admits, “I can be a lot better, across the board.”
“Just with consistency alone and helping the guys get wins,” said Howard, who recorded a shutout in Game 1 against the Bruins but gave up a few easy ones the next two starts. “It was just one of those years. Statistic-wise, it wasn’t very good. I think I can be a lot better. I’ve proved in the past I’ve been a lot better. And that’s the way I want to be moving forward."
That’s what the Red Wings are counting on, no doubt. And their first priority has to be to protect him better by adding the top-four defenseman they should have brought in a year ago. Whether it’s in free agency or via trade, there’s no hiding the need now, even with youngsters Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet ready to play in Detroit next season.
Or Mattias Backman or Alexey Marchenko?
Just as Niyo rather loudly proclaimed that Babcock's out the door on Tuesday morning, he's playing devil's advocate regarding the concept that Petr Mrazek not only needs to be given a chance to "push Howard," but also that Howard should be on the path to planned obsolescence:
“We believe we’ve got a 60-game No. 1 goalie (in Howard),” Holland said. “Is Petr Mrazek, as a 22-year-old, better off playing 15-18 games in the NHL or is he better off playing 65 games in the AHL for one more year? That’s the internal conversation we’ve got to have.”
Holland and Babcock were in Grand Rapids on Wednesday night, watching the Griffins drop their first-round playoff home opener. (Mrazek made a team-record 55 saves in the double-overtime series opener last week.) They’ve seen Mrazek in action in Detroit as well, most recently in a shutout victory over the Blues in the Red Wings regular-season finale.
The Red Wings can stash Mrazek in the AHL for one more season without him having to clear waivers, so there’s a chance they’ll try to re-sign Gustavsson — or another veteran — to a one-year deal. But at 29, Gustavsson’s likely looking for something more — “I’m just going to try to go where I can feel like I can take that next step,” he said — and the Red Wings might be, too, considering his injury history.
If so, maybe it’s time to give the backup job to a rookie. Not to mess with Howard’s mind, really. Just to give the next guy a head start.
It's harder still to sympathize with Stephen Weiss, because his desire to play through a nagging groin injury turned his 2013-2014 season into a nightmare.
The Wings' medical and training staff may be incredibly cautious, but letting Weiss continue to play due to poor self-reporting may be the most damning criticism of their mismanagement of the team's injuries.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness took note of Weiss's comments regarding his desire to fulfill expectations yielding a pair of surgeries and a lost campaign:
If Stephen Weiss had it all over to do again he would have come clean about how he felt to start the season. Weiss began the season with a hernia and tried to play through it.
“Coming down for the first game of the year and thinking ‘How are you going to get through the game?’ is probably not the right way to start,” Weiss said Tuesday during the Wings’ locker room cleanout at Joe Louis Arena. “I have to be smarter. It’s not my first year, I’ve been around a bit and should be a little bit smarter and should have spoken up earlier and maybe some of this could have been avoided. But sometimes that’s not my style. I’ll tend to do that and it got me in some trouble this year. (This season was) a huge disappointment, but in saying that it kind of fuels the fire for this summer and next year.”
The hefty salary he signed in the offseason – a five-year deal worth $24.5 million – to be the Wings’ second-line center to replace Valtteri Filppula helped fuel the pressure of making an immediate impact.
Weiss, 31, managed to play just 26 games this season totaling two goals, two assists and a minus-4. Filppula had a career-high 25 goals in his first season in Tampa Bay with 33 assists in 75 games.
“I’m not big on saying much about (injury) stuff and it got me into some trouble, there’s no doubt about it,” Weiss said. “I should have been smarter in taking care of it sooner and not played through it as much.
“I’ve done it in the past and been able to play through those types of things, but I’m not 23 and 24 years old anymore,” Weiss continued. “So that’s a bit of a wake-up call that you’re getting older and you’re going to have to be smarter with these types of things.”
Weiss's future with the Wings is secure because not playing hockey for most of the past two seasons (he also had reconstructive surgery on his left wrist during the 2013 season) means that he's untradeable, but the Wings don't necessarily know what they have in unlucky #90, as Ken Holland told Pleiness:
“It’s hard to know where he’s going to be in September,” Holland said. “A lot of where he’s going to be is going to be about … in the next month, is he going to be healthy? Was that small surgery that was performed last week or was that the answer to what ails him. Is he able to have a June, July and August where he’s able to hit the guy and come to camp healthy, fit and ready to go or are we going to wake up in early June and he’s where he was a month ago and we’re going to continue to be looking for answers as to why he isn’t getting healthy. I don’t have an answer for you. I thought he’d be healthy six weeks ago. So for me to stand here and say he’s going to be healthy in a month, he’s going to have a great summer, he’s going to have a great year, I don’t know that. We need him to get healthy before anything positive can happen. He’s not healthy.”
Holland doesn't get any sympathy from fans, and his 2:59 PM EDT trade for Nashville Predators forward David Legwand garners none from me. Legwand may or may not have been the team's difference-maker in terms of making the playoffs, but Legwand's stock dropped precipitously during his tenure here.
When he was first acquired, he displayed a fantastic nose for the net, grit, jam and poise, carrying Johan Franzen along while producing at a 50-point clip.
Afew weeks in, his nastiness seemed to fade, and Legwand had gone from centering Franzen and Nyquist to playing the shift disturber with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.
At the start of the playoffs, Legwand was to steady Drew Miller and Luke Glendening, and that seemed to work well during Game 1.
By the end of the first round, Legwand was at least winning some of the faceoffs that Glendening lost, but he was invisible otherwise.
Given that the Wings paid a stiff price to acquire Legwand in top prospect Calle Jarnkrok, a 2nd round draft pick and free agent-to-be Patrick Eaves...
In all honesty, it's very hard to make a real assessment of the trade, and I'll be the first to admit that my incredibly positive impressions regarding Jarnkrok's future continue to cloud my judgment here.
That's probably not going to change any time soon, but with trades like these, the best determinant of its cost is TIME, and whether this trade proves to be a minor setback or a millstone around Ken Holland's neck will reveal itself based upon the performances of Jarnkrok and whoever the Predators draft thsi spring over the next five to ten years as opposed to between now and October.
Wings fans once thought that trading Anders Eriksson and the first round picks that would become Adam Munro and Steve MacIntyre to Chicago for Chris Chelios would doom the team, and Eriksson turned out to be a journeyman.
The Wings did reap the benefits of Robert Lang when he was snagged from Washington for Tomas Fleischmann and a 1st round pick in 2004, with Lang helping bridge the gap up the middle and scoring some key playoff goals, and Fleischmann never did quite find his form, but that first-rounder became Mike Green, who's...Never found his form.
As for Kyle Quincey, he was acquired for the first-round pick that became Andrei Vasilevski, and Salavat Yulaev's starting goaltender is now supposedly one of the Lightning's top prospects, but one never knows how goalies will develop.
And now there's Legwand.
The timing of DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's once-or-twice-weekly "By the Numbers" review of Red Wings players' statistical outputs can foretell their futures with the organization, and the fact that Legwand leads off the "By the Numbers" campaign hints at the fact that the Grosse Pointe native is going to continue to skate with the Wings when they practice at the Troy Sports Center and Joe Louis Arena every August for as long as he plays hockey...
But those red Warrior gloves with shot-blocking plastic on the knuckles are going to be replaced by some other team's colors soon, and he's only going to visit Detroit during summers and road games.
Anyway, here's Roose's summary of Legwand's 2013-2014 season:
83 The number of regular-season games he played between Nashville and Detroit. The Red Wings acquired him at the trade deadline. He’s the only player in the past two seasons to play a greater number of games than the NHL schedule.
11 The total points he produced in 21 regular-season games since joining the Red Wings at the NHL trade deadline. Only Gustav Nyquist (20), Tomas Tatar (13), Daniel Alfredsson (12) and Riley Sheahan (12) produced more points between March 6 and the April 13 season finale in St. Louis.
37: In his 14th NHL season, Legwand collected a career-high number of assists, including seven in the final five-plus weeks of the campaign with the Red Wings. The 37 assists are the most he’s had since 1998-99 – his final OHL season when he picked up 49 helpers for the Plymouth Whalers.
If you're interested in a different kind of review of the 2013-14 season, the Free Press posted a 12-image photo gallery highlighting the ups and downs, and in Boston...
The blather continues from a media corps that still insists the Wings are and forever will be nothing more than a speedbump, even as they rationalize the Bruins' 4-3 OT loss to Montreal on Thursday.
SoutCoast Today's Mick Colageo offered this prior to the game...
MICK'S PICK: Bruins in 6
Of all 16 horses in the race to the Stanley Cup, the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins were the first to clinch their spots in the second round. No two teams were as efficient at diffusing the points of attack from their opponents, and no two teams were as successful in executing their respective game plans.
How much of that reflects on their opponents? Some to be sure, as injuries rendered the Detroit Red Wings a shell of what their logo has signified the past 20 years, while the Tampa Bay Lightning also proved not ready for prime time after an encouraging season of rebuilding and an inspiring comeback by superstar Steven Stamkos.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has fairly noted both at the end of series wins and series losses that injuries play a major role in the outcome of the playoffs. Montreal's opening-round sweep is convincing by any measure, but the team that faces the Bruins tonight won three of the four games against the Lightning by one goal. The Bruins are nowhere near as sloppy as the Canadiens, and with their young defensemen's playoff resumes extended by the Detroit series, there could be not stopping them now. This series will be difficult, but it will end in Montreal in overtime of the sixth game.
And CBS Boston's Matt Kalman gushes about Tuuka Rask (among others; that being said, he's not much compared to CSNNE's Joe Haggerty, either, given how gushy Haggerty gets over every little Bruins thing):
The disgust Rask was feeling after the game isn’t likely to linger. He’s known for not letting much faze him; the type of guy who burns his toast in the morning and just throws a couple of more pieces in (even though he definitely drops an f-bomb or two).
It’s the Canadiens’ fans and a majority of their players who speak French, but Rask is one whose motto is c’est la vie.
“Well, you suck, you suck. That’s it,” Rask said. “What can I say? It’s playoffs.”
Rask definitely doesn’t suck. Ten million Vezina Trophy voters can’t be wrong. He’s a finalist for the award as the best goaltender, he’s been the best goaltender for a couple of seasons now and you know the Bruins can always count on him.
He’s also a rarity for a goalie – he’s a player willing to take the blame and rarely, if ever, excoriates his teammates. That’s why they love him and a major reason why they’ll try to do better for him in Game 2.
In this long series, Rask will probably make everyone forget anything he said or did in Game 1. The only four-letter word you’ll associate with him will be save.
I'll spare you from the rest, but I can assure you that the B's media continues to spew its love for the spoked-B, and at least the Wings' ouster spared us from having to read more of it.
Sympathy for the Bruins?
Not a milliliter.
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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.