The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/08/14 at 02:27 AM ET
The World Championships begin on Friday, and it appears that at least one of the rinks in Minsk, Belarus is up to Sochi standards in terms of game-readiness, per SVT's Marie Lehmann:
Danny DeKeyser, Justin Abdelkader and Team USA will battle Belarus at 1:45 PM EDT (Minsk time = 7 hours ahead of EDT), and the battle between Tomas Tatar's Slovaks and Jakub Kindl's Czechs starts at the same time. NBCSN will air the Americans' preliminary round games, but one will need to utilize...alternate means...to watch the rest.
On Wednesday, Expressen's Jonatan Lindquist reported that Jimmie Ericsson, Calle Jarnkrok and Gustav Nyquist will serve as Team Sweden's top line; the Slovak news agency TASR reported that the Slovaks held an afternoon practice, which Tomas Tatar felt was useful to shake the lead out of his legs; Jakub Kindl told iDnes that he's prepared to step up to the challenge of playing on the Czechs' first defensive pair; Nicklas Lidstrom had a long chat with Marie Hallman, too, but you're probably not going to get much out of it unless you speak Swedish.
Back over on this side of the pond, as you already know, the Red Wings news cycle rotates around two very different axes--Mike Babcock's coaching future and the playoff performances of the Wings' top prospects.
Babcock made the radio rounds in a big way on Wednesday, and in addition to appearing on Calgary's The Fan 690 on Wednesday morning, he spoke with the CBC's Rob Pizzo and Elliotte Friedman during the afternoon--and Babcock tells the pair that he spoke with Daniel Alfredsson regarding his future, and both Babcock and Alfredsson are concerned about his ability to contribute while he battled chronic injuries:
Quoth the CBC:
The Red Wings, despite a franchise-record 421 man games lost to injury, qualified for the post-season for a 23rd consecutive year, squeezing into eighth and final playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference with a 39-28-15 record.
And they did it with star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on in the injured list for extended periods. Nine Red Wings made their NHL debuts this season and Babcock iced 38 players in all.
“This year was a ton of fun,” Babcock said. “We had tons of kids who were willing to do what you asked them to do and in the end they were good enough to get us in the playoffs. But we weren’t good enough to keep playing.”
In terms of the Red Wings' prospects, Babcock was in attendance to witness Anthony Mantha score four goals and add an assist over the course of two games--a win on Tuesday and a loss on Wednesday--in Val-d'Or, Quebec, but he and the Wings' brass are likely to head to Austin, Texas to watch the Grand Rapids Griffins' second-round series against the Texas Stars.
The Griffins posted a massive preview of the series and a via-Twitter photo gallery from the team's Wednesday practice, and this morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James posted something of a, "Why this matters" article regarding tonight's series-opener (8:30 PM EDT start on AHLLive.com and...different places...)...
The Griffins gained Wings Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco after Detroit was eliminated by Boston on April 26, and those two already have a goal and an assist each in two games. It’s a good confidence boost for both players — neither had a point during the Boston series. Jurco ended up being a healthy scratch the last two games against the Bruins.
Sheahan and Jurco were big contributors to the 2013-14 Wings and figure to be regulars next season (though Jurco is waiver exempt), and there are several other Griffins auditioning for potential spots in Detroit.
Forward Teemu Pulkkinen leads Grand Rapids with five points in four games; he’s being given a hard look as a possible addition because he’s got a wicked right-hand shot, something the Wings need. Pulkkinen, 22, appeared in four games this season in Detroit, with no points.
Defenseman Ryan Sproul is also having a good spring with the Griffins — he has two goals among four points in four playoff games. He’s also expected to push for a Wings spot next season; he would add a right-handed shot to the back end, something that’s currently missing.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek carries a 3-1 record with a 1.72 goals-against average and .936 save percentage into the second round. He has looked so good over nearly a dozen appearances with the Wings that there’s internal debate about whether he’d be a better backup to Jimmy Howard next season that anyone available on the market.
Wings management is also getting a look at a couple of draft picks who joined the Griffins after the seasons in their native Sweden ended. Defenseman Mattias Backman has four points in four games, and forward Mattias Janmark — a 2013 pick who is not on the radar for next season — has one point after four playoff games.
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, who discussed the Wings' top AHL-playing prospects on Wednesday morning, has penned an article discusisng Grififns coach Jeff Blashill's future:
“My total focus right now is on (the next game), and this playoff round,” Blashill said as his team, the defending Calder Cup champions, prepares to play Texas in the second round of the American League playoffs. “I don’t think about the future.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, however, does look ahead. He has stated multiple times since the Red Wings season ended he will not allow other teams to interview Blashill, who is in the second year of a three-year deal.
“I don’t really want to be a development team for other teams,” said Holland, who has watched other teams pluck front office execs (Steve Yzerman, Jim Nill) and coaches (Paul MacLean, Todd McLellan) from the Red Wings in recent years. “We’ve got to get this team going.”
Blashill, who played college hockey at nearby Ferris State and coached at Ferris State and Western Michigan, said he enjoys coaching the Griffins and has a good working relationship with Holland.
“My focus is to develop these players the best I can and win games for the Griffins,” Blashill said. “That’s been my focus (all along). I haven’t even had discussions with Kenny (regarding the future). We’ve focused on the playoffs. Any of other stuff, we’ll leave to after the season.”
And that is part of what has impressed Holland.
“I believe Blash is an NHL coach in the making,” Holland said. “Is he ready today? He’s coached in the AHL for two years and he had one year in the (NHL, as Mike Babcock’s assistant).”
Otherwise, this morning's crop of "overnight" stories involve a bit of, "Everything old is new again" with some eyebrow-raisers thrown in.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness confirmed that Pavel Datsyuk won't need knee surgery (hopefully)...
“As of right now I don’t think he’s having surgery,” Holland said in a phone interview. “He’s begun some offseason workouts in Detroit. We’ve asked him to stay in communication.”
Holland said coach Mike Babcock introduced Datsyuk to a local trainer to begin a rehab program to strengthen his left knee in order to avoid going under the knife.
“He’s pushing hard and we’re going to continue to monitor,” Holland said. “If nothing changes, he won’t have surgery.”
Holland added that Datsyuk will be re-evaluated in possibly a couple of weeks.
“We asked him to push hard,” Holland said. “At the end of the year he had no pain. That’s why the doctors said they can’t recommend surgery if he doesn’t have pain.
“The hockey people felt he had a quickness to his stride in playoffs,” Holland added.
Datsyuk will be in Detroit for another month to hopefully help fix the ailment.
“As we go along, if he has no discomfort or pain we’ll do no surgery,” Holland said.
And he asked Holland about the Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be, adding a wee bit of new news:
“We had an exit meeting with Alfie,” Holland said. “He needs time to determine if he’s got the passion and desire to play again and if his body will let him do the things he wants to do.”
Holland told Alfredsson, 41, they wouldn’t be making a decision until the middle of June.
“There’s lots of time,” Holland said.
The other unrestricted free agents include David Legwand, Kyle Quincey, Jonas Gustavsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson.
“I told Legwand, Quincey and Gustavsson we’re going to take time to have internal meetings,” Holland said. “In late May or early June I’ll reach out to their agents to let them know if we have a contract offer.”
I posted the Windsor Star's Bob Duff's reminder of Alfredsson's locker room clean-out day comments on Tuesday--cue the reminder post...
“There’s a lot of factors that play in, mentally, physically and family,” Alfredsson said. “I still love the game, there’s no question about that. At the same time, you’ve got to end it sometime.”
“It comes to a point where you know you have to put the work in during the summer or you won’t have any fun in the winter,” Alfredsson said. “And if that work in the summer becomes too much of a load and a time commitment, then you know it’s time. That’s one of the things I’ve dealt with the last few years. Do I have it in me to put that work in and not just do it because I want to do it? It’s got to really feel like it’s something that you’re excited to do again. That’s a tough one.”
In terms of numbers, there seems no reason for Alfredsson to walk away. His 18-31-49 totals led the Wings in scoring. Beyond that math, there are other figures that must be added into the equation.
“He needs time to determine if he’s got the passion and desire to play again, if his body will let him do the things he wants to do,” said Detroit GM Ken Holland, who met with Alfredsson late last week to discuss his future.
"I told Alfie we’re not making a decision until the middle of June,” Holland said. “There’s lots of time.”
And it was interesting to watch the story "gain legs" as Pro Hockey Talk's Joe Yerdon noted Alfredsson's comments on Wednesday before adding his own context to the mix...
Don’t expect the same kind of dance to develop between Alfredsson and the Red Wings like he had with the Ottawa Senators last summer.
Alfredsson led the Wings in scoring and he said he’ll take as long as he needs to figure out if he can give it another go. As Duff shared, Detroit GM Ken Holland told Alfredsson they won’t start making decisions on the roster until mid-June.
Detroit will have to make decisions on where some veterans up front belong on the roster as Alfredsson, David Legwand, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, and Danny Cleary are all unrestricted free agents. With the emergence of young guys like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and Riley Sheahan there could be a significant drop in the average age of the team next season.
Because, all of a sudden, the QMI News Agency (a.k.a. the Sun newspaper chain) picked up on his comments, and led their NHL Notebook (and their websites' mastheads) with, "Alfredsson on fence about retirement":
Daniel Alfredsson is unsure what lies ahead for him as a hockey player. In an interview with the Windsor Star this week, the 18-season NHL veteran said his playing future is up in the air.
"There's a lot of factors that play in, mentally, physically, and family," Alfredsson said. "I still love the game, there's no question about that. At the same time, you've got to end it sometime."
The 41-year-old winger is fresh off an 18-goal, 49-point season, his first as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. He paced the team in scoring.
Alfredsson, whose nearly 1,300 games and almost 1,200 points came mostly while in an Ottawa Senators uniform, will hit free agency July 1.
The Fourth Period then Monday Morning Quarterbacked the Free Press's Helene St. James' report about the incredibly low likelihood of the Wings retaining any of their free agents not named Alfredsson or Jonas Gustavsson...
[T]he paper claims only Gustavsson has a chance at returning, while the other three, along with Mikael Samuelsson and Daniel Cleary, will not be back.
The Wings may want to keep Quincey, though he could sign for more money elsewhere if he tests the waters July 1.
The only pending UFA that could return is star winger Daniel Alfredsson, who will inform Holland in the near future whether or not he wants to return.
Before adding some speculation to the mix...
Holland is expected to bolster his blueline this off-season, though with limited options in the free agent market, he could turn to a trade or not in order to improve his defensive corps.
The Wings had shown interest in Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler and Buffalo Sabres rearguard Christian Ehrhoff during the season and could revisit talks in the coming weeks.
The Canucks almost traded Edler to the Boston Bruins prior to the trade deadline, but the team reportedly backed out of the deal.
And if you thought that Toronto's Wings Envy only involved Detroit's coach, the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby would disagree with that statement:
The Detroit Red Wings have some decisions to make about unrestricted free agents. Among those the club could find hard to afford any longer are Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Jonas Gustavsson, Kyle Quincey and perhaps the recently acquired David Legwand. The door is open for 41-year-old winger Daniel Alfredsson, but that’s up to the player and no decisions on any UFAs will be made for another five to six weeks, GM Ken Holland told MLive.com.
It was quite awhile ago (2005-06), but Cleary, Samuelsson and Quincey were on the same Detroit team as new Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who is looking to bring some winning tradition to Toronto.
Excuse me for a moment.
In the, "I think this is a compliment" department, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi made an intriguing comment about his team's imiation of another's practice of "overripening" their prospects, as noted by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun...
It seems almost hard to believe that some seven months ago, when the Los Angeles Kings broke camp, both Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson weren't part of the group.
On Sept. 29, they were both sent down to AHL Manchester to begin the season. Despite playing in 12 playoff games with the Kings last spring, Toffoli was still demoted.
The Kings' brain trust felt both youngsters needed just a bit more seasoning.
"I think there's a difference between making a team and being ready," Kings GM Dean Lombardi said as he sat back in his office chair Wednesday. "It's analogous at times to how you see these quarterbacks in football, 'OK, he makes the team, but is he ready?' You see a young QB make a bad team in the NFL. 'OK, he's made the team, but is he really ready?' There's a difference. Given that the role both these kids will one day play for us, higher up in our lineup, it requires more training. It's a more difficult job description. I think we felt, the old adage, nobody ever failed from being over-prepared."
Toffoli and Pearson are thoroughbreds. They're going to play top-six roles on this team for years to come. The belief was that they should hone those top-six skills in the AHL until they were ready to play a similar role at the NHL level, instead of toiling up here as extra parts.
"Nobody was ever better at this than Detroit," Lombardi said in a nod to the Red Wings organization and how they've developed players over the years.
But this is NOT a compliment, and I'm going to let you guess who wrote it:
The best thing I've ever read in 30 Thoughts was not the suggestion that Eddie Olczyk would leave the NBC broadcast booth to either become an executive or even coach in Carolina. Instead it was the suggestion that he would take over from Brendan Shanahan as the NHL's head of supplementary discipline. Hoo boy would that be a laugh, and not just for all suspension videos containing the phrase “Stop it right there...”
Brent Seabrook wouldn't have even gotten a second look for that hit on David Backes, and any time a Red Wing looked at someone sideways, he'd be rung up for a four-gamer so fast it'd make his head spin. What a world that would be. I hope it happens.
And finally, in charitable news, the Blackburn News's Maureen Rivait reports something that might be an incentive for me to finally get my enhanced license (to view the event, not to take part...I own no "chopper" and am happy with that):
The countdown to the 4th annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride is on with the announcement of this year’s ride captain.
Bob Probert’s sister-in-law, actress Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, will lead the ride throughout Windsor and Essex County. MacInnes Wood, best known for her role on the soap opera the Bold and the Beautiful, says she is honoured to be part of the ride again this year.
Wife of the late Bob Probert, Dani Probert, says all the money goes to a cause very dear to the family: cardiac services in Windsor-Essex. “We want the doctors, we want the machinery, everything that we need, the tools to be able to fix these people. To improve their health and have the cardiac care rehab centre afterwards to help continue improving their health and teaching them the lifestyle changes that are needed.”
This year’s motorcycle ride takes place on June 22 and organizers expect over 1,000 riders to participate. For more information on how to register visit www.probertride.com
I'd say something touching and meaningful, but I haven't slept in 36 hours, so...Good morning.
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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.