The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/13/12 at 05:30 AM ET
If the Red Wings do sign Justin Abdelkader to a 4-year contract extension today, or Ken Holland closes a deal with as-yet-unsigned UFA target Carlo Colaiacovo prior to this weekend, he will do so in the most awkward of circumstances. One of the most player-friendly GM's in the game from one of the league's supposedly players-as-family-oriented organizations is in fact attending the Board of Governors' meetings today, where he will presumably rubber-stamp Gary Bettman's lockout on behalf of the Red Wings (whether they are doing so as a "good citizen," for the sake of pure profit and greed or due to circumstances beyond the team's control is unknown)...
While Abdelkader, Coaliacovo and half the team's roster are attending the NHLPA's final player meetings in a hotel not too far from the Mariott Marquis, which is hosting the Board of Governors.
So this morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James revisits some of the comments the players made before departing for New York...
"Why would there be any sympathy for us, or for them?" defenseman Ian White said Wednesday after a workout at Joe Louis Arena.
He was one of about a dozen Wings who were to fly to New York in the afternoon and take part in meetings. Other Wings among the 250 players the union estimated to be in attendance included Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen.
"We basically gave them everything they wanted and more the last time," White said. "They still claim that it's not working."
Put a little more politely, from Henrik Zetterberg, who's part of the NHLPA's negotiating committee:
Zetterberg said the best-case scenario to come out of the next few days is no lockout, "but I don't think that is very realistic to believe."
"If we go through another extended lockout again, it's terrible for the fans," White said. "I think it's just kind of slapping them in the face. They responded unbelievable to the last one. They came back in record numbers and stuff. But this time, I think they'd be really, really hurt, and you hate to see it. I think the players genuinely care about the fans and, you know, we're always doing interactive things with them. We're fans as well. It definitely hurts the players, it seems, a lot more than it's going to hurt the owners, because they're the ones who are locking us out."
Players are sensitive to the fact that a lot of people will look at this as millionaires against billionaires, but White pointed out that from the union's side, it's about getting the right share of what was a $3.3-billion industry last season.
Cough, cough, huargh, a little bit dangerously cocky here, Ian White, cough cough cough...
"We're the workforce out there, and we're the product, so maybe we should get two-thirds of the pie," White said. "Who knows? We just want a fair piece, and we don't want to get taken advantage of."
Mostly speaking, anyway, White and the Wings' players crossed their fingers while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“The players genuinely care about the fans,” White continued. “We’re always doing interactive things with them. We’re fans as well. It definitely hurts the players, it seems, a lot more than it’s going to hurt the owners, because they’re the ones who are locking us out.”
The players are also aware of things may be preserved by fans.
“Why would there be any sympathy for us, or for (the owners),” White asked. “We just want our fair share. We’re the workforce out there and we’re the product. We just want a fair piece and don’t want to get taken advantage of.”
“Everyone is hurting if there is going to be a lockout,” Zetterberg said. “Us players know that. A lot of us went through it in ‘04. It’s not just players that are hurting, it’s fans, everyone in the building, all the businesses around hockey are going to hurt. We’re really trying to solve the problem and find a fair deal.”
Zetterberg said the union was working on giving the league a counter proposal either Wednesday or Thursday.
“It’s hard to really expect anything,” said Justin Abdelkader, who was attending the meetings. “We can only put something together and see what happens. We’re hoping for the best and we’re going in with an open mind.”
An open mind, definitely, but they'll likely leave to clear their gear from Joe Louis Arena's premises on Friday or Saturday morning with closed fists, as the Detroit News's John Niyo suggests...
"The owners pretty much got what they wanted (in 2005)," Red Wings veteran Mikael Samuelsson said. "And now they're saying it's not good enough."
Actually, the owners have been saying it for a while, even as many of them spent as if there were no tomorrow. How else do you explain the Wild signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts just a few months ago?
The other day, I asked Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg, who is part of the NHLPA's new-and-improved negotiating committee flanking Fehr, how long ago he saw the cliff coming.
"As soon as Gary Bettman said he was gonna lock us out," he replied with a wry smile. "And he started with that really early this time around."
But the players have been prepping, too. And this time they're determined not to fall into the same trap they did during the last work stoppage, when they eventually divided and fell, accepting the unacceptable — a salary cap — along with a 24 percent salary rollback. Fehr spent the last two years building a bigger tent and making good on a promise of transparency within the union ranks.
"We knew this was coming," Zetterberg said. "And we knew what they did last time around. So I'm more prepared for this time than I was in '04, and I'm pretty sure all the other guys are, too."
In a column that's really masterful in painting both sides with charcoal shades of sooty blame:
The deadline is real, sure. But the real crunch time doesn't begin until October, when the 82-game regular-season schedule starts to get squeezed and players miss their first paycheck.
Tell that to the folks in Traverse City who'll lose millions when the annual Red Wings training camp scheduled for next week gets scrapped. Or all the team employees and arena workers and local businesses left in limbo until a league that boasted a record $3.3 billion in revenue last season decides to pick up the gloves scattered around the rink and drop the puck again.
I've been talking about holding rallies in New York and Toronto to show the NHL and the PA even--yes, I'm still siding with the PA--that we fans are not walking dollar signs, but there's perhaps more good to be done in holding a rally at Joe Louis Arena, no matter how small, to protest the fact that Traverse City will lose what ESPN's Craig Custance estimates might be, well, I'll leave that up to him...
Never mind the rink workers at the Joe who pay their bills thanks to 41 regular season nights and 4 or 5 preseason games' worth of taking tickets, ushering fans, working security, serving concessions or hawking merchandise, the people who broadcast the game on TV, on the radio and online, the members of the Red Wings' front office, ticket staff, web producers, hell, the janitors and probably even the equipment managers, trainers and masseurs the Wings' players will try to hire on the sly to help them do everything form sharpen their skates to wash their socks when they skate in Troy and wherever else they'll begin meeting on Monday.
It's a bloody shame that both sides can't agree upon how to split $3.3 billion dollars of money fans are ready and willing to give to both sides that fans want to prosper and grow wealthy from, and there are no "good guys" here when it is, as usual, the Average Joe and Jane who get hurt the most, or Centre Ice Arena, whose training camp fate received the following news from the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindneau:
Sarah and I feel similarly here: there's nothing she wants more than to have to find a way to Traverse City next weekend, and I can say the same thing:
But we haven't made accommodations for a reason, and there's a reason that I'm gonna start my fall fundraising drive (I may very well print those, "I came to my NHL team's rink and all I wanted to do was give them my money, but they refused" t-shirts) in the spirit of protest, while planning to max out my travel budget each month to get to Toledo and Grand Rapids (and thank goodness the Griffins will be playing at Yost in early October).
As for the Wings' players and their mobility, I'm going to be a bit crude here.
I learned this the hard way in college*: by the end of the first frat party, all the hotties who're looking to hook up for the short term are long gone, though that's not necessarily a bad thing--and there are exceptions to that rule.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke to the Wings' most likely players to already having playing plans in place, and those most likely to say, "Sure, I'll play for Amur Khabarovsk! for two months!" without looking it up on Google Maps and finding that they're going to be heading to somewhere northeast of North Korea: the young single guys.
The Wings' younger players who are either single or don't have kids will have the easiest time finding ready employment because they are young, because they are single, and because they're...
Somewhat cheaply-acquired and interchangable parts:
If the NHL locks out its players this weekend, you can catch Cory Emmerton playing in Europe.
"Probably leave pretty much the next day," said the Red Wings forward, a rookie last season. "I need to play." I've been off for so long, I have the itch to play again."
The owners and players met Wednesday in an attempt to reach a new collective bargaining agreement before midnight Saturday. Still, judging from comments the last couple weeks, nearly every Red Wings player is eager to play. But the only viable option for most is one of any number of European leagues.
Jakub Kindl, for example, is a restricted free agent after this season and likely will battle for the sixth or seventh defenseman's job once the season begins. So, to stay sharp, he likely will play in his native Czech Republic.
"I need to play," Kindl said. "If there's a lockout, it's going to be even tougher."
As for Jan Mursak, he's unsure where he'll play, but "anywhere in Europe, I'll be happy with."
For older players with families or veterans whose contracts can't be insured, however, playing in Europe really is not a viable option.
"I wouldn't move my family; it would be hard to go to Europe and be away from them so long," said defenseman Ian White, who has two young children.
Kulfan hits the nail on the head: while Pavel Datsyuk may end up in Russia due to what seems to be almost a sense of duty to show up and be seen "at home" if Dynamo Moscow, the Ak Bars Kazan or his hometown's Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg come calling, while Jokerit Helsinki can afford to ensure the last year of Valtteri Filppula's deal, or Danny Cleary's, and while Niklas Kronwall readily admitted to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness what he's been saying all along--that he might consider playing for Djurgardens IF (who are located in Stockholm, and were an Eliteserien team last year) if the lockout lingers (and as Marie Hallman has noted, Staffan's playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL)...
With the Swedish second division announcing that it will allow NHLers to sign short-team deals if there is a lockout came a report from a well-known Swedish writer, Linus Hugosson, that Kronwall would sign in that division if there is a work stoppage.
Kronwall denied that, but added it could be a possibility.
“No, the only thing I’ve said is I have three possibilities, one being Europe, one being Russia and one being a team I played for before I got over here, Djurgardens,” Kronwall said. “I think it’s speculating. I’m hoping it doesn’t get that far and we’ll get something done over the next few days.”
The Wings' true "prime assets" and "most appealing" players probably won't head over to Europe unless the season's canceled because of family commitments, NHLPA commitments, or the plain and honest truth that insuring a Henrik Zetterberg or Johan Franzen-length deal is impossible, and it's plain old illogical for European teams to choose to shelve their prime-ticket talent a couple of weeks into their regular seasons knowing that their stretch drive for playoff runs that begin in March hit around New Year's, which is when the lockout's expected to end, if not American Thanksgiving, all for the sake of adding some glitz and glam for a few weeks.
Too few teams have those kinds of deep pocketbooks. Russian and Swiss teams, sure, but they're not going to overload their rosters, and even the KHL's set some limits in that regard. In reality, it may make much more sense for the Russian, non-Russsian KHL, Swiss, Czech, Slovak, Finnish, German, and even Slovenian (for Mursak), Italian, Austrian, Norwegian and French teams to make a more measured "splash" by signing an Emmerton or a Kindl, whose presences can add NHL cache to the team without becoming so very immediately irreplaceable that their eventual absences can't be overcome.
The catches worth putting posters on one's wall over won't be moving until or unless the season's canceled. With a few notable exceptions.
In other news regarding a player who's looking to dash out of town, this has been covered, but the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke to Emmerton about donning Darren McCarty's #25 when the season may get underway...
“I know, now I’m going to have to start playing like him to keep that tradition going,” joked Emmerton, who has been skating with some members of the Wings and other NHL teams this week at Joe Louis Arena. “Obviously, everyone was a Grind Line fan, whoever watched them play. They were fun to watch and whatnot.
“I had the pleasure of playing with (McCarty) in Grand Rapids when he was down the one year for a while, so I got to know him as a person and as a player, too. Obviously, it’s easy for me to say that I’m a big McCarty fan as a whole.”
Emmerton became attached to No. 25 while playing for OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. “In junior you’re a rookie again and you’ve got to pick a number of what’s left,” Emmerton said. “I wore 2 and 25 was open and I was looking for something in the 20s. I kind of became fond of it as I began to wear it and it grew on me.”
Emmerton was assigned No. 48 by the Red Wings when he first was drafted by the club in 2006. “I’ve had 48 since I was drafted, but I wore 25 when I was in junior, it’s just a number that I’m comfortable with,” Emmerton said. “I would have liked to have worn it last year, but at the time when you make the team the last thing that you’re thinking about is changing your number.
“I really didn’t think about it until things were under way. It’s kind of nice to have a number that you’re used to and that you like, so I asked Paulie (Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer) at the end of the year if I could switch for next year and he obviously said, ‘No problem.’ He told me that I should have asked him earlier, but I really didn’t think about it last year; I was worried about playing and other things.”
In prospect news, via RedWingsFeed, many Wings fans will be able to watch the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, Plymouth Whalers, Saginaw Spirit and Sarnia Sting play a little more regularly, and as Hockey's Future's Jason Menard notes, the Spirit boast the Wings' newest member of the goaltending prospect pipeline...
While the goaltending situation is fairly well established – especially in terms of starter (and Detroit Red Wings’ property) Jake Paterson, who has two years of experience under his belt and is ready to assume the undisputed number-one position, the back-up roles have yet to be defined. Import goalie Nikita Serebryakov was expected to play only a handful of OHL games this year, whilst getting the bulk of his work in lower leagues, but his solid play and explosive potential find him pushing soon-to-be-19-year-old veteran Clint Windsor for the backup role.
And both Yahoo Sports' Cam Charron and the Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy note that Ryan Sproul's Soo Greyhounds round out the "locals" in the OHL's West Division, though Kennedy is looking forward to watching another Wings prospect play in the Maritimes...
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Yeah, the Herd will be one of the best teams in the country this year and not much of a surprise, but how can you not get excited about them? Nathan MacKinnon is the top forward available in the 2013 draft, while Jonathan Drouin is another dangerous offensive prospect with first round written all over him. Netminder Zachary Fucale is a good pre-season bet to be the first netminder taken in the draft and a healthy Martin Frk can impress his future bosses in Detroit with a bounce-back campaign.
And while there are no Wings prospects playing in the CCHA at present, there are teams to watch throughout Michigan in terms of college hockey and the NAHL, including both the University of Michigan and the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Wolverines (CCHA): Runner-up shoutouts to the University of Nebraska-Omaha (Anthony Stolarz, Brian Cooper) and Michigan State (John Draeger, Matt DeBlouw, Rhett Holland), but it’s tough to beat the 1-2 punch of Jacob Trouba and Boo Nieves for an incoming freshman class. Trouba’s highly publicized decision to stay the course to Ann Arbor when Kitchener of the OHL came calling overshadowed a little of the glee that Michigan fans should have gotten from the blue-chip defenseman coming to campus, but once he’s on the ice – and possibly paired with buddy Jon Merrill – all will be forgotten. Nieves brings another offensive weapon to a team already boasting a big, young talent in Carolina pick Phil Di Giuseppe, while Jared Rutledge will come in from the NTDP to play net after the program lost similar goalies Jack Campbell and John Gibson in consecutive seasons.
And in Europe, NHL.com's Brian Meltzer notes that just as Teemu Pulkkinen's supposed to star for Jokerit, the Red Wings hope that Calle Jarnkrok can dazzle without his former Brynas IF linemate--and there's something to be said for a pair of reclamation projects now skating for the Frolunda Indians, too:
Last season's champion, Brynas IF Gavle, boasted what ultimately proved to be the most dominant line in the league. The unit was driven by Jakob Silfverberg. The Ottawa Senators' prospect led his team and ranked second in the league in scoring with 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists). He was the consensus league MVP, winning the Golden Helmet award. In the playoffs, Silfverberg compiled 13 goals and 20 points in 17 games to capture postseason MVP honors as well. In the process, he shattered the league's single postseason goal-scoring record, previously held by Daniel Alfredsson.
Silfverberg's linemate, Detroit Red Wings prospect Calle Jarnkrok, also enjoyed a strong 2011-12 season. The player nicknamed "Iron Hook" (the literal English translation of his surname) scored 39 points to rank second on the team and 14th in the league during the regular season. During the team's playoff run, he posted 16 points in as many playoff games to place fifth on the postseason scoring chart.
The duo's line had varied third members over the course of the regular season and playoffs. Most frequently, one among St. Louis Blues prospect Sebastian Wannstrom or veterans Mats Lavander and Jonathan Granstrom lined up as the third member of the line. On occasion, Silfverberg and Jarnkrok were joined by Daniel Widing or Minnesota Wild prospect Johan Larsson. Normally a center, Jarnkrok moved to wing as needed.
This season, Silfverberg has committed to play in North America. Jarnkrok, who was signed to an entry-level contract by Detroit this summer, will remain with Brynas. In what promises to be another top unit in the league, Jarnkrok will be flanked this season by new arrivals Johan Harju (formerly of Lulea HF and the Tampa Bay Lightning) and former Nashville Predators winger Andreas Thuresson.
Another team looking to re-constitute its top line is Frolunda Gothenburg. With both former Philadelphia Flyers forward Mika Pyorala (22 goals, 40 points) and Fredrik Pettersson (16 goals, 40 points), the club needed to recruit suitable replacements to play on the line centered by Mathis Olimb (41 points). The club has brought in a pair of high-profile replacements: former Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings forward Fabian Brunnstrom (35 points in 45 AHL games last season) and former Detroit prospect Dick Axelsson (9 goals, 20 points with Modo in 2011-12).
Somewhat ironically, as I was writing this, Expressen's Henrik Ek and Henrik Sjoberg (I swear, this is a 24-7 job, even with a lockout looming) "broke" a story stating that the Swedish "competition authority" is legally challenging the Eliteserien's desire to not sign NHL players to anything less than full-season contracts, and Zetterberg spoke to the pair about the fluid state of player mobility (this is roughly translated, of course):
"It's clear that it's difficult to escape. I followed it as best as I can in the media. We'll see if the Eliteserien's on," says Henrik Zetterberg.
The Detroit star gives SPORT-Expressen his thoughts:
"I understand how the Eliteserien's teams are thinking, though there are many players who want to go home and play. Many fans want to see us at home, too. But in 2004 there was an invasion of players [from overseas[. And if we'd left in December, it might not have been so much fun."
"Because we stayed for the whole year, it was very successful at the time. But there were many players who would have played in the top division that year who didn't play because of us. There's a difference between what's fun and what's good for Swedish hockey," says Zetterberg.
And therein lies the existential crisis forleagues that aren't thinking, "We'll turn away all but the best of the NHL...and the guys that think Astana, Kazakhstan or Khabarovsk are swell in January."
Zetterberg said something interesting to Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman, too, perhaps overcome with optimism given that he's in New York with over 270 of his peers (Bjurman claims over 300 players are in NYC):
"It's fun that so many are up clos, hopefully this unity means that we can reach a solution," says Zetterberg. "The situation is boring [or dreary], we want to play."
Either way, depending on how you translate "tråkig," I agree.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
- If you're interested, the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey profiled former Wing and now-Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, and Brenda Branswell profiled Martin Lapointe, who's taking on a Jiri Fischer-like role as the team's new director of player development;
- Stevie Roxelle's latest edition of Biscuit Fox is excellent as usual;
- Of the overseas stories I found, I can tell you that Norran's David Iwung's suggestion that Jonathan Ericsson will find himself playing for Vita Hasten, his old team in the First Division--which is the Swedish equivalent of the ECHL--seems even more overly optimistic than Zetterberg's comments;
- Dick Axelsson's also promising Gothenburgs Posten's Johan Skold that he's going to get his stuff together once and for all this season with Frolunda;
- Igor Larionov was downright eloquent in an interview with Sport-Express's Andrey Kuznetsov in both choosing to not cast stones at the NHL or the NHLPA given that he's a player agent and pointing out that while Nail Yakupov might suggest otherwise, Larionov's highest-profile client is Edmonton Oilers property, and will be heading to the Oklahoma City Barons on the 16th;
- I hope you don't mind that I haven't recapped CBA negotiations. We all know what's going to happen, and the day-by-day stuff was awful. I don't want to revisit blow-by-blow, cover-everything commentary unless you believe it's absolutely necessary, because it's a skullf***;
- Speaking of which, please let me know how you want me to formalize lockout plans/ideas/protests/slogans/etc. You have ideas, I have an audience, and we can get together and make good things happen during a positive lockout fan insurgency. They won't change the face of negotiations, but hey, this is going to be The Malik Report, a.k.a. Your Red Wings Unofficial Lockout Support Group very shortly;
- $-wise, ditto. If you were to send me to NYC or Toronto interview Bettman one day and chant his name in jest in a protest the next day, you'd get content, not me drinking on your dime (I'm allergic anyway and never started, so it's nothing to miss in my case);
- *And regarding the asterisk, I started college as an engineer and continued to hang out with "computer nerds" when I transitioned to the English department at U of M. I went to one "kegger" of a frat party, found it to be terribly boring, hated trying to drink half a beer and left. I did cruise around at last call to oogle at gals with my pal Steve on occasion, but we would mostly listen to Tenacious D and Queens of the Stone Age, make fun of ourselves, and the one time two co-eds asked us to take them home, they piled into the Dodge Dakota...and I took them home. And wished them a good night glad to have gotten them home safely. I'm a dork and I like me this way.
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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.