The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/30/14 at 04:54 AM ET
Friday involved...Well let's just say that I wasn't the only blogger who noticed that the following Tweet regarding Jimmy Howard's mask, which had a handy little "Red Wings" copyright on the bottom right, was chopped and snipped by goalie-eqipment Tweeters to promote their own brands. So here's the Wings' Tweet...
Yes, the Wings posted an Instagram photo of Howard taking part in Friday's "Captain's Practice," and Howard's apparently ditching the Iceberg graphic on his pads (though he's sticking with Oxford MI-based Vaughn Custom Sports; goalies are weird about gloves, and I'm guessing that his new practice mitts haven't been sent back from Kay Whitmore and the NHL's goalie police in Toronto)...
(Howard also went to a knee-roll-less V6 2200 pad and the V6 blocker at the Olympics; my understanding is that his pad is a mishmash of Velocity and Epic specs along with some heavy Reebok elements)
And the mask also has a Michigan connection (though it's branded as a Bauer I believe it's actually a Pro's Choice) in Flint's Ray Bishop, who's painted Howarrd's masks previously, as well as Jonas Gustavsson, Manny Legace and Domink Hasek's "lids."
Clever stuff. Howard's "D" crest from his previous masks, the "Hockeytown" and "1926" on the forehead, a little bit of "racing stripes" near the 35 on the chin, and on the back, the Wings' retired numbers, Howard's son Jim IV, the American flag, "Let's Roll" and a little brick wall. No more Shelby Mustang, but Howard's Mustang masks didn't represent his best seasons.
In news not involving the art corner, the Free Press's Helene St. James is on vacation presently, but she left us with something of a pickle to chew on in the curious case of Stephen Weiss.
Weiss was supposed to replace Valtteri Filppula last year, and he was supposed to serve as something of an upgrade defensively, but his groin started bothering him in training camp, he kept playing despite the twinges, and things got worse and worse. After 26 games played, 2 goals, 2 assists and a healthy -4, Weiss had surgery to repair a "core muscle" in Philadelphia.
In theory, he was supposed to return just prior to or just after the Olympic break, but Weiss had difficulty dealing with the scar tissue left by Dr. William Meyers' first procedure, and Weiss had to have a second corrective procedure that spelled the end of a crappy campaign.
He's signed for four more years at $4.9 million per season, Capgeek states that his contract has both a modified no-trade clause and a no-move clause (no-trade = you have a say hin where you're going; no-move = no movement period), and between having reconstructive surgery on his left wrist in 2013 and his abdominal muscle issues, Weiss has played 43 of a possible 130 games over the past two seasons.
Is Weiss the 40-to-60-point-producer and 15-to-20-goal-scoring, second-line center he appeared to be prior to his pair of shortened seasons, or, at 31, is he simply too banged-up to fulfill his potential as something other than a millstone that would sit on the Wings' cap for five seasons if he's bought out next summer?
It's very hard to say. Weiss was training with Gary Roberts in Toronto and was spotted at the Biosteel pro camp this summer, and he's supposedly changed his training regimen, but all the talk of Weiss meshing with Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson got as far as Weiss's second-game-of-the-season OT winner vs. Carolina before the speedy, gritty, slightly chippy Weiss started slowing down.
And by the time he had to finally admit that he needed surgery, he'd lost three or four steps, which would've been easier to take if Valtteri Filppula didn't post 25 goals, 33 assists and 58 points in 75 games with Tampa Bay.
Anyway, here's what St. James has to say about Weiss:
Looking back: The Wings signed Weiss, 31, to be their second-line center, replacing Valtteri Filppula. There was much joy when Weiss scored the winning goal in the second game of the season — and then that was it. He looked ill at ease in the Wings’ system, he went game after game without a point, he didn’t score his last 20 games before disappearing with a hernia/groin that required multiple surgeries. There was a glimmer of hope he’d be ready out of the Olympic break, but it never happened. He wasn’t seen in a game after Dec. 10.
Looking ahead: Weiss would do well to follow the example set by Jonas Gustavsson, who redeemed himself after a disastrous first-year showing with the Wings. Weiss is, by actual salary, the fourth-highest paid forward on the team, behind Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. That needs to translate into a dependable performance anchoring a follow-up punch to the top line and points. The Wings viewed Weiss as a viable solution to being able to play Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the same line, and that is what Weiss is coming into camp to prove he can do, again.
He supposedly has had a good off-season, is fully healed and ready for the challenge. He may need to be a little mentally tougher, too, as he’ll be under more scrutiny from the get-go because of laboring to fit in systems-wise. He has been paid a lot of money so far for very little work, and while he didn’t ask to get hurt, he has got to have a better showing in 2014-15.
Weiss admitted that he felt pressure to get up to speed after Babcock suggested that he was going to be "hard" on #90, Franzen and Alfredsson to step up and play like a second line off the bat--which was unrealistic at best given Weiss and Alfredsson's need to adjust to playing new systems after making their first NHL franchise moves--and it's not going to get any easier for him this season.
If he isn't able to step up, the Wings might shift Franzen to center (as MLive's Ansar Khan suggested on Friday morning), the coaches have seen that Darren Helm has some chemistry with Alfredsson, and Riley Sheahan did a fine job of centering what became the second line last year, and I'm sure that neither he nor Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist or the possibly Grand Rapids-bound Tomas Jurco plan on taing demotions gracefully.
I could see Weiss very easily dumped on someone else (if he's willing to be moved) or bought out if he doesn't have at least a moderately solid and decently injury-free season.
The other biggest piece of Red Wings-related news came in the form of a single Tweet, as noted by Pro Hockey Talk's Dhiren Mahiban:
TSN's Rick Westhead was the one who reported that the "deal wasn't done" and reported Steve Moore's brother's insistence that "no settlement had been reached"--and as such, the trail was still supposed to take place on September 8th. TSN still hasn't taken down Westhead's explanation that a confidentiality agreement was being worked upon by both sides in the civil suit, so let's assume that we'll hear Moore's laywer, Tim Danson, issue some sort of triumphant something early next week.
Otherwise...You can tell that it's the first weekend of the NCAA football season and the last week of August when the Detroit News's Tom Gage and Lynn Henning play this tired, old card (and I don't believe that the media's going to be attending the "Captain's Practices" until Tuesday, but I'd be surprised if any MSMer's were interested in doing any sort of "summer practice" coverage with the Tigers, Lions, Wolverines and Spartans taking the spotlight)...
Tom: Who has the toughest job when they’re struggling: a Tigers closer, a Lions quarterback or a Red Wings goalie?
Lynn: You’re making Larry King look like a piker. Great question.
For sheer fan volume, probably the quarterback, because you have only one chance per week to endear or alienate the entire football-loving community.
A bullpen closer would be right there, because a blown save sticks like a poison arrow in fans’ minds. Look at the Nathan flap and the earlier Jose Valverde crises. Serious bad blood there.
A goalie, it seems, is stuck in a more lonely, more isolated, crucible. But they can get out so quickly, as Jimmy Howard, or as Chris Osgood, would attest.
Howard would say, with intelligent fans agreeing: Hey, I’m only as good as my defense. But all three are right there in the gold-silver-bronze competition with not much separating them.
For sheer cliche volume, the quarterback, because the Flagship Station will talk about the Lions for four hours on the day of a Wings playoff game in April, and because the folks who give the Detroit sports media their marching orders will tell you that this is inevitably a Lions-and-Tigers town, but while the Wings feel that they receive more than enough coverage from said media corps, hockey bloggers like me don't have jobs because "nobody wants to hear about hockey in August."
All of that being said...It depends on the season, man and woman. From May to mid-September, there's nothing harder than being the starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers; from mid-September to January, there isn't anything harder than being the Lions' quarterback, and from late December until whenever the Wings' playoff run ends, there's a bullseye on the Wings' crease. Whoever struggles in any of those three positions faces all sorts of media and fan wrath, and it just comes with the territory.
Being the go-to goal-scoring forward on the Wings, the resident slugger on the Tigers or the running back/wide receiver on the Lions isn't much easier, nor is being the #1 defenseman, first-baseman or leader of the Lions' defense. It just depends on the day, and even in this internet age, it depends on who the sports talk radio guys and the "big papers" decide is the goat-horn-wearer of the week.
We love our sports teams in Detroit, Metro Detroit, Southeastern Michigan and Michigan in general (and "abroad"), but we love picking our sports teams' players to pieces, too.
Speaking of "hockey in August" talk, the Sporting News's Sean Gentille and Dimitri Filipovic conducted a "mock expansion draft" or would-be Seattle and Las Vegas teams, and they snagged Joakim Andersson for Seattle and Justin Abdelkader for Las Vegas, but Winging It in Motown's--well, you know how this goes, JJ From Kansas had a much more thoughtful discussion as to which Wings players should be protected in such a scenario;
In the PR department:
2. And I will let you read the press release regarding a Subway-sponsored site called "Detroit Fan Favorites." The site plays itself up to be organically-grown, but it looks way too slick to be anything less than part of a network.
That being said, they've got Wings and Tigers blogs starting up, and I hope they provide more content to the fan "community," because these sites don't start up assuming that the Free Press, News, MLive, Macomb Daily, Windsor Star, Detroit News, Fox Sports Detroit and Michigan Hockey already have every non-Wings-website angle covered.
This blogging business is a competitive one, but it's also one in which you disappear in a hurry if you don't respect your competition.
I'm learning that my audience wants me to cover blogs as well as the MSM, and that's what I'm doing now; if these ladies and gents put up stuff that's worth its snuff, they'll join the community regardless of whether they're single-person start-ups or whether they're part of a network or corporately-backed;
There's worrisome news from the Under-20 Four Nations Tournament per DRW Prospects on Twitter (otherwise, prospects are taking part in exhibition games in Europe or training camps in Major Junior hockey):
So Julus Vahatalo started on the Finns' first line, but the TPS Turku forward's fellows emerged with a 2-1 shootout win over Russia without him (and I'm getting my box scores from the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation's website; their "stats" page is where I follow the SHL season and the Junior-20 leagues). Where did DRW Prospects get this info?
EliteProspects' Matias Strozyk Tweeted that Vahatalo suffered a concussion, and the Finnish national team's website stated that Pavel Kraskovskin, who hit Vahatalo, got 2, 10 and a game for an illegal check to the head.
TPS's Finnish Liiga season starts on September 12th, so here's hoping that Vahatalo's up to speed by then--and yes, this is why European teams worry about sending their players to NHL prospect tournaments.
There was better news regarding the Wings' Swedes taking part in the Under-20 Four Nations Tourney, Axel Holmstrom and Christoffer Ehn:
If you are reading this from Yekaterinburg, Russia, Sportbox reports that Pavel Datsyuk will be taking part in an exhibition game at the "Tournament of the Stone Flower" today, per HK Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg's VKontatke page, and on Twitter...
That's a hard question to answer, and as I'm raising funds for a non-charitable cause presently, it would be hypocritical for me to share my opinion. We all know that many, many Detroiters and Metro Detroiters are in need and that there are many, many important causes. I just hope he does his homework and makes sure that whoever he donates to will deliver bang for their buck.
So this is awkward. Hm. People have been incredibly generous in helping me attend the summer development camp, and on Friday you were incredibly generous in helping me get up to the fall prospect tournament and main training camp. I suppose I need to emphasize that I'm just trying to pay for the hotel, gas and food, and the rest of the expenses...If you saw my "media devices," including the laptop that I'm typing this upon, and the burns into the keys and even the metal from use, you'd understand that I'm not exactly living large off of your money.
There's no price of admission as it were, and I am just floored by your generosity as I've gone from being $1,500 from my goal to $500 away over the course of the past seven days. It's stunning, and it's humbling. It means I've got to make sure my shit's together so that I can give you my best effort.
I've attended two of the past three Traverse City-based training camps/prospect tournaments and the past three summer development camps at your leisure. If you're willing to lend a hand, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it.
Any and every donation helps pay the way up there (I break even) and I'm strongly considering printing some t-shirts and/or ensuring that every entry has a "sponsored by/brought to you by" note (and as always, the coverage is based upon your suggestions and questions, so it's an interactive experience).
My "merchant ID" is my non-work email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, and I'm incredibly grateful for your readership and support. Thank you.
I'm the "content provider" here, but I understand that I represent a very large community of Wings fans, and that the support goes both ways--and it does.
And if you don't like this self-reflective stuff, I promise I'll be too busy to ramble on about community within 13 days.
Update: Speaking of the prospect tournament, Winging It in Motown's Kyle McIlmurray is among those who believe that summer development camp tryout Blake Clarke, a 6'1," 190-pound winger who plays for the Saginaw Spirit, is worth "taking a chance" on:
Blake Clarke made an impact at Development Camp and was an obvious standout among all the camp invitees. He has earned himself an invite to the Prospect Tournament along with some other camp invites, so I think the message is clear: Detroit is interested in this kid. They see something in him that they like, and it will be interesting to see how they go about this. Keep in mind, he can re-enter the draft next year. So it's not like you have an unlimited amount of time with him. If he bounces back and has a killer season with Saginaw in the OHL, you could have missed out on a low-risk, high-reward player. This post is meant to strike up a conversation for us all, do you have any undrafted 18 year old players that you're aware of? Two of which that come to mind, who are acclaimed to be in the top 10 of all undrafted players are Blake Clarke and Joe Hicketts. As we saw with the signing of Tomas Nosek, we may see the Wings bolster their depth with undrafted free agents who have high upside.
Kyle points out that Clarke had an absolutely awful draft year due to a shoulder injury and a trade from the North Bay Battalion to Saginaw, but he definitely stood out in the summer.
Hicketts is a very strange case as he''s a superb defenseman who stands at all of 5'8," and he'd face a steep uphill battle for a spot given the Wings' stacked prospect corps--as well as the presence of NCAA prospect and fellow mini-mite Ben Marshall--so I'd suggest that Clarke is much more likely to earn a spot.
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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.