Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: Datsyuk and Hasek on ice; Smith’s mysterious future

Updated 3x at 9:02 AM: Saturday would've been a wonderful day to have a private jet (if not a fighter jet), because Pavel Datsyuk skated in an exhibition game prior to the "Stone Flower Tournament's" semifinals in Yekaterinburg...

As noted on Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg's VKontakte page and E1.ru...

Images from E1.ru

Datsyuk of course had to tell Sportbox.ru's Olesya Usov that, "My dream to play for Avtomobilist remains, but already, that's looking at the rest of my hockey career" (or in other words, "We'll see" whether he ends up playing one final season in the KHL)...

And in Jihlava, Czech Republic, a little "later in the day," Dominik Hasek and the vast majority of the 1998 Czech Olympic champion hockey team took to the ice in a reunion game remembering coach Ivan Hlinka. You're not going to get much out of the Czech-language video from iSport.cz, but you'll see a 49-year-old Hasek, Jaromir Jagr and a bunch of other Nagano Olympic heroes on the ice together:

iSport, Sportovni Noviny, Lidovky and Sport.cz all posted photo galleries from the game, and Hasek, who split the game (it finished in a 7-7 tie between the "red" and "white" teams) with Roman Cechmanek, told the CTK News Agency that his ankles were sore and his chest protector stank, but that he enjoyed the game and enjoyed playing with teammates that are a little grayer and balder than they used to be.

Images from the CTK News Agency

If you find yourself in Edmonton this upcoming Thursday, 630 CHED's Andrew Grose reports that Chris Chelios will be skating in a charity hockey game in Lloydminster, Alberta, benefitting the Alberta Ice Hockey League's Lloydminster Bobcats:



Back over on this side of the pond, I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but if you're a last-minute type, the Grand Rapids Griffins have teamed up with Hockey Jersey Concepts to ask fans to design an alternate jersey for the team, and they're accepting entries until the end of...today:

(I don't get paid for saying this, but FYI, IceJerseys is offering $20 pro-customized name-and-numbering of jerseys ordered between now and Tuesday at 9 AM EDT, and that's a helluva deal)

[Edit: HJC also has posted the design concepts submitted thus far if you need some inspiration. /end edit]


In more "serious" hockey talk, the Free Press's Helene St. James' Red Wings"focal point" involves a player who's become a focal point of Wings fans' frustration over the past year or two in Brendan Smith.

Smith's played in all of 117 regular season games for the Wings (over the course of 3 seasons), but he's already 25 and entering the final year of a 2-year contract paying him $1.262 million (per Capgeek; Capgeek's Wings roster chart also has players' wavier eligibilities listed).

This past season, he posted 5 goals and 14 assists for 19 points (and a -2, with 68 penalty minutes) in 71 regular-season games played, and he didn't register a point in 5 playoff games (though he finished at +1).

Given the presences of Mattias Backman, Nick Jensen, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul as nearly-NHL-ready defensemen, Jakub Kindl as something of a nearly-immovable object with his $2.4 million cap hit and Smith having displayed a fantastically inconsistent game in terms of being able to actually pick up the offensive slack--save perhaps his end-of-season and playoff performance alongside Niklas Kronwall--many Wings fans see Smith as a trade candidate in the making, perhaps as part of a deal for a more established right-shooting defenseman.

Where does Smith fit in going forward? That's a very good question, as St. James notes:

Looking back: Smith entered 2013-14 after a poor 2013 playoffs, when numerous turnovers prompted captain Henrik Zetterberg to joke Smith creates offense for both sides. There was great hope he’d take a step forward last season, but he was a healthy scratch by the fifth game and re-entered the lineup only because of an injury to Niklas Kronwall. Later, when the Wings were low on forwards because of injuries, they looked to Smith to switch-hit for a game.

The most memorable thing Smith did in the 2014 playoffs was kind of challenge Bruins big defenseman Zdeno Chara, who responded by laughing and holding Smith at arm’s length like an adult with a temperamental child.

The Bruins' players also stated very publicly that they were targeting Smith for retribution penalties, and they worked because Smith took 4 minor penalties, sometimes very costly ones given that Kindl and Brian Lashoff were useless as a penalty-killing unit.

Looking ahead: There’s lots to like about Smith — he loves playing with the puck, he’s still very young, and he takes everything in stride — but the Red Wings don’t have a good enough defense to cut him much more slack.

For a team that once benefitted from having Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Kronwall providing offense from the back end, and now is down to Kronwall, it’d behoove Smith to realize how valuable he can be, especially as he enters a contract year.

On the upside for the Wings, Smith is young, and even if the organization decides he’s out of time in Detroit, he’ll have trade value going to a team that sees potential for growth in a different environment.

That seems to be the general consensus. Smith's never lacked confidence in himself (to put it politely), his enthusiasm seems to be contagious and his skill levels are extremely high in terms of his skating, his ability to both carry the puck out of trouble or pass it to teammates to start up the Wings' transition game, he's got a hard shot and he can play with an edge when necessary.

The problem is that Smith doesn't seem to be able to play with an offensive flourish without costing the Wings defensively--as Henrik Zetterberg said some two springs ago, Smith,"creates a lot of stuff. Sometimes for both teams"--and when he does make mistakes, his, "I was doing my job, I don't know about my teammates" post-game cliche meter goes into overdrive.

I've always been hard on Smith because he has a fantastically large ego, but he's grown up by leaps and bounds, too, so:

My concern about Smith is that when he first came up as a 22-year-old, he was supposed to be the next Niklas Kronwall.

In terms of his skill level, and in terms of his conviction in his abilities, he has every opportunity to become a point-producing, top-pair defenseman. In terms of his ability to execute plays and make good on his potential, until he was Niklas Kronwall's pre-playoffs partner, he looked like he was becoming Kyle Quincey II.

He had a fantastic late-season surge alongside Kronwall, but when the playoffs started, he looked just as raw and exploitable as Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist, and unlike Nyquist, his regular season wasn't good enough to say, "Well, I gues sometimes it takes key players two playoff runs to really 'get it.'"

Is this a make-or-break-it season for Smith in terms of the Red Wings coaching staff and management's levels of patience with his inconsistencies and bravado? I doubt it, because they've shown far more patience than fans ever would regarding another "sure-fire top-pair defenseman" who didn't quite pan out the way everyone'd hoped he would in Jonathan Ericsson.

That being said, when the diggers rather consistently suggest that Smith could be trade fodder, that's not coming from their imaginations, and if Smith continues to struggle putting all the $500 individual-skill tools he possesses in his $20 toolbox, his time in Detroit might have reached its height when he was an unwitting start of HBO's 24/7 series simply because he's a Toronto-born kid playing for Detroit.



As for one of Smith's fellow prospect-turned-regular, I'm pretty sure that $2+ million and a ride with the Blue Angels on Tuesday should be enough to get Danny DeKeyser re-signed for a year or two, but I can't deny that when the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa mentions that DeKeyser's unsigned, it makes me jittery:

Danny DeKeyser, Detroit’s No. 2 defenseman behind Niklas Kronwall, remains unsigned with a little more than two weeks remaining until the start of camp. DeKeyser was eligible for arbitration but chose not to file. He may be rethinking that decision now. The left-shot defenseman, undrafted out of Western Michigan, scored four goals and 19 assists in 65 games last season while averaging 21:38 of ice time. The 24-year-old could have been under contract, either via arbitration award or pre-hearing settlement. The likelihood would have been the latter, as only P.K. Subban and Vladimir Sobotka advanced to hearings.



Also regarding prospects, in the fantasy hockey vein, Dobber Hockey's Darryl Dobbs suggests that one Red Wings prospect ought to be snagged by poolies to be saved for "Sooner or later"...

Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings - Good or bad, the Red Wings have a policy of holding prospects in the minors for a long, long time. Gustav Nyquist, for example, would have been on most pro rosters two years ago. So even though Mantha led the QMJHL with 120 points last year, he's still in tough. But if he makes it, it won't be as a penalty killer.

While a former Wings prospect represents "the next wave," assuming that his team allows him to shine:

Calle Jarnkrok, Nashville Predators - After Nashville acquired him from the Red Wings, Jarnkrok put up nine points in 12 games. The team rewarded him by loading up at center (Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy). If he's not pushed out of the mix, he'll make his mark.

In the "rearview mirror," I'm glad that Octopus Thrower's Peter Fish has been reviewing the Wings' drafts of late, because the truth of the matter is that between 2006 and 2009 were...Let's say "interesting." In 2008, the team drafted these two players, Max Nicastro, Julien Cayer, Stephen Johnston and Jesper Samuelsson, and Samuelsson was only seen at one Wings development camp, and he disappeared into the Swedish wilderness:

Tom McCollum: Tomas McCollum signed a new one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings after having a solid season last year with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He will be battling Jared Coreau and Jake Paterson to back up Petr Mrazek in Grand Rapids and could start a more than a few games in the AHL if Mrazek is called up to the NHL for an extended period of time.


Gustav Nyquist: Gustav Nyquist has one year left on his two-year contract extension he signed before the beginning of last season and will start the upcoming season in Detroit because the Wings do not have the option to send him to Grand Rapids without him having to go through waivers, nor would they want to after last season. Once the year is up, expect Detroit to try to sign him to a long-term deal.

The more and more I look back at the Wings' late-00's drafts, I remember Holland and Jim Nill's insistence that the Red Wings approach every draft hoping to draft one or two contributing NHL players and maybe a support player or two--in a fantastic draft year--and I look at the present-day draft crops with more skeptical eyes.

Realistically, the Wings are looking at every draft crop as if only one or two of the seven players they draft will "turn out," and the team understands that in the case of some prospects, it may take 7 to 10 years for them to truly establish themselves as NHL players. That's certainly not the way you or I approach the draft or prospect development.

In the future tense, per DRW Prospects on Twitter:

At the Under-20 Four Nations tournament, Axel Holmstrom centered Sweden's first line and Christoffer Ehn centered the second line, but Sweden lost 5-1 to Finland (Finland remained without Julius Vahatalo after he suffered a concussion on Friday). It's a round-robin tournament, so Sweden will play Russia today, and if Sweden wins and Finland loses vs. the Czechs, Russia can upset Finland for the title.

In exhibition play:

Mattias Janmark had 2 goals as the Frolunda Indians defeated Valeranga 5-1 as part of the "Gotenburg Hockey Weekend" tournament; Atlant Mytishchi lost 4-2 to CSKA Moscow at the Mayor of Moscow Cup tournament, with Kadeykin registering his assist on a goal that made a 4-1 loss look more respectable, while playing on Atlant's fourth line.



Closer to home, the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Windsor Spitfires 10-2 in an exhibition game on Saturday, and as WDIV reported, the exhibition game's proceeds went to a good cause:

And, per the Battle Creek Enquirer, if you're on the Western side of the Lower Peninsula, take note for future use:

• The Greater Battle Creek Ice Hockey Association is taking registrations for the 2014-15 season, and has added three new teams this season (JV, Pee Wee A and Bantam AA, with the latter two to be part of the Little Caesars League). On Saturday, Sept. 6, the GBCIHA will host a Try Hockey For Free day at The Rink as part of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association. Also, the GBCIHA's David Wallace Scholarship Fund Alumni Game is set for Dec. 27. For more information, contact Joe Grupczynski via email at rdwingsfan16@aol.com.



Finally, I spent some of my own money to buy new shirts and asundries for the Traverse City trip. The hotel was booked last week, and in 12 days I'll be leaving to attend the prospect tournament and main camp.

That's both exciting and a bit terrifying, because there are going to be late nights, early mornings and an excessive amount of typing for two five-day periods (there's a "break" in between the tournament and main camp, but it's not very break-y). So many of you have been unbelievably generous, but again, looking to break even on the expenses = continuing to ask if you can shake some fives, tens, twenties, singles, whatever as the little donations are just as important as the big ones.

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.


*Grumble* The old 5-AM foreign-language surprise:

Championat's Alexander Rozhkov conducted an interview with the only #87 that Wings fans might ever feel positively toward in Atlant Mytishchi's Alexander Kadeykin, and here's a rough translation of said article:

Kadeykin: The number or round of the draft [I was taken in] doesn't mean anything

Atlant forard Alexander Kadeykin talked about his experience with the NHL draft and commented on rumors about being traded to SKA St. Petersburg.

Atlant forward Alexander Kadeykin was the team's top scorer last season, registering 23 points (8 goals + 15 assists) in 54 games. During the summer Atlant's #87 went to the NHL Entry Draft, where he was picked 201st overall by Detroit.

What was your first thought after hearing that you were chosen by Detroit at the NHL Entry Draft?

"I didn't expect that I would be picked. I knew that some teams were interested in me, but you yoursef know about the Russian Factor. The first question they ask: 'What's your attitude about leaving the KHL?' So there were doubts. Of course I watched the NHL draft, but not with fanatic [excitement]. I have a contract with Atlant, and I still have a lot to prove."

Datsyuk was also chosen in the second half of the draft. Is that encouraging?

"There are also many who have been chosen in the second half of the draft--the same for Datsyuk and Zetterberg. In fact, the round and pick have no meaning. Everyone picked in the NHL draft--they aren't fully established players. Teams have some hope for you, but there's still a lot of work. Of course I was pleased that I was chosen by Detroit, but again, this is only the beginning."

Do you ask teammate Vyacheslav Kozlov about Detroit?

"I do ask sometimes. People with such experience, who've spent so much time there--it's a sin not to ask. In general, he told me about life in North America, about Detroit, and a more specific conversation doesn't make sense for now."

There was no option to go to the team's training camp?

"I didn't have a visa. It happened that there was a camp for beginners in a week but I didn't succeed in arranging the export documents over such a short period of time."

How do you respond to rumors about you being traded to SKA St. Petersburg?

"When they came I was on vacation, so they were a complete surprise to me. A friend called me and said that there was some news. But it didn't continue. At least it didn't continue for me."

The second year is considered more difficult for young hockey players than the first. Do you feel that more's expected of you?

"There are. In the first year they don't expect much, and yet it's unclear whether you're tuning up. Last year, the boys proved what we can bring to the team at this level, and now we are ready for other requirements. We understand that we are responsible for the outcome. I will do my best to live up to the expectations of us."

You were helped by the fact that you weren't just one, but were along with other young players, who played for the youth team?

"Of course. We were in the MHL at the same time, and began to play on the first team as a large group. First, it was easier to join the team. Second, we understand each other on the ice. This helped our task as we knew the basics of Atlant."

How big was the contribution of Evgeny Artyukhin in you becoming a top scorer last season, or [Sergei] Shmelyov, the best scorer?

"It's hard to talk about it. We played as a line. Sometimes Evgeny helped us when we had him. During the upcoming season it'll be seen what kind of results we can achieve without him."

George's note: Artyukhin was signed by CSKA Moscow.

Did you feel like you were behind a stone wall with him?

"His presence added to our confidence, but at the same time, last season he didn't fight."

No one wanted to mess with him.

"Probably. Players like Evgeni put the opponent in their places. But it's hard to say if we'll get beaten without Artyukhin, when we don't have anything to compare."

Now you won't get beaten?

"In principle, no."

But you still haven't played against CSKA.

"Maybe (laughs)."


Update #2: I don't want to get in trouble for this--and I have a feeling that the walls have ears whenever I say stuff like this--but I find the fact that Olympia Development/Ilitch Holdings posited a self-congratulatory press release about their Detroit-and-Michigan-based-business summit to be...A little narcissistic:

300 Detroit-based And-Headquartered Contractors Attend Highly Successful Jobs Summit For Detroit Sports And Entertainment District And Its New Arena

Next up: Michigan-wide Contractor and Supplier Summit - Michigan Made, Detroit Built

DETROIT, Aug. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 300 attendees from Detroit-based and-headquartered businesses joined together yesterday at MotorCity Casino Hotel to learn first-hand about job and business opportunities through participation in the construction of the Detroit Sports and Entertainment District and its new arena.

Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. welcomed attendees, outlining the organization's aggressive goals for local business participation in this transformational project. "Detroit is our hometown. We've done business in Detroit for nearly 50 years, and we're based and headquartered in the city, like all of you …. today kicks off a process to ensure Detroit-based and -headquartered firms get an opportunity to participate in this amazing project. And ultimately, this will lead to ensuring that Detroit residents get to participate and benefit financially by filling over 51% of the construction jobs."

At the event, Olympia Development detailed the organization's plan for working with its partners to achieve 30 percent Detroit business participation and 51 percent Detroit resident-worker jobs for construction of the new Detroit arena. Additionally, representatives from other key stakeholder organizations explained how Detroit-based companies can pursue upcoming construction opportunities and also provided resources to help those businesses participate.

"This outreach summit was the first step in preparing Detroit businesses for construction opportunities district-wide. From our aggressive participation goals to investment in apprenticeship programs, we are committed to ensuring that Detroit businesses have the resources and support they need to succeed," said Doug Diggs, President of Heritage Development Services, the organization that assisted in developing the workforce inclusion and business participation plan for the project.

Olympia Development and its partners will host additional outreach events in the coming months to ensure Detroit-based and -headquartered businesses, Detroit workers, state of Michigan contractors and Michigan-based suppliers all play a major role in, and financially benefit from, construction of the District and arena.

This part is important, especially if any of you are an actual Detroit-or-Michigan-bsed contractor:

The next event, for contractors and suppliers state wide (including those from Detroit), Michigan-wide Contractor and Supplier Summit – Michigan Made, Detroit-built will take place on September 9 at 10:00 a.m. at the MotorCity Casino Hotel's Sound Board venue in Detroit. Businesses should register for the event at http://www.DistrictDetroit.com/ This .event will connect statewide contractors and suppliers with Detroit business owners and project leadership for construction opportunities. The event is also intended to ensure that the new arena is built primarily with materials made in Michigan, financially benefiting companies from all parts of the state.

Groundbreaking for the District will occur this fall. Office, retail and residential buildings – as well as the new arena – are scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2017. Construction of the arena and surrounding District is expected to generate at least $1.8B in total economic impact, 8,300 construction and construction-related jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs. More than $100M in income from the arena project alone is expected for Detroit residents, with significant additional income to be created through future private development.

About Olympia Development of Michigan

Olympia Development of Michigan is a Detroit-based full-service real estate company owned by Detroit entrepreneurs Michael and Marian Ilitch. The company is responsible for developing and investing in some of Detroit's most recognized and visited venues, including the nationally acclaimed Comerica Park. Other Ilitch companies in the food, sports and entertainment industries include: Little Caesars Pizza, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, the Detroit Red Wings, Olympia Entertainment, Little Caesars Pizza Kits Fundraising Program, Champion Foods, Ilitch Holdings and Uptown Entertainment. Michael Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers. Marian Ilitch owns the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

1. i am very happy that Olympia and the Ilitches made the pledges they did to ensure that Detroiters and Michiganders are going to get at least half the construction and supplier jobs sans any legal obligation to do so;

2. But now what they're doing is fulfilling the legal obligations they agreed to. I'm not sure that's worth a pat on one's own back.



Update #3: And then you read something silly. Via RedWingsFeed, a member of the super-conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Christopher Douglas, penned an "other voices" column for Crain's Detroit Business.

In said column, Douglas suggests that the Ilitches would've financed the rink completely on their own, and among his factual errors is a suggestion that the Wings simply dodged their TV bill--the Ilitches didn't have to pay the city $80 million for an uncollected tax, but they did agree with the City to pay $6 million to settle any and all outstanding debts when the City had much, much less leverage in its bankruptcy process.

His argument? The Wings couldn't possibly move out of the city, or move to another city, which is...Misinformed at best:

An NHL franchise is almost completely dependent on local revenue to turn a profit. The National Football League gives each team an equal share of its annual $7 billion in media-based revenue, giving each team more than $200 million each year. In contrast, the NHL shares only about $200 million each year, netting each team just $6.7 million annually. The NHL does not share any ticket revenue either (40 percent of NFL ticket revenue is shared). This means that NHL teams need to be in large hockey markets to be profitable.

Yeah, but the Wings get $20 million a year from Fox Sports Detroit, and Belle Tire's "Presenting Sponsor" deal isn't cheap...

But could the iconic Red Wings be profitable somewhere else? Probably not. It is likely that the current NHL franchises are in the largest available hockey markets. The Red Wings would thus have to move to a market smaller than the least-valuable franchise -- the $175 million Columbus Blue Jackets. That team generates $69 million in annual revenue, whereas the Red Wings, estimated to be worth $470 million, generate $96 million in revenue annually. Leaving what some estimate to be the NHL's most valuable media market could cost the Red Wings at least $27 million in revenue per year. The total value of the franchise would obviously suffer.

Uh, if the Wings were theoretically to move, which wouldn't happen, there's an NHL-quality rink in Kansas City presently, and a rink in Quebec City being built presently. They'd do just fine in either location.

A Red Wings move to the suburbs might be a more serious concern for Detroit. In the mid-1970s, then-Red Wings owner Bruce Norris threatened just that. But this threat doesn't hold much water either, given that 10 percent of Red Wings season ticket holders are Canadians. The Canadian cities that likely produce these fans have a combined population that almost matches Detroit's. Moving farther away from the hockey market that centers near Detroit would be a risky business proposition.

Not really. There were widespread rumors that Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson was going to give the Wings an incredibly steep discount to purchase a still-undeveloped stretch of land near M 5 and 12 Mile Road on the Novi-Farmington Hills border, and that's near my backyard. The area's rebounded superbly from the recession and there's something of a building boom there presently, and while it wouldn't be as convenient for fans to head to a far-west-side rink, the Wings could''ve made it work.

Hell, at one point there was another rumor that the Wings were going to be building their rink in Romulus, right near Metro Airport, and at present there's an ambitious plan to develop the area between Metro Airport and Ann Arbor into an "Aeropolis" that might develop the last stretch of undeveloped land in Wayne County. That could've worked as well.

The state and city of Detroit should have negotiated with Olympia Development from a position of strength. They could have refused to provide subsidies, and the Red Wings would have likely stayed in Detroit. Olympia would have just needed to do what most every other business needs to do to expand: raise capital from private sources. Instead, politicians caved to nearly the entire list of Olympia's demands, needlessly costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year.

They didn't have any strength. The Ilitches didn't wait through four mayors and over 25 years to finally leverage a State-backed deal for a "City-County authority-leased rink" because they didn't feel like building anything.

Just as importantly, while the Ilitches make a boatload of money, we've learned that the MotorCity Casino has over $400 million in debt that it's slowly but surely paying off (as casino revenues for all three of Detroit's major casinos continue to decline), so they can't simply leverage their other revenues into a half-billion-dollar rink's worth of money.

This whole agreement took the better part of a quarter-century because the Ilitches were willing to wait for the "right deal" for them and a "legacy project" that would outlast the Wings' owner.

The Downtown Development Authority was formed in the late 80's, slowly but surely, the Feds rooted out the worst of the corruption in the Mayor's office and the City Council, Detroit finally had to face its mounting debts and the State ended up coming out of the recession with its most business-friendly governor since Jim Blanchard, and the Ilitches waited out land speculators and even Peter Karmanos, Dan Gilbert and Matty Moroun to finally take control of the "Arena District's" land.

Everything they've done wasn't done for the sake of paying their own expenses here. Everything they've done was designed to wait for the proper political and economic conditions to make the right deal for both the rink and the entertainment district, if not to pay off any lingering debts surrounding Comerica Park's construction as well...

And they were smart enough to know when the Downtown Development Authority established a track record of building a tax base that included businesses that relocated from the suburbs.

All the leverage was on the side of an organization that was never going to be hardballed, and the "next rink" plans have been in serious development for over a decade. You don't do everything the Ilitches have done to get Kwamed. Or Ficanoed.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink



I’d like to point out something about the Wings and the draft and George touched upon it here: the Wings seem to be telling us 1) we gotta get better in the draft because free agency and trades don’t work any more and 2) we expect one or two players to pan out from each draft.  OK, let’s do the math:  you need a roster of at least 20 NHLers to fill out four lines, three D men pairs and a couple of goalies.  If you only get 1.5 NHLers per draft on average, you need a bit more than 13 drafts to make a team.  The immediate consequence of that is that the average tenure of your players in the NHL (not in the AHL !) must be at least 13 years.  Seriously?  You better have higher sights for the draft or you better get serious about free agents and trades because filling out a Wings roster with undrafted players who grew up in Michigan is a really bad idea.

Posted by MikeMorrisSantaRosa from Santa Rosa, California on 08/31/14 at 09:06 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Smith is the poster-child for why sticking Sproul in Grand Rapids for too long is a dangerous thing. Smith is the same age as PK Subban and he’s had to learn two different times how to stop making so many mistakes (and the idea of “I was doing my job, what about my team” is pretty overblown from a standpoint where it makes it sound like the guy never takes responsibilities for his mistakes… not to mention that many of the times it actually IS his teammates failing to cover for a pinch that a defenseman should ABSOLUTELY be making in Babcock’s system).

The thing about learning how to make fewer mistakes in the AHL is that AHL good isn’t NHL good and avoiding AHL mistakes as a defenseman doesn’t actually mean you’ll make fewer errors in the NHL. In fact, the safe play in the AHL can be the downright deadly play in the bigger league.

I think dumping Smith would be an enormous mistakes when there are two other defensemen on the roster who are significantly worse than he is (and one who is paid significantly more than he is).

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/31/14 at 01:12 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

I think dumping Smith would be an enormous mistakes when there are two other defensemen on the roster who are significantly worse than he is (and one who is paid significantly more than he is).

I agree. I believe Smith has a lot of talent, and could eventually be the best defensman on the Red Wings.

Posted by bigfrog on 08/31/14 at 04:15 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

It’s a bit of a knife-edge-balancing situation, JJ, and I think that Smith is one of the players who was most adversely effected by the most recent lockout.

In my opinion, he really *needed* to play a full 2012-2013 campaign in Detroit and he really needed to be able to steal the jobs of the Colaiacovos, Commodores and Huskins, but the shortened season + unwillingness to embrace the youth movement yielded Smith being broken in slowly and not engaging in enough practice time to sort out the hiccups.

There are definitely occasions when players have been “over-ripened” to the point of stunting their NHL development, and Smith’s certainly a case thereof. I’m not sure whether he’s truly trade fodder or whether the diggers are extrapolating, but I do hope that the Wings are more patient than the press or fans are with Smith.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/31/14 at 04:27 PM ET


As long as they are not paired with each other, both Q and Smith look absolutely competent to me. And Smith brings the qualities none of our other dmen have, especially carrying the puck to the opponent’s zone. I think he does it even better than Kronwall. And he has a very good shot as he can get it through traffic more often than not. Not playing him on a PP makes little sense to me, especially considering that Babcock’s whole PP scheme is a shot from the point with traffic upfront and Smith has the best shot on our team from a blue line.
I’ve heard “he has to learn how to play defense first before PP time” argument, but that makes no sense to me either. Learning defense could be done at the same time as contributing on a PP.
Smith is/was an offensive dman and needs to be used like that.

Posted by VPalmer on 08/31/14 at 09:22 PM ET

Tracy from T-Town Hockey 's avatar

I’ve heard “he has to learn how to play defense first before PP time” argument, but that makes no sense to me either

I agree.  Maybe if he got to play on the PP, got some goals and helped the team, his overall game will improve with the added confidence.  I can see why George says he “has a fantastically large ego” but to me he seems like he’s just confused with what is being asked of him, because it’s not the type of game he’s ever been asked to play before.  He is not a stay at home defenseman and expecting him to play as one, in my opinion, is hurting his transition to the NHL.  The orginization was high on the kid for his offensive abilities, but now that he’s made the jump they don’t want him to use those abilities like he always has???  I hope they hang on to him, because he has a lot of upside if used properly.

Posted by Tracy from T-Town Hockey on 09/01/14 at 01:13 AM ET


and it’s getting to the point of “put up or shut up” for Abdelkader, Miller and Helm, so is it six of one or a half dozen of the other?

Why is Helm being mentioned in that sentence?  And hell, why is Miller.  Sure, Miller isn’t irreplaceable but he is exactly who he is.  He’s a fourth liner who kills penalties, he’s never going to be more than that.  And Helm?  He was on pace for 40 points last year, and he kills penalties like a champ.  I don’t know what more you could want from a bottom six forward.  You don’t get rid of Miller and Helm because they haven’t become Datsyuk and Zetterberg.  They should be compared to the likes of Maltby and Draper and in that respect I’d say there doing pretty well for themselves. 

Hell, even Abdelkader is what he is.  The only problems are that Detroit perennially has too many bottom six forwards and that the Wings try to make guys like Abdelkader (and Smith, and Quincey, etc) into players that they’re not.  Just because Steve Yzerman, one of the best players of his generation, was able to adjust his game doesn’t mean that every lesser player can simply become something else.

Posted by Garth on 09/01/14 at 10:59 AM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

Helm may or may not become a better player, but he is already head and shoulders above the other two and should definitely not be mentioned in the same sentence.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 09/01/14 at 09:50 PM ET


Regarding Smith, I continue to have a hard time with the bashing. Some (if not most) of the advanced stats show Smith to be one of the most effective defensemen on the team (check out his puck possession numbers). In that regard, DeKeyser is also very average. So looking at their respective reputations, DeKeyser is presented as a golden boy and Smith a perpetual dog, when in fact, these perceptions probably merit reversal.

I have a decent grasp of the advanced stats I’ve spent time to look at but I don’t know whether certain other stats exist yet and the one factor I’d like to see quantified is defensive mistakes. For example, what I’m wondering is if Smith were measured on how frequently he made costly mistakes (e.g., leads directly to a quality chance/goal), if this measurement would weigh against him. The full picture might be: a guy who drives puck possession and whose team generates more shots while he’s on the ice, yet a guy who also is prone to more-than-average costly blunders. In that regard, DeKeyser may be well below average and therefore, when you balance the numbers, DeKeyser weighs out as a conservative defenseman who nearly never makes defensive blunders but also doesn’t drive possession, whereas Smith might be a possession driver who far-too-often makes critical mistakes.

The stats that I have seen show Smith as vastly underrated (although the full story may not have been told) while DeKeyser gets overrated. Again, maybe we’re missing the full picture.

All that said, I expect Smith to have a big year this year. If Babcock gives him the chance and responsibility, I think he can take a big step.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 09/02/14 at 12:00 PM ET

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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.


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