The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: on Babcockian rumors, Zetterberg, the Wings’ handbag policy & spun yarns
by George Malik on 09/05/14 at 02:18 AM ET
My hope is that Mike Babcock is either media-savvy enough or has hired someone to relentlessly monitor the media who's savvy enough to afford him the chuckle, because every time the man's insisted that his contract status is no big deal, the person to whom he's stated as much goes and makes a VERY BIG DEAL out of it.
And everyone outside of Detroit seems to think that it's a VERY BIG DEAL that he's not signed yet, and the media seems to believe that if Babcock doesn't sign before the regular season (after which time Babcock doesn't want to talk both contract turkey and work 16-to-18-hour days), he simply must explore the "free agent marketplace" because that's what makes sense.
After the local scribes spoke with Babcock on Wednesday, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun penned a column about the "unrestricted free agent-to-be" on both ESPN and TSN; then LeBrun appeared on both TSN 1090 in Toronto and appeared on TSN's That's Hockey 2Nite, stating in both instances that it's his sense that Babcock "doesn't know what he's really going to do," despite that this is what Babcock told LeBrun:
"Ken Holland and I have a great relationship. I have a great owner. I like Detroit. I have no concern at all with my situation. We’ll find a way to get a deal worked out. But it’s not like I’m in any rush. If it happens, it happens, if not, we’ll get it done at the end of the year."
Now the out-of-towners don't seem to have ever paid attention to the fact that Babcock told the damn Detroit sports talk radio folks that he wasn't going to talk contract turkey during the regular season half a dozen *#$%@& times, and I will give Dave Reid credit for suggesting that players are a little too busy preparing to play to allow any coaching issues to become divisive...
But LeBrun isn't the only journalist who's practically foaming at the mouth here (and I say that politely given that I respect LeBrun to no end), and it's just September 5th.
In the absence of any other preseason dramatics, Babcock's status, his soon-to-be status as having no children living at home with Mrs. Babs, the possibility of Babcock going to Toronto, Pittsburgh or coaching any of his Canadian Olympians, it's all going to be drummed up to no end, all the season previews will insist that Babcock's status is THE STORY OF THE YEAR and that, surely, the Red Wings will have to allow teams to wine and dine Babcock as soon as the Wings are eliminated (of course they'll all say that the drama will distract the coach and players enough to end the Wings' 23-year playoff streak), if not earlier, blah blah blah, whatever you can dream up or make up if you're paid to do so, it will be said, and the vast majority of it will be said before the 2014-15 season even begins.
I mean, *#$%@&, Gary Bettman went out and said that the NHL is NOT considering expansion at this time and that any estimates of an expansion fee's impact have changed dramatically thanks to the Clippers' sale, and yet the Globe and Mail's Sean Gordon attended the very press conference where Bettman was incredibly specific regarding the reasons why the NHL won't expand in the short term future, and yet he penned an article explaining that a Quebec-based franchise is inevitable.
That's the preseason media environment for you. "Compelling storylines" precede on-ice storytelling, and no amount of truth can stop the fan fiction.
And as smart as Ken Holland may be, he certainly proved to LeBrun that he remains utterly deaf to the court of both public and journalistic opinion...
"The guy’s got an opportunity of a lifetime,” Holland said. "He’s an unrestricted free agent. He’s 52 years of age. His stock isn't going to get any higher. He’s coming off his second Olympic gold. He was finalist for coach of the year. People feel the job he did last year with our team was as good as he’s done here in a number of years."
So Wings fans have this "story" on their hands, and while Babcock has gone to some pretty extensive lengths to ensure that the media doesn't misquote him or mis-attribute something someone else may have thought he said--and while Babcock has gone about as far as a coach can on the local level to state that he's not going anywhere--at this time of year, the press's imagination wanders, and with only the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks in serious cap trouble, Babcock's story is an easy one to spin.
New Wings intern Craig Peterson summarized the situation wonderfully, but it's not as if anyone outside Southeastern Michigan will pay attention to what the coach actually says unless he signs on the dotted line:
Babcock has won 415 regular-season games during his time spent with the Wings, won two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, won a Stanley Cup and another Stanley Cup finals appearance. He is arguably the most successful NHL head coach of the past decade. With a decorated resume, Babcock is in a position of power in terms of negotiation but understands the situation and environment he is in.
“I’ve thought a lot about that (contract negotiations),” he said. “Lots of people have asked me this question. Kenny Holland is a good man, the Ilitches are good people and they’ve looked after us.”
Negotiations could heat up in two weeks at training camp in Traverse City, but if the season starts before an agreement can be reached, Babcock seemed confident that the absence of an extension would not be a distraction.
“We’ll find a way to work something out over time,” he said. “I’m not all wound up about this one bit.”
Everyone else is, coach, you and Kenny Holland are the only ones not pressing the panic button.
While we're talking about media viewpoints and what is all but legalese...Steve Moore and his lawyer, Tim Danson, finally reported to the media that they'd come to a settlement with Todd Bertuzzi, the NHL, etc. on Thursday.
Bertuzzi-Moore was a flagrant example of the league’s culture of revenge, and what happened when it tipped just a little too far over the edge. And the league knew it could happen, because it was how the game worked. Colin Campbell, the league’s then-head of discipline, once said both he and then-NHL director of officiating Andy Van Hellemond called the officials’ room in Vancouver that night, which was unusual, because “when the score is out of hand, as this one was early, you worry about what could happen.”
Bertuzzi, though, was an end of sorts to all that. The league had never held its leaders responsible for mayhem on the ice, not really, and this lawsuit raised the prospect of that. It came as information on brain injuries really started to gain traction. All of a sudden, there were wider consequences when someone got really hurt, like this.
Revenge hasn’t vanished from the NHL, but it’s been softened. Incidents like Shawn Thornton’s assault of Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik last season are now weighed with visibly deep seriousness, and with lawyers present. Coaches don’t talk the same way about revenge. It was jarring when Montreal’s Michel Therrien spoke in the playoffs, a little ominously, about knowing where opposing players were hurt. Bertuzzi pled to an assault charge and was on probation for a year, and no NHL act of violence has landed in a courtroom since.
And now this thing, and that era of the NHL, has been buried in a moneyed grave. In his statement, Moore didn’t say anything about forgiving Bertuzzi; just about still loving hockey, after all this. Bertuzzi didn’t say anything at all. He was pictured in a montage in HBO’s 24/7 last season, and he sat in a bar in Florida, sipping a beer with his tattooed arms, his face weathered and weary, looking like a man who had lived forever. He didn’t say anything then, either. It’s possible nobody ever will.
But he revealed an intriguing item of note as well...
They cheered in Vancouver when Todd Bertuzzi came crashing down on Steve Moore, until they realized Moore was really hurt.
It was reported that Bertuzzi all but wailed “what have I done?” in the locker-room after the game; he never really talked about it after that, though, beyond the tearful apology. After that, it got messy.
And the New York Times' Jeff Z. Klein finally got Moore's laywer, Tim Danson, to explain why so much time passed between the NHL, Geoff Adair (Bertuzzi's lawyer) and the Canucks' announcement of a settlement and the Moore camp's confirmation:
The sides reached a tentative deal on Aug. 19, and Bertuzzi’s lawyer, Geoff Adair, called it binding and final. News organizations and the Canucks reported that the case was settled, but Moore’s lawyer objected to parts of the deal, which resulted in two weeks of negotiations.
“It was my legal opinion that there was no binding and enforceable settlement until the language of the settlement documents was agreed to by all parties and I was in possession of executed settlement documents,” Moore’s lawyer, Tim Danson, said Thursday. “That happened today.”
I hope two things:
1. I hope that Bertuzzi, the NHL and the Canucks ended up giving Moore the financial security he's deserved for over a decade now;
2. And I hope that both Moore and Bertuzzi can find some peace now that ten years' worth of legal wrangling has come to an end. The incident will never be "over and done with" for either man, but it's time to let both perpetrator and victim be what they were before and are now--human beings free to author their own future paths.
In a cheerier out-of-town note, and bringing us back to the reasons why the Wings will re-sign Babcock, Chris Nichols pointed out that new Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters revealed an as-yet-mostly-untold chapter of the Red Wings' past season, all while engaging in a "coach the media" session attended by the Raleigh News & Observer's Chip Alexander:
Peters spent the past three seasons as an assistant on Mike Babcock’s coaching staff with the Detroit Red Wings, a team that has been a part of the NHL postseason for 23 consecutive years. Asked what, other than sheer talent, separates playoff teams from non-playoff teams, Peters replied, “Mental toughness.”
“There’s no excuses,” he said. “You can look at the schedule, you can look at this, that and the other. There’s just no excuses.
“I can remember sitting in the (Wings) coaching room and we had some key guys dinged up and (injured). We were one or two points out of a playoff spot. Our coach said, “We’re getting in the playoffs. I don’t exactly know how we’re going to do it but we’re coming back tomorrow and will have some answers that are solution-based.’ So we did. You dig in. You’ve got to be mentally tough.”
That's why Babcock, as aggravating as he might be and as type-a-all-the-time as his personality may be, "works here," and that's why his hirings of Tony Granato, Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer (who NHL.com's Dan Rosen just profiled) are so very important.
Babcock is exactly as indelicate as the son of a Saskatchewan miner whose mom passed away when he was still a young man might be, all grit and sandpaper, but the drivetrain on that grit and sandpaper is relentlessly positive and relentlessly "solution-based," and with the right assistants to smooth the message, Babcock's teaching background helps him continue to motivate athletes game after game, week after week, season after season.
Regarding his captain, you know this by now, but Henrik Zetterberg finally gave a post-practice scrum on Thursday, and he reported that his surgically-repaired back is doing quite well. He reminded the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that his discectomy solved a chronic and eventually debilitating condition...
“I’m real excited to get back at it,” said Zetterberg, limited to 47 games (two in the postseason) last season. “I feel good. It’s been a good summer of rehabbing and off-ice workouts. Last year wasn’t my first year I had issues with my back. It came to the point I had to have surgery. It’s been on and off for the last few years. It’s good to come in and not think about (my back) and just play hockey.”
Even with the injury, Zetterberg finished with 48 points (16 goals), one behind leaders Daniel Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall.
And when the Red Wings begin camp, Zetterberg will be counting the minutes until the opener Oct. 9.
“I haven’t played a (regular-season) game since February,” said Zetterberg, who’ll turn 34 on opening night. “Unfortunately, camp is later this year. (I’m) really looking forward to get back at it.”
The fact Zetterberg is enthusiastic about this season is great news for the Red Wings, who’ve had to deal with many injuries the last two seasons.
“That’s a big deal for us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
And Zetterberg told the Free Press's George Sipple that his assessment of the team's potential differs from those who have already written the Wings' out of the 2015 postseason mix:
“I see the guys that come up from Grand Rapids,” Zetterberg said. “There are some big guys skating with us right now. They’re not big names yet, I’m pretty sure they’ll be big names in the future.”
Only the Penguins had a higher number of man games lost than the Wings last season. According to mangameslost.com, the Penguins had 529 man games lost, while the Red Wings were second with 421. The Winnipeg Jets were third with 349.
“Hopefully we can stay healthy and play with the team we want to play with,” Zetterberg said. “We haven’t made a lot of changes and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I like to come in and see all the guys that was here last year and see some new kids coming up from Grand Rapids. We have a good group in here, we just gotta get it together and stay healthy.”
Sipple also spoke with Darren Helm about his potential position change from center to Pavel Datsyuk's winger, at least for the duration of training camp..
“I just gotta be ready for the puck and work hard for him,” Helm said of playing with Datsyuk.
One obvious benefit to playing on the top line as opposed to centering a third line is the added offensive opportunities Helm will have.
“That’s not really what I’m looking at,” Helm said. “My main focus is playing my game, working hard and earning my spot up there. Create some space with my speed. We have six or seven NHL centermen, so something was going to have to change. The guys that are coming up are great centermen. It’ll be fun to play wing with one of the best players in the league. Hopefully I can find success and stay there and help this team win.”
And Helm's feeling hale and hearty, too:
Asked about his health, Helm said: “I feel healthy, I feel good and I’m excited to get going. It’s nice not to have to thinking or worrying about that every day.”
As for the inevitable Datsyuk-Zetterberg split, Zetterberg delivered quite the zinger to MLive's Ansar Khan...Okay, it's not quite the zinger, but for a practice scrum in September, it's pretty good:
"We've been going through this for nine years now," Zetterberg said. "(Babcock) has been saying that I'm going to be playing with (Datsyuk) and it ends up being something different. So we'll see when it starts."
"Hopefully this year we can stay healthy and play with a team that we want to play with," Zetterberg said. "I like to come in and see a lot of the guys who were here last year and see some new kids come in from Grand Rapids. We have a good group in here. We just have to keep it together and stay healthy.
"If you look at last year, there weren't a lot of games where we had a full lineup. Hopefully, if we have that this year we will see improvement."
Khan posted a video of Zetterberg speaking to the media, as did the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, and it's nice to see and hear him speaking without pain:
Getting down to material business, this is quite important given that the Wings fan distribution is far closer to 50-50% gender-wise (or gender-identity-wise, whatever) than you might think. Via my pals Kat and Christina on Facebook, the Red Wings apparently have a new handbag policy, and it's going to be an expensive one for those of you who utilize purses (click to embiggen):
Long story long, ladies are now going to have to bring a clear 12 inch-by-6-inch-by-12-inch handbag, a gallon Ziploc bag or a "clutch bag" that fits one of the criteria, and all of this goes into effect on Thursday, September 25th.
If you're interested in some GOOD yarn-spinning of a different kind, via RedWingsFeed, Frank Block, the author of The Metro Prystai Story, is posting audio narratives on his website, "The Heart of the Rink" (where he's presenting a 5-days-a-week program), and he's conducted a pair of intriguing interviews with Red Kelly, who happens to have written the foreword to The Metro Prystai Story, about, well...
In Part 1 of a 2 part series with Red he tells us about growing up on the Kelly family farm in Simcoe, Ontario and how his father was such a tremendous influence on Red’s hockey career. In our interview Red Kelly shares when he received his hardest body check.
Red also shares some incredible stories about his playing days with both the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also shares the story about a movie actress stopping by his house to bring “rattlesnake kits” for his kids.
In part 2 of the 2 part series Red Kelly shares some of the reasons why he ended up leaving his coaching job in Los Angeles.
It may even have had something to do with gophers, the Manson 2murders and landslides. Red Kelly also shares the pep talk he gave the Toronto Maple Leafs alumni team when he was co-coaching at the Winter Classic. Red also tells what it is that he loves about the game of hockey.
The interviews are both "great stuff" and they provide an hour's worth of talk with a Hall-of-Famer.
In Russian, Slava Kozlov--who's still playing hockey, with Atlant Mytishchi and Wings prospect Alexander Kadeykin at the age of 42--gave an incredibly long interview to Sport-Express's Yuri Golyshak and Alexander Kruzhkov. While it's far too long to translate, it's worth noting that:
1. Kozlov says that he believes Sergei Fedorov would still be playing had his back not given out on him;
2. He readily admits that Scott Stevens' hit in the 1995 Stanley Cup Final concussed him, but he got up and continued to play, and apparently he got punched in the head during the next period, which was the humdinger;
3. Nicklas Lidstrom was the best defender he played against, and he feels that Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios were his most-difficult-to-play opponents;
4. He never was able to do Chelios's bike-in-the-sauna routine;
5. Brad McCrimmon was his first roommate, and he says McCrimmon helped both himself and Vladimir Konstantinov get used to life in the U.S., so he was very glad that McCrimmon was his coach in Atlanta, and he wishes that his English was better so that he could've known McCrimmon more;
6. He says he's never read hockey player biographies, nor is he inclined to write his own, but he states that Bob Probert "behaved appropriately" as a teammate;
7. He says that at the Winter Classic Alumni Showdown, it looked like Igor Larionov, Fedorov and Kris Draper could definitely still play hockey, but Steve Yzerman nearly collapsed when he got onto the ice;
8. He claims that while he mostly listened to Slava Fetisov and Larionov for guidance, Scotty Bowman once told him that Kozlov was nearly traded to Calgary for Valeri Bure, but that Bowman stopped it--though Kozlov believes that it might've been a classic Bowman mind game;
9. He says that Barry Smith and Dave Lewis did most of the practice coaching and player-managing when Bowman wasn't being...Scotty...and that Bowman could be both brutal and friendly, depending on the moment;
10. He was never involved in the car accident that disabled Sergei Mnatsakanov or Vladimir Konstantinov, but he remembers going to the hospital and seeing Fetisov all cut up from the crash;
11. He dismisses what's apparently a hot rumor that Vladdie's wife keeps him from being visited by teammates, and instead he says that Konstantinov has some Russian-speaking nurses taking care of him, and has some trouble speaking, but that his memory's still there, that he walks with a walker, etc.
12. He's not as keen on talking about his car accident, which killed his friend Kirill Tarasov, though he says that his brain injury is what faciliated his travel to Detroit. He'd initially been offered to go to Detroit in 1990--when the Wings had a plane waiting for him at a tournament in Saskatchewan--but he declined, and when his agent tried to get him to drive to Winnipeg and then Detroit after the tournament, he declined defecting again;
13. He was quite happy to be an "accessory" when the Stanley Cup toured Red Square in 1997;
14. He has four championship rings--two from Detroit, a Gargarin Cup ring from Dynamo Moscow and another from Salavat Yulaev Ufa;
15. His daughter goes to school in Atlanta and he has two sons who live with the Mrs. in Spain, so he has 3 homes;
16. And he says that the hardest part of his career's been living away from his family for the past four (KHL) seasons, so he doesn't plan on playing until he's 50.
Hopefully someone who actually knows Russian will translate this interview, because it really is fascinating, and I gave you maybe half of the topics of note--at best.
In the prospect department, if you missed it, via DRW Prospects on Twitter:
Adam Almquist and Severstal Cherepovets lost their season-opening KHL game, dropping a 2-0 decision to Torpedo Nizhny Novogrod;
And in Champions League play--preseason games--Mattias Janmark had an assist in the Frolunda Indians 7-3 win over Geneve Servette, and Axel Holmstrom didn't register a point in Skelleftea AIK's 4-1 win over Norway's Sonderjyske Vojens.
Ditto for the "if you missed it," from the Toledo Blade:
The Toledo Walleye's preseason schedule will consist of a home-and-home series with Kalamazoo.
The ECHL announced its preseason schedule of 22 games today.
The Walleye will face Kalamazoo during a preseason game at the Huntington Center at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 10. The teams will then meet again the following night in Kalamazoo at 7:30.
There will be Wings prospects on the Walleye's roster by that time.
Admission to the Oct. 10 home exhibition game is $5 and 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the team's charity, the Walleye Wishing Well. All seats are general admission. Game-plan holders with receive a ticket to the preseason contest at no additional cost.
Toledo will play only two preseason games. The Walleye open the regular season at home when they host the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday, Oct. 18.
If you find yourself in Battle Creek this weekend, per the Battle Creek Enquirer's Will Kowalski:
The Greater Battle Creek Ice Hockey Association will host a Try Hockey For Free day at The Rink on Saturday starting at 9 a.m., prior to the West Michigan Wolves’ 1 p.m. exhibition against the WMU Stallions.
The Try Hockey For Free program is in conjunction with the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association. All participants will receive a Detroit Red Wings bag full of goodies (last year, there were Red Wings jerseys and stickers for all youths).
Sign up online at the MAHA website — or for more information, contact Joe Grupczynski of the GBCIHA via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am hoping that the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau either has news about the Alumni and Celebrity game on Friday, September 19th or possibly some sort of camp roster in the offing...
And finally, it's a tip jar right now, and that's it. I've reached my extra-day hotel goal, I'm good to go, just nervous as hell because I have anticipatory anxiety and I'm afraid about everything. Representing everyone who's sponsored me and wants to be there without beating myself into the ground energy-wise is hard to do.
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.
The t-shirt idea stands, but I'm no artist, and blog traffic is just starting to pick back up.
Update: NHL.com's Arpon Basu, Brian Compton, Corey Masisak and Dan Rosen have made their picks and cast their votes regarding the top 14 defensemen in the NHL for the 2014-15 season, and Niklas Kronwall ranks...14th! On the list!
14. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings, 10 points
2013-14: 8 goals, 49 points, 79 games played
When Nicklas Lidstrom retired after the 2011-12 season, there was good reason for Red Wings fans to be concerned. Lidstrom is one of the greatest defensemen of all time, but Kronwall has done as well as could be reasonably expected to fill the void he left behind. Kronwall is the NHL's seventh most productive defensemen since Lidstrom's departure two seasons ago, all the while maintaining his intimidating physical presence for forwards courageous enough to carry the puck over the blue line against him.
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About The Malik Report
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.