Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: today, the Wings begin to ‘answer questions’ in more ways than one

Like everything else that transpired over the course of the NHL's third and most unnecessary lockout, things went ass-backwards on Saturday, and involved a delay that could only involve lawyers trying to rack up as many billable hours as possible. First came the CBA's ratification (with more than a few abstentions) by the NHLPA, and, late on Saturday evening, the NHL and PA finally reached a "memorandum of understanding," even yielding a, "Man, that's bizarre, in other businesses, it's always the other way around" from my 70-year-old aunt(!).

When the news dam broke, however, news came cascading down the information pipeline, with the Red Wings officially releasing their 2013 season schedule, unveiling both the date when single-game tickets will be made available for sale (Thursday) while offering perhaps the most refreshing and honest post-lockout slogan in, "Thanks for sticking with us," and the Wings also confirmed the details of their open-to-the-public training camp, which begins with a slate of practices from 12-12:45 PM and then 1-1:45 PM at Compuware Arena this afternoon.

By the time Fox Sports Detroit airs Tuesday evening's "Red vs. White" scrimmage (which will include both training camp try-out Mike Knuble and KHL All-Star Pavel Datsyuk, who will make the 5,400-mile trek from Chelyabinsk back to Detroit tomorrow night and Monday morning), we will have received our first indications of what these 2013 season Red Wings might possess in terms of talent--well, as best as we can discern without any pre-season games, anyway--and as everyone passed their physicals on Saturday (but Darren Helm won't skate today, and Carlo Colaiacovo's shoulder is still "sore"), hopefully the Wings will keep any unpleasant surprises to a bare minimum.

Sans Tomas Holmstrom (who will make his retirement official sometime after the Wings' training camp shifts back to Joe Louis Arena), Brad Stuart and Nicklas Lidstrom, however, the Red Wings' 2013 season may as well be sponsored by the question mark, and the Free Press's Helene St. James offers five introductory queries regarding--as she coined it--the 48-games-in-99-nights mad dash to come:

1) How will the defense mask the departures of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart?

2) Who can revitalize a power play that has lost Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom?

3) What will it take to make Johan Franzen play like the power forward the Wings need?

4) Can Damien Brunner translate his Swiss success to North American ice?

5) Will the Wings continue their 21-season streak of making the playoffs?

The Hockey News certainly thinks that the Wings are, at best, a seventh place team, and I know that the Sports Forecaster's NHL yearbook predicted that the Wings will finish in 9th place. NHL.com's Dan Rosen suggested that the team is no longer "feared," nor a real "Cup contender," and yes, it is a little worrisome that even Mike Babcock told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff that he isn't sure exactly how the Wings will not only survive, but also thrive during the post-Lidstrom era...

But we won't really find out whether Ken Holland and the Wings' braintrust will have to make some sort of massive move to bolster the Wings' defense at or around the trade deadline on April 3rd, well, until the Wings' current defensive corps proves its worth or the lack thereof.

As such, the team's defensive corps--Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White and Jakub Kindl--receive both individual profiles and the collective spotlight treatment from St. James this morning.

St. James rather eloquently describes the defense after Kronwall as containing, "An awful lot of maybes," and how those "maybes" pan out will most certainly play a gigantic role in determining whether the Wings can make the playoff cut for the 22nd straight season:

"It's going to be weird," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "It's going to be weird for everyone."

What can they do? Lidstrom isn't coming back; he told the Free Press last week he's very happy in retirement.

Trades are possible -- Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester remains an option -- but defensemen are a premium asset in the NHL, and any team that gives one up is going to want a lot in return. The Wings might be better off waiting until summer, when the market should see an uptick in free agents after teams use compliance buyouts to reduce payrolls in light of a lower salary cap heading into 2013-14.

For now, they have what they have -- a defense that's going to need help from teammates to look good.

"Missing some big keys from last year's team is something we've got to deal with," Johan Franzen said. "Everybody's got to step up a little bit. We've got to fill that hole and find a way to play without them, and I think we can do that. They were not on the ice 60 minutes every game; we had other guys playing when they were on the bench. Guys can handle it."

St. James believes that it's at least possible that the Wings' relative depth at forward might be able to compensate for what is a rebuilding year on defense, as Carlo Colaiacovo suggested...

"It's a huge confidence level," Colaiacovo said. "I think playing with world-class players makes you step your game up a lot more, probably brings the best out of you, and that's what I expect out of myself. To play up to their levels, and be ultimately the best player that I can. Put the puck in their hands. They do what they do for a living because they're really good at it."

But with even Brendan Smith as something of an unknown quantity at the NHL level, there's no doubt that the "A" will weigh heavily upon Niklas Kronwall's shoulder in terms of setting an example for his teammates on what really is a very young defensive corps...

"I think it all comes down to hard work and doing what you do," Kronwall said. "Obviously I'm one of those guys that will take it upon myself to take more responsibility, but at the same time, I think there's six other guys on the blue line who will do the same thing. We all have to do this together. It's not up to one guy. If this is going to go anywhere, we have to do it together."

Especially given that even Smith knows that Brad Stuart's departure may be felt just as severely as Lidstrom's given his status as a Swiss Army Knife defenseman, i.e. someone who could excel in any situation he was placed in:

"Brad Stuart was phenomenal for our team last year," Smith said. "The things he did -- he blocked so many shots. He played so hard. He always matched up against the top lines. As for Nick, I don't know if there's anybody in the league that can step in and replace him, but we can do, as a whole D corps, the best that we can. We're going to have to give it our all."

Now Stuart's a Shark, and even with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk leading the way up front and Jimmy Howard developing into a bona-fide star goaltender, uncertainty seems to hang over this team like a fog bank hugging the skyline downtown.

MLive's Ansar Khan suggests that there are other questions regarding the team's present and future in issuing five queries of his own, and he reminds us that Tomas Holmstrom's retirement leaves us with another pickle to ponder--who the hell is going to stand in front of the net and retrieve rebounds when shots go wide?

3. Does the team plan on calling up anyone from the Grand Rapids Griffins at the start of the season?

No, other than Smith, who already is in Detroit. Talented Gustav Nyquist should be the first forward recalled, but Tomas Tatar is close, too. Babcock indicated that Joakim Andersson is NHL-ready, and Riley Sheahan isn't far behind. So they have good reinforcements up front. Defense options are more limited, with Brian Lashoff and Adam Almquist being next in line.

For the moment, I'm with the Wings on this one: let Nyquist and Tatar pile up points, confidence and experience in the form of oodles of ice time now, because they will most certainly visit Detroit thanks to the high likelihood of injuries hitting the Wings' forward corps at some point...But why bother calling them up now if they're going to play checking roles when they're playing so very dominantly at the AHL level?

4. How will they divide the duties in net?

Howard, a workhorse, is coming off his best season, posting a career-low 2.12 goals-against average and being selected for the All-Star game. He appeared in 57 games and would have played in 65 or so if not for the broken finger and strained groin that caused him to miss 15 games. The team will be careful not to overwork him with a compressed schedule that features 12 sets of games on consecutive days. Gustavsson, a former budding star in Toronto, figures to see more action than would a typical Red Wings backup.

5. How is their power play shaping up?

They lost two key components in quarterback Nicklas Lidstrom and top net-front man Tomas Holmstrom to a power play that was below average last season (22nd in the NHL at 16.1 percent). New assistant coach Tom Renney is tasked with turning this around. He was the head coach for the Edmonton Oilers the past two seasons, where their power play went from 27th in the NHL (14.1 percent) in his first year to third last season (20.6 percent). Expect Bertuzzi and Cleary to fill Holmstrom's net-front role. In addition to Kronwall and White, they have a few more options to play the point in Samuelsson, Smith, Quincey and Colaiacovo.

Renney, who's an associate coach as opposed to just an assistant, may be the team's x-factor, especially given the brain drain behind the Wings' bench since their 08 Cup win, and there is something to be said for Valtteri Filppula coming into his own, Damien Brunner coming to North America on a scoring tear-and-a-half and Jordin Tootoo adding some "piss and vinegar" that we haven't witnessed a Red Wings player display in a long, long time...

But the biggest positive the Wings have in their lineup isn't the lineup itself.

It's the calendar. 48-game seasons make Stanley Cup Finalists out of teams that aren't necessarily favorites, like that damn Devils team that beat the Wings back in 1995, and the Red Wings told Khan that they're well aware of the concept that capitalizing on a mad dash toward playoff hockey involves more than what you've got on paper. All of that starts this morning:

“It’s my understanding the players have worked real hard in preparing for this day, so when we hit the ice that should be evident,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “You can’t get behind the eight-ball. The league is so tight now. You have to get off to a big start.''

Defenseman Ian White called it a “short and sweet'' camp geared toward getting your timing back and getting fluent with systems and playing as a team. And, hopefully, minimizing injuries (particularly groin pulls) that can be an issue with a compressed schedule.

“It's going to be interesting not having any preseason games, going right into (the regular season),'' White said. “I'm sure the hockey will be a little sloppy at first, but that's what happens when you don't have a regular camp.''

Khan reminds us that Mikael Samuelsson's also joined the mix as something of a replacement for Jiri Hudler--in terms of both point production and fan frustration instigation--and then there's Brunner...

But where does this team really stand, especially given that so many pundits are already writing the team off as nothing more than a team full of bubble boys?

“I don't think we care about (predictions),'' forward Johan Franzen said. “I don't know who picked that, so-called experts? It's a good thing we only have a week of camp, so we can get out there pretty quickly and show what we can do. Missing some big keys from last year is something we got to deal with.''

"Somehow" is "somehow," regardless...

“The goal is always the same thing, it has to be – the Stanley Cup,'' Kronwall said.

There is, of course some good news in the fact that a third of the Wings' roster skated for European teams--from Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Filppula and Brunner to Drew Miller, Jan Mursak, Jakub Kindl and, for a little while, anyway, Cory Emmerton...

“The guys that have been playing will have somewhat of an advantage,'' forward Justin Abdelkader said. “But we're playing a lot of games in a short period of time, I think we'll catch up pretty fast.''

...

“You normally have (several) weeks of exhibitions to figure it out,'' Babcock said. “The tryouts start Day 1 and then the season starts. If you’re playing good Day 1, you’re playing a lot. If you’re not playing good, someone else is going to have your job.''

And just as the players have suggested, the coach understands that there's more than job security on the line after a lockout that was indeed completely stupid and utterly unnecessary, especially in Southeastern Michigan:

“In Detroit, we’re so thankful to our fans that they stuck around,'' Babcock said. “Over a period of time, we’re going to have to earn new fans back. And we plan on doing that.''

Regarding the schedule, if you missed it, Wings GM Ken Holland did speak to the Free Press's Helene St. James about the grind to come...

"If you look at our schedule, the first three weeks, every road game is in our division," Holland said We've got a stretch from late February through late March where we have to make three or four trips out west. That's going to be tough."

The Wings have their longest trip of the season in late March, when they start March 22 at Anaheim, play at the Ducks again March 24, play March 25 at Phoenix, then go back to California for a March 28 date at San Jose. They finish the season April 27 at Dallas.

First, they'll have a week's worth of camp.

"Everybody is chomping at the bit," Holland said.

Physicals revealed a few players are questionable beyond Helm. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo has a sore shoulder, but he skated Friday and said he expects to be ready next weekend when the season starts.

Forward Patrick Eaves remains sidelined by a concussion, and goaltender Joey MacDonald, who wouldn't have been in Detroit anyways, has a back issue.

Holland said the only Wings player who didn't take a physical was Pavel Datsyuk, who is staying in Russia through the weekend to compete in the KHL All-Star Game weekend. Datsyuk won Saturday's "penalty shot" competition with a backwards backhand goal scored on Traktor Chelyabinsk's Michael Garnett.

Holland also told St. James that Mike Knuble's the team's only current training camp invite, though I would not be surprised to see the team (and the Free Press posted a "Meet the 2013 Red Wings" photo gallery if you're interested) add a depth defenseman along the way, or at least sign some of their Grand Rapids Griffins vets that are on AHL-only contracts to two-way deals.

Pro Hockey Talk's James O'Brien took note of a quip Knuble gave to Comcast Sportsnet Washington's Chuck Gormley--who's been following Knuble during his move back to the Grand Rapids area, his stint helping the Griffins as a coach/mentor and now as a 40-year-old who's 6'3," 229 pounds and guaranteed of absolutely nothing other than the opportunity to retire trying to make the team he'd hoped to end his career playing for:

Knuble confirmed to CSNWashington.com on Saturday night that he has accepted a tryout contract with the Detroit Red Wings and will report to training camp on Sunday.

“No contract,” Knuble said in a text message. “Just a chance.”

Knuble, 40, played the past three seasons with the Capitals, where his goal totals dropped from 29 to 24 to 6 in the past three seasons and his point totals dropped from 53 to 40 to 18.

Knuble, who moved his family to Grand Rapids, Mich., after last season, began his NHL career in Detroit. He was drafted by the Red Wings in the fourth round of the 1991 NHL draft and made his debut with the Red Wings in the 1996-97 season, winning a Stanley Cup that season.

He has been working out with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins during the lockout.

It is worth noting that at said back end of the roster, Drew Miller was a scoring sensation for Braehead Clan in Scotland, and the speediest player this side of Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula had a blast playing for his hometown team, as one Jan Mursak told the Free Press's George Sipple:

Mursak had 19 goals and 29 assists in 30 games for Ljubljana Olimpija HK. The forward hadn't scored that many goals since he had 24 in 79 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2009-10.

"I got a lot of ice time there," Mursak said of his stint in the Austrian league. "The most important thing was that I played a lot and in every situation. It was good. I felt comfortable with the puck. I was skating good. I was a leader, everything was built around me."

Mursak (5-feet-11, 190 pounds) said it was easier to play on the big ice in Austria.

"It's easier for me to play there a little bit, just because I'm not a big guy," Mursak said. "There I can just skate around better."

Mursak suffered a broken ankle in a preseason game in September 2011. He did play in 25 games for the Wings, but had only one goal and two assists.

"When I got back last year, I didn't get that much of an opportunity," Mursak said. "It was really hard for me. I lost all my confidence. Hopefully this year I can get in some more games and show them. I felt great in Europe. I have to keep doing the same things here ... I think I can play in this league."

Mursak's career with the Wings is on the line--as is Cory Emmerton's--and the Wings' GM is more than ready to admit that Mike Babcock's forward lines (Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Brunner, Franzen-Filppula-Samuelsson, Bertuzzi-Helm-Cleary and Miller-Abdelkader-Tootoo) are stacked against the pair, and Mursak in particular:

"You look at our team, Jiri Hudler left, and in the meantime we've signed Damien Brunner, Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo. They're all three right wingers," Holland said.

...

"We love his speed," Holland said. "He's got good skills. But again, if you look at our right side, there's Mursak, (Gustav) Nyquist could play right wing, then there's Todd Bertuzzi and Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson and Damien Brunner."

Jakub Kindl's time in Detroit could be short-lived as well, and as he has a one-way contract, there's no doubt that Joey MacDonald will be shipped elsewhere at the first opportunity to unload him. In that sense, even given the probable incidence of injuries, there are some players whose times in Detroit may be incredibly short-lived, but that's what training camp and the first dozen or so games of the season are there for.

 

In other news...

 

  • Ditto for Gregg Krupa's suggestion that Wings fans should not fear Pavel Datsyuk is committing insubordination by playing in the KHL's All-Star Game, though I do disagree with Krupa's theory regarding the latter days of Datsyuk's career--because I fully believe that the Wings want the player most likely to see his jersey retired one day to continue playing in Detroit for as long as humanly possible, into Igor Larionov territory, and I fully believe that the Wings would pay Datsyuk accordingly for said privilege:

if, in 2014, when he is 36 years old and an unrestricted free agent, Datsyuk pauses to consider playing his last couple seasons in the new professional league in his homeland, which could really, really use the boost of his presence, and which will really, really pay him a lot more than the Red Wings can muster under the salary cap?

The fans and the Red Wings brass might have to be patient, if he pauses to consider.

In prospect news...

  • The Grand Rapids Griffins' players are currently participating in their annual Great Skate event at the Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, but they're doing so on the heels of back-to-back losses. The Griffins lost 5-2 in Rockford on Friday, and on Saturday, they came up on the short end of a 3-2 overtime decision against the Peoria Rivermen.

The Griffins' website provides both a recap of the proceedings...

The red hot penalty kill of the Rivermen (16-17-2-2) proved to be a deciding factor, as they killed off seven of eight penalties on the night, most in the first half of the game.

Five first period power plays, including a 5-on-3 advantage for 89 seconds, provided the Griffins’ top lines several good scoring chances, but it was the work of the fourth line that got Grand Rapids on the board at 5:39 of the first period. Mitch Callahan collected a pass from Andrej Nestrasil and found Luke Glendening crashing towards the net. Glendening’s attempt was blocked, but Callahan found the rebound and tapped in his second goal of the season.

The man advantage finally clicked for the Griffins (21-11-2-2) on their seventh opportunity of the night. Landon Ferraro gathered a pass from Gleason Fournier and snapped the puck towards Peoria’s Jake Allen. Allen looked to have initially gotten a piece of the shot, but the puck found its way over the line during a frantic goalmouth scramble. Referee Keith Kaval waved off the goal but changed his decision following a brief video review, giving Ferraro his 14th of the season 1:50 into the second period.

The Rivermen were not about to go quietly, though, as it took just 28 seconds for Peoria to cut the Griffins’ lead in half.  Derek Nesbitt gathered the puck in the corner and connected with Adam Cracknell in front, who rifled a shot between Tom McCollum’s legs.

Brett Sonne tied the game at two at 8:26 of the second period. Sonne broke in on a clean 2-on-0 with Tyler Shattock and surprised McCollum with a low shot for his first goal of the campaign.

After a scoreless third period, the teams headed to an overtime that looked like it might go the Griffins’ way. The duo of Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar helped to keep the puck in the Peoria zone for over 60 seconds to start overtime, but the Rivermen took advantage when they got their chance. Andronov knocked the rebound of a David Shields shot past McCollum 2:30 into the extra frame, sending the visitors home with their fifth straight win at Van Andel Arena.

McCollum made 23 saves in the losing effort, while Allen earned the win with 31 stops.

The Griffins are in action next week with back-to-back games against the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m.

As well as a Flickr photo gallery, and a slate of highlights and interviews with Landon Ferraro and coach Jeff Blashill...

 

And the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner talked to the Griffins' players about wrapping up a particularly nasty stretch of five games in eight days (!!!!!!):

“This was definitely the toughest week of the season so far for us,” said Tomas Tatar. “But we aren’t the only team that has it like this. But we are really tired.”

The Griffins lost a 2-0 lead, were unable to capitalize on four power play opportunities in first period while the defense held the Rivermen to only eight shots late into the second period. But after a scoreless third, Peoria (16-17-2-2) scored 2:30 in when Sergey Andronov put a rebound past Tom McCollum.

Grand Rapids (21-12-2-2) lost to Peoria a third consecutive time.

Not only have the Grffins dealt with a long week – the team spent the week in the Chicagoland area with four games and bused back to Grand Rapids overnight Friday – but the settlement of the NHL lockout remains unsettling for those waiting to hear if they will get called to train with the Red Wings.

So that's got some of the Griffins' players wondering whether they'll be heading to Detroit soon, though Smith and Tatar are probably safe and sound in GR for now...

“Obviously, you have it in your head wondering what’s going to happen to you, what’s going to happen with the team,” Tatar said. “I’m really excited about the NHL starting so it might be for me, or for a couple of guys here … so the Red Wings have a lot of players to pick from here.”

...

“We take it day by day right now,” said Griffins coach Jeff Blashill. “….and that’s what I’m imploring our players to do. So if opportunities in Detroit arise, your best chance to get there is to play your best every day.”

And it is good to hear that the Griffins already feel a sense of urgency in terms of continuing to roll as best as they can some 37 games into an 80-game season:

“It was a case where we put ourselves in position to win another game and we just couldn’t pull it out,” said Landon Ferraro, who scored his 14th goal – now second best on the team – in the second period. “We’re getting to that time of the year already we’re you need to pile up as many points any chance you get.”

 

  • In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye dropped a 4-3 decision to the Florida Everblades, marking their second regulation loss in two nights, and the Walleye's website provides a recap:

Trevor Nill scored his first professional goal, but Florida stopped Toledo tonight 4-3. Toledo has an overall record of 19-16-0-4 and is 10-10-0-1 on the road this season.

The Walleye would get on the board first as Adam Hobson wristed a shot through the pads of Pat Nagle for his 3rd goal of the year at 9:24. The Walleye held a slim 14-12 shot advantage in the first period.

“I have been just thrilled with the effort we have given in these games,” said Head Coach Nick Vitucci. “With a depleted roster, we have fought very hard this week. The bounces just didn’t go our way.”

Florida would tie the game at a goal apiece when Brayden Irwin beat Jordan Pearce with a wrist shot from the right circle. The Everblades would take their first lead of the game with just 34 seconds in the period as Maury Edwards shot from the blue line went through four players and past Pearce.

Toledo came out firing in the third period. Trevor Nill tied the game just 1:50 in as he scored his first professional goal. Stephon Thorne would give Toledo the lead at 4:08 of the third. Florida would counter with a pair of goals.

Walleye Notes: Goaltender Jordan Pearce made 27 saves and is 10-7-0-1 on the season. Toledo finished the season series with a 1-3-0-0 record against Florida.

 

  • And in other developmental hockey leagues, starting with European ones:

Jarnkrok played in Brynas IF's 6-2 loss against Skelleftea AIK, while Backman's Linkopings HC pulled out a 4-3 overtime win over Modo;

In North America, Ben Marshall somehow went scoreless as the University of Minnesota defeated the University of Alaska Anchorage by a 7-1 tally;

In the QMJHL, Martin Frk had a goal and two assists as the Halifax Mooseheads defeated PEI 4-3;

Phillipe Hudon registered two assists in the Victoriaville Tigres' 6-4 win over Saint John;

In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel registered a Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal, an assist and a fight in the Swift Current Broncos' 4-3 win over Calgary;

In the OHL, Ryan Sproul went scoreless in the Soo Greyounds' 3-1 win over Mississauga;

Andreas Athanasiou registered a goal and an assist in the Barrie Colts' 5-1 win over Niagara;

And new Belleville Bulls forward Alan Quine registered a goal and a +2--but no shootout goal--as the Belleville defeated the Windsor Spitfires 4-3 in a shootout.

If you're interested, Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp also penned a mid-season take on the Red Wings' prospect pipeline a couple of days ago. Sorry I missed this one!

 

As something of an addendum, if you didn't know, the Montreal Gazette's Brenda Branswell confirms that former Wing Mike Commodore has parlayed his stint with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs into a training camp invite from the Montreal Canadiens...

 

And finally, I can finally say that I have a relative playing in the Wings' organization...Sort of. My 10-year-old second cousin Ian is playing for Little Caesars' AAA Squirt team, and Kris Draper happens to be his coach. Draper spoke to the Free Press's George Sipple about his role coaching a gaggle of ten-year-olds, which happens to include Draper's son, Kienan:

Did Kienan expect his father to be at more of his games after retiring from the NHL?

"Not really, actually," Kienan said. "I thought he would go to more (college) games, scout more games."

Draper broke into a big grin listening to his son's words, then said: "Don't say that. Kenny's going to read this." (Draper was hired as a special assistant to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland after retiring in 2011.) Draper said he balances scouting college and junior hockey games for the Wings with coaching his son's team.

Last weekend, he saw four of Kienan's five hockey games, missing one to scout an Ontario Hockey League game in Saginaw for the Wings.

Draper has used his relationships with current and former Wings to create some special memories for the other boys on the team. Some met former Wings captain Steve Yzerman at the recent Great Lakes Invitational tournament at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall surprised the team by coming to a practice.

And then there's the time Draper spends on the ice alongside the boys going through practice drills.

"I really enjoy going to the rink with these kids," Draper said. "We've created a great relationship, great kids and great families. There are some times you have to hammer down on these kids. If they're going to skate, I'll skate with them, doing the drills with them. I want them to max out. I want these kids to improve."

The story continues, of course, and it's worth your time, of course.

I will say this: between Mike Babcock, Kris Draper, Chris Chelios, Kirk Maltby, Ryan Martin and Jim Nill, the Wings may have the best-conditioned coaching and hockey operations staff in all of hockey.

I'm not sure whether Ken Holland can keep up with Martin or Nill, but I can certainly tell you that the gents avail themselves of the wealth of workout equipment present in the Wings' locker room on a very, very regular basis. If the Wings' players ever feel like slacking off, it's good to know that their former teammates, coach and even their capologist will probably give them a hard time--and a run for their money.

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Comments

Rdwings28's avatar

oh, that was deeeeelicious , George. A Full report, like bread to a starving prisoner. Thanks, and WELCOME back.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 01/13/13 at 06:10 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

So that’s got some of the Griffins’ players wondering whether they’ll be heading to Detroit soon, though Smith and Tatar are probably safe and sound in GR for now…  typo, you meant Gus not Smith.  feel free to delete this post george. 

Great write up.  I’m excited Ferraro is finally hitting his stride.  Guy is DANGEROUS on the PK and he’s finally finding consistency with his scoring.  Guy should be in talks for call-ups.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 01/13/13 at 09:16 AM ET

42jeff's avatar

At the end of the day, the Wings just need to hike up their pants, lace up their skates, play hockey and not think about it.

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 01/13/13 at 10:58 AM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

Thanks for the GR update along with the draftees game stats .  That digging for all those stats on all those players in all those leagues and delivering them to us is greatly appreciated George. Now please get some rest. I’m exausted after just reading this post.

The Griffs had 5 games in 8 nights. Sounds like Gary is in on the schedule making in the minors also. Damn micromanager tongue rolleye

Posted by cigar_nurse from Greenville South Cakalakee on 01/13/13 at 11:06 AM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

Good work, GJM.

(Now take the locks off your header grin  )

L.G.R.W.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 01/13/13 at 11:09 AM ET

thenumber19's avatar

Regarding Datsyuk, I’m sure there will be a line of KHL teams wiling to match whatever offer the Wings throw his way once his contract is up. Especially considering the salary cap decrease in the next year or two and the importance of signing/resigning guys like: Smith Nyquist Filppula Howard etc, and that doesn’t even take any free agents into account.

What’s most concerning from a Wing’s fan POV is Daysuk’s own comments about wanting to return to Russia and how happy he was playing for CSKA in front of friends and family that, in past years, could only see his NHL replays, youtube clips, or the odd timezone-shifted match.

It pains me to say it, but I really think the guy just wants to go home, and I can’t fault him for that. I don’t think Illitch’s money will stop him, after all, can you think of anyone else in the whole NHL (or world even) who’d care less about playing the game for money than Datsyuk?

Posted by thenumber19 from ND on 01/13/13 at 02:40 PM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

thanks for all you do George !!!!!  grin

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michigan hometown of Abdelkader on 01/13/13 at 03:38 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.