Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: On Alfredsson, charitable softball/hockey news and MSU pro camp stuff

Updated substantially at 6:50 AM: The news that Red Wings GM Ken Holland is more than ready to give Daniel Alfredsson a try-out contract should his back hold up over the next month sparked a significant amount of discussion among Wings fans...

But said discussion involved debate as to whether Anthony Mantha's going to get a fair chance to make the team given Alfredsson's possible presence--should he "earn his spot" despite posting 19 goals and 48 points--and Daniel Cleary's status as a signed player who very few fans or bloggers believe will be anything less than a part of the roster, perhaps at Mantha, Mitch Callahan, Landon Ferraro or even Tomas Jurco's expense, come October.

The Free Press's Helene St. James duly notes that the Wings' cap situation (Capgeek estimates that the Wings have $5.27 million in cap space with Danny DeKeyser remaining unsigned as a restricted free agent) will necessitate that a healthy Alfredsson would command a low base salary, but we know that he's coming back to live in Detroit regardless of whether he plays hockey for this upcoming season, and his "fit" was pretty damn good:

Looking back: Alfredsson joined the Wings last summer after 17 seasons with the Ottawa Senators. He provided a right-handed shot (badly needed), power-play expertise and invaluable leadership during the long absences of Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Had solid numbers despite at times getting stuck with linemates far below Alfredsson’s skill level. His 18 power-play points ranked first among Detroit forwards.

Alfredsson was also raved about in terms of his on-the-bench and in-the-locker-room presence, especially after Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk got injured and Niklas Kronwall essentially took over as the de-facto captain.

Looking ahead: There’s a reason the Wings have their fingers crossed Alfredsson will play another season — he delivers in spades, from production to leadership. Sure he’ll be 42 in December, but he’s such a smart player, age is irrelevant. Alfredsson can still skate, and he has natural scoring instincts. The key will be to watch his minutes and keep him out of back-to-back situations. Have him fresh for the playoffs, especially.

Even St. James is willing to acknowledge that Alfredsson's presence would complicate the forward ranks (and it's interesting that she doesn't include Cleary in the "forwards who should be nervous about Mantha" category):

As for concerns that bringing back Alfredsson will further diminish Anthony Mantha’s chance of making the team, because he’d then be one of 16 forwards in the mix for minutes in Detroit, it’s not Alfredsson whom Mantha will have to elbow out. Forwards who should be nervous about Mantha are role players like Drew Miller, Joakim Andersson and Luke Glendening. Alfredsson is the type of player who it would benefit Mantha to be around — a humble, extremely dedicated professional who has been a star in the NHL for nearly two decades.

(Hell, man, if I'm Joakim Andersson, everybody's a threat to me given that I've become a spare part...)

I tried to think about the most critical comments I could levy toward Alfredsson, and here's what I came up with while in the shower (I'm a "night shower" person):

1. Alfredsson tended to defer toward passing far, far too often throughout the regular season and playoffs (albeit in limited playoff action). The Wings have more than enough passers and playmakers on their roster, and while Alfredsson's vision and playmaking abilities are superb, he'd skate into a spot where he had a clear lane toward the net and he'd pass again and again. If one can encourage a 41-year-old to "be more selfish and shoot," the Wings should do just that;

2. He was an awful fit as a right-shooting point man on the power play because he wouldn't or couldn't remain in his position. He reminded me of Damien Brunner--when you place someone who wants to shoot on the power play on the right point, and that person is inevitably going to try to sneak into the slot, maybe that player shouldn't be stuffed into a point position by default...

In no small part because the Wings would fire a puck toward the net, a rebound would inevitably pop out, and instead of retaining possession and control of the puck, whoever was playing on the right wing side would try to pass the puck back to Alfredsson's point position, and he'd inevitably have abandoned it to wind up and wait for a pass in one of the faceoff circles.

If he does return, I'm guessing that he'll be placed on the right point by default because a certain coach is too *#$%@& stubborn about having a right-shooting right point player for his own good (to the point that Mikael Samuelsson may have played in a couple games over Tomas Tatar because he filled that right-shooting PP point spot).

If I had the opportunity to suggest that Alfredsson do anything, it would be to stay in his damn position when playing PP point, because his Wings teammates are far too used to passing back to the right point for a d-to-d pass, especially when the team's playing the, "Niklas Kronwall's the only player who can shoot the puck on the net" no-confidence game.

Overall, however, I fully believe that Alfredsson "earned his spot" already--and I wish that the Wings would've taken the same "try-out contract" approach with the guy who posted 8 points and a -11 in 52 games played last season.

 

 

In charitable hockey news, in the present tense, if I haven't reminded you emphatically enough about the Joe Kocur Foundation's charity softball games this Saturday in Highland, MI (pre-sale tickets cost all of $11.54, and will be $15 "at the door"), here's another reminder from the Oakland Press's Carol Hopkins:

Local celebrities and Detroit Red Wings will take to the fields for charity at Duck Lake Pines Park Saturday, Aug. 23.

The 6th annual Charity Softball Series features Red Wing alumni, firefighters and law enforcement from Milford, Highland, White Lake and Oakland.

The event includes bounce houses, tug-of-war, radar gun pitching area, carnival midway with games, fire trucks, food, beverage, prizes, silent auction and entertainment.

Event features Joe Kocur, Dino Ciccarelli, Manny Legace, Chris Osgood, Darren McCarty, Jason Woolley and many others.

Actors Dave Coulier and Jeff Daniels are expected to attend.

Hopkins also offers some "survival tips":

• Duck Lake Pines Park at 1241 N. Duck Lake Road, Highland

• Gates open 10 a.m., Games start 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m.

• Bring a lawn chair since bleacher seating is limited

(And sunscreen. Lots and lots of sunscreen. My hockey pals who attend the game tend to leave with lots of autographs, photos, memories and a "cooked lobster" complexion; the National Weather Service estimates that it'll be 81 and partly sunny on Saturday)

• All tickets go into a raffle drawing

• Tickets available for purchase online or from Milford, Highland, White Lake, Oakland Co. Sheriff law enforcement or fire department

• Event broadcasting by Jamie and Wojo from 97.1 The Ticket

In charitable hockey news, past tense version: The Plymouth Observer's Tim Smith offers a recap of this past weekend's Plymouth Whalers alumni game (and Michigan Hockey posted a photo gallery from said event):

Fifteen goals were scored during Saturday’s fourth annual alumni game at Compuware Arena, with the Blues nipping the Whites 8-7. But for players and fans alike, the game itself was merely an excuse to get together again — and help generate dollars for charity at the same time.

Proceeds from the contest will go to Children’s Miracle Network at Beaumont Hospital.

“Any time you can do anything for charity it’s a great thing,” said John Vigilante of Team Blue, a Whaler from 2002-06. “I know it’s something as a player that I always liked to do. Right now, it’s for a good cause. Doing things for Beaumont, teaming up with them and being able to put this on, it’s a great day.”

It was great even for goalies Scott Wedgewood (2008-12) and Bill Ruggiero (1999-2000), who each faced nearly 50 shots and had to fish plenty of pucks out of the back of their nets during the afternoon.

“More of a high-scoring game is a little more fun for everybody than a 2-2 game, but it was actually pretty challenging,” said Wedgewood, entering his third season of pro hockey with Albany of the AHL. “You don’t know what guys can shoot like that are older. ... Your waiting for things to happen and no one’s blocking shots so it’s a little more of a laid-back game but it was a lot of fun. The crowd was into it, they were cheering so it was a lot of fun for all of us.”

 

 

In MSU Pro Camp news, as something of a "leftover" to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's article (accompanying photo gallery no longer just embedded within the article) Michigan Hockey's Alyssa Girardi's article and Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples' photo gallery from the first day of the Monday-to-Friday event at Munn Ice Arena, which takes place from 10 AM to 12 Noon each day and is open to the public...

Caples also posted a video in which he spoke with now-Toledo Walleye goaltender Jeff Lerg about the 5'6" goalie's return to North America:

 

 

In "local news regarding other teams," DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's latest "Previewing the East" article focuses on the Washington Capitals...

ARRIVALS:  Forwards Chris Conner, Tim Kennedy, Kris Newbury; defensemen Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Mike Moore, Jon Landry; and goalie Justin Peters.

DEPARTURES:  Forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Dustin Penner and Joel Rechlicz; defenseman Tyson Strachan; and goalie David Leggio.

PLAYER TO WATCH: By not spending even more money in free agency to acquire a veteran backup like Martin Brodeur or Tomas Vokoun, the Capitals basically have told Braden Holtby that he is their man this season. Instead, the Caps went out and signed Justin Peters (two years, $1.9 million) to be more of a traditional backup that will allow Holtby to start about 80 percent of the games. The signing is a good indicator for Holtby who doesn’t have to worry about an older, more experienced backup taking his No. 1 job during the season. Still, it’s a big year for Holtby, who enters the final year of a two-year contract after posting a 23-15-4 record with a 2.85 goals-against average and a career-low .915 save percentage.

SEASON SCOPE: The Capitals spent more money than any other NHL team in free agency this summer – an estimated $70 million – while getting tougher on the blue line with the acquisitions of two guys, Matt Niskanen (seven years, $40.25 million) and Brooks Orpik (five years, $27.5 million), who were defensive stalwarts during their time in Pittsburgh. By adding the pair, the Capitals believe they’ve addressed a major concern, bringing in veteran leadership to a unit that used an NHL-high 14 different defensemen last season.

Niskanen led all NHL defensemen with a plus-33 rating last season, and, under new coach Barry Trotz, he’ll be counted on to run the Caps’ power play with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, who finished 1-2 in the league in power-play points with 44 and 39, respectively.

 

 

In foreign-language news, Sergei Fedorov apparently told CSKA Moscow's website that he feels he's "missed his chance" to play professionally for this upcoming season, and you're probably not going to get much out of the 44-year-old GM's video interview, but let's just say that the video, which includes footage of Fedorov doing a little informal assistant coaching recently, is...Very Russian:

Random observation: Sergei looks like he finally got his nose and sinuses fixed after enduring enough broken noses during his career that he had to put on a visor because he was running out of cartilage to repair in the early 00's--I recognize "major sinus surgery puffiness" because I have it, too.

 

 

And finally, I hate to whip this puppy out, but I'm three weeks and a day from leaving for Traverse City for two weeks, and I have $500 left over from the summer camp fund to pay what's going to be a terrifying amount of money to stay up there. So...

I've attended the past four Wings summer development camps and two of the past three Traverse City-based training camps at my readers' request, and because my budget is all but literally "shoestring," I've relied upon your donations to provide in-person coverage. It's going to cost somewhere around $1,600 to stay in Traverse City for two weeks, about $200 in gas money and another $150 or so to eat like a college student (which I have no complaints about), and I'm about $500 from a $2,000-ish goal.

If there's any way that you can lend a hand, no matter how small the donation, I would greatly appreciate it.

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.

 

 

Update: In Swedish, SVT.se's Daniel Greifve asked Nicklas Lidstrom about the plaque now immortalizing him just above the stick rack outside the Wings' locker room:

"It's something I'm very happy about. I knew about it last spring when I was there. Those whose jerseys are retired get a bronze plaque, too, so I got to see pictures of it then" he said to SVT Sport, and continues: "Then I saw pictures of the finished sculpture sent to me a couple of days ago."

What do you think about the picture of you?

"Quite right, ha ha. Above and beyond! But I'm so much more roud of the thing itself than the image itself."

"Feels great"

The plaque is set up next to another Red Wings legend's plaque: Steve Yzerman's, as the Red Wings wrote on Twitter.

"It feels great to be hanging beside him. Stevie and I played many years together of course, and he was my captain, so it feels like a good placement" he says.

Lidstrom now works as an ambassador for Detroit and a scout for the team, and he will visit Detroit during the upcoming season. Then he'll get to see the statue "for real."

"It will of course be a little different, but it will be fun to see," he says.

I wonder if Lidstrom will receive a life-or-larger-sized statue in the Wings' new rink.

In Slovakian, Tomas Tatar posted a Facebook video of his trainer's...unique...methodology, and his website posted an "excerpt" of an interview Valerian Lukacko's promised to publish in English. This is a rough translation of the Slovak (I'm better at Swedish):

In this passage, the 23-year-old hockey player says that he intends to participate in a project to support young players in his hometown of Dubinca. While this is in preparatory stages, the Detroit forward keeps the details to himself for the time being. "I grew up here, so I want to give back," says Tatar to his official website.

In Slovakia Marian Gaborik's built a stadium, and Jan Laco, who are preparing for other projects. Do you plan to contribute to the development of Slovak hockey in the future?

"I have one unfinished project, and soon it will be revealed. I don't want to speak about it now because it's in planning. It'll be in Dubinca and will have something to do with hockey, and we'll see how it comes out. I don't want to compare it to the stadium in Trencin because it's doing well and it's Marian Gaborik's way to give something back to Slovak hockey. Trencin's close to Dubinca, and of course many Dubincans use the stadium."

Can you describe your reasons behind your decision to help Slovak hockey?

"I want to pass along something to the people who helped me. I grew up here in Dubinca, so I want something to be done. I promised my father, that there would be something done to help young people to improve, to get better in some way. I think this is a good idea."

Now your career's underway. When you look back upon it, have you had some regrets about hockey, or has it always been nothing but positive?

"I think it's only positive. Hockey's allowed me to travel; and thanks to hockey and the people around me, I've become a man. I can't imagine another way of life."

Are there also some non-hockey dreams that you'd like to fulfill?

"Of course I have a lot of dreams. Mostly they relate to travel and how I'd like to enjoy life. But hockey is something more, it's my robot. The feelings I experience playing hockey I can't experience anywhere else."

And in English, MLive's Ansar Khan discusses Jonas Gustavsson's 2014-2015 season "outlook":

2013-14 in review: Named NHL's first star of the week for the period ending on Oct. 20, going 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .953 save percentage. ... Didn't suffer his first regulation loss until his 10th start (Dec. 7 at Florida). ... Won five consecutive starts on two occasions (Nov. 21-Dec. 6, Dec. 19-Jan. 24). ...The team averaged 3.26 goals per game in Gustavsson's 26 starts and just 2.32 goals per game in the other 56 games. ... Suffered regulation losses in back-to-back starts only once (Dec. 14-17). ... Forced to leave after the first period of a 2-0 win over Vancouver on Feb. 3 due to dizziness. ... Relieved an ailing Jimmy Howard (flu) in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series vs. Boston, making 37 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss in his first career playoff appearance. ... Also started Game 5 vs. Bruins, a 4-2 loss in the series finale. ... Missed a total of 23 games with injuries, including 18 games on three separate occasions with a groin issue (Oct. 2-10, Dec. 30-Jan. 20, March 9-18). ... Also missed three games with neck strain (Nov. 1-4) and two games with a sore shoulder (April 11-13). ... Was the third goalie on the silver medal-winning Swedish Olympic team, dressing as the backup for one game but not appearing in any games.

2014-15 outlook: Can he finally avoid groin issues that idled him for almost all of 2013 and a big chunk of 2013-14? Gustavsson played well when he was healthy, consistently giving the team a chance to win. His performance was vital during a season in which starter Jimmy Howard struggled with consistency. The Red Wings opted to re-sign Gustavsson and keep promising prospect Petr Mrazek in Grand Rapids for another season, where he can play 50-60 games, as opposed to starting sporadically as Howard's backup. They would like Gustavsson to play well enough to push Howard. The team supported Gustavsson well offensively. There is no guarantee of that happening again, so he'll need to improve on his GAA and save percentage.

Key question: Did the team make the right decision in re-signing Gustavsson and keeping Mrazek in Grand Rapids?

*shrugs* It will depend on whether he's healthy, and no amount of talk will determine whether his groin holds up or whether Mrazek will wrest the starting job back from Tom McCollum in Grand Rapids (McCollum was more consistent than Mrazek last season, which is the reason that someone with little to prove in the AHL is still there).

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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.