The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/07/14 at 01:50 AM ET
Mike Babcock has repeatedly stated that he would like to remain with the Red Wings' organization. Ken Holland has suggested that the organization feels the same in honest-to-Pete sentence-finishing style, and both coach and GM have repeated their statements to near "ad nauseam" levels over the course of more than "a few" sports talk radio interviews.
The rest of the NHL's scribes and pundits aren't so sure about the likelihood of Babcock signing a long-term extension with the Wings, and the Penguins' firing of Dan Bylsma on Friday (by a general manager who plans on hiring a new head coach on or before July 1st in Jim Rutherford) was bound to yield more "Babcock to Pittsburgh!" comments...
But the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi's comments to 93-7 The FAN's Starkey and Mueller merit a warning for "brain hurt."
I understand that Babcock may yet decide to "test the market" when his contract expires next summer, but...Mr. Rossi is "going with his gut" to the exclusion of everything said or uttered by the coach and GM in question, and while those gentlemen are paid to lie on a regular basis, they are also sometimes disturbingly consistent in terms of their commentary regarding player personnel and managerial decisions, their own respective statuses included.
Anyway, here comes a little brain freeze via your computer screen:
“Pure conjecture on my part, but I think if anybody thinks that the Pittsburgh Penguins are out of the running next year for Mike Babcock, I don’t think there’s any question in my mind that they are going to try and negotiate some sort of way to get Babcock out of Detroit before next year because everything I’ve heard about the next coach they want screams Mike Babcock.”
Babcock remains under his current contract with the Red Wings, but that expires after next year, and there has been much speculation that the Pens would be interested in trying to lure him away from Detroit.
“I don’t know if they’ll be successful,” Rossi cautioned. “I think that’s the guy they want coaching this hockey team, and I think they know that it’s a bad idea to go hire a guy and then try to wait on Mike Babcock, so I think they’re going to try and figure out if they can do that, and Jim Rutherford will be at the GM meeting this week, and I would imagine he’s going to have a conversation with (Red Wings General Manager) Ken Holland about that, what’s it going to take. And you know what, until Mike Babcock commits to another year, I’m not going to believe anything anybody says because remember, three weeks ago, the Penguins told us that Dan Bylsma had a shot to keep his job and the new GM came today and said basically he listened to the advice of ownership and Dan Bylsma wasn’t retained for that reason. I’ve maintained from the very start, I think the Penguins want Mike Babcock, and I think they’re going to go try to get him. Doesn’t mean I think they’ll be successful or that they will be successful, but I think that’s the guy they want coaching their hockey team.”
Three weeks ago everybody and their brother's monkey's uncle informed us that their ears to the ground were on a railroad track rumbling with, "Dan Bylsma's gonna be fired when the new GM comes in" scuttlebutt, and then they removed their heads from the track for fear of decapitation.
But to insist that somehow Jim Rutherford will sit down with Ken Holland and "trade" Babcock to Pittsburgh--something that cannot be done under the current CBA--at the GM's meetings, or that the Wings would release Babcock outright to a rival organization because one's gut feeling "from the start" has been that the Penguins want Babcock...
I mean, shit, I'd like to date Sammy Braddy, too, but you can't get everything that you want.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook is of the Evil Drew Sharp vein, so he goes a step further:
Rutherford might be here only for one season. Can’t you see the Penguins taking a run at Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock when his contract runs out after next season? They could give him complete control of the hockey operations.
Yes, because that's clearly what the Penguins want to do given that Rutherford himself strongly intonated that he's taking the managerial reins to essentially groom Jason Botterill to replace him. Rutherford also had this to say about his coaching candidates while speaking with the Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari:
Rutherford said he has a short list of three to six candidates to take over as coach and that, while he’d be willing to expand the list, he seems skeptical that it will be necessary.
“I don’t think I’ll extend it to being real long, because if I get through those first three or four interviews, and I like one of the guys in the top three, I’m probably going to end it there,” he said.
Rutherford said he plans to begin interviewing candidates on June 16 — “My plate is totally full until then” — and hopes to have a coach by the start of player free agency July 1.
Although upper management had stressed that Bylsma’s fate would be left to the new GM, Rutherford suggested the issue had largely been dealt with before he took over.
“I took the information over the last week with the couple of meetings I had [with top-level team officials] and we agree that making the change was the right thing to do,” he said.
And where did I get the "strongly intonated" thing from? Molinari's article:
"I would suspect the term for me is probably two or three years here,” said Rutherford, whose contract is believed to cover three seasons.
Jason Botterill, who had been serving as interim GM since Shero was fired May 16, was promoted from assistant GM to associate GM Friday, and is directly behind Rutherford in the line of succession.
“He’s a very bright guy and he knows the game,” Rutherford said. “I know that he’s getting very close [to being ready to be a GM].”
Regarding the gentleman that the Penguins fired, as well as Wings associate coach Tom Renney and assistant coach Bill Peters, the Florida Sun-Sentinel's Harvey Filakov reports that Dan Bylsma's now in the Panthers' mix of coaching candidates--as are, for the moment, anyway, both Wings assistants:
The Panthers wasted little time in reaching out to ex-Penguins coach Dan Bylsma as part of their ongoing coaching search after newly hired Pittsburgh General Manager Jim Rutherford fired the 2011 Coach of the Year Friday morning.
No definitive plans for an interview with Bylsma have been made, however, Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon called him shortly after he was let go to touch base, according to a team source.
The source added that the Panthers will speak to some of the top candidates again, such as Tom Renney, Ron Wilson, Gerard Gallant, Bill Peters, Marc Crawford and a, "dark horse," Panthers assistant coach John Madden.
While we're speculating...I'm starting to think that Paul knew something you and I didn't when he suggested that Mike Green might be on the market.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson suggested that Green's probably on the block this past Monday, and if you're a big fan of the 28-year-old right-shooting defenseman with a year remaining on a 3-year contract with a $6.08 million cap hit, the Edmonton Journal's David Staples provided a statistical take on Green's value...
Here’s Edmonton Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson’s take on the possibility that Green will be traded: “What are the odds of Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green, once a Norris Trophy finalist, being traded at the entry draft or early this summer? I’d say 75-25. … The problem with Green is he can’t stay healthy. He’s had concussion and groin issues as teams keyed on him and pounded him routinely. … If he can get a defensively strong partner, he can be an asset, though. I can see the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are badly in need of a puck-mover, taking a shot at him. Maybe Florida, which has salary-cap room, or even the Detroit Red Wings, who do not have any right-handed shooting D-men. The Philadelphia Flyers certainly need an offensive defenceman, too, although would Washington trade with a division rival?”
In the last three years, Green has missed portions of each season with injury, playing 137 games in total and scoring 71 points, a bit more than a point every second game.
No d-man on the Caps got more even strength ice-time than Green’s 19:28 per game this year. Green was also counted on with the power play, but not to kill penalties. He had a lot of offensive zone-starts and a decent shots-at-net plus-minus ( a.k.a. Corsi%) meaning his coach trusted him to be part of a group of attackers, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov. Green’s individual performance in that group is likely best reflected in his point scoring totals, which was decent but well down from his peak seasons.
When it came to the toughest of defensive assignments, John Carlson and Karl Alzner were the go-to guys in Washington, not Green. They had the tougher zone starts, quality of competition and most of the penalty kill minutes.
Perhaps in a similar vein, yes, Martin Brodeur told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun that he's going to "test the market," and I can vouch for the creds of a particular player mentioned (video link) by TSN's Bob McKenzie in TSN's latest "Insider Trading" segment (text link; and no, Ryan Kesler isn't coming here, he's probably headed to Anaheim or Pittsburgh):
McKenzie: And there's another free agent we should keep our eye on who most people haven't heard of: a 22-year-old Czech by the name of Jiri Sekac. He went through the NHL Drafts and never got picked up. He was once cut by the Peterborough Petes but he had a strong year in the KHL playing for the Prague team. Right now he has more than a dozen firm offers on a max entry-level deal for two years. He's expected over the next couple of days to make up his mind as to which team. This is a guy who is in great demand. He's a 6'2, 190 pound left winger who many believe is ready to step in NHL-ready.
Sekac (pronounced "See-kats"--there's a diacritical mark over the "C" in Czech, like this "Sekáč")--is a 21-year-old (he turns 22 on June 10th) center who's listed at 6' and 174 pounds on EliteProspects.
He posted 11 goals, 17 assists and 28 points for the KHL's Gargarin Cup-finalists in Lev Prague, and from what I watched of the Czechs at the World Championships, he played second-line duty and looked very solid, though he only posted 2 goals in 10 games.
He played for the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms for two seasons, but when his draft years came around, unlike most Czechs, he went back to the Czech Republic to play for the Lev team while it played in Poprad, Slovakia and then Prague, and he wasn't bad, but he wasn't good, either, bouncing from Lev's KHL team to their developmental affiliates.
I didn't see a crapton of him but what I did see and hear involved a speedy player with a good shot. The IIHF's Worlds website lists Sekac as having 2 goals, including 1 game-winner, on 12 shots registered over the course of 10 games; he took 2 minor penalties and averaged 13:20 in ice time per game.
You and I know how this goes by now, given the Wings' ups and downs in terms of signing Ville Leino and attempting to turn Fabian Brunnstrom into a reclamation project--if these players are skating in Europe and not North America, you have to question their willingness to ride buses and grind out minor league seasons in order to earn spots on NHL teams, but you can acquire these "slipped-through-the-draft" players for only the price of their salaries, so there's no reason to not "kick the tires."
If you missed it, I posted a pair of articles regarding Dan Boyle's acquisition by the Islanders in the morning report, and it does sound like Boyle's agent will at least consider Garth Snow's offers. Newsday's Arthur Staple and the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis reported as much (and this comes from Cyrgalis):
Boyle, who turns 38 on July 12, is coming off a six-year, $40 million deal that carried an annual salary-cap hit of $6.67 million. His agent, George Bazos, told The Post that he was only looking for a two-year deal, “although we feel that Dan has four years left,” Bazos said.
Although there were no financial numbers discussed, it is believed Boyle’s market value lay somewhere between $4-6 million per year.
“Dan is certainly open to exploring all of his options,” Bazos said.
If a deal can’t be struck before the June 27 draft, odds are Islanders general manager Garth Snow will try to trade his rights and recoup his draft pick, but Snow seemed hopeful.
“Dan certainly will help our power play,” Snow told The Post, “and he brings that leadership quality as well.”
“I had a conversation with Garth, and Dan had a conversation with Garth,” Bazos said. “We wanted Garth to get a feel for Dan and Dan to get a feel for Garth, and I told [Snow] that when he has an offer ready, I’ll be listening.”
And if you don't mind me wrapping up the "hot air" section with a quote from a bit of a windbag, here's the reason I have no problem with the Red Wings doing little to nothing to address their lack of size up front by doing anything--other than attempting to add a defenseman who can improve their transition game--as the Wings emphasize a more speed-based approach given what Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, of course Darren Helm, and, sooner than later, Teemu Pulkkinen and Anthony Mantha bring to the table (I hate to break your hearts, but Mantha is a "power sniper," not a power forward; he uses his big body to win battles for pucks, but he's more of a "James Neal at his best" type).
Comcast Sportsnet Northeast's Joe Haggerty has this to say about the New York Rangers' game:
The Blueshirts have become something different under coach Alain Vigneault. There is much more speed and skill among the Rangers forward group, and Ryan McDonagh has been freed up to become the two-way force that defines the term franchise defenseman. It will be telling to see which style comes out ahead once the series has concluded, but there is little denying that team speed is playing an important role for both hockey clubs.
Fast-moving forwards like Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Marty St. Louis, Chris Kreider, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello are dotted up and down New York’s front line, and have consistently stretched opposing defenses throughout the postseason with sheer foot speed. Not all the forwards are natural goal-scorers capable of finishing things off at the end of the play – and are perhaps much closer to Daniel Paille than anybody else on the Bruins roster in that regard – but they still exert much needed pressure on the defense.
That kind of pressure made the Montreal Canadiens defense corps look mistake-prone, unsure of themselves and altogether beatable in the conference finals, and was exactly the kind of thing that was missing from a dominant, methodical Bruins attack that quite simply didn’t have any game-breakers.
If the Red Wings can add a top-pair defenseman who can move the puck up ice in a simpler and more expedient manner, the Wings will have regained something we forget that Nicklas Lidstrom gave the Wings--a fast attack and a faster counterattack. The Wings' ability to move the puck up ice in a hurry and/or use a defenseman leading the rush to turn a trio of forwards into a forechecking "arrow" skating through a four-man line of trapping defenders under Lidstrom...
The impact of having more than one puck-moving defenseman on the roster is that you end up with a team that can catch the Zdeno Charas flat-footed and PK Subbans pinching; you end up with a team that can stifle the brutal forechecking of the St. Louises and Philadelphias by keeping the puck as far away from defensemen forced to turn back to chase dump-ins and get hit, instead grinding it out in the neutral or offensive zones, and that speed ends up allowing the Tatars, Nyquists and their like to land a couple of forechecking-and-turnover-inducing hits of their own.
The Wings' crop of imminent NHL graduates on the blueline (i.e. over the next 1-3 years) are big as well as skilled, but the crop of forwards remains somewhat undersized. While Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco are 6'2," it's going to take the pair another season or two to play up to their size, and when Pulkkinen and Mantha are ready to "steal jobs," and perhaps if Mitch Callahan and Landon Ferraro make the team for the sake of not having to clear waivers...
The Wings are going to need to maximize their talents, as well as those of the skilled-but-not-overly big Tyler Bertuzzis, Zach Nastasiuks and Andreas Athanasious by skating hard and skating fast, utilizing puck possession to dodge the bludgeoning blows of the Eastern Conference's big and mean teams while landing some smartly-placed checks of their own.
I'm hoping as much as you are that Western Michigan University coach Andy Murray's decision to turn Mike McKee into a forward will yield a 6'5," 250-pound behemoth of a checking forward three to five years from now, but three to five years from now, should some of the Wings' forward prospects pan out, we're looking at a team that will still employ a forward corps of an average height around 6'1" and average weight under 200 pounds, though they will be pretty fleet of foot. The best way to maximize their talents is to make sure the Wings' bigger and slightly more physical but no less puck-movement-skilled defensemen are head-manning a speedy offensive machine.
If anything, I would like to see the Wings accentuate more traffic in front of opposing goaltenders and as much of a return to the Lidstrom-Holmstrom dynamic as possible, but that's just me.
Regarding slightly more pertinent matters, the Bob Probert Memorial Ride will take place on June 22nd. On Friday, the charity kicked off its inaugural "Probert Classic" charity hockey game, and Darren McCarty took part as a coach; the Windsor Star's Bob Duff reports that consensus #1 overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad and other present-day hockey stars with Southwestern Ontario ties took part in the game:
Others who suited up included Guelph Storm forward Kerby Rychel of Tecumseh and Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian of LaSalle. Like Ekblad, Probert’s prime came before Kassian’s time.
“I was way too young,” said Kassian, 23. “I watched a lot of videos. He was a great player and he had a good legacy.”
Some hockey people draw parallels between the games of Probert and Kassian and he views that as a tremendous honour.
“That’s pretty tough with the game changing, but that’s good to hear,” Kassian said. “He was a 20-goal scorer, on an all-star team. It’s pretty special for people to say that.”
Former Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty and former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour served as coaches of the teams. Both were teammates of Probert’s during his NHL days – McCarty with the Wings and Gilmour with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The game was the brainchild of Tierney Probert, the second-oldest daughter of Probert’s four children. Along with the June 22 fourth annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride, funds generated will benefit area cardiac care patients and their families.
Already, the Proberts have raised more than $260,000 for the cause.
I've done quite a bit of blathering, so I'll leave Duff's debate about the "fancystats" crowd, as discussed by participants of the Roger Neilson Coaches Clinic at the University of Windsor, up to you...
When former Windsor Spitfires general manager Jim Rutherford was introduced Friday as the new GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the first items addressed by Rutherford was the assessment that the Penguins were lagging behind much of the NHL when it came to analytics.
By now, even the casual hockey fan is aware of the new terminology permeating hockey statistics – Corsi, Fenwick and PDO are as frequently referred to as plus/minus and shooting percentage.
These advanced stats are to hockey what Moneyball terms like WAR and OBP are to baseball.
Moneypuck, if you will.
“Most teams are looking at advanced statistics and they have people who are specifically doing it,” said Ian Cooper, a Wharton School of Business grad and one of the founders of the Department of Hockey Analytics, a Toronto-based think tank that studies hockey via advanced stats, searching for patterns similar to those unearthed in baseball.
Call them geeks – although Cooper prefers the term Propeller Heads – evidence suggests that they are on to something.
“A lot of the better organizations in the league are already using advanced statistics,” Cooper said.
I would be remiss if I did not remind you of the following event taking place this morning at the Joe...
I do have to mention that, yes, TSN's BarDown blog's staff posted a set of NHL Pokemon Logos...
And finally, I hope that you don't mind too much that I went with a "talky" entry for this morning. I usually find myself swimming among so much content that I can only deliver a one-liner or a couple sentences' worth of opinions before moving on to the next news item to keep these overnight reports down to 2-and-a-half to three hours, even during the summer, so every once in a while I just need to talk it up a bit.
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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.