The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/14/14 at 02:18 AM ET
Warning, warning, this entry includes a video which may or may not auto-play!
Red Wings fans have been gloomier than a Kristen Stewart Tribute Artist convention of late, so let's try and flip the script for five sec...
Oh, wait, it turns out that 97.1 the Ticket/the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski, 97.1 the Ticket/the Free Press's Jamie Samuelssen and Fox 2's Woody Woodriffe summarized the whole Cleary signing phenomenon perfectly, and they also discussed the Red Wings' free agency swings and misses (as if they regularly watch hockey games, what a concept!) while appearing on Fox 2's Sportsworks on Sunday evening:
Wojnowski and Samuelssen do point out that the Red Wings have a solid core of young players, they address the probability of the Wings trading to upgrade their defense, and they generally discuss the Wings in a realistic manner, but Wojnowski's suggestion that the Red Wings simply cannot display the kind of loyalty they have previously in the cap era is spot-on--as is the concept that the team might need to get a little ruthless--and Samuelssen's suggestion that we could very well see Cleary taking opportunities away from younger players is what we're all afraid of.
Ditto for Wojnowski's point that the Wings appear to be panicking in free agency (and overpaying alumni as a result), which seems to happen every other year.
You have to press "pause" on the video or it will cycle into the next one, which is also the case for our next video.
Wood TV8's Larry Figurski and Casey Jones profiled both Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha on TV8's Sports OT:
Figurski's profile of Mantha includes accompanying text:
The 19-year-old was Detroit’s No. 1 draft pick in 2013. He was a highly regarded star in the juniors with the Ontario Val-d’Or Foreurs. He scored 57 goals and put up 120 points in just 57 games last season. He was named the MVP of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year.
“Maybe it was just the group of guys around me,” Mantha said of his strong showing last season. “We had a great team. The players were great. The coaches were, also. We just had a lot of un last year, and that’s where the success started.”
It was an impressive enough season to give Mantha a legitimate chance of jumping straight from the juniors to Detroit. The last Red Wings player to do that was Steve Yzerman in the early 1980s.
But to make that happen, Mantha would likely have to win a top six forward spot. If he doesn’t, he’ll open the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Mantha said he was comfortable in his second pro camp.
“Last year, I wanted to come here and impress as many people as I could, and really come here and try to make the team. Then they talked to me and sent me back down. I got a huge year last year,” he said. “Coming back this year, I think it’s the same mentality. I want to make the team this year. I’ll do everything it takes this summer to be ready for camp.”
MLive's Brendan Savage profiled Mantha on Sunday morning, and I'm sure you read Mantha's statement that he's going into training camp hoping to make the Wings...
Mantha is ready to play for the Red Wings now.
"If you ask me, I think I am," Mantha said during last week' s development camp in Traverse City. "At the end of the summer, I'll be a few pounds heavier. I think I can play there. But as I mentioned, it's (about) coming to camp, being ready and we'll see.
"I need to keep working, keep getting stronger – on the ice, off the ice. At main camp, I need to be ready mentally so if they give me a chance I need to take it right away. I'll come over here with the best thinking and we'll build off that. The skill level is there. I'm a tall, big guy. I think I can play there but obviously I need to be ready next year."
But it needs to be said that Andreas Athanasiou (who's turning pro this season), Zach Nastasiuk (who's slated to head back to the OHL's Owen Sound Attack, and he's an NHL-or-Major Junior prospect), Alexey Marchenko, every player with any sort of chance to make the NHL roster has told me that going into training camp, they can't imagine preparing for the season with any goal short of making the NHL.
Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill delivered some wise words regarding Mantha's potential...
"Anytime a prospect is real heralded you always have to make sure everybody calms themselves down," said Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who conducted the development camp. "There's still going to be a learning process in making the adjustment (to pro hockey). That's just the reality of every prospect.
"Some guys make the jump real quick but there's still a learning curve. How quickly guys make the jump you just can't predict. But am I excited if Mantha is down playing with us? I absolutely would be in the sense that I love to help great players become even better and he's certainly a great player who I think has a real bright future.
"I've seen good leadership qualities from him (since last year). I just think it's an overall maturity level and part of your progression as player. He looks like he's taken a big step."
And that's certainly true regarding the gentleman who appeared on WXYZ's 7 Sports Cave on Sunday. I can't emphasize enough that Dylan Larkin is only 17 and just graduated high school:
Throughout the summer development camp, Larkin repeatedly had to parlay the, "When are you turning pro? When are you going to be with the Red Wings? This fall? Next year?" questions, and he held his own, but you worry about that kind of stuff going to his head.
I can certainly tell you that Larkin looked like a fantastic all-round player, but he also looked like he'd get knocked on his ass in a hurry if he was able to take part in the prospect tournament (per NCAA rules, he can't do so, and given that the tournament starts on September 12th, Larkin will be doing something called "attending classes" at that time).
The Detroit Free Press's Brian Manzullo took note of Larkin's comments during his 7 Sports Cave grilling:
[T}he Red Wings selected the center with the No. 15 overall pick in June, giving him the chance to play at home in front of family and friends.
With that, and playing for the University of Michigan starting this fall, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind for Larkin.
“That’s been probably the coolest part ... the people that have been there all the way and family and friends, and seeing little kids ask for my autograph. That’s pretty cool,” Larkin said. “You have to be respectable in public now, because you’re representing the Red Wings now.”
Larkin won a gold medal with the U.S. at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championships, tallying two goals and two assists in six games. He also scored 17 goals and added nine assists in 26 games with the national Under-18 team in the USHL.
Larkin is excited to join a Red Wings squad with a handful of up-and-coming players, including forwards Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. “Those are good players. They’re going to find their way in the NHL,” Larkin said.
Larkin may very well be a good NHL player in a couple of years, but the emphasis is on in a couple of years. He needs to grow into his body, he needs to prove that he can produce points at the NCAA Division I level, and after three or four years at Michigan, he may need seasoning in the AHL.
He can accelerate that timeline based upon his play, but he finished 5th in scoring on the U.S. National Team Development Program squad, so he didn't blow his peer competition away.
Larkin needs to be given the one thing he's never going to be afforded in terms of expectations in order to develop properly--time.
Let's stick with the not-so-happy ---> transition to happier news theme by noting that TSN's "Franchise Faceoff" includes exactly zero Red Wings players with whom TSN suggests one might want to utilize as the cornerstones of NHL franchises, and Pro Hockey Talk's Ryan Dadoun kindly annotated a 12-minute video in which Matt Niskanen made his media debut as a member of the Washington Capitals. It certainly sounds like Niskanen was as determined to play for the Capitals as Dan Boyle was to ride the Rangers-or-nobody-else train:
“Really my whole career, I’ve always kind of kept an eye on the Caps, because of (Alex) Ovechkin, so it’s just a fun team to watch and has been for a long time. So I’ve been pretty familiar with the people here and how they play,” Niskanen said, per the Monumental Network.
The Capitals’ core of forwards is a big part of what convinced him that this team was capable of competing for the Stanley Cup despite their previous shortcomings.
The fact that they hired head coach Barry Trotz and assistant coach Todd Reirden also peaked his interest. He already had experience working with Reirden in Pittsburgh and Niskanen felt continuing that relationship would be the best way for him to continue his growth after recording 46 points last season.
“That was a big factor, familiarity with (Reirden) … what he’s done for my career, building my confidence, helping me become a better player,” Niskanen said.
At this point, I'll take any, "I was fascinated by this team for a long time" and/or, "Well so-and-so recruited me" talk that I can get from the Niskanens, Boyles, Stralmans, etc.
The Wings were apparently in the ballpark with everyone by Tom "Go get your money" Gilbert money-wise and term-wise (save that 5th year for Stralman), so I keep coming back to wondering aloud whether the team's recruitment process needs refining. After three years of not landing a "name" free agent and two summers' worth of very hard whiffs in terms of improving the team's defense (2012, the Summer of Suter, and this one), I can't help but think that the team's not doing "good enough" in terms of convincing free agents that the Wings "aren't that far off."
The Wings wined-and-dined Suter at the expense of other UFA targets in 2012, the NHL officially opened up a pre-July 1st wining-and-dining period last year, and the team did bring in Daniel Alfredsson (which worked out quite well), but in terms of attempting to improve the blueline, the team still hasn't found a player to fill Brian Rafalski's skates, and for the present moment, Niklas Kronwall's attempting to step into some of Nicklas Lidstrom's shadow, but the Wings haven't found the right committee to replace Lidstrom in the by-committee approach.
While I'm not sold on the concept of the team needing to make a mid-July trade to snag a right-shooting defenseman right damn now, I do believe that we're going to see the team make a trade at some point during the regular season, though it might not be until sometime in 2015.
Speaking of Kronwall, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose looked at Kronwall's 2013-2014 season "By the Numbers"...
49: Was two points shy of tying his single-season career record for points, which he established in 2008-09 with the Red Wings. He’s just the second defensemen to finish among the team’s top two scorers in the past 16 seasons. Nicklas Lidstrom did it three times (1997-98, 2000-01 and 2010-11).
25: Led the team and set a new personal best for power-play points that included five goals as well as a career-high 20 assists. He finished with eight goals in the regular season with 62.5 percent coming on the power play.
41: The fifth defensemen to lead the Red Wings in assists in a single season, and just the second in past 12 years, joining Reed Larson, Brad Park, Paul Coffey and Lidstrom. Kronwall had eight multi-assist games, including a three-assist outing at Ottawa on Feb. 27.
Regardless of the method that the team employs to aid its absence of consistent point-producers behind Kronwall--whether the team makes a trade, whether Brendan Smith steps up, whether Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Mattias Backman or Alexey Marchenko "steal a job," whether Danny DeKeyser displays scoring aplomb that we never knew he possessed, whether Jakub Kindl rises from the near-prospect-scrap-heap, whatever--I hope that Kronwall's contributions aren't singular in nature this upcoming season.
And finally, Paul and I will try to take a more relaxed pace over the next week or two. My "offseason" hasn't really begun yet, but it will in a couple of days, and I'm hoping that the surprisingly busy July news cycle slows down soon.
It's hard to believe, but in the KHL, players are taking their physicals today and tomorrow, and training camps will soon begin. Most other European hockey leagues begin training camps during the last week of July or the first week of August, preceding a full month's worth of exhibition games and "tournaments," and around the first week of the NFL and/or college football season, the KHL gets underway, with the Swedish SHL, Finnish Liiga, Czech Extraliga, etc. starting up around the same time or a little earlier than the start of the Wings' prospect tournament on September 12th.
Pavel Datsyuk's hockey school in Yekaterinburg will kick off on Tuesday, too, I'm expecting that the foreign-language Wings stories will crank up now that the World Cup's over, and by the end of this month, at least half of the Wings' NHL players will have resumed on-ice training.
We're all of seven weeks from the start of those "informal practices" at Troy Sports Center and the Joe, too...
Long story short, the Wings haven't played hockey since April 26th, but those of us who work "in the industry" get all of a month "off"--with the time between the NHL Awards and the end of the summer development camp yielding nearly a month of 12-to-16-hour days--so if I slow down ahead of my first family vacation in 2 years on August 2nd, it's not going to be due to a lack of looking around on a daily basis, but I might be taking a break and actually venturing outside to see friends now and then.
Update: Oh boy, it's time to Ask Ansar! MLive's Ansar Khan posits a mailbag column this morning, but as of 6:09 AM, it's just a dead URL! Discuss!
6:10: Oh good, we're back to trade talk:
Q. With all this talk about trade activity picking up and big-name players available, what assets are the Wings going to be willing to part with? If Gustav Nyquist is untouchable and (Tomas) Tatar nearly so, what can they give up to get something decent in return?
A. I think Nyquist is close to untouchable; they'd need to get a bona fide star in return to consider it. I don't think Tatar is untouchable, but they'd need an enticing return to part with a player with his offensive skills. I think they'd be less inclined to move Tomas Jurco than Tatar because Jurco provides a different dimension with his size and ability to play physical. Forget about dealing Anthony Mantha; that's not happening.
I don't see them relinquishing their 2015 first-round pick as long as there's a chance they could miss the playoffs and be in the draft lottery.
What does that leave as a trading chip? They have several promising defense prospects and won't have room for all of them in a couple of years, when their waiver exemptions expire. One could be packaged in a deal. I think any forward prospect, except Mantha, could be moved. And they'd probably be willing to part with their second-round pick.
As far as roster players, I think they'd move Brendan Smith if the right deal came along. I question the future of Jakub Kindl and Joakim Andersson in Detroit, but they'd have to be included with other assets to get a decent return.
Q. Who do you think the Red Wings consider untouchable? I would guess Tatar, Nyquist, (Niklas) Kronwall, (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk.
A. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kronwall and Mantha for sure. Perhaps Nyquist. That's all. But others have no-trade clauses (either full or modified): Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson, Cleary and Weiss.
Khan continues and talks about the Wings' free agency strikeouts, RFA offer sheets and "physicality" issues or the lack thereof...
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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.