The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: Wings still believe they’ll make the playoffs, but lineup tweaks persist
by George Malik on 04/10/13 at 03:31 AM ET
Aside from prospect-related news, Tuesday was not a super fun "off-day" for Red Wings fans. The team announced that Darren Helm would continue skating but the team's no longer expecting him to return from what we've learned is a "slight tear" in one of his discs, and it is entirely possible that we'll hear similar news about Todd Bertuzzi soon.
With the Wings not playing until the team begins a three-games-in-four-nights slate against San Jose on Thursday, the team god bad news in terms of the Western Conference standings on Tuesday, too: St. Louis took a 3-point lead on the Wings via a 1-0 win over Nashville and the Columbus Blue Jackets snuggled right up to 2 points behind Detroit's 43 by defeating San Jose 4-0.
So the Wings will face an angry Sharks team on Thursday (Thursday's a Gleaner's Food Bank collection drive game, too), and with 9 games left, the Wings still need to somehow cobble together 13 points to reach that 55-point mark at which everyone from Ken Daniels to my calculator agree will be the number of points that'll allow the Wings to control their own destiny.
Wings coach Mike Babcock insists to NHL.com's Dan Rosen that his team will prevail in its playoff-qualifying quest...
"I don't know if it's optimistic; I think it's realistic," Babcock told NHL.com. "Optimism, I think, is a totally different thing than a realistic approach of what we've got going on. I think we're a team that does a lot of good things. I'm a big believer that we're just going to get it done, but I think like that all the time."
The Red Wings have done enough to be eighth in the Western Conference with 43 points. They don't play again until Thursday at home against the San Jose Sharks.
"We're not going away," Babcock said.
As Rosen notes, the Wings are 2-and-4 of late, and they've given up an uncharacteristic number of goals over the past half-dozen games, but Babcock believes that the Wings' 1-0 loss to St. Louis this past Sunday was actually a step in the right direction:
"At the start of the year when we dropped the puck with them [the Blues], they beat us 6-0 and everyone was talking in the first 10 or 12 games that they're going to win the Stanley Cup," Babcock said. "Since that time they've gone out and added [Jordan] Leopold and [Jay] Bouwmeester. You watched the game [Sunday], don't tell me there is much between these teams. That's the way I look at it.It's amazing what you can do if you keep focusing on the process."
That process, according to Babcock, will lead to the Red Wings extending their streak to 22 straight seasons in the playoffs. He's sure of it.
"The great thing about our process is we're in control of it," Babcock said.
Rosen adds much more to the mix from both Babcock and others in his "Over the Boards" column, but I can't quote the whole thing.
The Wings usually don't begin practice until 11 AM or 12 PM on an "off day," but their practice schedule mirrored a game-day skate on Tuesday: they took to the ice at 10:30 AM and were done by 11, speaking to the media briefly and hauling butt...
To a fancy luncheon at the Detroit Economic Club, where the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reports that Babcock repeated his ever-positive mantra to the corporate crowd, very specifically addressing the team's in-season decision to go with what we have all been enduring--a rebuilding/transitional year:
"You know, everybody in here is involved in business," coach Mike Babcock said. "And businesses change. All of you have to get better and have to find a new way. And that's the process we're in. We just don't want to fall off the face of the earth like some of the other franchises have done. We're not interested in that. We want to make the playoffs. We want to remain competitive, and we want to change and grow at the same time."
As you and I have discussed at length, and sometimes argued about (okay, we've talked about it a bit and mostly yelled around, but this season's been unlike anything any Wings fan has experienced since the early 90's, so it's been difficult to deal with) the fact that it was very evident that the team's decisions to sign Carlo Colaiacovo, Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson and Jonas Gustavsson suggested that it wanted use veterans to smooth the transition to a post-Lidstrom team...
But, regardless of whether we're in the, "Play all the kids all the time!" camp or, "You've got to take a balanced approach" camp, it's incredibly evident that the injuries to Colaiacovo, Samuelsson, Gustavsson, Helm, Todd Bertuzzi and another half-dozen Wings forced the team to embrace a youth movement, and Wings GM Ken Holland discussed the delicate balance that is attempting to win while exposing many players to their first sustained NHL experiences:
"You don't really know how someone's going to play until they get into the National Hockey League day after day after day. As time goes on, they sort of come off of it, a bit," Holland said, describing many young players who hit a plateau in their development or their level of energy. "But our younger players, for the most part, haven't come off it. We think they're getting better every day. Everybody is in their 20s, and with young players there are ups and downs. But like a lot of things, you stick with it, you believe in the program. I think we've done lots of good things."
Captain Henrik Zetterberg said the lockout-shortened season's condensed schedule has make remedial efforts difficult.
"I think it's been challenging for all of us," Zetterberg said. "It's a different look, and a different kind of season. It's been a lot of games and long days. It's been a lot of travel for us and really tough to find days to work on stuff that we need to work on."
Again, it sounds kind of weird, but Babcock insists that he's enjoying the challenges that this season has presented him with, and he continues to rave about the leadership abilities of not only Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall, but also Jimmy Howard, according to Krupa, Johan Franzen:
"This season to me, to tell you the truth, has been re-energizing, reinvigorating," Babcock said. "I think the coaching staff has really enjoyed the guys. We've got tons of kids, and they bring a lot of energy, and we've been through a number of players trying to see who the best ones are to help us be successful. I really like the direction we are going in."
"Our players and our leadership group are not interested in being on a bad team," he said. "They've been around winning the whole time they've been here, and they've become used to it. That's what they expect. And that's why I guess I'm as comfortable as I am being the coach and knowing where we are right now: That we're going to look after this, and we're going to be all right."
According to Krupa, Holland believes that the Wings' play will determine whether they can earn the right to play past April 27th, but Holland believes that the Wings have the ability to make the playoffs without requiring help from other teams:
"We control our own fate with the last nine games," Holland said. "I was up until 1 o'clock last night watching lots of games and then running numbers in my head until 2:30 or 3. We control our own fate. It's one game at a time. I think all in all it's been a great season, but a season that will ultimately be judged by whether we make the playoffs."
In terms of personnel machinations during Tuesday's practice, the Free Press's Helene St. James notes that Babcock continued to shake things up, placing Valtteri Filppula between Danny Cleary and Damien Brunner, and promoting Drew Miller to the Johan Franzen-centered line with Gustav Nyquist. In theory, this will spark Filppula and give the Wings more "balance"...
"We want to be solid defensively and continue that way," coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday. "But we'd like to generate more offense. We're hoping by doing this, we can generate more offense. We feel with Fil and Bruns and Clears, that's a pretty good line. Fil's been a good centerman for us. We like what the Mule is doing, so we're just going to spread our lineup out and go a little bit deeper."
The Wings are looking for more offense after registering just nine goals the last six games. There's certainly potential for this newest grouping to have success: Filppula is a world-class passer, and both Brunner and Cleary love to shoot the puck, though Cleary will have less opportunity to do so as the designated net-front presence.
Filppula has 14 points after 32 games, putting him on track for 21 points. Pro-rated for the lockout-shortened season, that's in the ballpark of the 35- to 40-point season Filppula, 29, delivered before breaking out with 66 points last season. Filppula, who is in a contract year, is well aware he's underachieving.
"I'm playing a lot and I feel like I should be producing more," he said. "Hopefully it starts at some point. Body is feeling good and everything, knee feels really good. Just, I have to be more efficient."
As MLive's Ansar Khan notes, Filppula has had a particularly rough go in terms of attempting to come anywhere close to last year's career-best numbers, and given that, depending on who you believe, Filppula wants to re-sign with Detroit for somewhere between $4 and $5 million per season (Filppula's cap hit this year is $3 million but he's earning $3.5 million), he needs to step up:
If anyone can use a spark, it's Filppula. After a breakout 2011-12 season, Filppula is experiencing his most frustrating season. He has only seven goals and 14 points in 32 games and has just one point (a goal) in his past 10 games.
“It's definitely been, points-wise, really a struggle this year,'' Filppula said. “We'll have to wait and see how that goes, if that helps. I feel like I've been playing a lot and getting chances and the puck hasn't gone in this year. Obviously, there's still games left and we're fighting for a playoff spot, so hopefully I can do more to help the team.''
If I was the coach--and I'm not--I'm not so sure if I'd place Filppula in the middle of a line as he definitely believes that he needs to emphasize his defensive play while playing as a center...But he simply can't afford to let his defensive responsibilities detract from his offense at this point:
“Center plays a little more down low in your own end, so I have to be good defensively,'' Filppula said. “When you're a wing you have to be good defensively, too, but you do that a little more when you're playing center. I don't think I have to change too many things.''
Filppula, who is in the final year of his contract, racked up career highs in goals (23) and points (66) last season, playing mostly with Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler.
This year has been a struggle from the start for Filppula, who sprained his knee while playing in Finland during the lockout. His average of .44 points per game is his lowest since his rookie season in 2006-07 (.23 per game). His current minus-5 rating would be the worst of his career.
Babcock told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that the Wings are very specifically making adjustments to their forward lines to counter the Sharks' machinations...
“San Jose’s spread their group out,” Babcock said. “We need to generate, we don’t want to give up any more chances against and we want to be solid defensively and continue that way, but we’d like to generate more offense.”
Babcock moved Drew Miller up with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist, while having Valtteri Filppula center a line with Brunner and Daniel Cleary.
“By doing this we can generate more offense,” Babcock said. “We feel Fil, Brunns, Clears that’s a pretty good line. Fil’s been a good centerman for us. We like what Mule’s been doing here and we’re just going to spread our lineup out and go a little bit deeper.”
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader make up the top line.
“With the line I’m on right now, Mule’s big and strong and can play with the puck, Gus is a skilled player that’s going to get the puck and work hard,” Miller said. “I’ve just got to get out there and get the puck from the corner, get in front of the net. We’re just looking for a balanced lineup. We’ll see if it sticks, if not whatever line I’m on I’ll play the same every night.”
And it is worth noting that the MLive's Khan stated that the fourth line consisted of Cory Emmerton at left wing, Joakim Andersson as its center and Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves alternating as its right wing--and that the defensive pairs were all sorts of messed up:
Babcock said he hadn't decided on his defensive lineup for Thursday. All nine defensemen practiced today:
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith
Danny DeKeyser/Brian Lashoff-Jakub Kindl
Carlo Colaiacovo-Ian White
I'd read that as, "Things do not bode well for Colaiacovo and White," but as I write this in the middle of the night, there are still almost two days before the Wings play the Sharks, and as such, Babcock delivered quite the "quote of the day" to Pleiness:
Wings coach Mike Babcock’s response when asked if he figured out who would be the six defensemen dressed for Thursday’s home game against the San Jose Sharks would be.
“No,” Babcock said. “That’s the great thing about having three days off, gives you guys three days to speculate.”
Quite frankly, given that Babcock
If you missed the news about Helm, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff provides a condensed summation: put simply, the Wings aren't shutting him down, but they just don't believe that it's realistic to assume that he's going to make a miraculous recovery.
That's the real bottom line here:
"Well he’s not going to play hockey right this year we don’t think,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of Helm. “We have to get ourselves ready for the playoffs and be ready to go on without him.”
Helm, who has only played one game all season, was ready to admit defeat and say his season is done, but he also couldn’t make any promises that things were looking any different as far as his return to the lineup.
“I’m trying to stay positive,” Helm said. “I think my spirits are a little bit higher than they have been. It feels better, but I still can’t really put any time on what’s going on. I’ve been skating for a while, working out for a while, working really hard. It’s just that I still feel pain, feel a lot of discomfort. When that stops . . . I don’t know if one day I’ll wake up and feel great or it’s going to be kind of gradual thing.”
Here's the other problem: there isn't a consensus as to what the hell is going on. Depending on which reporter you read, either Helm tore a ligament somewhere in his lower back while lifting weights back in January, he has a slight herniation of a disc in his lower back, or perhaps he has some other issue that hasn't been diagnosed.
We do know that he's been to see at least three orthopedists in Metro Detroit and New York, and that the Wings' medical staff (Dr. Douglas Plagens is an orthopedic surgeon) and trainers are monitoring Helm closely, but he kind of screwed the pooch when the team took him to Western Canada, and between pushing too hard during on-ice skates and not telling the training staff, he cramped up. Back to square one it went, and as such...
“I think everybody’s frustrated,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “I think the doctors are frustrated, I think the training staff is frustrated, I think Helm is frustrated, the coach and manager are frustrated. We all want him in the lineup. He’s a really important guy for us. He needs to play some hockey. I don’t have a time frame. We thought he was going to be back 10 days ago. We don’t know.”
So maybe the real lesson here is that Helm can't just push and push and push and not tell the trainers when he's hurting because that classic Manitoban, "Well, I'll just push through it and I'll be fine" prairie mentality is great and all, but it's terrible in terms of preserving one's health while playing a hard-hitting game in a high-contact sport.
Also of Red Wings-related note: I was on Twitter when Adrian Dater was writing his power rankings in the middle of the night yesterday, and he said that he was fried from the J-S Giguere rant and was watching the Real World Portland (does that exist? I almost exclusively watch the National Geographic Channel, the Food Network, the History, Discovery and Science channels, news networks or the local news when I don't watch hockey, so I have little to no knowledge of pop culture save enjoying the Jimmy Fallon show)...
So let's read the fruits of his labors as they apply to the Wings!
16 Detroit Red Wings Last Week: 12
A couple of victories over moribund Colorado helped buffer their chances of another playoff berth (22 straight seasons now). But they also lost at Phoenix and, more important, at home to St. Louis, 1-0, on Sunday. They're just too up-and-down to take seriously for the Stanley Cup, the only standard against which this franchise judges itself. The Wings are still too banged up, with Damien Brunner (hip flexor) being the latest to go on the shelf with an injury. They might still sneak into the playoffs, but it seems like another one-and-out for the once-mighty Wings. Last week: 1-2-0
In other news, water may be wet.
In the prospect department, I want to confirm something to you that few people talk about: the vast majority of stats regarding prospects' heights and weighs are lies. Lies, lies, lies.
As the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa's noted, Danny DeKeyser was advertised as a 6'3," 210-to-220-pound defenseman, but he's more like 185 pounds. I still have serious doubts to the suggestions from Sweden that Calle Jarnkrok's now at a healthy 170 pounds as he might have been 150 when the Wings drafted him, and he still looks nearly stick-thin.
Sometimes I really do wonder whether the bigger, heavier guys who carry a bit of weight (see: Todd Bertuzzi) go on a liquid diet before their pre-season height-and-weight measurements, and whether the smaller, slighter guys eat heavily and wear three or four pairs of socks before meeting the measuring tape.
All of that being said, I can tell you that when the Wings drafted James De Haas last spring, I thought I'd meet a 6'1" defenseman at the Wings' summer prospect camp, but I kept wondering whether he was wearing his skates in the locker room (he wasn't), because he looked way bigger. I fully believe the Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy's listed height and weight for De Haas in Kennedy's "Hot List" because, put bluntly, De Haas is a big lunk:
James De Haas, D – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
His 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and defensive mobility have been calling cards, but De Haas has really stepped up his offensive contributions as the Vees prepare to face Surrey in the B.C. League final. The Clarkson University commit has eight points in nine playoff games, doubling his production from the regular season. Drafted 170th overall by Detroit in 2012.
In the alumni department, and this is good to hear, the CBC's Tim Wharnsby reports that Joey MacDonald's stint with the Calgary Flames is going fantastically well...By Flames standards...
Joey MacDonald may not be the most popular player with Calgary Flames fans right now. Most Flames followers want their team to play poorly the rest of the way to improve the team's chances of winning the draft lottery for the first overall choice.
But with 39 saves MacDonald played a big part in Calgary's 3-1 victory versus the Colorado Avalanche on Monday to end a 13-game winless streak on the road and move three points ahead of the basement-dwelling Avalanche.
Players have pride and it's simply not in MacDonald's DNA to give up. The 33-year-old native of Pictou, N.S. has persevered throughout his career and he's not about to roll over at this stage.
Undrafted, all MacDonald wanted was a chance. He was given a shot in the Detroit Red Wings organization a dozen years ago because his goalie coach in junior with the Peterborough Petes, Marv Edwards, recommended MacDonald to Red Wings senior vice-president Jim Devellano.
"Nothing has ever been given to me," MacDonald said. "You have to work for everything. I've never thought about giving up. All I wanted was to get a shot. I got that shot in Detroit's organization. I worked my way up to the No. 3 guy behind Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood and have tried to make the most of it."
While I was writing this, the Mercury News's David Pollak wrote a recap of the San Jose Sharks' 4-0 loss to Columbus, noting that the team had won seven straight games prior to Tuesday night's loss, and Pollak also penned a blog entry reporting that the Sharks plan on chasing the Wings off the ice at the Joe today:
Lack of practice time has been an issue and even before the loss, McLellan had decided that Wednesday would not be a day off as originally planned. Instead, the team will skate at 1 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena. And based on what Brad Stuart had to say after the game, that can’t hurt.
“We were just kind of flat and I don’t know what the reason for that would be,” Stuart said before developing one theory. “We haven’t had a lot of practices, basically just morning skates so the guys should have a lot of energy. We need as individuals, to take it upon ourselves to be ready and on top of your game when the puck drops. We failed at that aspect of the game, just getting ready.”
Yet he seemed to like the idea of the extra practice so the team could “regroup and work on a few things we need to get better at. Practice- regroup and work on a few things we need to get better at."
Did he feel that once again the Blue Jackets were the better team?
“They might have had a few extra steps on us at times, but I don’t think they were extremely better than us,” Stuart said. “We just had a couple breakdowns. I think we can be better in some areas of the game and one of them is preparation on an individual basis. We’ll have to work on that.”
Here’s what McLellan had to say about the added practice:
“We need it. We’ll use it tomorrow, but when I look around the league I see 29 other teams facing the same schedule that we have. I see teams making mistakes. That’s fair, that’s going to happen this time of the year. Bumps and bruises come into play. But I don’t see a lot of teams that lack the intensity that’s needed to play this time of year like we did tonight.”
One could very well argue that the Wings have over-practiced, so it's interesting to hear from the other side of the equation.
Next-to-finally, Pavel Datsyuk is both active on Twitter and on his Facebook page, and he posted Russian and English messages welcoming fans to his "Facebook office," while wearing the suit he most likely donned for the Detroit Economic Club luncheon. Nice office!
And really finally, I have to ferry the aunt to the annual physical at the family doctor's office, and will be leaving my home office at 3. The aunt is the only person I know who actually haggles with her doctor regarding courses of treatment, so between her negotiations and the fact that we have a 4 PM appointment near the clusterf...I mean nexus of bad traffic that is the Orchard Lake Road corridor around 12 Mile Road, if big afternoon news breaks, the boss will cover it, but I don't expect to get back into laptop range until 6-ish at the earliest.
In case you were wondering, and I'm sure you weren't, given that I already have a head cold that won't go away, I won't be heading into the waiting room. I've made a strong habit of sitting in the car when ferrying the mom or aunt to doctor's appointments of any kind, so I'll be chilling in heavy rain, listening to NPR (do I listen to Valenti and Foster? HA! Hell no!) and checking Twitter for hockey news while the aunt negotiates peace in the Middle East. It's a glamorous life I lead, so try to contain your jealousy
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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.