The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/21/12 at 03:40 AM ET
I thought this was a pretty sensational thing for Red Wings VP Jimmy Devellano to say a couple of hours ago, but after reading his comments to the Island News's Scott Harrigan, I guess it shouldn't be surprising. Devellano wants Red Wings fans to know that the "Hockeytown Winter Festival" is already in jeopardy due to the owners' lockout (might those open skates be Wings fans' only opportunity to see the ice at Joe Louis Arena this season?) and that the Winter Classic won't be far behind if the players dare to not yield to the owners' demands, as he told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
"We're only days into a lockout, so it's so very early to speculate on any of this," he said. "You don't know what is going to happen in a month from now. I don't know what is going to happen in a month from now. But I will say a month from now, some decisions will have to be made pro or con."
The collective bargaining agreement between owners and players expired Sept. 15, and there have been no negotiations since.
The Winter Classic is scheduled to be played Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings.
The Winter Festival is set to take place the final two weeks of December, ending with what's expected to be a sellout crowd at Comerica Park for an alumni game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. Other highlights include:
The Great Lakes Invitational featuring Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Michigan Tech.
An American Hockey League game featuring minor league affiliates Grand Rapids (Red Wings) and Toronto (Maple Leafs).
An Ontario Hockey League doubleheader, with Windsor facing Saginaw and Plymouth taking on London; and
A variety of high school and junior hockey games, along with open skating and an outdoor festival.
While all of this charming, "Very easy to cancel, very easy, believe me!" crap is going on at the ownership level--and it wouldn't surprise me if the NHL does in fact encourage the Wings to cancel the Winter Festival (and keep your Ticketmaster service fees) and simply roll over the Leafs-Wings Winter Classic to 2014--the Red Wings very quietly allowed the cancelation of preseason games to serve notice that the team will not be holding training camp in Traverse City, MI.
Today, the team would have been taking medical exams and taking part in a charity golf tournament before hitting the ice on Saturday, and with an absence of Red WIngs hockey to dissect, the Red Wings' hockey operations staff plans on keeping its plate full of hockey by going into scouting mode.
Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to the Free Press's Helene St. James about his current routine, and the fact that he, assistant GM Jim Nill and capologist Ryan Martin will get into the scouting game in earnest over the next couple of weeks:
At nearly one week old, the NHL lockout is erasing routines. The rookie tournament that precedes the Wings' training camp was cancelled weeks ago. Players didn't meet up at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday morning to bus up to Traverse City, and won't meet this morning at Centre Ice Arena for physicals.
Holland instead is watching OHL games, which began Thursday, to get a hockey fix.
"For the most part, every other league in the world is up and running," he said. "There'll be lots of scouting opportunities. Grand Rapids starts up next month. In early October, there's U.S. colleges. You get into a routine, and you enjoy routines. But the business of hockey has to be dealt with first."
Much like players get updates on negotiations directly to their inboxes from the NHL Players' Association, general managers get e-mails from the league, "when there's something new," Holland said.
There haven't been any this week.
I can at least state this much: from my conversations with Holland, Martin and Nill this past summer, and despite the NHL's multi-million dollar fines for squeaking about CBA stuff yielding much tiptoeing around the tulips, it seemed obvious to me that there wasn't the same level of rancor toward one's employees that Devellano's been preaching for the past three months.
In the labor vein, I will suggest that it's all but required that you read Elliotte Friedman's article about the wacky world of hockey-related revenues, and while we've seen something of a mass exodus of hockey players heading to Europe--including Jakub Kindl, Tomas Tatar, Damien Brunner, Pavel Datsyuk, and pretty darn soon, Valtteri Filppula and Cory Emmerton--as ESPN's Katie Strang notes, it won't continue, even if teams continue to secure cost-prohibitive contract insurance policies:
Even if insurance is obtained, players might face another set of logistical barriers as well. Many leagues, such as the Swedish Elite League and the Swiss A-leagues, have import rules, limiting the number of players a club can bring in who are not natives to the country in which they're playing. The KHL allows only three locked-out players per club, only one of which can be a foreign player. The Swiss A-league allows only four import players, while the Swedish Elite League is not open to locked-out players who don't sign a contract for an entire season.
The resulting impact of these restrictions? Beyond the fact that European players are being pushed out of jobs by their NHL cohorts, hundreds of players are clamoring for a small number of jobs.
One agent, whose client has received significant interest from teams in Sweden, said he is waiting for the first flurry of activity to settle to see which teams have spots still open and what clubs have room for his client to play.
Players must also be granted transfer cards to play internationally, although, according to a high-ranking KHL official, about half have already been processed and the rest are expected to be handled within the week.
The Russian and Swiss leagues remain the top two destinations because the money is good and the level of play is high.
"It's very clear that this is the strongest league, financially, structurally and organizationally," said Ilya Kochevrin, vice president of communications for the KHL. "It's very competitive, with some of the best players in the world. Obviously, it's the top pick."
Meanwhile, the Swiss league might provide the best lifestyle to foreign players. Beyond playing in picturesque cities with impressive amenities, the travel is limited and the level of play is very competitive.
As I've been saying, I think that we're more likely to see younger and cheaper-to-insure players head to Europe after the first wave subsides.
Regarding said European-playing Wings, Sport-Express and Sovetsky Sport are almost breathlessly covering Datsyuk and Ilya Bryzgalov (Datsyuk's phyiscal, see the photo gallery! Datsyuk's first practice, see the photo gallery! Datsyuk's hanging out in the locker room, ZOMG!) as they prepare to make their CSKA Moscow debut against HC Yugra on Saturday. They hyped up CSKA's 3-1 loss to Barys Astana on Thursday as something of a calm before the storm, and while I'm going to do my best to keep tabs on Datsyuk, Kindl, Tatar, Brunner, et. al., I'm not going to translate all the fluffernutter stuff that will accompany their play.
Rather annoyingly, Expressen keeps on suggesting that Niklas Kronwall's all but a hair's breadth from playing for Djugardens IF of the Swedish Allsvenskan, despite his agent's statement that Kronwall will remain in Detroit until Christmas, and Kronwall had to toss off a platitude to Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom and Henrik Sjoberg after Douglas Murray and Patrik Hornqvist signed with Djugarden after all (hey, all that stuff about, "We don't want locked-out players, they could hurt our cause, and we can't afford the insurance!" blather? Yeah, not so much now; and this quip is roughly translated):
Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall is waiting--though he could also sign with Djugarden--for a while before he heads home.
"I will wait for a few weeks before I make a decision," says Niklas Kronwall.
For the record, Damien Brunner's insisting that the Wings are fine with the concept that he will remain with EV Zug of the Swiss National A League until the lockout's over, too. Brunner offered the following to Sport.ch's Sebastian Kalin (not roughly translated, expertly translated):
Brunner: "I've spoken with Detroit about all possibilities, and together we have come to the conclusion that it's best for me to remain here until the NHL gets underway."
Also for the record: Hockeysverige's Martin Holmgren reports that lapsed Wings prospect Dick Axelsson registered a goal and 3 assists in the Frolunda Indians' wild 7-6 win over Modo Ornskoldsvik on Thursday, too. He's blossomed while playing alongside another former Wings prospect who's not related to him in Anton Axelsson.
Otherwise, I'll simply say that the hype machine seems to involve quite a bit of disinformation these days, so I'm not going to jump on stories like I did with Datsyuk's would-be signing with the Ak Bars Kazan, either. If you think that the press can get sensational over here, man, some of the publications over there are a cross between Bleacher Report, the National Enquirer and TMZ in terms of professionalism.
The aforementioned European-playing Wings will be making their debuts tonight or tomorrow, but DRW Prospects on Twitter reminds us that the Wings' prospects playing Major Junior hockey and in the USHL and college are either kicking off their seasons or are about to begin playing:
Hockey's Future's Jared Ramsden wants us to remember that Swift Current Broncos defenseman Richard Nedomlel may be a quieter player, but that he possesses some solid offensive chops, too, while dishing a preview of the WHL's Eastern Conference teams:
Defense looks to be a position of strength for the Broncos as they return six rearguards from last season. 19-year-olds Reece Scarlett (NJ) and Richard Nedomlel (DET) each cracked the 40 point mark last season and should both improve on those numbers this year.
Back in Detroit, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose posted a picture which reminds us that Joe Louis Arena is still kind-of-sort-of open for business...
It's also worth noting that the Royal Oak Patch notes that the Wings' school assembly program soldiers on regardless of the team's inability to utilize current players to promote physical fitness...
Keller Elementary was seeing red Thursday afternoon as the Red Wings School Assembly Program skated into Royal Oak to introduce kids to the sport of hockey and encourage an active and healthy lifestyle.
During the Keller visit, the school assembly team opened the program with a lesson on exercise and healthy eating tips, followed by a fun face-off between teachers and students during a hockey shootout competition.
The school received two full sets of floor hockey equipment complete with hockey sticks and goalie nets courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, as well as a Red Wings folder and a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan keepsake magnet that lists five fun afterschool activities.
At Comerica Park, the Free Press's Helene St. James found Oakland A's third baseman Brandon Inge, and the ex-Tiger received a special delivery from one special assistant to the Red Wings' general manager:
Inge isn't checking anybody into anything at the moment; he's recovering from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. And Draper's playing days ended more than a year ago; now he's a front-office executive with the Wings. A front-office executive with connections.
Thanks to Draper, Inge has all the hockey equipment he needs.
"He called me and said he needed sticks, and I just told him, whatever he needs, I'll get," Draper said. "I talked to my buddy from Warrior and told him we need to send some sticks to Oakland, and we did."
When Draper didn't hear from Inge, "I sent him a text asking if he got the sticks. And he sent me a picture of three sticks in front of his No. 7 Inge jersey. Pretty neat."
The two became friends while Draper played for the Wings and Inge for the Tigers. Each has experimented with the other's sport, with Inge taking Draper "to batting practice," Draper said, as well as onto the field with the Tigers. "So when he moved, I told him if there was anything I can do, if there's anything he needs, let me know. Sticks it was."
Draper checks the baseball scores daily to see how Inge and the A's are doing. And Inge is among the legions currently bitter about the NHL lockout.
"That stinks, big-time," he said. "I'm a huge hockey fan, and I'm really bummed about that. Hopefully they get it worked out soon."
Winging it in Motown's Graham Hathaway penned a guest column about the lockout for the Free Press, and I can't help but admit that I'm starting to believe that his last paragraph has some basis in fact...
I guess if there is an upside to all of this, it's that we didn't have to go through what Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators fans are experiencing with their legends. Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson likely were entering their last seasons this year. So this could be it for them. Could you imagine if Nicklas Lidstrom had gone out that way?
The more I think about it, the more I believe that Lidstrom's anticipatory skills led him to accurately predict that he'd have to continue the off-season training he'd lost the drive to continue engaging in would last until November or December...
And I'm going to be out of the office for an indeterminate time today, starting in the early afternoon. I'm still battling the virus that the mom brought home from an appointment a month ago, but by comparison to the mom, I'm as fit as a fiddle. She's coughing up lungs and has a high fever, so we're headed back to our family physician's office for x-rays. :(
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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.