Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Penguins pre-season set-up and overnight report: on Mrazek, the second line and Almquist

Things are about to "get busy" for the Red Wings and Red Wings fans. The Wings will wrap up their preseason schedule with three games over the course of the next four nights, starting with tonight's televised game against Pittsburgh (7 PM EDT, FSD Plus/ROOT Sports/WXYT AM, and yes, as MLive's Brendan Savage notes, Henrik Zetterberg and a coalition of Southeastern Michigan police and fire departments are collecting smoke detectors today and Friday)...

And after a day of relative rest on Thursday, the Toronto media machine may very well be taking a convoy down the 401 to set up Friday and Saturday's back-to-back games between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, with Friday's game taking place in Detroit at 7:30 PM (Leafs TV) and Saturday's game at the Air Canada Centre (7 PM) airing on Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL Network U.S.

Given that the Wings and Leafs tangle in the regular season until December 21st, it's incredibly likely that the pre-Winter Classic Hype Machine will descend upon the teams in earnest as HNIC offers its final "dry run" before the regular season begins.

Back in Metro Detroit, the Grand Rapids Griffins will be holding exhibition games in Plymouth and Windsor on Saturday the 28th and Sunday the 29th, respectively, hosting the Lake Erie Monsters on both occasions, and if you're in the mood for suds but don't feel like engaging in the annual, "Pre-Season Upper Bowl Scrap" on Friday night, Joe Louis Arena will cover the ice on Saturday and hold an Oktoberfest-themed "BrewHaHa" from 1-6 PM.

Tonight's opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, defeated Chicago 3-2 in a shootout this past Monday, and the Penguins posted the lineup for tonight's game a wee bit early:

Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings
Sept. 25, 2013 - Preseason Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena


29            MARC-ANDRE FLEURY – G         
37            JEFF ZATKOFF – G

Position Players

2              MATT NISKANEN – D
4              ROB SCUDERI – D
5              DERYK ENGELLAND– D
41            ROBERT BORTUZZO – D
44            BROOKS ORPIK – D
58            KRIS LETANG – D

9              PASCAL DUPUIS – F                      
12            CHUCK KOBASEW – F
14            CHRIS KUNITZ – F
15            TANNER GLASS – F
16            BRANDON SUTTER – F
17            DUSTIN JEFFREY – F
18            JAMES NEAL – F              
19            BEAU BENNETT – F
27            CRAIG ADAMS – F
36            JUSSI JOKINEN – F 
71            EVGENI MALKIN – F
87            SIDNEY CROSBY – F

That's not quite an NHL lineup, but it's pretty bloody close. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi reports that the Penguins have a Red Wings-like spat over contested forward positions, and the situation's complicated by the Pens' salary cap situation (and Capgeek reports that the Penguins are approximately $1.1 million over the cap, though Tomas Vokoun and his $2 million salary will definitely start the season on the LTIR after having a blood clot in his hip dissolved):

The Penguins re-assigned two players Tuesday but are not likely to trim their training-camp roster again until after playing a final exhibition game at Detroit on Wednesday. Forward Tom Kuhnhackl and defenseman Harrison Ruopp were sent to AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, leaving the camp roster at 32 players.

Coach Dan Bylsma said that he expected 15 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies to accompany the club on a bonding trip at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. That trip starts Friday.

Bylsma also acknowledged that salary-cap implications will impact decisions made for the roster the Penguins will submit to the NHL on Monday, when all clubs must be cap compliant. The Penguins need to shave about $1 million in cap space.

Center Joe Vitale worked with the Penguins' Group 2 players in a second practice Tuesday.

Winger Chuck Kobasew, in camp on a tryout contract, worked with the Penguins' third liners because of an injury (lower body) to winger Matt D'Agostini. Kobasew has impressed coaches during camp, and management has not dismissed the possibility of him making the squad despite the Penguins' current cap overage.

“There's jockeying for position on the (third line), and for the 12th and 13th forward there is jockeying as well,” Bylsma said. “It's not the same group of people. It's two different opportunities, two different spots.”

As such, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari reports that the Penguins are also in a Wings-like situation in terms of needing to assign their top prospects to the AHL...

The Penguins' cap-space issues reduce the chances of them keeping promising young defensemen Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, who have junior eligibility remaining, on the early season roster to expose them to regular-season play in the NHL. Maatta and Pouliot would draw their NHL salaries while in the league, even if they didn't stay long enough to burn a year off their entry-level contracts.

"There are salary-cap issues that are a part of all those [personnel] decisions," Bylsma said. "All those things have to be discussed, given the fact that we have to become cap-compliant in the next little bit."

Molinari reports that the Penguins are not, however, beset by injuries, save Vokoun, anyway:

Barring late changes, the Penguins will use a lineup tonight in Detroit that figures to look a lot like the one that will be in uniform for their regular-season opener Oct. 3 against New Jersey.

Defenseman Paul Martin, who returned to his home state of Minnesota Tuesday because of what Bylsma described as "a family situation," will be the most conspicuous absentee, while center Joe Vitale and defenseman Simon Despres aren't scheduled to play, either.

"It's going to be real close to what you're going to see in Game 1 against New Jersey," Bylsma said.


Bylsma said winger Matt D'Agostini, hurt early in the 3-2 shootout victory Monday against Chicago, is day to day, and that goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) is the only Penguin certain to not be ready for the regular-season opener.

This note from PittsburghPenguins.com's Sam Kassan may as well read as a line from Detroit's PR staff...

The Penguins are expected to make roster cuts following Wednesday’s game in Detroit. The roster currently has 32 players (18 forwards; 11 defensemen; 3 goalies). Bylsma expects the team to carry 15 forwards and eight defensemen with them this weekend to West Point.

And, according to the Post-Gazette's Molinari, the Penguins, like the Wings, view tonight's game as an opportunity to begin rounding into regular-season form in terms of their attention to detail:

Consistently doing the things that would give them a reasonable opportunity to beat Detroit, and other quality opponents, when the 2013-14 regular season begins next week is far more important [than winning tonight's game]. And those are things that, for the most part, the Penguins haven't done with much consistency while going 2-2-1 in their first five preseason games.

"We want to play a lot better," Adams said. "I wouldn't say we've had a great preseason so far. The practices and stuff have been really good, but the games have been sort of lackluster. We need to bring some intensity and execute better and battle harder. All of those things we'd want to do in a regular-season game."


Coach Dan Bylsma characterized his team's work for much of that evening as "sloppy," and no one disputed his choice of words.

"The last couple of games, I don't think we're very happy with the [attention to] details we've had," center Brandon Sutter said. "We have to try to correct them. We're giving up way too many turnovers. That's what's killing us."

Or, more to the point, what could do that to the Penguins once the games begin to count.

"We've been sloppy, at times," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We've shown some real good spurts of effort and execution, then we've had some poor periods."

While no aspect of the Penguins' game has sparkled through the first five exhibition games, the players contend there is no area of particular concern.

"We know we can score goals," Sutter said. "Our offense is doing fine. It's our play away from the puck and our play in our own zone that we're having a tough time with and we have to get better at. That's what these games are for, to work out the kinks and the problems."

For the Red Wings, as we've been discussing for a while now ("we" being "you and me"), the Red Wings' latest spate of injuries will probably and temporarily alleviate the team's need to clear $2.387 million (per Capgeek) and, eventually, 3 bodies from their roster.

For tonight, it appears that Petr Mrazek will receive an opportunity to impress, at least given the, "We think Gustavsson really will be out for 2 or 3 weeks" talk after Tuesday's practice. Both MLive's Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness penned feature stories discussing the impression Mrazek's left upon Wings coach Mike Babcock and goalie coach Jim Bedard.

As Khan notes, the Red Wings do not plan on having Mrazek sit watching Jimmy Howard play in 50 games--the team would much, much, much rather have Mrazek playing in 50 games and leading the Grand Rapids Griffins' defense of their Calder Cup championship...

But Babcock and Bedard like "the kid," too:

“He gets a chance, so do good with what you get and see what happens,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

After a splendid junior career with the Ottawa 67s, Mrazek made a seamless transition to the AHL. He went 23-16-2 with a 2.33 goals-against average during the regular season for the Griffins and posted a 15-9 mark and 2.31 GAA in the playoffs.

“It's an amazing building block in that young man's career,'' Red Wings goaltending coach Jim Bedard said. “These are high-pressure games with lots of travel, and it's not the best travel either. It's a real salute to the whole team, but for the goalie to play every single minute of every game is quite an accomplishment.''

Babcock called Mrazek a real competitor with a bright future.

“He wins. That’s it,'' Babcock said. “He’s got to get stronger, and as he gets stronger he’ll have better rebound control and better push. Those are all just part of growing up. The more time (you spend) in pro hockey you settle down.''

Mrazek got a small taste of the NHL in 2013, appearing in two games (5-1 win at St. Louis, 3-2 loss at Minnesota) when Gustavsson was idled by a groin pull.

“The two games I played here and the practices with these guys helped me so much,'' Mrazek said. “It showed me how to get ready in the off-season, how to prepare for the new season. It was a great experience.''

As Bedard told Pleiness, Mrazek rides the knife edge between confident and cocky, but it seems to work for him, just like his...Let's call it "unique" style of goaltending:

“He’s a very unique personality, he doesn’t come off as being cocky but he comes off as being very confident,” Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard said. “As a goaltender you pretty much go through your whole life from the time you’re eight or nine years old with everyone telling you you’re not good enough at this, you can’t do that. If you keep listening to that little guy on your shoulder you’re not going to have a very long career at a high level. He just seems to go and go and go. If something happens that’s not favorable, he just pushes it off and it doesn’t seem to have a hangover effect, he goes right back in practice and attacks it. His demeanor doesn’t change, that’s what his teammates like to see every day.”

The Wings kept Howard in the minors until he ran out of options. He did play a total of nine games over three seasons with Detroit while in Grand Rapids. Mrazek quickly leapfrogged every goalie in the Wings’ system to become the third in line for th starting job.

“I look back at the World Juniors, when he came out of nowhere,” Bedard said. “Obviously we knew who he is because we watched him on a daily basis when he was with the Ottawa 67s. On a stage as big as the World Juniors, being played in Canada he was such a big part of their team’s success. They basically rode him just like the Griffins rode him. He really got put on the map.

“It’s not a surprise for anybody that he is where he is,” Bedard continued. “He doesn’t look out of place one single bit. Every time I looked down the pucks were being stopped and the play kept moving. He’s got what you can’t teach and that’s a heck of a lot of talent and the right mix of confidence and swagger. He enjoys playing the game. Him and Howie both challenge each other in the drills after. At the end they give each other high fives. It reminds me of the same relationship Ozzie (Chris Osgood) had with Howie when he first came here. Until Gus gets healthy this is a great opportunity for him to get more days in the National Hockey League.”

"Gus" seems to know that his career with the Wings is on thin ice after tweaking his groin in the final minute of Saturday's loss against Boston, and he's worried about the state of his groin:

“It’s tough to say how long it’s going to be,” Gustavsson said. “They took some pictures, but you never really know with groins how long it’s going to take, could be a few days or longer than that. You never know how quick they heal. I’m just going to do whatever I can to get back as soon as possible.”


“I want to be on the ice, I want to be out there, help the team,” Gustavsson said. “But that’s the way it goes. In your career you’re going to have some steps back, setbacks, you can’t be too low about that. Just got to do whatever you can to get back as soon as possible. That’s just the approach I have. I can’t get too down.”

“With groins, especially for a goalie, you got to be 100 percent,” Gustavsson added. “You use them a lot. If I was a defenseman or forward it would be something else because you don’t put as much pressure on it. That’s the tough part, to know exactly how long that’s going to take. That’s why I can’t give you a number or days or weeks I’ll be back. I’m just going to be positive and do everything I can to make it heal as quick as possible.”

As Paul noted, Babcock's been openly almost antagonistic in terms of the tone he's used in discussing Stephen Weiss's status as a player who must play more consistently at both ends of the rink, and he's not giving Daniel Alfredsson much of a quarter, either, as he told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:

Babcock said he expects that Daniel Alfredsson will make his home debut for the Red Wings in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Penguins. Alfredsson has a groin injury that’s prevented the veteran winger from playing in the last three preseason games with his new line mates, center Stephen Weiss and forward Johan Franzen.

“He’s got to play eventually here, like anything, I’d like to get him going,” Babcock said, referring to Alfredsson. “I’d like to play him (Wednesday) and then on Friday (vs. Toronto) and get going from there.”

Alfredsson played in the Wings’ second preseason game, a 2-0 loss at Chicago that Franzen sit out with a sore hip flexor. So it’s imperative, Babcock said, that the second line begins to work on creating chemistry prior to the season-opener next Wednesday.

“They’ve got to get to work and get playing. That’s what training camp is for,” Babcock said. “You have to start feeling good and be going in at a high level and if you do that you have a better chance of getting started on time.”

Alfredsson told Roose that he's doing well...

“We have more than a week here to get used to each other. There’s still plenty of time,” he said. “Everyone would love to be healthy all of training camp and go full all the time, but at the same time this is the time where you have to make sure if you do have something to look after it, because once the season starts there’s no time. I’m happy with how I feel right now, but you never want to jinx yourself and say you feel great so we’ll see how it feels this afternoon. This was the first time I’ve really pushed myself hard in a while.”

And it's worth noting that Alfredsson's groin injury most likely gave him the opportunity to spend a little more time moving in to the home he, Bibi and his four sons were supposed to have available to them by the middle of this month, so that's not a bad thing at all.

As the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted in a wide-ranging article discussing Mrazek, Alfredsson and a player to be discussed in a minute, Babcock wants Jakub Kindl to get his legs under him ASAP, too:

Defenseman Jakub Kindl (hip flexor) could return against Pittsburgh.

"We just had that debate,'' Babcock said. "I told him only players over (age) 40 can miss a whole week of training camp, so we haven’t decided yet (whether Kindl will play). I told all the defense to be ready to go and we’ll see who’s available."

It is incredibly unlikely that the cap and roster-limit-challenged Wings will go with anyone on their defense not named Kindl, Kronwall, Ericsson, Smith, Quincey or Lashoff to start the season, but after oodles of hype and praise for Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul--due praise, I might add--I'm very happy to say that the 150-pound defenseman who impressed the hell out of me two summers ago in Traverse City has earned his day in the spotlight.

Adam Almquist may be all of 5'11" and may very well be a Calle Jarnkrok-like "maxed out" at 173 or 174 pounds, but the little defenseman with the short stick has registered 2 goals (against Pittsburgh last week) and an assist over the course of 4 preseason games played, and the Free Press's George Sipple profiled Almquist ahead of tonight's game...

As the end of camp nears, Almquist isn’t letting himself think about the possibility of staying. “Just take it day by day,” he said. “Work hard and see what happens.”

Almquist played his first full season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League after three seasons with HV71 in Sweden. He had 10 goals and 21 assists in 68 regular-season games. He chipped in three goals and seven assists in 21 playoff games, helping the Griffins win the Calder Cup.

“He’s talented,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Moves the puck. He’s an undersized guy, but his skill set and his hockey sense are so good that he might be able to play. He’s going to have a huge winter, then a great summer next summer, then see what happens. But he looks to me, his mind and his athleticism are NHL. His body is small.”

Babcock said he wouldn’t have predicted that Almquist would still be in camp.

“That’s the great thing about life ... you actually get to make an impression,” Babcock said. “He’s done that. He’s come to camp, and he’s got his name up in the dressing room.”

And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose profiled Almquist as well:

There are 29 players still in camp with the Wings, including eight defensemen, which makes conducting drills easier with an even number of bodies. The same thing happened in the Wings’ abbreviated training camp last January when they called up Brian Lashoff as the eighth defenseman.

Early-season injuries necessitated Lashoff’s return to the Wings’ lineup in the first week of the 2013 season. He played well enough to earn more ice time and eventually played 31 games with the Wings. Whether that same acceleration to the NHL can occur to Almquist, time will tell.

“We haven’t talked too much about it, but he’s a guy that came up last year and knows what’s going on,” Almquist said, referring to Lashoff. “He’s a guy I can go to and ask for advice and how to act in the NHL. He’s a nice guy to give me some help. It would be really fun to start here, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. Just take it day by day.”

Although on the small side, Almquist (5-foot-11, 174-pounds) does intrigue the Wings’ coaching staff. While he must fill out and add strength, those attributes will come with time. What the Wings like in Almquist is that he’s a fundamental sound puck-moving defenseman who makes good decisions in the defensive end of the ice.


Almquist, 22, has had success at every level, having played on championship teams with HV71 in the Swedish Elite League and last spring with the Griffins in the AHL. He also led the SEL with a plus-20 rating during the 2010-11 season. But Almquist isn’t taking anything for granted this week.

“I was just going in and try to do the best I can and play as good as possible,” he said. “I think I’ve played alright so far. This is a nice bonus to still be here with these guys.”

The Red Wings' "next wave" of players is, by and large...Well, large, but no less skilled due to the fact that most of the gents are mostly 6'2"-6'6" and 180-235 pounds, but I have very little doubt that the 5'11," 174-pound Almquist, the 5'11," maybe 175-pound Calle "Iron Hook" Jarnkrok and that little buzzbomb that is the 5'11," 183-pound Teemu "Honey Badger" Pulkkinen are going to make the NHL...

And I happen to believe that the trio will prove that the Red Wings' old drafting mantra that size didn't matter as much as skill, will and the size of the fight in the dog was and is a perfectly reasonable means by which to draft and develop players in a world where even the Red Wings' old and new scouting staffs have chosen to emphasize size as well as skill.




In other news...We're not going to talk about him very much, but it's worth noting that, as MLive's Brendan Savage points out, when Damien Brunner's agent, Neil Sheehy, informed Ken Holland that his client was a) Not interested in the Red Wings' contract offers and b) Was "going in another direction," Sheehy bet that a 27-year-old with no NHL resume would earn $3-3.5 million per season on a long-term deal based upon one lockout-shortened season and playoff run...

And he lost.

Brunner, who broke into the NHL with the Red Wings last season, agreed to a two-year contract that will pay him $5 million.

A source told MLive.com that the Red Wings offered Brunner the same deal but he rejected it to test the free-agent market.

After failing to sign with another team before training camp, Brunner agreed to join the Devils last week on a professional tryout.

Brunner, who played the previous five seasons in Switzerland before signing with Detroit, scored 10 goals in his first 19 NHL game before cooling off. He finished with 12 goals and 14 assists in 44 regular-season games and led the Red Wings in the playoffs with five goals in 14 games.

The Red Wings made Brunner, 27, two- and three-year contract offers before he decided to take a dip in the free-agent waters.

I've heard those numbers from about nine or ten "sources" named Khan, Pleiness, Kulfan, St. James, Regner, Roose, Dreger, McKenzie, Kypreos, etc. and some dude named Holland.

I don't wish Brunner any ill will--I just wish that his agent wasn't such a dick (the grass, she is not always greener elsewhere), and I hope that he has absolutely no success whatsoever against the Red Wings--and the same is true for Valterri Filppula.

The Tampa Bay Times' Damian Cristodero reports that Filppula, who signed a 5-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning paying him all of $500,000 more than the Wings paid Stephen Weiss over the entire term of his contract, is already being asked why he doesn't shoot the puck...

"Now don't start that over here," he said. "I've heard enough about it." But Filppula also conceded, "It's true. That's part of my game I need to be better."

Filppula, 29, signed to a five-year, $25 million contract, is acclimating well to his new team. He's only played three games, and in that context coach Jon Cooper said, "it's unfair to build him up," but added, "It's pretty impressive to see what he's done in the preseason."

Filppula has a team-best four assists in three games after Tuesday night's exhibition loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, and his four points are tied for second behind Steven Stamkos. Filppula's defensive sensibilities also are honed — "It's never fun to get scored on. I hate that feeling" — and Cooper said of his puck skills, "The puck's like a yo-yo on his stick. He just sticks it out there and pulls it in."

But "if I was going to poke a hole in his game, I wish he would shoot more," Cooper added. "He gets some really big opportunities to shoot and sometimes becomes a bit of a pass-first guy."

But RedWingsFeed noted that Filppula's endless pull-up-and-drop-passing plays from his own blueline all the way up the ice have yet to frustrate the Bolts, and that coach Cooper told the Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson that Filppula's overall skill level--and stop me if youv'e heard this before--remains show-stoppingly enticing:

“His puck-protecting skills are as high end as they can possibly be. It’s really hard to get the puck away from him,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “The puck is like a yo-yo on his stick, he just sticks it out there and pulls it back in.’’

In his first two preseason games since signing a five-year free-agent deal with Tampa Bay, Filppula looks every bit the part Tampa Bay signed him to be — and more. In those two games before Tuesday, Filppula produced four assists and had a successful shootout attempt. In the offensive zone, Filppula has impressive puck control, poise and vision that can give opposing defenders fits, all while keeping his linemates on their skates to be ready at a moment’s notice.

“As you play more with him, you pick up on some of his tendencies, like you don’t have to be so close to him because he is so good with the puck and does a good job of holding it,’’ said right wing Teddy Purcell, who played camp scrimmages and the preseason opener on a line with Filppula. To support him, you have to get away from him, let him do his thing and get open because (the puck) can come at any time.’’

At the other end of the ice, Filppula displays an intuitive ability to be in the right position, an attribute that often can go unnoticed and be overshadowed by his abilities in the offensive zone. But that part of Filppula’s game will make him an integral part of how Cooper handles his line rotations during games.

“He gives optimal effort every shift. He does what he is asked and you can’t ask for more as a coach,’’ Cooper said. “I think the big part, and everybody is looking at his offense and his offense is all well and good and we want that, but in the end we need a defensive player, somebody who is going play at both ends of the ice and on the penalty kill. If he delivers on that end, the rest is gravy for us.’’

Again, I don't wish Filppula any ill will, save when he's playing against Detroit, but I can't deny that after years and years of hoping that he'd change his ways and stop surrendering ice gained immediately back to his opponent via a series of endless loop-back-and-pass plays...

I'm glad he's Tampa's problem and no longer Detroit's.



Heading back to the home team, we're about to be overrun by an avalanche of 2013-2014 season previews, and the Canadian Press offers a 5-point Wings season preview, penned by the AP's Larry Lage. Among them...

NEW FACES, NEW PLACE: The 40-year-old Alfredsson was expected to stay in Ottawa, where his NHL career began in 1995, but he stunned many by bolting for the Red Wings. Alfredsson said he made the move to chase his lifelong dream of winning a Stanley Cup, something the six-time All-Star never did with the Senators. Detroit was happy to give him a shot at his quest, signing him to a $5.5 million, one-year contract just minutes after teams could sign free agents.

A couple hours later, with much less fanfare, Detroit reached a $24.5 million, five-year deal with the 30-year-old Weiss after he spent his entire career with the Panthers. The Red Wings didn't keep all of their players in free agency. They lost last season's fifth- and sixth-leading scorers — Valtteri Filppula (Tampa Bay) and Damien Brunner (New Jersey).

TRAVEL MADE EASIER: After years of lobbying, Detroit will move from the Western to Eastern Conference as part of the NHL's realignment plan this season. Instead of making multiple trips out to California and western Canada, the Red Wings will spend a lot less time on planes by playing teams in their time zone more frequently. Detroit is in the new Atlantic Division with three other Original Six franchises — Boston, Montreal and Toronto — along with the Sabres, Senators, Panthers and Lightning.

"It's a good thing for hockey, it's great for our fans," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "They're going to see a lot of different teams and fun matchups."


STAYING HEALTHY: The Red Wings struggled last season as they began the post-Nick Lidstrom era in part because a few banged-up players missed most of the year. Three key forwards — Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi — combined to play just 12 games during the regular season. Helm is youngest of the three and perhaps the most important.

The physical, 26-year-old centre has played in only one game since March 11, 2012, and a groin injury is his latest ailment. "Unfortunately, Helm doesn't appear to be close to coming back," Holland said.

And this isn't a season preview per se--and Paul already posted it--but Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika suggested that the whole David Clarkson-John Scott fandango would not push the Red Wings to find a dedicated enforcer, and the fact that the Wings are moving to an Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division in which fights are more common does not necessarily require the Wings to retain Jordin Tootoo's services:

“Am I concerned going to the East?” Holland said. “Would I like to have a big, tough guy in the middle of the lineup? Yeah. But I haven’t really bought into having fourth-line guys that don’t have much skill and are one-dimensional players. I guess I put more of a premium on goals.”

There is no debate that many fans like fighting. There is no debate that fighting can intimidate and play a role in team toughness. There is no debate that there are different ways to build a successful organization. But do you need fighting to sell the game to hardcore hockey people? Do you need it to win? Does it necessarily protect your skilled players? No. It can even be counterproductive.

You are well aware of the Wings' status as the former home of the Bruise Brothers, employers of players like Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey, but the Red Wings simply aren't a team that requires an enforcer on a night-by-night basis...

“Over the course of 82 games, every team in the league has a night when they wish they had some ingredient on their team that they don’t have,” Holland said. “Is there the odd night that we wish we had two or three big heavyweights that could go out and really dole out some fisticuffs? Yeah.”

But especially in a salary-cap system, do you use precious resources to prepare for the odd nights and the isolated incidents? Holland wants his power play to be his deterrent. He wants tough guys who can play at least some role. He wants bottom-six forwards who can contribute offensively or at least kill penalties. That takes pressure off the top-six guys. That gives him depth in case of injuries.

“Which one of those guys do you want to get rid of for a one-dimensional tough guy?” Holland said. “If I go out and get three more of those guys, do I think we’re going to go farther in the playoffs? No, I don’t.”

And while Cotsonika continues building context at extended length--and while the rest of your article is more than worth your time--Holland's bottom line is most important here...

“If we want to change direction, it’s going to take us three or four years,” Holland said. “I can’t change direction over the course of a summer and clean out a bunch of skill guys and bring in three, four big guys that are one-dimensional.”

As is Cotsonika's very astute ending:

The Wings open Oct. 2 against Buffalo at Joe Louis Arena. One question: How will the Wings handle John Scott? Another: Should the Sabres dress John Scott at all?

In many instances, teams simply sit their scrappers when they play the Wings because there's no one for them to engage.

If the Wings find themselves in a situation where they feel that Tootoo's out-playing his more affordable combatants (and Tootoo's $1.9 million cap hit for the next two years makes him hard to move--he's also out for the rest of the preseason with a bruised shoulder), they'll keep him, but if the Wings don't keep him, they'll be okay.




In promotional news, part 1:

The Wings' Facebook page posted an extended photo gallery of the commercial shoot, and it looks like Drew Miller, Jakub Kindl, Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson and Jonathan Ericsson will forget the stairs, buddy, and focus on the parking lot.

In promotional news, part 2, via RedWingsFeed, and per CBS Detroit:

Join the Street Team and Ticket Chicks at the brand new XFINITY Store from Comcast is now open on Ann Arbor Rd in Plymouth from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.!

Plus stop by for you chance to win a family pack of tickets to the 24th Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show!

Join Comcast to celebrate the opening of the newest XFINITY Store on Saturday, September 28th from 10am-6pm.Stop by from 12-1:30pm to get an autograph from Hockey Hall of Famer and former Red Wings star, Igor Larianov.  From 1:30-3pm, Detroit Lions legend Herman Brown will also be signing autographs for fans.Visit the XFINITY store at 41592 Ann Arbor Rd E to experience XFINITY for yourself and learn about special offers!

I read Comcast store in Plymouth Ticket Chicks Igor Larionov Igor Larionov Igor Larionov and Herman Brown Igor Larionov (who is super nice, by the way).

In promotional news, part 3, from the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau:

And in promotional news, part 4: If watching heating and cooling equipment being bolted onto an ice-making truck is exciting, this video is for you:




And finally, I'm going to let you peruse Sportsnet's Fantasy Hockey Rankings, broken down by the top 50 centers (Pavel Datsyuk at #9, really?), top 60 defensemen (Niklas Kronwall at #19? Really?), top 40 right wingers (Daniel Alfredsson at #13? Well, okay, that's kind of a compliment) and top 40 goalies (Jimmy Howard at #3? Awesome!) on your own, and will simply remind you that TSN will name its top 50 NHL players tonight at 8 PM:

Bragging rights are on the line as TSN reveals its popular annual ranking of the Top 50 NHLers – one of hockey's most exclusive lists – during the NHL ON TSN TOP 50 PLAYERS this Wednesday (Sept. 25) at 8 p.m. ET on TSN.

For the first time, the Top 50 was determined by NHL coaches and GMs. Fourteen coaches and GMs – representing seven Eastern Conference teams and seven Western Conference teams – ranked players 1-50, and their consensus picks determined the NHL ON TSN TOP 50 PLAYERS.

James Duthie hosts the TSN original production alongside analysts Aaron Ward, Paul Maurice, and Darren Pang.

This year's NHL ON TSN TOP 50 PLAYERS features nine new players, four goalies, and 26 Canadians. Who's missing? Who's overrated? Who's a surprise pick? The hockey world can voice their opinion on the Top 50 ranking by using the hashtag #TSNTop50.

Pavel Datsyuk Pavel Datsyuk Igor Larionov Pavel Datsyuk Pavel Datsyuk.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Nathan's avatar

As is Cotsonika’s very astute ending:

The Wings open Oct. 2 against Buffalo at Joe Louis Arena. One question: How will the Wings handle John Scott? Another: Should the Sabres dress John Scott at all?

This is just it—the Wings’ style the last decade (along with other factors, of course, like ever-increasing concussion awareness and the crackdown on obstruction penalties) has flipped the script. It’s no longer a question of, “How do the Wings handle John Scott?” Now, the question is, “Is it worth it for the Sabres to dress John Scott for 5 minutes (or less) of ineffective ice time?”

Other than the possibility of a heavy, borderline hit from Nick Kronwall, I think most teams know that Detroit is going to play a tough but clean game. The “tough guys” that give the Wings problems aren’t the John Scotts of the world, it’s the guys that skate hard and forecheck well, and don’t pass up a chance to hit their D. In other words, it’s a good thing the Wings at least don’t ever have to worry about playing against Helm, Abdelkader, Cleary, Weiss, and Miller.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 09/25/13 at 09:29 AM ET

Primis's avatar

This is interesting.  I’ve been having a very spirited debate elsewhere with an old-school Canucks fan about the topic of toughness and enforcers.

He says they’re absolutely necessary for success, and the EDM was absolutely right in reacting to bring in a tough guy because they’re too soft.

I kindly reminded him I follow the most-successful organization in the league for years and that the Wings have done it without enforcers.  The PP, in their best years, is their enforcer.  He cites VAN lost in the Cup finals because of “toughness” issues, which to me really speaks to the mental state of Canucks fans trying to rationalize why they lost still years later.

He scoffs and says that the Wings have had enforcers like McCarty (who, I kindly reminded him, was a power forward, not an enforcer, and to ask Philly fans what they thought of Darren’s puck skills), and Kocur and Probert (I then reminded him that the Wings never actually won anything with them and that was 30 years ago).

He then tried to rationalize that the Wings were “tough” in their own way and that guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk could take care of themselves (which isn’t wrong in a way), but that doesn’t go towards explaining why other teams’ toughs don’t go after them of course.  I still said that “No, teams don’t go after them because they’ll pay on the scoreboard”.  This is why DET’s PP success is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to DET succeeding, and the PP *has* to be clicking, it’s not optional.

I then posted the link to Cotsonika’s article pointing out that ending line:  if you’re good enough, teams won’t even dress their toughs against you because they can’t afford the roster spot for them.  How’s that for “handling the other team’s enforcers”?  When you’re good enough they’re afraid to even dress them?

And as for guys like Lucic… you can ask Dave Backes how much success he’s had in getting DET off its game.  He usually just spends half the game in the box.  LEADERSHIP AT WORK!  A smart opponent merely turns guys like Backes and Lucic from “tough guy forwards” into complete fools hurting their team.  I expect Lucic will try the same sort of thing and find out the same way Backes did.

In the end though you have these absolute dinosaurs of hockey people that just don’t get it and never will.  They will die someday still thinking they are right and that fighters are somehow the “sheriffs” of the ice and vital .  And until they do die, the idea isn’t going away.

Boy will I be glad when it does finally die though.  I think the overall product will improve.  Scoring itself might improve on its own then even.

Posted by Primis on 09/25/13 at 10:14 AM ET

monkey's avatar

He cites VAN lost in the Cup finals because of “toughness” issues, which to me really speaks to the mental state of Canucks fans trying to rationalize why they lost still years later.

Vancouver lost because their blueline disintegrated.  Injuries and officiating, gentlemen, injuries and officiating.

Posted by monkey from Prague on 09/25/13 at 10:34 AM ET

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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.