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Red Wings Sunday chatter: St. James on WXYZ’s ‘Sunday Sports Cave’; finding Pope and McKee

Today is the calm before the storm for me. Over the next three days, Paul and I are going to be grinding out trade deadline coverage (and I swear, in this day and age, the minimum ratio of internet rumor to actual trade is 1,000 to 1), and in terms of my workload, the Red Wings will resume practice on Monday ahead of a slate of 5 games played over the course of 8 nights, including a 3-in-4 slate on Tuesday, Thursday (Nick Lidstrom jersey retirement night) and Friday, so I'm going to be really *#$%@& busy.

As of the middle of Sunday afternoon, however, last yesterday and last night's worth of trade and follow-on rink talk, prospect news and what I'm sure will be the first of at least three dozen articles dedicated to Lidstrom's legacy (irony: my favorite Wing is retiring, and I won't be at the rink...Ah well, it'll be better on TV anyway) serve as the main Red Wings-related news items on a blessedly practice-free day (yay, no practice, no injury news!).

This morning, MLive's Brendan Savage did ask fans whether they'd prefer to see the Wings go after a forward reinforcement or someone to bolster the blueline, all while noting that Ken Holland essentially told MLive's Ansar Khan what he told the New York Times--the Wings' 1st round pick's off the table, and at present, fans' window-shopping won't translate into any real deadline action:

General manager Ken Holland said last week that he's had talks with several clubs about a possible deal but that he's not interested in giving up a prospect or first-round draft pick for a rental player the Red Wings might lose after the season.

That takes players like Thomas Vanek of the Islanders and Matt Moulson of Buffalo out of the mix but the Red Wings might be willing to part with a second-round pick for a lower-tier player like defenseman Andrew MacDonald of the Islanders.

Instead, Holland said he wants to make a "hockey trade" that would benefit the Red Wings down the road.

Players in that group could include players like forwards Ryan Kesler and Ryan Callahan and defensemen Tyler Myers, Christian Ehroff and Alexander Edler, who are all rumored to be available. But the price for any of them is likely too high for the Red Wings.

All that aside, with captain Henrik Zetterberg (back) out for the rest of the regular season and likely the first round of the playoffs -- should the Red Wings qualify -- Detroit could obviously use some offensive help.

Interestingly, WXYZ has kicked off a new sports program called "The Suburban Ford 7 Sports Cave," which airs on Sundays at 11:30 AM, and Tom Leyden carried most of a 5-minute conversation with St. James about the reality of the Kesler-Edler-etc. trade talk (the video comes via RedWingsFeed), whether Henrik Zetterberg could return if the Wings make the playoffs (she doesn't think so), Purse-Gate and the NHL's incredibly inconsistent enforcement of penalties regarding hits and/or punches to the head, what Jimmy Howard's Sochi experience boiled down to...And in the end, St. James believes that, at best, the Wings might want to unload a Samuelsson, Tootoo or Eaves for a draft pick, but that probably won't happen:

Leyden also spoke with several Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductees last Friday evening, including one Nicklas Lidstrom...

And I like this. This is light-hearted and pokes fun at the super-casual types:


Otherwise...Should you not wish to worry yourself with Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner's suggestion that Something's Bothering 70% Magic Man, FSD also posted pictures of Datsyuk, Kronwall, and Lidstrom with the Fox Sports Detroit Girls (I think Babcock's wearing the Lions' mascot uniform wink)...

And in the prospect department, short version:

1. David Pope is heading to the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season, and to retain his NCAA eligibility, he played in the British Columbia Hockey League, a "Junior A" league which doesn't pay its players' expenses, for the past two seasons.

Because Pope played in the BCHL, he didn't "get seen" very regularly, and as an NCAA prospect who's 19--and 6'3" and 200 pounds--he'll be Wings property until the summer after he graduates college, or whenever he chooses to turn pro.

Pope put up some solid numbers--27 goals, 23 assists and 50 points over the course of 45 games played (up from 17/22/39 the previous season), including 2 goals in the Warriors' season-ending 8-3 win over Trail, and West Kelowna will play the Vernon Vipers in the 1st round of the BCHL playoffs starting on Tuesday.

We tend to forget that regular seasons for most non-NHL leagues end around this time of year.

The KHL playoffs will kick off shortly (they've been playing since September 1st), the SHL playoffs will kick off shortly, the Wings' NCAA-playing prospects took part in "Senior Nights" this past weekend, and the OHL, QMJHL and WHL regular seasons will be over by either the middle or end of the month (so Anthony Mantha, who is playing today for the Val-d'Or Foreurs against Quebec today, only has seven-and-a-half more games to add to his 52 goals, 56 points and 108 points).

Where am I going with this? Even if this was a "super busy day," I've been meaning to mention that the Red Wings' non-AHL-or-ECHL-playing prospects are about to embark upon either playoff campaigns, or they're plain old going to wrap their seasons up in short order.

Along the way, some stories have been missed by both me and everyone else, and if I'm fascinated with one more than any other "missed storyline," it comes from Friday:

Earlier this year, it appeared that Mike McKee, who is very faithfully listed at 6'5" and 250 pounds (and I shit you not, he could add another 10 or 15 pounds and not venture into Dustin Byfuglien territory), came to Western Michigan University to play defense, and that was going to be a problem...

Mostly because McKee's USHL career with the Lincoln Stars involved taking over 200 penalty minutes a season playing like a 6'5" bully amidst a league of 15-to-20-year-olds who are generally a little undersized for Major Junior Hockey and are going the NCAA route instead. McKee fought regularly, got benched even when he was Lincoln's captain for taking dumb penalties, and everybody was wondering what the hell McKee could do as a player prohibited from fighting (at least without a game misconduct and a next-game suspension coming) per NCAA rules.

It turns out that McKee took a lot of stupid penalties early, and then did a lot of sitting. With two games left in the WMU Broncos' 34-game regular season sked, McKee has played in all of 14 games, but he'd also racked up 48 minutes in penalties.

6'5," 250-pound guys tend not to disappear from prospect reports, but for long stretches of time, McKee was sitting, and no one seemed to care to report why he was sitting.

I didn't know what was going on with McKee, but I found out quite a bit on Friday, when McKee scored his first NCAA goal in WMU's 4-2 loss to Denver.

Michigan Hockey's Sam O'Toole reported what some had suggested--that WMU coach Andy Murray (formerly of the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings and other pro teams) had decided to shift McKee from defense to forward--and O'Toole also found out why McKee's been sitting out so many games:

Mike McKee recorded his first career collegiate goal with 21 seconds remaining in the third period after getting great positioning in front of the net.

The Detroit Red Wings’ seventh-round draft pick in 2012 made the move to forward this season, and after the game, Broncos head coach Andy Murray praised McKee’s progression through his freshman season.

“Mike has worked extremely hard, and we have been doing extra sessions with him,” Murray said.  “We decided that rather than have him play games and him not totally being ready, we would give him extra skill sessions.  Coach Ferschweiler has been working with him in the morning on his skating and doing different things, and it looks like it’s paying dividends.”

So McKee's been deliberately held out of games to re-learn how to play the game as a big, bruising checking forward. Murray also had this to say about what is apparently a seldomly-used fourth line while speaking to WMU's website:

Thoughts on the grey line playing more minutes tonight

“Mike Rebry, Sam Mellor, and Mike Mckee, our grey unit there they were playing quite a few minutes together and of course with Josh Pitt being gone we were using them on our other line, our gold unit tonight too with Laporte and Hargrove. They all gave us good minutes tonight. Michael Rebry I thought this weekend was his best weekend as a Bronco and I would say the same for Mike Mckee. I thought tonight Sam Mellor had the kind of game that we have seen earlier in the season from him and that was effective for us.”

Long story long, you've heard about Mantha, Athanasiou, Nastasiuk, Bertuzzi, Backman, etc., but there are other non-professionally-playing Wings prospects who have flown under the radar this season, and we shouldn't forget the Popes or McKees. Even if, in the latter case, they're hard to miss despite being long-shot as opposed to can't-miss prospects.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


SYF's avatar

How can I forget McKee?  He made such a great impression on his drafting by the Wings.  I’m hoping beyond all hope that he’ll find his way to the big club and continue to be mentored by some of the toughest guys ever to put on the Wings sweater.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 03/03/14 at 03:26 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.