The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/20/14 at 12:28 PM ET
Updated 5x at 3:02 PM: While the Red Wings' non-Olympians got to work at Joe Louis Arena this morning...
As noted earlier this morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James reported that Pavel Datsyuk will return to Detroit a little later than anticipated as Red Wings GM Ken Holland and Datsyuk agreed that a few days spent with his daughter and ex-Mrs. might be just what the doctor ordered...
"He's taken an opportunity to go home for a few days," Holland said. "I told him just to be on the ice Tuesday for practice. We certainly expect him to play Wednesday, but we'll see how he feels."
Datsyuk, from Yekaterinburg, had six points in five games in Sochi. He came into the tournament so badly hampered by an inflamed knee that he could barely skate but he was Russia's best player the last three games. That's encouraging for the Wings, who exit the Olympic break clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"I thought he had a tremendous Olympic tournament," Holland said. "I thought he played very very well. I know that he's been battling an injury going back to December. Now he's played five games here in short period of time. Hopefully, he'll be ready to play for us next week."
And as Paul noted, Henrik Zetterberg's not even "Passing 'Go'" before seeing a back specialist in New York today:
Team Sweden's doctor has said Zetterberg is likely to need surgery, but the question is when. Until a doctor says otherwise, the Wings are hoping Zetterberg can still play again this season.
"He's got to see a specialist to make that final determination," Holland said.
TSN's Bob McKenzie also Tweeted the following...
Zetterberg's absence (back) from SWE lineup not OLY injury, more pre-existing condition. Long term, it has potential to be most troublesome.
And in the "For the Record" department:
With Mike Babcock in Sochi, Russia, coaching the Canadian Olympic team, assistant coaches Tom Renney and Bill Peters and video coach Keith McKittrick ran the first of several practices during the break. Goaltending coach Jim Bedard manned one of the nets since both goalies, Jimmy Howard (USA) and Jonas Gustavsson (Sweden), are in Sochi.
“I thought (players) worked hard, they tried to execute,” Renney said. “That’s not always going to come natural when you come off a break like this. The things we did weren’t as detailed. We just wanted them to be free and skate, get the puck back on their sticks.”
He said the injured players (Weiss, Johan Franzen and Jakub Kindl) looked fine.
“It was that type of skate where all we wanted to do was get their feet under them, get some activity again, nothing really competitive or combative,” Renney said. “We’ll crank it up a little more tomorrow and see how they do.”
He expects a faster-paced workout on Thursday.
“Our guys who are coming back to join us (from the Olympics) are busy playing hockey,” Renney said. “They have to come back to a group of people that are mentally alert and aware and ready to play.”
And Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner (via RedWingsFeed) spoke with Ken Holland regarding the Wings' possible trade deadline plans just before the Olympics, sharing the details of that conversation today:
"We're trying to assess, we're trying to figure out what we're willing pay,"€ Holland told me about Detroit's approach to the trade deadline. "There's a little chatter on the trade front, not a lot because so many team are still in the race. I expect it will heat up after the Olympic break. From February 24 through March 5, I anticipate a lot of talk."
That talk from the Wings' perspective could depend on Datsyuk's health. Their Wings depth up front might allow them to cope without Zetterberg, but if Datsyuk is lost as well, the veteran forwards will have to step up their game considerably, which they haven't consistently done this season.
Yet, I just don't see the Wings getting a forward at the deadline. They're high on several of their youngsters and want to see them play under the pressure of trying to make the playoffs, and Holland's intention appears to be to shore up his blue line.
I wouldn't mind seeing the Wings add a net-front presence, but between seeing whether Stephen Weiss is a long-term fit, getting Johan Franzen back as a roaming winger/center and having witnessed the progress made by Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening, never mind Daniel Alfredsson's production and Darren Helm's ups and downs as he continues to slowly but surely regain a more consistent form, there's no doubt that the Wings have many more options up front (see also: Teemu Pulkkinen and Mitchell Callahan are putting pucks in the net with regularity in Grand Rapids, and we have yet to see Landon Ferraro, who's no longer waiver-exempt next season) if Zetterberg has to go on the LTIR.
"You're always looking to add depth on defense,"€ Holland said. "That's the reason we offered a mega deal to Ryan Suter. He's a difference-maker and a big-minute muncher. Those guys usually aren't available. We've got a lot of good pros on defense. We were fifth in goals-against last year. We haven't been as good this year, but we're getting better."
Bringing up Suter's name out of nowhere tells me that as much as Holland appreciates the play of his current defensemen, he knows it's not good enough.
Expect the Wings to push hard to make a trade for a veteran defenseman. As comfortable as Holland feels about his depth at forward -- even without Zetterberg and possibly Datsyuk -- he's well aware that the defense needs to be cleaned up or this season could become a disaster. Holland should be concerned.
There are a couple issues with this theory:
1. The Wings WILL NOT move their 1st round pick this year as all non-playoff-eligible teams enter the draft lottery, and the Wings can't take the chance of giving away a top-ten pick;
2. Players like Anthony Mantha, Sheahan, Jurco, Xavier Ouellet and Petr Mrazek are definitely untouchable, and they're also definitely the players other teams will inquire about;
3. A defenseman usually goes the other way, and the Wings aren't exactly deep in that regard. The team may have to cut ties with not only the outgoing Kyle Quincey, but also a Jakub Kindl or Brendan Smith to get the deal done;
3. The crop of unrestricted free agent defensemen available this summer aren't super-duper fantastic, but over the course of the team's post-salary cap history, the team's management--i.e. more than just Holland--has always preferred to add during the summer, when the salary cap usually goes up and players are generally available for the price of their contract.
My gut feeling has always been that we're witnessing a two-year rebuilding process that really was kicked in motion when the Wings didn't land Ryan Suter and had no back-up plans, and I've always believed that the Wings wouldn't fundamentally address its need for a top-pair defenseman until the offseason.
Given the Wings' cap and organizational situations, the fact that Adam Almquist is no longer waiver-exempt next season, given that Alexey Marchenko has at least temporarily leapfrogged Xavier Ouellet developmentally speaking, and given the fact that the return of a $71-ish-million cap will all yield...
Well, let's just say that I believe the Wings need to reassess their "depth chart" going forward over the next 1-3 seasons after both the big club and the defending Calder Cup-champion Grand Rapids Griffins wrap up their respective seasons...
And I also believe that this summer's not just going to be an, "Okay, we've made some mistakes over the past few seasons in terms of signing players and maybe we're going to buy out some of them" (see: cap compliance buy-out market changes everything, and for the record, I believe that the Wings will buy out Jordin Tootoo, not Johan Franzen) summer in terms of buy-outs, but I fully believe that the increasing cap might make teams more willing to finally make some trades.
Will the Wings try to "see out" the roster-rebuilding process by going with both "the kids" and the veterans they're kind of stuck with for the balance of this season? I believe so, and as such, I don't see the Wings doing anything at the deadline save perhaps adding a 4-to-6-spot defenseman on an expiring contract (i.e. a UFA-to-be) while sending a defenseman (Quincey? Kindl? Lashoff?) the other way, and then I believe that the Wings will more meaningfully address the team's long-term need for a top-pair defenseman and perhaps a little more scoring pluck up front this summer, depending on whether Daniel Alfredsson returns and whether Stephen Weiss can prove that he belongs in Detroit instead of being pawned off to another team as yet another UFA signing that didn't pan out.
The compllications that are having Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi on the roster for at least the balance of this season (the 23-man roster limit and cap issues don't disappear until the playoffs, and between March 5th and the end of the Griffins' playoff run, the Wings will only be able to make 4 non-roster-emergency call-ups) complicate the situation--yes, both can be waived, but Cleary's $1.75 million deal would provide minimal cap relief under the NHL's waiver rules and Bertuzzi's over-35 deal = about $100K in cap relief, and on top of all of that, the Wings have sent so many "veterans" to Grand Rapids in Emmerton, Tootoo and Samuelsson that they can't choke a team that already had 4 of the five limited "you can dress this many veteran players"-rule gents in Grand Rapids...
So Cleary and Bertuzzi are probably going to remain in Detroit this spring, too.
In retelling his story regarding Cleary's decision to remain in Detroit for at least one more season, the Saint John Telegram's Robin Short updates the, "He could'a gone to Philly" tale with this from Cleary regarding his status as a consistent healthy scratch of late:
It’s not the first time Babcock — who along with Holland was convinced to give Cleary a tryout way back in 2005 at the urging of his off-season workout partner, Mathieu Schneider — scratched Cleary. That happened back on Nov. 12.
“First time in, what, 10 years? It wasn’t an easy decision for Babs, but you have to be pro about it,” Cleary said. It sucks, no doubt about it. But when you play a long time, it’s hard to be consistently good.”
Cleary, of course, isn’t the only banged-up Red Wing. Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and newcomer Stephen Weiss have all missed considerable time.
“Like any other guy who’s been in the league a while,” Cleary says, “I’m starting to feel it in the mornings now, in different areas of the body. Yes, for sure, it takes a little while to get warmed up nowadays.”
Despite the fact it’s been a trying season, and the Red Wings are no longer the juggernaut they once were, Cleary still has the passion for the game.
“Oh yeah, for sure. I think the one thing for me is I really get amped come playoff time,” he said. “That’s where I really burn for it. After winning a Cup, you want to win so bad again and that’s why we all play. It’s been a trying season, personally. You’d like to score more, you’d like to be healthy. But we feel we have a good team once everybody is healthy and on board.”
For the moment, perhaps to the detriment of the Wings' roster flexibility, that includes Cleary and Bertuzzi.
Meanwhile, as the non-Olympians' practice wrapped up, MLive's Ansar Khan tossed off a few more Tweets...
Kindl said he suffered a sprained MCL vs. Vancouver on Feb. 3 and is still sore but he expects to be ready first game after break.
Wings are sending Sheahan, Emmerton, Pulkkinen and Almquist back to Grand Rapids, which plays three games in three days this weekend.
As did the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
Kindl has sprained knee but expects to be available next week
The Free Press's George Sipple...
Jakub Kindl said he suffered a sprained MCL in his last game. Still sore, but could be ready for first game after break.
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:
#RedWings will return Almquist, Emmerton, Pulkkinen and Sheahan to @griffinshockey this afternoon.
At the Olympics, the Red Wings' Olympic participants are going to be quite busy on Friday, with Daniel Alfredsson, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Gustav Nyquist and goalie caddy Jonas Gustavsson's Swedes battling the Finns, while Jimmy Howard's Americans tangle with Mike Babcock's Canadians...
And Alfredsson continues to bolster his case to be invited back. He's third on the team in scoring with 14 goals, 21 assists and 35 points registered over the course of 46 games played, the players praise the 41-year-old as a role model, the coaches rave about his leadership and status as a "playing coach," and despite his age, Alfredsson is speedy, maneuverable, he wins gritty battles for pucks in corners, his passing is still superb, he makes fine plays and he's got a wicked wrist shot.
The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Alfredsson, who's taking things a year at a time, and Teemu Selanne, who's in his last NHL season with the Ducks, are proving that "old men" can have a good old time playing in what is the 5th Olympics for Alfredsson and 6th for Selanne:
"He’s more childish than you think,” said Sweden defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, a fellow Red Wing. “He likes to go with pranks and he likes to be involved with kids’ card games and play video games. We play this card game, bluff poker, where you’re lying about things you have in your hands. He’s always involved in one of those. He’s got a lot more energy than you think for being 41.”
Selanne, 43, and Alfredsson have kept playing into middle age because they can. Selanne had a goal and an assist in Finland’s Wednesday quarterfinal dispatch of Russia, which earned him a day off from dealing with media today. He has four points total over four games, just as Alfredsson does. Their performances can’t not inspire teammates.
“The energy that they bring, the experience that they bring, the leadership that they bring — I don’t think you can put it in words, really,” said Sweden defenseman Niklas Kronwall, another Red Wing. “Both are first-class guys. Alfie is a great leader for us, always there for us. And Teemu — Teemu has been around for so long, but he looks like he’s 25. I got nothing nothing but respect for him.”
Sweden coach Par Marts suggested earlier in the tournament that Alfredsson should not be judged by his age but by his brain, saying Alfredsson is very young in that area. Finland coach Erkka Westerlund feels the same way about Selanne, a star forward for the Anaheim Ducks. “There is all the time positive atmosphere around him,” Westerlund said. “And it’s good for the team.”
Selanne and Alfredsson may not play hockey much longer — both are on one-year deals with their NHL teams —but the odds aren’t entirely against it. What else would they do?
“They have still have the urge to play, they still think it’s so much fun to play and be around hockey,” Ericsson said. “I think they feel, maybe, it’s tough with their bodies, but I don’t think they can stay away from it, to be honest.”
Alfredsson and Selanne are close in age, not companionship. They are friendly, if not friends. But now that their last Olympic meeting is so close, there’s regret it won’t continue. “I ran into Teemu on the bench the other day,” Alfredsson said, “and he greeted me with, ‘Hey, old man.’ I think we both realize how special these Olympics are.”
Alfredsson also told the Vancouver Province's Ed Willes found that Alfredsson believes that his team's got a solid-enough chance of capturing its second gold medal in 3 games (as the team also won Olympic gold in Turin in 2006) as something of an unsung team:
Daniel Alfredsson, Sweden's resident archivist, was asked if there's anything about the 2014 team that reminds him of the '06 champions.
"Yes and no," said Alfredsson. "I think every tournament takes on its own life. There are upsets and things happen. But in '06, we had a good feeling and we have a good feeling now."
Even if they're flying into the semis under the radar? "Please," said Alfredsson, "keep it that way."
Wednesday, in the first of four quarter-final matches in the men's draw, Sweden subdued the Cinderella Slovenians with an efficient, professional effort, blowing a tight game open with four thirdperiod goals, including one from a slump-ridden Daniel Sedin.
To date, more has been written about Canadian defenceman P.K. Subban not playing than Swedish blueliner Erik Karlsson playing - and Karlsson might be the best player in the tournament. But here are the Swedes in the final four, where they'll meet their archrivals from Finland in the semifinal round.
"I think we're going in the right direction," said Sedin. "Our first game was probably our worst game and this game was probably our best game. That's a good sign. If you look at the international game now, everyone plays really good defensively and Finland is the top team defensively. It's going to be tough."
I'm a proud American, but at the Olympics, I'm more Red Wings fan than Red, White and Blue, so I'm rooting for Sweden this time around.
Weiss is still recovering from sport hernia surgery on Dec. 23. He expects to be cleared prior to Wednesday’s game in Montreal.
“I don’t know about specific games, I just know that we were shooting for after the break to be ready to be available to play,” Weiss said. “So that’s obviously going to be up to the coaches whether or not they put me in the lineup but that’s still the plan: to be ready and available for those first couple of games back.”
Weiss will play Sunday in Grand Rapids when the Griffins host the Milwaukee Admirals.
And so is Riley Sheahan:
Pleiness also confirmed Johan Franzen's status...
The Wings return to action Wednesday at Montreal.
“Definitely,” Franzen said when asked if he plans to return against the Canadiens. “If everything goes smoothly, yeah, I’m planning to be there.”
But Franzen’s growing concern is this is becoming a reoccurring thing.
“It’s always going to be in the back of my head that it might come back because it did the last time,” Franzen said. “(I’ll) just got to go out there and try and see what happens.”
And the Free Press's George Sipple updated Jakub Kindl's status:
Kindl revealed today that he suffered a sprained MCL in his knee in his last game, against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 3.
“Still a little sore, but getting better,” Kindl said. “Hopefully, I can be ready” when the Wings return to action at Montreal on Wednesday.
Kindl said it still hurts when he tries to turn.
“I think he’s doing fine,” associate coach Tom Renney said today. “Obviously, you watch how he’s doing with his pivots and sort of misdirection, if you will, in terms of puck retrieval, those types of things. He’s doing fine. I don’t think we’ve done anything to, sort of, exacerbate the problem. He would tell us if that was the case, and we have not heard from him along those lines. So I think everything’s fine.”
Renney said he wasn’t sure when some of the Wings who are no longer playing in the Olympics will return. The Wings have Friday off before practicing Saturday and Sunday.
Update #2: MLive's Ansar Khan also penned a practice report:
Kindl missed the final two games before the break due to a sprained medial collateral ligament suffered in a 1-0 shootout victory over Vancouver on Feb. 3.
“I’ve been skating the last three days or so; still a little sore but getting better so hopefully I’m going to be ready for next week when we play the first game,” Kindl said. “It’s still not 100 percent; it kind of hurts when I try to turn and pivot.”
The Red Wings said Henrik Zetterberg was flying back to Detroit today to have his back (herniated disc) further evaluated. It hasn’t been determined if Zetterberg needs surgery right away or whether it can be postponed until after the season.
Zetterberg, Sweden’s captain, withdrew from the Olympics on Friday due to back pain.
Pavel Datsyuk, whose Russian team lost to Finland Wednesday in the quarterfinals, will get some time off and join the team for practice on Tuesday.
Update #3: DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson filed a practice article:
As the Red Wings resumed practice this week, forward Johan Franzen and center Stephen Weiss weren’t the only two working to return from injuries. Defenseman Jakub Kindl, who missed Detroit’s final two games leading up to the Olympic break with a sprained MCL, hopes he’ll be ready to return to the Wings’ lineup when the league recommences play next week.
“I’ve been skating the last I don’t know, the last three days or so, but still a little sore but getting better,” said Kindl, who wore a wrap around his right knee during Thursday’s practice. “So hopefully I’m going to be ready for next week whenever we play the first game.”
Kindl suffered the injury in Detroit’s 2-0 victory over Vancouver on Feb. 3, which caused him to miss the team’s next two games against Florida and Tampa Bay. An MRI revealed the MCL sprain, but the defenseman couldn’t pinpoint exactly when it occurred.
“There’s things that happen outside that you don’t even know and the next thing you know they get injuries,” Kindl said. “Somebody bump into me and that’s all I remember.”
While he’s still continuing to recover from the injury, Kindl is targeting his return for Detroit’s trip to Canada when the team will face two Atlantic Division foes on back-to-back nights. The Wings play Montreal on Feb. 26 and Ottawa the following evening to wrap up a six-game February schedule.
“I think so, yeah, but it’s still not 100%,” Kindl said of returning for the trip to the north. “It kind of hurts when I try to turn and stuff and pivoting so hoping to be ready for next week.”
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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.