The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/03/13 at 11:23 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings boarded Red Bird III and headed to Phoenix after a team-signature "spirited but brief" practice at Joe Louis Arena, preparing for back-to-back games against the Coyotes on Thursday and Avs on Friday.
The only people taking connecting flights to Phoenix to join the team were Brian Lashoff, who the team recallled after he played in the Grand Rapids Griffins' 5-1 win over Houston, and GM Ken Holland.
The Wings signed goalie Jared Coreau and, per Ansar Khan, demoted Joakim Andersson, Danny DeKeyser and Gustav Nyquist to Grand Rapids "on paper" so that the trio were eligible to play for the Griffins in the AHL playoffs if necessary, but other than that, the team made no trade deadline additions, and both Wings coach Mike Babcock and Holland told the Free Press's Helene St. James that they were okay with not making a move:
Or, in text form, from St. James...
"There were a couple of players we had interest in," general manager Ken Holland said. "Didn't get it done. We made offers. At the end of the day, maybe somebody likes somebody else's players better."
Players in whom the Wings had interest, such as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, and by whom they were intrigued, such as Jaromir Jagr, went for way above what the Wings deemed reasonable -- Bouwmeester, especially. The St. Louis Blues gave a first-round pick to Calgary in return for Bouwmeester, and the Wings weren't relinquishing that for anybody. Not this year, not after using their 2012 first-rounder to acquire Kyle Quincey.
"We haven't had a top-10 pick since 1993," Holland said. "We traded eight or nine first-round picks from 1995 to 2003. Those players are in the NHL. They were picked by somebody, and those players are in the NHL. Since '05, for the most part, we've tried to be conservative. I think it's part of the reason why we've got some younger players on the roster, some younger players coming through the system."
Holland was only looking to add an impact skater, such as Bouwmeester or Jagr, who went from Dallas to Boston.
"We didn't need depth players," he said. "We've got lots of depth. We've got lots of kids we think can come up and play. We were looking for a top-four D-man; we were looking for a top-six forward. Ultimately, we didn't get it done."
Part of what influenced the Wings was the belief that no trade could be better than getting back even just some of their players currently injured: forwards Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson, and Quincey.
"Hopefully, we get some of our injured players back," Holland said. "In the meantime, there's been real good opportunity for our kids. I think they've done a good job."
The Wings liked a number of players dealt before the deadline, including forwards Jaromir Jagr and Jason Pominville and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. They made what they felt were good offers, but the players were dealt elsewhere – Jagr to Boston; Pominville to Minnesota and Bouwmeester to St. Louis.
“That’s not my call,” Holland said when asked if he felt they were close on any of them. “That’s someone else making that decision. We made offers to two or three players. We didn’t need depth players. We have lots of depth. We have kids that we think can come up and play. We were looking for a top four (defenseman). We were looking for a top six forward. Ultimately we didn’t get it done, but someone else makes those decisions.”
Detroit didn’t have any interest in Marian Gaborik, who was dealt by the New York Rangers to Columbus. Gaborik will make $7.5 million next season.
“When you really analyze those trades and put it to Detroit, we were making those trades six or seven years ago and other teams weren’t making those trades,” Holland said. “You’ve got to look at your moment in time and find out if the trade fits, do you have the assets, is it worth it? We’re trying to compete. We’re on the bubble. Would I have liked to do a deal? Yeah, I would have liked to do a deal. We made some offers, but we weren’t looking for anything for depth. We would have liked to have put an extra top six forward or an extra top (four) defenseman. When you look at what transpired, you can figure out who we would have had some interest in, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get it done for a whole host of reasons.”
The Wings are banking on getting their injured players back and the further development of their prospects, who have filled in and have them in a playoff spot heading into play Wednesday.
“From a depth standpoint, we have young kids that have played,” Holland said. “We’re going to go with the kids. If we need forwards, Riley Sheahan deserves a chance, Landon Ferraro, we’ve got Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner, certainly on defense with the signing of Danny DeKeyser and the play of (Brian) Lashoff and (Jakub) Kindl we think the young kids could be real good depth players for us.”
One thing Detroit was unwilling to part with was a first-round draft pick.
“We haven’t had a top 10 pick since 1993,” Holland said. “We traded eight or nine first round picks from 1995 to 2003; those players are in the NHL. They were picked by other teams and they’re playing in the NHL. I think since ’05 for the most part we’ve tried to be conservative and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve got some young players on the roster and some others coming through the system.”
“We played (Monday) and there wasn’t (Henrik) Zetterberg, Samuelsson, Bertuzzi, Helm, (Kyle) Quincey,'' Holland said. “If we can get those five guys in the lineup (within) two weeks, I couldn’t do any better moves than (that). And if they don’t come back, it probably doesn’t matter what moves you make.''
“We’re trying to compete, we’re trying to rebuild, reload,'' Holland said. “You look at the moment in time. I can’t look at the moment in time. I have to look at what we’ve got and where I think we can go over the next few years, the age of the roster, who’s going to be here for a while.''
“You need your players,'' Holland said. “We’re happy with Jakub Kindl, we’re happy with Brian Lashoff, we’re happy with Brendan Smith. We’re happy with the way the kids have played. We don’t want to trade them away.''
Young players have improved the organization's depth.
“If we need forwards, Riley Sheahan deserves a chance, Landon Ferraro, we’ve got Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner, certainly on defense with the signing of Danny DeKeyser and the play of Lashoff and Kindl we think the young kids could be real good depth players for us.''
Chicago and Anaheim have separated from the pack in the Western Conference. The Red Wings, currently seventh with 41 points, are just three points behind No. 3 Minnesota. But, they're also just four points up on 11th place Columbus.
“We’re trying to compete. We’re on the bubble,'' Holland said. “Would I have liked to do a deal? Yeah, I would have liked to do a deal.''
“Getting some guys back, some new, fresh blood in, that’s the same as getting a player from another team,'' captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think we have a good squad in here and looking forward to the postseason. All of those (playoff) teams can go all of the way, especially on the Western side. You’ve got to make the playoffs, and when the playoffs start everyone starts over.”
Said general manager Ken Holland: “The regular season, it’s meaningful in the sense that you need to be in the top eight. But I think when the playoffs start, you can throw all the statistics in the garbage.''
Goaltender Jimmy Howard said the team is “sitting good. There's a lot of areas in our game where I think we can get better -- not turning pucks over and maybe having that focus a little better, but we're working at it and every day we've gotten a little better,'' Howard said. “We haven't even had a full game with everyone playing, so I think just getting some guys back healthy would be a great addition for us.''
Babcock said he has seen much improvement and expects better things.
“I’ve been really impressed with our leadership, Hank and Pav (Datsyuk) and Kronner (Niklas Kronwall) have really been awesome,'' Babcock said. “I think Mule (Johan Franzen) has really stepped up in that department, which is important for us.''
Injuries have forced them to rely more on younger players like defenseman Brian Lashoff and forward Joakim Andersson, who've played a majority of the games, and as well as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, who've been back and forth from Grand Rapids.
“This year has been invigorating for me because there are so many kids and every day there are so many projects,'' Babcock said. “There’s way more individual video, way more meetings to help kids get better quickly. Our strength coach (Pete Renzetti) has done a fantastic job this year and it’s all been a part of us getting better.''
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"Absolutely, 100 percent," said Babcock, when asked if he'd be comfortable with his roster going forward. "I've never felt like we were going to do anything (trades), to be honest with you. I kind of like what we have going and the direction we're going. We think we have kids that are really coming and we're trying to figure out which are the best kids to help us be successful. We have a few more kids in the minors — in particular (center Riley) Sheahan — I'd like to take a look at as well, and we're just going to keep doing what we can as players and coaches."
Forward Henrik Zetterberg (groin) said he's expecting to play Thursday night in Phoenix after missing two games.
Defenseman Kyle Quincey (fractured cheekbone) is tentatively scheduled to play Friday in Colorado, Babcock said. Forwards Todd Bertuzzi (back, could return in a week) and Mikael Samuelsson (upper body, day to day) are expected to return soon. They've played in 11 games combined this season.
"All year we've had so many injuries, and getting some guys back, that's new bodies, new fresh blood and the same as getting players from other teams," Zetterberg said. "We have a good squad in here and looking forward to the playoffs."
As for his own physical condition, Zetterberg completed the entire practice Wednesday.
"I'm feeling better; it was nice to be skating again," said Zetterberg, who was optimistic he'll play Thursday. "We had a couple of good days of treatment and hoping to feel good today and that was achieved."
And in the slightly panicky variety, Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner, who essentially says what Holland said to Khan--THIS...IS...REBUILDING, Red Wings style!
The Wings aren't in a position to give up on any young players, draft picks or unproven prospects because their current roster needs an overhaul.
Since most teams are locking up their star players to long-term deals, free agency will not be the elixir for the Wings or anybody else, either. In short, the NHL has morphed into a league where the draft is the way to build your team’s foundation for success.
The Wings were successful in drafting some diamonds in the rough in the past, but those days are long gone. The talent pool is spread out all over the league because of advances in scouting and the salary cap. Worse yet for the Wings, their best players are either getting old, still refining their NHL games (i.e. Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist) or developing in various leagues throughout the world.
Smith and Nyquist aren't going anywhere, and they're likely the players most teams would demand if the Wings wanted to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal. That's why they're in rebuild mode. The NHL is a league of parity now.
There are some teams that have a stockpile of talent or a slew of draft picks and can circumvent the system to a point; however, most of those teams (i.e. Chicago and Pittsburgh) bottomed out at some point, drafted high and hired terrific front-office personnel.
The Wings have been on an amazing run for so long, they were able sustain their excellence only through deep pockets, astute drafting and a winning tradition -- which attracted star veterans who wanted one last kick at the championship can.
Today, the Wings need to hold onto their young talent and hope they're the bedrock of a solid foundation -- one that will maintain their standing as a playoff team.
I know that Yahoo Sports' Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski gave the Wings an "F" in his trade deadline report card feature.
But I've been saying that this is as close to a rebuilding year as Wings will ever subject fans who they charge $135-185+ to sit on the glass at Joe Louis Arena are ever going to see, and I've been saying that since it was evident that the injuries to the players the Wings hoped would smooth the post-Nicklas Lidstrom transitional year through veteran savvy--i.e. Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jonas Gustavsson, and of course Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm--resulted in a blueline by committee (Colaiacovo's return = 2 blueliners out of 9 who are over 30) and two thirds of a third line's worth of Grand Rapids Griffins call-ups on an almost-every-other-night basis.
At some point during this season, the Wings' coaches and management decided to see what the "kids" have before hoping to convert their cap space going into this summer--especially given the fact that players like Ian White, Colaiacovo, Samuelsson, Danny Cleary and even Drew Miller, Cory Emmerton and maybe Patrick Eaves have become somewhat redundant--into finding the top-pair defenseman and top-six forward with size and goal-scoring ability they need when teams have to buy out players to get under this summer's lowering salary cap.
Do I agree with the team's decision?
Not necessarily. I sure as hell would've liked to at least see a Drew Stafford on the wing or a Mark Streit on defense. But I don't run the team, and as the Windsor Star's Bob Duff so wisely noted on Twitter:
No, not at all.
I don't know what's going to happen to Valtteri Filppula, but he told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he wants to stay with the Wings, too. If he wants $5 million, however, the Wings will ship his rights to someone else at the Entry Draft.
Otherwise, Duff suggests that Wings fans who want to march on Holland's house in the northwestern Metro Detroit suburbs with pitchforks and torches are a little off the mark...
Ken Holland owns more Stanley Cup rings that any other current NHL general manager. Yet today, many among the most spoiled fan base in hockey believe him to be a fool. In truth, he’s simply not a man interested in fool’s gold.
“Would I have liked to do a deal? Yeah, I would have liked to do a deal,” Holland said as the NHL trade deadline concluded without Detroit dealing. “We made offers on two or three players. We would have liked to have put an extra top six forward or an extra top four defenceman into our lineup. When you look at what transpired, you can figure out who we would have had some interest in, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get it done for a whole host of reasons.”
After mentioning those trades...
“When you really analyze those trades and put it to Detroit, you’ve got to look at your moment in time and find out if the trade fits, do you have the assets, is it worth it?” Holland explained.
Back when the Wings didn’t think twice about shipping a prospect or a first-round pick away, it was because players such as Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom were in the prime of their careers. Holland doesn’t have that luxury now. Pavel Datsyuk is 35 and hinting he might return to Russia in 20o14 when his contract expires. Captain Henrik Zetterberg is 33.
Last season, Holland knew Lidstrom was going and Brad Stuart was gone after the season, so he spent a first rounder on Kyle Quincey to bolster what was about to become a thin blue-line. Holland doesn’t want to become a Colorado or Edmonton, once-mighty franchises that sunk to the bottom of the standings. He recognizes that Detroit fans wouldn’t stand for that.
“We’re trying to compete, we’re trying to rebuild, reload, whatever you want to talk about it,” Holland said, seemingly speaking directly to the fans. "You look at the moment in time. I can’t look at the moment in time. I have to look at what we’ve got and where I think we can go over the next few years.”
Five regulars – Zetterberg, Quincey, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson – were out of the lineup Monday when Detroit beat Colorado.
“If we can get those five guys in the lineup in two weeks, I couldn’t do any better moves than getting those five guys back,” Holland said. “And if they don’t come back, it probably doesn’t matter what moves you make.”
Holland could have sold the farm in pursuit of the elusive dream, and in a few years’ time when Detroit was a bottom feeder, the same people calling for his head today for not making a deal would be calling for his head due to the deals that he’d done.
As Mike Babcock likes to say, "That's the facts."
It doesn't mean that you have to like what the Wings didn't do--you can despise the team's lack of moves, that's fine, there are no points off your Red Wings fandom for faith with doubts or the belief that blind faith is a dangerous thing.
You don't have to agree with or like the Wings' coaches or management to love your team. Dissent is part of the bargain, and Babcock and the coaches and Holland and the management--remember, we're talking about a team consisting of Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, Mark Howe, Kirk Maltby and the pro scouts, Joe McDonnell, Hakan Andersson and the amateur scouts, Jiri Fischer, Chris Chelios, Chris Osgood, Jim Bedard, Babcock, Bill Peters, Tom Renney and Keith McKittrick, and on the ownership front, input from Jimmy Devellano, Chris Ilitch and Mr. I himself--all have jobs whose descriptions involve accepting that you might be pissed off at their off-ice and on-ice decisions.
So, as Holland told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, "We're going to go with the kids":
Are you surprised to still be in the playoff hunt despite the number of injuries this season?
“I’m not like all the media is. I think our players are better than what people give them credit for. I think that our goaltending has been real good. We had a bad outing against Chicago, but up until then we were eighth in the league in goals against. I think now we’re 10th or 11th. Anytime you’re in the top third of the league when we’ve got a lot of kids on defense and a lot of injuries up front. But we’ve got some good stories up front.
“Hopefully we get some of our injured players back. In the meantime, there’s been real opportunity for our kids and I think they’ve done a good job.
“Tomas Tatar was only really sent down because we wanted to give Gustav Nyquist a chance. He had seven points in 18 games. You start putting that over 80 games and you get 30-35 points. The best rookies don’t do a whole lot more than 30-35 points. Gustav Nyquist has led the American League in scoring. We could go out and acquire some veterans, but these kids need to play. They are the elite players in the American Hockey League.”
Are you worried about what other teams did?
“Not at all. You have to look over the last 10 years at what teams have got. The age of their best players. The position they are (in) for the next five or six years. We’re trying to compete, we’re trying to rebuild, reload, whatever you want to talk about it. You look at the moment in time. I can’t look at the moment in time. I have to look at what we’ve got and where I think we can go over the next few years. The age of the rosters? Who’s going to be here for a while? And at the end of the day, we think, we hope. … We played the other day and there wasn’t (Henrik) Zetterberg, there wasn’t (Mikael) Samuelsson, there wasn’t (Todd) Bertuzzi, there wasn’t (Darren) Helm, there wasn’t (Kyle) Quincey. If we can get those five guys in the lineup in two weeks, I couldn’t do any better moves than getting those five guys back in the lineup. And if they don’t come back, it probably doesn’t matter what moves you make. You need your players. We think they’re going to come back. I think that, Mike Babcock thinks that. We’re happy with Jakub Kindl, we’re happy with Brian Lashoff, we’re happy with Brendan Smith. We’re happy with the way the kids have played. We don’t want to trade them away.”
Is it tougher to find a fit with all of the parity in the league?
“I don’t know about that. There were 8-9 trades today. There was 15-17 over the last few days. There were four or five big ones, but you have to really analyze them. When you really analyze those trades and you put it to Detroit, we were making those trades six or seven years ago. Other teams weren’t making those trades. You’ve got to look at your moment in time and find out if the trade fits, do you have the assets, is it worth it? We’re trying to compete. We’re on the bubble. Would I have liked to do a deal? Yeah, I would have liked to do a deal. We made some offers, but again we weren’t looking for anything for depth. We don’t need depth defensemen. I traded Kent Huskins away. We don’t need any depth forwards. We would have liked to have put an extra top six forward and an extra top four defenseman. When you look at what transpired, you can figure out who we would have had some interest in, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get it done for a whole host of reasons.”
Can you talk about the state of the Western Conference and how two teams really have separated themselves?
“The regular-season means nothing to me. If the regular-season meant anything, we would have beaten Edmonton in 2006. I think we were 30-35 points ahead of Edmonton in 2006 with 126 points. We were the first seed, Edmonton was the eighth seed, they got a hot goalie and they knocked us out. I’ve watched both ends of the spectrum. I think the regular-season, it’s meaningful in the sense that you need to be in the top eight. But I think when the playoffs start on the first of May, I think you can throw all the statistics out in the garbage. That’s what history says since 2005. I look at it today, we’re three points out of opening at home and we’re four points out of not being part of the tournament. We’re right in the middle. We’ve got 12 games to go, seven on the road. We’ve got to win some hockey games.”
The Wings are 18-13-and-5--essentially .500--going into a 3-games-in-4-nights slate against Phoenix, Colorado and then St. Louis.
The team will receive three days off after Sunday's matinee game against the Blues, will host the Sharks on Thursday the 11th, and then head on the road, playing at Chicago on Friday the 12th, at Nashville on Sunday the 14th, at Calgary on Wednesday the 17th and at Vancouver on Saturday the 20th.
Then the Wings head home for a rough-and-tumble last week of the schedule, hosting Phoenix on the 22nd, hosting LA on the 24th and Nashville on the 25th, and, if all goes well, the team will head into its final game on Saturday the 27th knowing that it will play on into May, with a 1st round series slated to start on Tuesday, April 30th or Wednesday, May 1st.
I'm hoping that the Wings tangle with the Ducks, because the Ducks have proved beatable, and the Hawks can't lose at the Joe, and I plain old want the Wings to avoid the Canucks if at all possible due to travel. All of that assumes a 5-6-7-8 finish, and as the Hawks are running away with the Central Division, the Wings can't finish higher than 4th in the West.
So it is.
You don't have to like it, but this is a rebuilding year.
As the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa wisely noted, it might not be the only one:
I don't believe in tearing down the machine, and from every conversation I've had with Wings management, they don't, either. They worry that a full tear-down could mean making bad drafting decisions (see: Patrik Stefan) or players not developing due to other circumstances (see: the Mark Bell-Tyler Arnason-Kyle Calder era in Chicago), and they don't want to take your money and deliver an absolutely dreadful product, in no small part due to the fact that Metro Detroit is awash in hockey programs that offer bang for the buck (see: the Whalers, Spitfires, Wolverines, the U.S. National Team Development Program, Little Caesars, Belle Tire, Detroit Honeybaked and Compuware's youth programs, etc.) and, in many instances, more player access (cough).
But this is the Red Wings' version of rebuilding, and the Wings' coaches and management believe that they'll see the process through and emerge with a stronger--and younger, bigger and slightly nastier but no less skilled--organization as a result.
You and I don't have to like it, but we're gonna have to find a way to live with it, and if at all possible, make peace with it.
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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.