The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/01/13 at 01:34 PM ET
Updated 4x at 2:11 PM: I believe we can call this "sticker shock"...
And in this instance, waiver shock:
As Paul noted, MLive's Ansar Khan's feature story of the day involves the steps forward taken by the Wings' defense, and Khan and Savage made their Stanley Cup Finalist and Cup picks as well (both picking Detroit to lose in the Eastern Conference Final)...
"When you're dealing with younger players there's always a concern they have an off year or take a little bit of a step back,'' Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Sometimes they've had a good year and they get a little comfortable, complacent and all the sudden things start to happen fast, and once it gets spiraling in the wrong direction it's hard to turn it around.''
Holland is confident that won't be the case with this group – “We're not talking about 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds. Our players are a little older, a little more experienced, a little more mature.''
DeKeyser and Lashoff are 23, Smith is 24 and Kindl 26. They have combined for 237 games. The rest of the unit still is in its prime – Niklas Kronwall, 32, and Jonathan Ericsson, 29, formed a strong top pairing and Kyle Quincey, 28, was better than he showed the previous season.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard's strong performance was the main reason the Red Wings finished fifth in the league in goals against. The forwards' commitment to defense helped. And the young defense can take some credit, too.
“Those were world-class players we lost,'' captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It was a transition period. Everyone was talking that we didn’t have a good enough defense, but in the end we had a really solid defense and played our way into the playoffs. They did a good job in the postseason, too.''
“You look at the younger guys nowadays, early 20s they're good to go,'' Kronwall said. “They got a good background and good structure, they're well-trained and in good shape. They're ready for it and they want more and more.''
“You heard about (DeKeyser), how big he was and how smooth a skater and passer he was,'' Kronwall said. “But I think him coming in, it was sort of like 'What are we going to get?' He stepped in and played tremendously. I remember after the first game saying, 'Wow, this kid's legit.' Smitty, same way, he stepped right in and started playing big minutes. He really grew as a player throughout the year. Kindl had probably his best year as a professional.''
The CBC's Elliote Friedman, Tim Wharnsby and Mike Brophy made their Cup picks (not Detroit), and of Yahoo Sports' experts, only Nick Cotsonika's picking the Wings to win the Atlantic, and the Fourth Period's David Brown makes this pick in his Wings preview...
5th in East, 3rd in Atlantic
Detroit's veterans will have to stay healthy this season for them to reach their full potential. Their new conference is filled with offensively gifted teams. Their old conference was accustomed to losing to the Red Wings for so many years. Now they have to bring that aura to the East.
The Wings had their biggest summer splash in years as they look to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since they lost their rematch to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo...
And back in Detroit...
MLive's Khan penned an article about Tatar's status as needing to climb his way back up the depth chart while practice was underway...
“I’m the youngest guy in the locker room,'' Tatar said. “I know the chance is coming, so I just have to wait for a spot and when it’s open just grab it and hold it.''
Injuries are inevitable and players will experience slumps. So chance are Tatar won't be sitting for long.
“Especially when we get another forward here (Daniel Cleary), it starts to get a little shaky for everybody,'' Tatar said. “So everybody has to battle and it was a huge battle for spots, I mean, obviously, I’m happy that I made it here, now it’s chance for another step, a challenge for me to get in the lineup for everyday.”
Tatar played well during an 18-game stint with the Red Wings last season, picking up four goals and three assists before being sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins, replaced by Gustav Nyquist (who was assigned to Grand Rapids on Monday). Tatar excelled in the AHL, winning playoff MVP honors as the Griffins captured the Calder Cup. He had 16 goals and 21 points in 24 playoff games. He carried that confidence over into training camp and the preseason.
“It was a lots of games in a short time, so it was really hard, but every day you can learn something here in the Red Wings locker room,'' Tatar said. “I hope that I can pick up something from here and obviously it’s been an experience for me playing in lots of exhibition games and it’s going to give me more confidence. Now the season starts and so we have to focus on that. Obviously, you can do better every time; you can’t be happy with yourself, but I think I did pretty good and I did what I wanted to do. I battled hard and I wouldn’t have made it here, it wouldn’t have happened. Now I have to wait for the right chance.”
While I was typing the translation of Bodin's article, the Wings' practice concluded:
“Probably the most eventful, uneventful 36 hours ever,” Emmerton said after practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “To end up here, I mean, seemed like a lot was going on, but nothing really was, so it was obviously pretty stressful, but I think I’ve become a stronger person, player for just going through something like that. You really don’t wish that upon anyone, but it was a little adversity and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Emmerton, 25, was brought back on the team after it was decided to place Patrick Eaves on long-term injured reserve.
“There wasn’t any cap space, so they had to figure out a way to either work with what they had or find a way to clear up some more money,” Emmerton said. “Originally, I didn’t know if (Eaves) was going to go on it, so you’re going to have to go to Grand Rapids. So I was just kind of hanging out and then I got a call a few hours later saying that they had switched and put Patty on (LTIR) and they told me to stick around.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock said Emmerton will center Drew Miller and Mikael Samuelsson on the fourth line Wednesday.
“He’s another guy that has to grab his piece if you don’t want to play in the minors,” Babcock said. “You have to grab your piece.”
The Wings also sent Gustav Nyquist to Grand Rapids to begin the season, as well as placing Jordin Tootoo and Jonas Gustavsson on short-term injured reserve to help free up roster spots.
“You know, everyone knows what’s going on here,” Emmerton said. “There’s too many players, no cap space, so something’s got to give. Maybe it was a little bit surprising just for the fact that we’re already down a centerman, but other than that they’re trying to figure out what to do here. I couldn’t have told you either way whether I expected it or not.”
Update: Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji's season preview article involves the Wings' move to the Eastern Conference...
"We're going to do less traveling," defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "I think everyone in here is really excited about it, playing some new teams, too. I think that's really good for all the fans. Good for us, too, because it's not that fun to play the same team over and over and over again. I think everyone's looking forward to it."
The immediate future...
"We got a big game on Wednesday (vs. Buffalo at Joe Louis Arena)," he said. "Most important game is the one you're playing. We talk about it every single year. We're gonna have 82 of those days this year. Let's get after it and see where we're at."
There's some belief that the Wings will have a hard time adjusting to the Eastern Conference because those teams play a more physical style. Or do they?
"It’s tough to compare," said Daniel Alfredsson, who spent his entire career with the Ottawa Senators before coming to Detroit. "A lot of people think the East is more physical, and I thought the West was more physical. So I don’t know what’s true. It’s pretty even then, I guess. This team will do well in the East. It’s way better travel schedule, puck possession, a different style and a lot of teams haven’t seen them as much. Hopefully, especially early on when people haven’t scouted us as much, we can take advantage of that."
The additions of Weiss and Alfredsson...
"We knew they were great players," Ericsson said. "Alfredsson's going to be huge for us on the power play. He's been showing that in the preseason games, how well he plays in those situations. Weiss also brings great depth to us. He's a leader on the ice when he's out there. He's always working hard, and he's got some really good skills, too. They're great additions. That's exactly what we need."
And the bottom line:
"We want to compete for the division, we want to make the playoffs," Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "It's a parity league, and I don't know that there's many teams dramatically better than any other teams. There's so many teams that are so close. You know, with 10 games to go in the season, it's going to be a race for the division, a race to make the playoffs, a race for home ice. We want to be in the thick of those races."
Update #2: If you wish to read about the Red Wings' "Hockeytown Thanks" tour, Kyle Kujawa provides an in-depth article about the Wings visits' to corporate partners.
Update #3: Emmerton's apparently the "story of the day," because the Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with and about him...
The Wings pegged Emmerton as expendable during the weekend, exposing him on waivers, where another team could have put in a claim by noon Monday. When Emmerton went untouched, plans were to send him to the minors. Then, late in the afternoon, forward Patrick Eaves called general manager Ken Holland. Eaves said his sprained knee will keep him out at least three more weeks, making him eligible for long-term injured reserve. That created salary cap room to keep Emmerton in Detroit — but who knows for how long?
"He's going to be better this year than he was last year because he's stronger, and yet he's another guy — grab your piece," coach Mike Babcock said. "You don't want to play in the minors, you've got to grab your piece."
Emmerton said he doesn't think about the fact that he could be sent down at any moment, because what's the point? "I just want to play hockey," he said. "That's my focus. The rest of it will take care of itself. So long as you do what you can, personally, stuff has a way of figuring itself out."
For now, at least, Emmerton has a job centering Drew Miller and Mikael Samuelsson. That position could become precarious if Darren Helm shows signs of a comeback over the next three weeks. He, too, will start the season on LTIR. The Wings had an excess of three forwards heading into Monday's deadline to cut the roster to 23 and solved it by putting Helm and Eaves on LTIR and sending Gustav Nyquist, who didn't need to clear waivers, to the minors. Being put on waivers Sunday "was a little surprising," Emmerton said, "just for the fact that we were down a centerman, but they were trying to figure out what to do."
Waiting to find out whether another team had interest wasn't easy. It can be demoralizing to discover not one of 29 teams wanted him, but at the same time, Emmerton knew the Wings were happy to keep him within the organization.
"I was torn, because you could end up anywhere, and you don't know the situation,” he said. “It could have been good or bad. But I'm happy to be here."
As did the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"Everyone knew what was going on; there's too many players and no cap space -- something had to give," Emmerton said. "Maybe it was a little surprising just for the fact we're already down a centerman. I couldn't have told you either way if it was expecting it or not."
Once Emmerton cleared waivers, he was glad to be returning to the Red Wings.
"They made it pretty clear to me they really wanted me to clear and stay here and be part of this," Emmerton said.
When Eaves needed more time to recover from a sprained ankle and knee, the decision was made to bring back Emmerton, who is anxious to stay in the NHL.
"I worked even harder this summer to be ready and I have an opportunity to prove I can be -- should be -- on this team and help the team," Emmerton said. "It's up to me, and how I play, and it starts (Wednesday). I want to play hockey, that's the only mindset I have. I've done everything I could to improve myself to become a better player and more useful, and now it's just time to show it."
And MLive's Ansar Khan reports that Pavel Datsyuk was in fine form today:
“Right now I'm like oldest player on the team,'' Datsyuk said.
Not quite. Datsyuk is 35, still younger than Daniel Alfredsson, 40; Todd Bertuzzi, 38; and Mikael Samuelsson, 36.
“Some days it hit me, but I don't want to start thinking about age,'' Datsyuk said. “I'm thinking about how I change my card (driver's license?) to be younger. I'm sitting around two young guys (Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm) to keep me younger.''
Datsyuk isn't showing any signs of age. He still is one of the best two-way players in the NHL, someone whose skills and wizardry with the puck make him a nightmare for the opposition.
This is a particularly exciting season for him. He was encouraged by the team's strong finish last season, taking the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to overtime in Game 7 of the second round before losing. He believes the additions of Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss give the club more depth and scoring ability.
“It's a little bit similar team, we just changed a few players, not much change but now we're a little bit more offensive,'' Datsyuk said. “I'm looking forward to start new season.''
He is looking forward to dazzling a new set of opponents in the Eastern Conference and playing in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And he's eagerly anticipating the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where he might even be named captain of the home team.
“This is why season is so exciting, too many important things,'' Datsyuk said. “We need to prepare for a long season. It'll be interesting season, lots of fun.''
And Khan continues...
Update #4: Among Sportsnet's Luke Fox's 13 "Top NHL storylines":
9. Let’s take it outside (not a fighting reference): The cold-air Winter Classic has been such a success — in terms of spectacle and finances — that, for the first time, the league will hold a six-pack of outdoor games in 2013-14: the Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan; the Heritage Classic in Vancouver; plus four Stadium Series contests, two at New York’s Yankee Stadium and one apiece at L.A.’s Dodger Stadium and Chicago’s Soldier Field. Will the novelty wear off, or is this the new normal? Hot tip: Invest in toque stock.
Juicy subplot: Who will emerge as the Bryzgalov-esque star of 24/7? The Leafs’ Joffrey Lupul says Phaneuf is one to watch, while the early favourite out of Detroit is Pavel Datsyuk.
And the Wings received no conference or Cup finalist votes or individual award votes from SI's panel of experts, and SI's Eli Bernstein suggests that the Red Wings will be the "biggest disappointment":
Detroit Red Wings. Welcome to the East, Detroit. Signing Daniel Alfredsson won't do much to alleviate a scoring drop-off outside of Detroit's other established stars. While the Red Wings' defense was stingy last season, it lacks a top-shelf blueliner besides Niklas Kronwall, which could prove problematic for netminder Jimmy Howard during a full 82-game campaign. The Wings might make the playoffs, but don't expect their championship pedigree to dazzle their new conferencemates.
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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.