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The Malik Report

Red Wings-Maple Leafs live blog redux: die-hards and revenge

The Red Wings hopped on Red Bird III and flew to Toronto for tonight’s marquee match-up against the Leafs (at 7 PM EDT on the CBC, CBC Sports online in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S.); hopefully someone will toss up a link to a stream to those who need it) going with what we’ll politely call the “B Team” against a due to a combination of injuries—Pavel Datsyuk (back), Mike Commodore (knee) and Danny Cleary (upper-body something) and Jan Mursak (ankle, out till January-ish) are sidelined—and the fact that the Wings inexplicably cap off their pre-season slate with a three-games-in-three-nights grind.

I know that as the Tigers and Yankees play tonight and tomorrow, the turn-out for the live blog will be minimal, but that’s OK: this is the pre-season after all…

But between the fact that, according to TSN, Clarke MacArthur was suspended for dinging Justin Abdeklader in the head (and just like you, I’m confused as all hell get out as to how the Wings can swap the suspended Brendan Smith for Brent Raedeke, who was called up this afternoon despite the fact that Smith has to come up sometime to sit out 5 NHL games), the fact that the Leafs are going to ice what the Leafs’ website suggests is a mystery line-up that’s near regular-season quality, the fact that the Wings admitted to their press corps that they were pissed off at themselves for a characteristically slow start, mediocre goaltending and poor special teams play, the fact that it’s more or less the last chance for Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson and Cory Emmerton to impress and the ever-persistent glare of the Toronto media, who are already stirring up bad blood between Ian White and Ron Wilson and basically will lord a Leafs sweep of the Wings, even in the pre-season, over the rest of the league as proof positive that the Leafs are Cup-bound—trust me, they’ve done it before…

And we end up with an extremely dense paragraph from a rusty blogger and a very intriguing match-up for those of you who are willing to either flip channels or dare not watch the Tigers game tonight. For the record, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, here’s tonight’s Wings lineup...

FORWARDS

Fabian Brunnstrom-Cory Emmerton-Jiri Hudler
Justin Abdelkader-Darren Helm-Drew Miller
Chris Conner-Ryan Johnson-Patrick Eaves
Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Landon Ferraro

DEFENSEMEN

Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson-Jakub Kindl
Garnet Exelby-Brian Lashoff

GOALIES

Ty Conklin
Joey MacDonald

And as I’ve been a strong proponent of “red is better than blue” since the, “Blue is for boys and pink is for girls” line during my kidhood, never mind witnessing the Leafs beat the Red Wings in the 1993 playoffs all of seven rows behind the Wings’ bench (I truly despise the Leafs), I’ll mention that while Leafs coach and general weirdo Ron Wilson grew up around the Wings’ locker room thanks to his uncle Johnny (who spoke to the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons about his career), little Ronnie grew up hating Gordie Howe and rooting for the Leafs. I can’t be Ian White, who preferred to say little to the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger about playing for Wilson instead of something rude because this match-up is a bitter one, at least in my slowly self-straightening head, so indulge me here, okay? wink

In any case, the Toronto Sun’s Bob Mitchell suggests that an NHL-ready Leafs lineup will play its “final exam” game in front of a raucous crowd and international media spotlight while the b-team tries to salvage some pride and players like Conner, Tatar (cue the “underwhelming pre-season” alarm), Exelby, Lashoff and the fantastic Andersson-Ferraro tandem attempt to establish a call-up pecking order, all while assistant coaches Bill Peters and Jeff Blashill continue to work on eliminating those naggingly persistent defensive coverage and special teams problems which have plagued the Wings for the past two years.

As I suggested last night, there are also larger-picture issues at play, and they don’t involve the fact that White’s finally wearing a matching pair of Easton gloves or Jimmy Howard’s decision to ditch those flat-faced Vaughn Vision pads for his classic “Iceberg” look:

1. At first glance, anyway, it looks like playing alongside Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm will give Todd Bertuzzi the every-game level of interest necessary to harness his physical panache, Valtteri Filppula certainly seems to have been freed from his self-imposed defensive shackles by switching to a winger for Henrik Zetterberg and another player with something to prove in terms of consistent offensive production in Johan Franzen, and regardless of whether Danny Cleary or Tomas Holmstrom plays alongside Pavel Datsyuk, they’re both going to put up points if they stay healthy, so at this point, either Jiri Hudler salvages his game from out of the Detroit River or Patrick Eaves takes his place instead and finally reclaims his status as a two-way performer…

But the Wings have always been at their best both offensively, defensively and on special teams when they can roll four lines, and with Tomas Holmstrom’s place in the lineup secure, Drew Miller, Cory Emmerton and Fabian Brunnstrom are clearly fighting for two spots, and especially as the forechecking dynamo and future Eaves-Helm hybrid (Helm’s held back during the pre-season and may have hurt his case for ice time in going at 80%, by the way) Jan Mursak is out until January, the Wings will need to figure out whether their forechecking game requires reinforcement via trade in the form of either a Dallas Drake-type player or the big body I’m still convinced they need to keep up with the Western Conference’s bigger, meaner teams, or whether a little more offensive balance via Babcock’s tweaks and high levels of grit and grind from the fourth-liners can do the job.

2. While Jimmy Howard very clearly needs to continue working on rebound control and consistency with his mentor in Chris Osgood and a netminding partner who looks rock solid thus far in Ty Conklin, sooner or later, the Wings’ goaltending is going to be just fine, so it’s very clear that once again, porous defensive play and the power play’s disturbingly habitual tendency to disappear when the Wings need it to score the most are the issues that will separate the team from the combination of strong defensive performances and superb special-teams play on the PK and PP especially that can lift the team into contention for the Western Conference crown as well as the Central Division title, and as of yet, Babcock’s new assistants have yet to display any sort of ability to break the Wings’ cycle—pun intended—of allowing teams to set up their own cycling game down low and thread passes to the slot, back door or blueline for easy goals—while losing the first faceoff and chasing one-and-done scoring chances back down into their own end during power play attempts.

It also bears mentioning that while Joey MacDonald fights for his right to play out next year’s one-way contract on the Wings’ roster, the team also has to figure out whether it’s going to tab Thomas McCollum or Jordan Pearce as their goaltender of the future while Petr Mrazek knocks on the door from the OHL, but that’s an ancillary issue as we’re talking about the fact that the team’s NHL netminders need a hand….

3. In that same prospect-centric vein, while Gustav Nyquist’s distinguished himself as a first-order sniper-in-the-making who might torture opponents on the Wings’ cycle, perhaps alongside the equally fearless Tomas Tatar down the line, Joakim Andersson’s been better defensively than Jonathan Ericsson (so is uber-grinder Brent Raedeke) and Landon Ferraro’s offered glimpses of both blinding speed and tenacity, while Chris Conner’s proven himself as the kind of call-up who can make a difference on the scoresheet, we can at least say that if Ryan Johnson’s willing to go down to Grand Rapids to reclaim his game, Brendan Smith’s clearly shown that in terms of both positioning and decision-making, he’s not quite ready for prime time, the physical Garnet Exelby and plain old steady Doug Janik are clearly limited to #6/7 roles at the NHL level and there’s a mass of prospects that has had barely any chance to distinguish itself via opportunities to play regularly in Travis Ehrhardt, Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee, Logan Pyett (perhaps the surprise of the bunch), McCollum and Pearce and players like Andrej Nestrasil, Trevor Parkes and Mitchell Callahan never got the chance to do so…

4. We still don’t have an answer as to whether the team plans on grooming a replacement for Tomas Holmstrom….

5. And, and most importantly, while Ian White’s going to fit in nicely as Nicklas Lidstrom’s partner and the Kronwall-Stuart reunion gives Kronwall license to roam and Stuart a request to stop pressing offensively and just play his game instead, the third pairing is a puzzle at best, with Ericsson continuing to commit defensive errors as a stronger Jakub Kindl finally shows flashes of his former status as a first-round pick and potential PP quarterback in the making, and Mike Commodore has at least proven that he can keep up and play a rock-steady game while keeping the flies off…

It’s one thing to worry about whether the Wings need a fourth-line forechecking grinder, whether the team can reverse its habitually poor defensive play and ineptitude on the power play and whether Howard can finally eliminate those bad-rebound and “squeaker” goals; the biggest question for the Wings going forward involves whether White, Kronwall and a third pairing of Ericsson and either Kindl or Commodore can collectively step up and fill Brian Rafalski’s skates in terms of both offensive production and puck-moving savvy. At least based upon pre-season observations, it looks like the Wings may have to go out and pay, if not overpay, for a top-four defenseman who can move the puck to truly regain its form as a team built upon a tungsten carbide-strong foundation of puck-moving defenseman, and that’s got to be Ken Holland’s biggest concern heading into the regular season. Everywhere else, we can see very concrete signs that things will eventually work out, but Rafalski’s decision to retire was one we knew the team couldn’t address via free agency, and the team’s current blueliners’ collective ability to fill his void may be even more pivotal to the team’s playoff future than the systemic issues which Peters and Blashill must address.

So with a rust-shaking shudder I’m turning the live blog over to you. Enjoy the game, fellow die-hards!

Edit/update: I don’t want to harangue you with personal details, but I’m doing my best to get back to abnormal here. I dunno whether I can reach my goal of being back on the job by the time the regular season starts, but I’m gonna do my best to catch up on a full month’s worth of stories to read and regain some physical endurance after a long fight because a) I miss you and am still floored by your support; b) I miss doing my job; and c) If I am to purchase the hot rod laptop I need to do my job properly for the next three years, I’ve gotta go back to work as this one’s gonna be “donated” to the aunt. Mostly, I miss doing my job and talking with all of you, but if I am to head to Toledo and Grand Rapids a few times, learn how to interview prospects via Skype and plain old pay the bills, going back to earning a living helps, too.

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Comments

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MsRedWinger's avatar

I don’t mean to harp on Ericsson or Hudler unnecessarily—I really do want them both to rebound and succeed and I feel that way about every player (I don’t understand the concept of rooting against someone who plays for your favorite team)—but they are exhibiting tendencies that have become, shall we say, endemic to their respective repertoires.

My favorite comment of the night, George.

Hey, we only gave up 2 goals tonight!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 10/01/11 at 10:47 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Shots in the 3rd 5-4 Detroit, 26-22 Detroit overall.

The Wings went 3-for-6 in 7:26 of PP time and the Leafs went 1-for-4 in 4:38;

Conklin stopped 20 of 22; Reimer stopped 22 of 26;

HNIC’s 3 stars were Liles, Eaves and Helm, in ascending order.

Faceoffs 35-27 Toronto (44% won by Detroit) as Mike Zigomanis went 19-and-3 for Toronto;

Blocked shots 20-14 Detroit;

Missed shots 11-8 Toronto (total attempts 55-48 Toronto);

Hits 28-24 Detroit;

Giveaways 12-9 Toronto;

Takeaways 8-5 Toronto.

Helm had 9 shots, 2 hits, a takeaway and he went 11-and-9 in the faceoff circle.

That’s a solid outing by the Wings, and now they’ll board Red Bird III to head home for tomorrow afternoon’s game against Pittsburgh…

I’m guessing that the boys will get Monday off from practice after the three-in-three, and between tonight and noon on Monday, Kenny Holland, Jim Nill and the coaches will decide whether to sign Brunnstrom and/or Johnson and/or send them down to GR, they’ll waive who they need to waive and they’ll pare down the roster to regular-season strength.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 10:50 PM ET

DocF's avatar

George, you have nailed a number of issues tonight.

First, Ericsson must keep his stick on the ice.  I realize he has only been playing defense for less than 5 years, but that is fundamental and I knew that I had to keep my stick on the ice when I was maybe 8.  He looks like he is in panic mode again, like he was much of last year.  He will be good, but perhaps he needs to be playing elsewhere.

The knock on Exelby has always been that he lacks hockey sense.  The is Phaneuf’s problem too.  If Phaneuf was named Bill Jones, he would be playing as a spare part.

I think the call up order will be Nyquist (he will be playing as a regular before the season is over), then Tatar, then Andersson.  Andersson, just shows a great deal of talent, but he still has major defensive weaknesses.

Conklin looks better than he has in maybe 8-9 years.  He is holding on to the puck, which he never did in his last stint in Detroit.  He will give up soft goals, but who doesn’t?  None of the guys around now are Terry Sawchuck. 

All in all, our scrubs looked very good against the falling Leafs.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 10/01/11 at 10:52 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Didn’t know you did gametime blogs. It was fun following along here…

I don’t usually do ‘em, but may reconsider it. I’m trying to mount a comeback push and I need to warm up in terms of writing so I figured I’d give it a try, especially as most everybody else is watching the Tigers.

George, you have nailed a number of issues tonight.

First, Ericsson must keep his stick on the ice.  I realize he has only been playing defense for less than 5 years, but that is fundamental and I knew that I had to keep my stick on the ice when I was maybe 8.  He looks like he is in panic mode again, like he was much of last year.  He will be good, but perhaps he needs to be playing elsewhere.

The knock on Exelby has always been that he lacks hockey sense.  The is Phaneuf’s problem too.  If Phaneuf was named Bill Jones, he would be playing as a spare part.

I think the call up order will be Nyquist (he will be playing as a regular before the season is over), then Tatar, then Andersson.  Andersson, just shows a great deal of talent, but he still has major defensive weaknesses.

Conklin looks better than he has in maybe 8-9 years.  He is holding on to the puck, which he never did in his last stint in Detroit.  He will give up soft goals, but who doesn’t?  None of the guys around now are Terry Sawchuck.

All in all, our scrubs looked very good against the falling Leafs.

With Ericsson, I dunno…I knew I wasn’t doing my job at any position if there wasn’t any wear on the heel of my blade after the game, and I wasn’t ever a particularly talented player (or goalie), but I knew that the blade had to be down on the ice as much as humanly possible, and Ericsson keeps his high and seems to reach very far to get passes instead of skating that extra stride to receive the puck in his “wheelhouse.”

If we’re going to the extreme of extremes, I’ll suggest that if he completely goes into the septic tank, the Wings could try him up front to see whether he can bump and grind at all. I get the feeling he’ll do better but those fundamental errors…are disconcerting.

Exelby’s indeed a bit of a meathead, and Phaneuf…well, Phaneuf’s just so gifted as an athlete that he can make up for the fact that he’s about as subtle as Brian Burke.

Nyquist has all but jumped Tatar in the call-up department, and Tatar seemed to understand as much tonight. He went to the net harder and was better and stronger down low. I never thought I’d say this, but it seems as if Tatar needs to work on his skating, because he’s a great player in straight lines, but his stocky frame tends to spin out when he has to make rapid changes in direction.

Andersson’s got lots to improve upon, but between his size and the fact that he’s at least a superb 3rd-line center in the AHL bode well for his future. He was able to keep up with the fleet-footed Ferraro, and that speaks very strongly for a gent who’s bordering on 6’4.”

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Conklin’s play during the preseason and I hope he can keep it going during the regular season. At present, it doesn’t look like the Wings will have to worry about a drop-off in goaltending with Osgood having succumbed to the injury bug too regularly over the past two seasons, mostly because Conklin’s evolved as a goalie and seems to be driven to stop bouncing around. He’s got a now-proven performer in Joey MacDonald and two players fighting for their futures as Red Wings in Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce nipping at his heels, too, so there’s more motivation than simply leaving the moving truck behind, especially given that he’s 35.

If he doesn’t impress this season and/or the Wings don’t re-sign him for said reason, he could find himself like Manny Legace, heading off to Europe, and Conklin seems to understand that. In terms of a player working his ass off to impress the Wings’ brass, Conklin’s been better than Nyquist, Ferraro, Andersson and Smith combined.

I hate the Leafs, I truly do, so I think a little revenge was in order, especially with the Leafs’ press salivating over the team as they do on Saturday nights. I hope that the Leafs remain the Detroit Lions—prior to this season—of hockey for a long, long time. but I hold grudges. wink

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:16 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I will try to keep as much to myself as possible now save Twitter/Facebook updates, but I will tell you this: three days ago, I didn’t have the energy to do this kind of thing. In terms of getting back to abnormal after a month on the brain chemistry IR, this was a big step forward.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:40 PM ET

Avatar

Here we go again…will this moronic blogger ever do a write-up without mentioning his busted laptop or brain issues?  It really is getting tiring.

Posted by Eric on 10/01/11 at 11:49 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Just for you, every time, every single time, I promise.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:51 PM ET

RedMenace's avatar

George, I know you have a serious problem with Hudler, but Brunnstrom has played 4 games whereas Hudler has played 2 this preseason.  Just sayin’.

Otherwise, not that anyone cares, but here’s what I thought of some of the “fringe” players (and other stuff):

I thought the CBC game crew was pretty bad… I mean, I know it’s a Canadian crew and the Leafs, but come on. Brunnstrom soft? What the hell do you expect him to do when people are lining him up for big hits? He popped back up and kept going every time… that’s not soft.
Besides, his offensive talents make up for any perceived lack of toughness he may have, and he’s more than likely getting a contract whether people like him or not.

Exelby isn’t good enough to play for the Wings, even as a call-up; him bringing a “physical” game is useless if he’s almost always out of position.

Ericsson was pretty brutal handling the puck tonight, and otherwise didn’t do anything worthwhile—I hope for his (and the Wings’) sake, he’s just playing like this because it’s preseason. Even though Commodore is out for up to 3 weeks, I’d rather have him in the lineup with Kindl over Ericsson at this point.

Lashoff looked pretty solid, apart from a couple of giveaways—of course, he had to cover for Exelby being crappy so there is that.  Besides, he’s at least as good as Exelby, and definitely has potential… hopefully he can work himself into the top-4 in Grand Rapids this season and get his game on track.

Ferraro looked pretty good tonight. Andersson was mostly unnoticeable, as was Tatar with the exception of his goal (which was a great setup from Eaves). Conner’s very much a tweener for me, but he definitely brings some speed and energy to the fourth line. Johnson, again, should be released, since he doesn’t bring anything to the team that they don’t already have in spades.

Conklin was pretty damned good tonight, and is definitely a more-than-capable backup. He’s positionally sound and tracks the puck well, and should be able to keep the Wings in any game he plays.

Overall, a pretty good game from the boys tonight taking on an almost-full lineup from the Leafs. Tomorrow against the Penguins should be interesting.

Posted by RedMenace from the Church of Jesus Lashoff on 10/01/11 at 11:53 PM ET

RedMenace's avatar

Here we go again…will this moronic blogger ever do a write-up without mentioning his busted laptop or brain issues?  It really is getting tiring.

Posted by Eric on 10/01/11 at 10:49 PM ET

Then why do you bother reading, let alone commenting?  Do you think you’re being clever or something?  Do you think you’d do a better job?

Crawl back in your cave, troll.

Posted by RedMenace from the Church of Jesus Lashoff on 10/01/11 at 11:54 PM ET

Avatar

I’m here to read about hockey not some never ending saga about laptop problems or someone’s mental health issues.  neverthless, why the eff are you calling me a troll?  are your feelings hurt because I stated my viewpoint? boo hoo.

Posted by Eric on 10/02/11 at 12:03 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I still think that Exelby’s here as a thank-you to Curt Fraser, who adores the guy from their time in Atlanta. He’s definitely at best a depth call-up at this point, but in the AHL, dressing three guys who can doff ‘em like Janik, Exelby and Amadio can and making sure that you’ve got 3 vets to mentor and/or push Lashoff, Ehrhardt, Smith, Piche, Fournier, Pyett and Rufenach for ice time.

If the Griffins were solely a developmental team and didn’t have to worry about selling tickets, winning regularly or, quite frankly, dealing with the goons and lunkheads of the AHL, they could just have Janik and let the kids roam as they wish, but they’re going to be overbuilt to succeed just like the Wings (Piche, Fournier and Rufenach will likely start the season in the ECHL, as will Pearce or McCollum, and especially if Aubry really has been assigned to the Griffins for good, they’ll send a forward or three to Toledo, too), and there’s nothing like giving Fraser an Exelby as cherry on top of the AHL-only-signed Amadio and Minard to give Griffins the kind of toughness they need to stick it out and the veteran presence needed to push the team’s youngsters.

Hudler got stronger as the game went on, and he’s definitely looking sharper, much sharper, in terms of his intensity and attention to detail, and I’m thrilled about that, and the Brunnstrom stuff…was typical. It’s not a Wings-Leafs broadcast unless the CBC picks on SOMEbody, especially with Don Cherry being absent, as “too soft.”

Conner fits perfectly into the call-up category as someone who can come up and contribute but might be better suited to the AHL; Andersson has a ways to go and Tatar’s taken a step back, no doubt.

And trolls are trolls. I can give him half a Klonopin and he’ll mellow out.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/02/11 at 12:09 AM ET

RedMenace's avatar

I’m here to read about hockey not some never ending saga about laptop problems or someone’s mental health issues.  neverthless, why the eff are you calling me a troll?  are your feelings hurt because I stated my viewpoint? boo hoo.

Posted by Eric on 10/01/11 at 11:03 PM ET

You know how George writes, and this is his blog; you don’t have to read it, and there are plenty of other blogs on this site.  You’re a troll because you came here specifically to talk shit about the person writing the blog, offering nothing constructive in the mean-time.  You don’t have to read it, and those of us who’ve actually met George and, you know, respect him as a person shouldn’t have to deal with assclowns who think they’re clever.

That a good enough explanation for you, Slappy?

Posted by RedMenace from the Church of Jesus Lashoff on 10/02/11 at 12:11 AM ET

Avatar

I’m sure he is a nice guy as you say but the point is he goes on an on about broken laptops and his broken brain.  and what’s with “slappy”?  should i take that as some implied precursor to internet violence?

Posted by Eric on 10/02/11 at 12:24 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

When one makes appearances only to suggest that certain minor mentions are completely untenable, and one chooses not to contribute to the discussion in any other substantive manner, one has a tough row to hoe.

I respect your opinion, I realize that you are not the only one who harbors it and believe me, I know that the details I’ve shared and am currently sharing are not the kinds of details that are conducive to purely hockey-based discussion. I certainly hope to pare them down to the point that they become the exception to the rule and I wish to burden neither you nor anyone else with them, Eric, but right now, I have to let my readers know what’s up until I’m back up and running.

If you don’t like what you’re reading, I’m sorry, but there’s a responsibility involved in engaging in a month-plus-long absence from a very explicitly reader-supported blog for any reason, and I would rather make you uncomfortable and keep my audience appraised of the situation than I would to say nothing at all.

If such details render this blog completely unreadable for you, one never likes to lose a reader, but there are other Wings blogs which are excellent in terms of their coverage and never involve discussion of the author’s mental, physical or technological states, and I highly recommend all of them to you for your perusal and enjoyment.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/02/11 at 12:26 AM ET

Avatar

Thanks for the explanation Malik.  I’m reading your hockey blog only because you are one of the better writers here…for the most part.

Posted by Eric on 10/02/11 at 12:34 AM ET

RedMenace's avatar

Posted by Eric on 10/01/11 at 11:24 PM ET

Again, then why read it—and more to the point, make pointless comments?

The term “Slappy” refers to a person who is of low intelligence, and I used it because your comment was stupid.  I don’t know, you seem to be the “internet tough guy” here with the “boo-hoo” remark, should my fingers be quaking on the keyboard in fear of my online safety?

Rest assured, they’re not.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 11:09 PM ET

Meh, I never made the Exelby/Fraser connection, which is why they pay you the (big?) bucks.  As long as he stays in Grand Rapids, I don’t care if he stays in the system—I just don’t want him in Detroit.  The Wings don’t need a “scrapper” and he doesn’t bring anything else to the table.

Regarding Hudler, you’re right, it’s like he flipped a switch sometime in the second period and decided to try to do more.  I think (well hope, at least) a lot of people will be pleased with his game this season.

I’m done feeding the troll.  I know you can take care of yourself, but it annoys me when people are stupid on the Internet (which is why I’m annoyed a LOT).

Posted by RedMenace from the Church of Jesus Lashoff on 10/02/11 at 12:34 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

I dunno whether the Wings will keep [Brunnstrom] up here or ask him to go down to GR for a spell and just stick with Emmerton as the 13th/14th forward and let Smith serve his suspension. It wouldn’t be a bad thing…

Just as an FYI, Smith has already been sent down to the Griffins. It’s clear the Wings will deal with his call-up and subsequent suspension sometime during the season.

As for Brunnstrom, regardless of his less-than-spectacular performance tonight, he’s going to be the 14th forward when the season starts. Holland alluded to that in an interview with Kahn(!) that appeared in the G.R. Press. And I think that’s a very good thing for the Wings – the only positive that came out of Mursak’s horrible injury.

Having said that, I sure wish there was room in the line-up for Conner. That lil’ S.O.B. impresses me now as much as he pissed me off when he was a Penguin. He’s fast. He’s tenacious. And he’s a versatile role player.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 10/02/11 at 01:12 AM ET

Avatar

I guess the questions I have, unable to see the game, based on the above:

1. Can Brunnstrom improve more by practicing with the NHL’ers and occasionally playing or full time in GR? Are we assuming he can’t get through waivers realistically then? Can you pull someone off of waivers in the NHL after another team tries to claim a player?
2. Is Ericsson just trying too hard, or is the implication that his problems are stubborn habits that will be hard to fix?
3. When the defensive zone coverage is still an issue, how much of that is scheme/coaching and how much of it is the players? Hoping they have a better year defensively, but I guess the hope is that the new coaches eventually get this figured out and the players respond by 1/4-1/3 of the way into the season, if not soon.
4. So, do we potentially have enough toughness then with Commodore, Abdelkader, and co. to get through until at least the trade deadline?

No-one has to answer these questions, but I throw them out there.

Posted by Bugsy on 10/02/11 at 01:36 AM ET

Osrt's avatar

For the record, Ericsson, Stuart and Kronwall have the “A’s” on tonight.

Posted by George Malik

Just saw the highlights but Helm should have an “A” tattooed on his chest. Life-long Wing and he showed it again tonight. 10 shots according to the announcer dude.

Thanks for the great coverage, George.

Posted by Bugsy

Question 2: Yes, JonnyE is playing anxious, hesitant and trying to earn his self-esteem again. Gramps predicts he will get steady and prove to be a wise Holland signing. I agree. (and hope desperately)

Quest 3: New coaches in a new league dealing with a new pace. You’re right, I think. They’ll get it figured out by mid-season. Yes, that means 40 games of shite.

Q 4: Toughness has never been a Wing problem. They fight through dirty teams, players and match anyone hit for hit in the playoffs. Also, Tuzzi eats kitten ovaries. So, we have that going for us.

Posted by Osrt on 10/02/11 at 02:55 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Just as an FYI, Smith has already been sent down to the Griffins. It’s clear the Wings will deal with his call-up and subsequent suspension sometime during the season.

As for Brunnstrom, regardless of his less-than-spectacular performance tonight, he’s going to be the 14th forward when the season starts. Holland alluded to that in an interview with Kahn(!) that appeared in the G.R. Press. And I think that’s a very good thing for the Wings – the only positive that came out of Mursak’s horrible injury.

Having said that, I sure wish there was room in the line-up for Conner. That lil’ S.O.B. impresses me now as much as he pissed me off when he was a Penguin. He’s fast. He’s tenacious. And he’s a versatile role player.

I really don’t know how KH got away with that…As soon as Smith got the major I thought, “S***, there goes a roster spot we needed,” but then I’d read that he’d been sent down so I’m guessing that there’s a clause somewhere regarding players suspended in the preseason.

Regarding Brunnstrom, I think that the consensus seems to be that he could clear waivers and head down to GR for a spell—more like it’s highly likely that he would clear waivers—but it’s up to the Wings whether they want to essentially bring him in like Jakub Kindl, who had to practice his way onto the team and then go from there (and may very well have to do the same this season when Commodore returns). I’m fine with either one, but the Wings’ front office knows better than I do and is paid to make hard decisions.

Ericsson’s problems most certainly persist and they persist due to heistancy and a general unwillingness to keep things simple.

I’m at the point where I think the same thing you do regarding the defensive game-it’s gonna be a work in progress and it’s gonna take a while to get up to what we expect it could, should and will be down the line.

As for the toughness issue, I do think that having Commodore willing to doff the mitts and Bertuzzi playing with more grind since he hit, well, Ryan Johnson and didn’t get suspended for it yields enough to get by. As to whether the Wings will need to add another big body down the line to play against what are always bigger and tougher opponents who deliberately target the Wings’ skilled players during the playoffs, I don’t have that answer. That’s gonna play out over the course of the season as well, and much of that depends on whether Jan Mursak returns and provides the kind of forechecking-as-a-deterrent presence that Helm does.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/02/11 at 07:29 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Ericsson outplayed Brad Stuart last night. He used the body well, poke-checked effectively, and even managed to steal the puck back on two of his mistakes.

He didn’t play $3.25M worth of hockey last night, but it was a good start.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/02/11 at 11:56 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

Thanks for the play-by-play George. I’ve been unable to watch games lately so it made it like a tape delay experience the next day.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 10/02/11 at 01:13 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Regarding Brunnstrom, I think that the consensus seems to be that he could clear waivers and head down to GR for a spell—more like it’s highly likely that he would clear waivers…

I just don’t see it happening after the way he’s played in the preseason. At least one team out there will see his value as a third-line/fourth-line guy. The only way I think he could clear is if the Wings sign him to a two-way tcontract that pays him something above $1.5M per year at the NHL level.

In the Kahn(!) article, Holland said they have a monetary amount agreed to with Brunnstrom if they decide to sign him. So, everything (including his play) points to them wanting to keep him. And I really don’t think they’d risk losing him just to get Smith’s suspension over with now.

But we’ll know soon because Holland said he’d make his decision by Monday or even sooner.

P.S. Glad you’re feeling better, George. We’ve missed you.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 10/02/11 at 03:45 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I thought that Stuart had the kind of game somebody who’s trying to play through an injury would have—a middling one. He made some big positional mistakes and his mobility wasn’t great, but his groin was probably a little sore.

The frustration with Ericsson always stems from the fact that he offers fans a combination of plays in which it’s clear that he’s making progress and is simply finally fundamentally sound and a slate of doofy mistakes that can make you forget the clear illustrations of progress made.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/02/11 at 05:18 PM ET

Avatar

Love the tungsten reference.

Posted by carter from USA on 10/07/11 at 08:32 PM 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.