The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/14/11 at 06:13 AM ET
As reported on Monday afternoon, the Red Wings will officially have to replace two assistant coaches as the Ottawa Senators have hired Paul MacLean as their head coach.
According to both the Ottawa Citizen’s Allen Panzeri and the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, MacLean may be introduced as the Sens’ coach today with one or both of his assistant coaches in place, and one of Garrioch’s favorite conversation partners, a “league source,” had this to say about MacLean and his surprisingly long resume:
“Paul MacLean deserves the chance,” said a league executive Monday. “He’s paid his dues. He’s won at every level. Now, it’s time to find out whether he can coach at this level. He’s won everywhere — including as an assistant. He’s very knowledgeable and he’s very well respected,” added another league executive. He took his time before looking for a head coaching job. He’ll be able to relate to the players. I’m not sure whether he can be the hard guy, but this is probably what they need right now: A teacher and a more patient guy.”
MacLean has difficult tasks ahead of him…
For the Senators to get back on track, MacLean needs to get star centre Jason Spezza and defenceman Erik Karlsson to buy into the program.
Spezza, the club’s highest-paid player, played more of a role under Clouston last season, but has been inconsistent. Karlsson took a step back after a tremendous rookie season and needs to be a top performer every night.
The other player MacLean must get producing is veteran defenceman Sergei Gonchar. Signed to a three-year, $16.5-million deal, he had a horrible first year in Ottawa.
“If MacLean can go in there, get Spezza going, get Karlsson going and get Gonchar back to playing the way he’s capable of playing, then they’re going to have a good team and they’ve got a chance,” said the league executive. “It’s a lot like the Tampa Bay situation that Guy Boucher went into last year. They’ve got some young defencemen coming in (with Jared Cowan, David Rundblad and Patrick Wiercioch). If you can get Spezza playing the way he can, it can turn around quickly. The league is so close: You can miss the playoffs one year and be right back on top the next year. You just don’t know.”
Former Senators goalie Patrick Lalime, among others, gave MacLean big thumbs-up praise while speaking to the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan, recalling his days with the Kansas City Blades…
“I totally enjoyed working for him in Kansas City. I think he was awesome for me,” Lalime said Monday from Buffalo of MacLean, who this week will be introduced as the ninth bench boss in the Senators’ modern history. “In the minors, you don’t have a goalie coach. I played a lot when I was down there. He played me all the time. It’s a good feeling when a coach has confidence in you.”
MacLean’s success with the Senators will depend largely on the team’s goaltending. He’d probably not even be here right now if Pascal Leclaire wasn’t injury prone or had Craig Anderson been obtained in October rather than February. In either scenario, especially the latter, the Senators might have made the playoffs and Cory Clouston could still be coach. Will MacLean be able to get the best out of Anderson? It will be a key to next season. Lalime says MacLean knows how to treat goalies. And the other players, too, for that matter.
“It was 13 years ago, but I thought he was a good players’ coach, the kind of guy who respected the job you are doing,” said Lalime. “If you do what you’re supposed to do, you get the ice time. He’s an honest coach, he’s easy to talk to. All the guys loved playing for him. We didn’t have a great team, but every day he made it fun to go to the rink. It was an awesome year. I loved it.”
Maclean was interviewed for at least one other NHL coaching vacancy, but most believed he was at or near the top of Bryan Murray’s list from the outset. He meets the GM’s criteria.
“He’s a great man and a good teacher,” said one Western Conference executive. “He’s a good hire.”
Still untried as a head coach at the NHL level, however. And because of that, there have to be question marks.
“I know Paul as a person, he’s a great guy,” said one coach. “As a coach, how will he be? I have absolutely no clue. I don’t think he (shows) too much emotion. It’s going to be interesting. Now that he’s the big boss, I think his real colours will come out.”
Assistant coaches are all but off-limits to the media in Detroit unless they feel like talking to the press (see: Todd McLellan), so MacLean’s tenure with Mike Babcock was something of an anonymous one, but from what I understand, his status as a “nice guy” belies the fact that he can be equally gruff and demanding, and that he’s a take-no-bull coach.
As for where the Red Wings go from here, the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline suggested in a Twitter post that one of Mike Babcock’s closest coaching pals, Ken Hitchcok, is in the running for one of the Wings’ vacant assistant coach’s positions, and the facts that the Dallas Stars are set to promote their AHL affiliate’s coach and that the Minnesota Wild will probably hire Craig MacTavish help the Wings in terms of looking for assistant coaches, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggests:
The Wings last month also parted ways with assistant coach Brad McCrimmon, who has become a head coach in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Babcock has chatted with several possible replacements for McCrimmon the past few weeks, but many candidates first want to see whether they have a shot at a head coaching job. Dallas, Minnesota and New Jersey are looking for head coaches, and Winnipeg is exploring the possibility of replacing Craig Ramsay.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan both surveyed the coaching vacancies left unfilled and tossed out a few candidates to replace MacLean and McCrimmon…
With MacLean taking over in Ottawa, there remain jobs in Dallas, New Jersey and Minnesota, with Winnipeg (formerly Atlanta) also expected to be looking for a new coach.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he and Babcock have begun the process of identifying and interviewing candidates to replace MacLean and McCrimmon. And, they believe there is a talented list of candidates available.
Former Plymouth Whalers coach Pete DeBoer, fired after two seasons as coach of the Panthers, is presumed to be a candidate. Also, former Windsor Spitfires coach Bob Boughner is expected to be considered. While at Windsor, Boughner coached the Spitfires to consecutive Memorial Cup titles.
Former Wild coach Todd Richards also is a candidate.
And just as the Wings are particularly interested in Boughner, RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau, on her Left Wing Lock blog, points out that the Wings’ chief amateur scout, Joe McDonnell, is both based in Kitchener, where DeBoer used to coach the Kitchener Rangers and prospects Evan McGrath and Jakub Kindl:
According to multiple sources, Peter DeBoer is a leading candidate to land one of the two assistant coaching positions available with the Red Wings. Detroit is now expecting to have two assistant coaching vacancies once the Ottawa Senators announce Paul MacLean as their next head coach.
Despite his difficulties the last three seasons with the Florida Panthers (103 wins / 107 losses), there is no denying DeBoer’s coaching ability. Before getting a chance at the NHL level, he spent twelve years coaching in the Ontario Hockey League split between the Plymouth Whalers and the Kitchener Rangers. He coached the Rangers to a Memorial Cup trophy in 2003 and was named the OHL coach of the year in both 1999 and 2000. He is currently part of the ownership group for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.
With strong ties to Kitchener, the Red Wings likely know DeBoer and his abilities well. Detroit’s head scout Joe McDonnell lives near Kitchener and frequented games during DeBoer’s tenure especially while he coached then top prospect and current Red Wing Jakub Kindl as well as former prospect Evan McGrath.
Other possible candidates for the positions include former Minnesota coach Todd Richards, Bob Boughner, and Gerald Gallant. The Wings have given no indication of when they will make a formal announcement of their new coaching staff. However with other major decisions looming, expect an announcement sooner rather than later.
I don’t know if Gallant would leave the Saint John Sea Dogs—he’s coaching a team that won the Memorial Cup and QMJHL title, and is coaching in a province (New Brunswick) that’s relatively close to his home in Prince Edward Island—but I think that Boughner and DeBoer are natural fits, and if Babcock wants to go the head coach route, Todd Richards has his own tie to Detroit as he was one of Todd McLellan’s assistant coaches during the 2008-2009 season…
And while handicapping the field, MLive’s Ansar Khan gives us the bottom line:
“There’s lots of qualified candidates, people who have been in the industry as assistant coaches, people who have been head coaches,” general manager Ken Holland said. “Mike Babcock brings names to me. I’ll sign off on whoever Mike wants on his staff.”
Detroit’s list likely includes former NHL head coaches Todd Richards (Minnesota) and Pete DeBoer (Florida), who were fired after the season.
Ken Hitchcock is perhaps the most prominent coach still available. But considering his accomplished career as a head coach (he won the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999), he might not settle for an assistant coaching job.
Gerard Gallant and Bob Boughner, a pair of former Red Wings draft picks, could be in the mix.
Gallant guided Saint John to the Memorial Cup championship this past season and was named the Canadian Hockey League coach of the year. He spent parts of three seasons as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was a scrappy, high-scoring left wing for nine seasons in Detroit.
Boughner, who resigned in May after one season as an assistant coach in Columbus, led Windsor to a pair of Memorial Cup titles as a head coach. The former hard-nosed defenseman was Detroit’s second-round pick in 1989, but never played for the Red Wings.
Babcock gave MacLean his blessing and recommendation to his former GM in Bryan Murray, and I’m glad to hear that Ken Holland’s ready to give Babcock the benefit of the doubt regarding his next assistants.
As the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell notes, the Wings had a deadline in place regarding replacing Brad McCrimmon, but replacing two coaches means more time and energy have to be expended in making sure that you wait for the best candidates, even if that’s not ideal in terms of formulating plans for next season:
“You’d like to have your coaching staff in place by the draft (June 24-25),” Wings general manager Ken Holland said when Detroit was only looking for one assistant coach.
But with several NHL head coaching jobs still vacant and two positions open, the Wings may need to take their time in sorting out potential candidates.
The Red Wings’ management has other issues on its collective managerial plate as the team’s organizational meetings begin at Joe Louis Arena.
Amongst the sticky wickets which Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, de-facto assistant GM/capologist Ryan Martin, coach Babcock and the team’s pro and amateur scouts have to tackle:
• Hiring two assistant coaches;
• Formulating a final list of players which they hope to draft next weekend (June 24th and 25th in Minnesota) at the NHL Entry Draft;
• Determining a team budget based upon the NHL’s salary cap projections and the team’s desire to keep some cap space open for in-season acquisitions;
• Determining which unrestricted free agent defensemen they wish to target to replace Brian Rafalski, and deciding whether the team would target a veteran defenseman to fill out its blueline or whether it will simply bring Jakub Kindl into the lineup as a full-time player and employing Doug Janik as the team’s #7 defenseman (Janik has a one-way contract next season, which means that he’d have to clear re-entry waivers);
• Choosing whether to bring back Kris Draper and/or Chris Osgood, depending on whether the team feels that their leadership and mentoring of the team’s younger players is still invaluable, or whether team feels that it’s time to make a clean break and move on (especially given Osgood’s injury issues) with Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton’s waiver-exemption expiring and a relatively deep crop of back-up goaltenders available on the unrestricted free agent market and Joey MacDonald having proven himself a capable back-up for Jimmy Howard;
• Getting down to the brass tacks of attempting to retain the services of Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and Jonathan Ericsson, with Ericsson likely being the toughest player to re-sign as he can probably earn $3 million or more on the open market, while the Wings are likely to offer him no more than $2.5 million per season;
• Pressing Nicklas Lidstrom to make his decision as to whether he wishes to return in short order so that the Wings can prepare to make a trade at the NHL Entry Draft and/or target different free agents if Lidstrom retires;
• Deciding whether the team will make a trade and/or commit cap space to bringing in Mike Babcock’s requested top-six forward by trading Jiri Hudler or Valtteri Filppula, targeting a forward in this summer’s incredibly thin crop of unrestricted free agents off the bat or probably waiting until late July or early August to shop from the free agent bargain bin, players with red flags or buy-outs included;
• Formulating a plan to rebuild the Grand Rapids Griffins’ roster as the team can but probably won’t send Trevor Parkes, Landon Ferraro, Mitchell Callahan and Gleason Fournier back to their junior teams to play as “over-agers,” and as the team has missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. The Griffins also possess players whose waiver eligibility will expire a year from now in Tomas Tatar, Brendan Smith (who may or may not be given an opportunity to make the team) and goaltenders Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum, who may be asked to “sink or swim” as the team’s goaltenders, battling for the opportunity to back up Howard during the 2012-2013 season (assuming that there’s no lockout);
Here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ take on what will go down today and tomorrow:
“Basically we discuss what everyone thinks we should be trying to accomplish to make our team better,” Holland said.
The chief focus will be on the defense, which was left with a gaping hole when high-level defenseman Brian Rafalski unexpectedly retired last month. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom hasn’t said whether he would return or retire, so the Wings have to plan for the possibility of the latter, too. That means going through the defensemen who are eligible to become unrestricted free agents July 1—a list that includes Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo, Phoenix’s Ed Jovanovski, Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen, Boston’s Tomas Kaberle and Montreal’s James Wisniewski—to determine who would be a good fit.
“We have to try to piece it all together,” Holland said. “We believe in a certain philosophy. We like skill. We believe there are some players who could be good Red Wings. Some players are good players, but they don’t fit our system. You try to find players that fit your style of play.”
Finding a backup goaltender also will be discussed. Veteran Chris Osgood wants to play another season, but he is a big risk because he has had so many injury problems the past six months that the Wings have no real way of knowing if he can withstand game action.
The Wings already have 11 forwards signed to one-way contracts, plus they’re not going to risk losing Cory Emmerton by having to expose him on waivers to send him to the minors, something that could hurt Kris Draper’s chance of being offered another contract.
Holland and company are likelier to make improvements up front via a trade; Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula are in contract years.
The issues regarding moving Hudler or Filppula remain the same—Filppula could very well be the team’s second-line center if Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk play on the same line, and his flat $3 million cap hit belies a $3.5 million real-world-dollar salary, while Hudler has a cap hit of $2.78 million and makes $3 million this season (all figures from Capgeek.com).
About the only sure bets are that Ruslan Salei and Mike Modano won’t be back, and as St. James suggests, the Wings’ decision regarding Osgood is made triply difficult because he may be a “company man” and a 400-game-winner that’s nice to have in your back pocket, but the team simply will not know if his reconstructed groin muscles will hold up unless they commit bucks to him (he and Draper would have to accept less than their $1.1 million and $1.25 million salaries from this past season, obviously) and let him play early and often during training camp and the exhibition season.
Draper’s healthy and training but has stated that he won’t take a two-way deal, and this is just an educated guess, but I think the Wings won’t bring him back unless they’re unable to re-sign Miller or Eaves.
As for the team’s defense, I’d imagine that Ehrhoff, Bieksa, Pitkanen and Wisniewski would be their main targets, but the Wings aren’t going to pay them $6 million, so the team will have to sell the players on winning in Detroit instead of earning a big payday.
For the record, Sport-Express is confirming the multiple Russian reports that the Montreal Canadiens will retain the services of Andrei Markov.
I do not believe, however, that Sport-Express’s Alexander Rogulev or Dennik Sport’s reports that Jaromir Jagr may want to join the Red Wings are accurate. Over the past year or three, Jagr’s suggested that Pittsburgh, Montreal and the Rangers are the teams he’d like to play for, and while SKA St. Petersburg and Avangard Omsk have dropped out of the running for Jagr’s services (so says Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov), Atlant Mytishchi will talk to Jagr in July, and they can offer him the kind of payday that no NHL team would be willing to commit to a 39-year-old who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2008 could pay him.
That’s a lot of blather about players the Wings won’t sign, but they’re the players I have concrete information about, and I would rather deal in reality than speculation. Wisniewski is an obvious fit as a) someone who’s definitely going to the market, b) a right-hand shot who’s physical and can put up points and c) a local guy, but it’s also highly likely that his power broker agent, Bill Zito, is looking to break the bank because the free agent market is so top-heavily thin on defense, so my “pick” right now is Pitkanen.
As for other Wings-related news that doesn’t fall into tidbit category, this story is nothing less than wild: The “National Journal’s” Sean Sullivan and the Detroit News’s Paul Egan suggested that a Red Wing who is a naturalized U.S. citizen would be running for political office in Michigan on the Republican ticket…
But by game time, WDIV Local 4’s Rod Meloni reported that the suggestion was bunk.
It’s not Wings-related per se, but it’s fascinating: Per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, the Canadian Press and the Sporting News’s Craig Custance, the joint NHL-NHLPA competition committee agreed to remove the “blindside” part from Rule 48, which punishes players who target opponents’ heads…
But the most interesting part of their decision involved the fact that new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and NHLPA special assistant to the commissioner Mathieu Schneider, who are both Red Wings alums, agreed that the NHL and NHLPA will work more closely regarding disciplinary issues. Per Custance:
Shanahan and Schneider vowed to work closely to make sure the players and the league are on the same page moving forward regarding the new rule and the stricter supplemental discipline that is expected to join it when Shanahan replaces league disciplinarian Colin Campbell next season.
“We’re going into a new era with Brendan and supplementary discipline,” Schneider said. “We’re going to work closer in that respect and drawing finer lines and being very open and transparent about what’s going on.“
The gents also plan on working with equipment manufacturers to change shoulder pads to make them less of an offensive weapon. You can watch the pair speaking to the media via Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski if you’re interested.
Not Red Wings-related but pretty interesting: former Wings defenseman Aaron Ward spoke to the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff about his job as an analyst for TSN, offering a statement which I can confirm in spades:
“I have a lot more respect for what you guys do now,” Ward, 38, said of members of the media, counting himself among that group. “I never realized the abuse you have to put up with. It’s nothing like that when you’re a player. People like you. But once you get out there and start stating your opinion on things, it’s open season. And people can get pretty nasty.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: According to the Red Wings’ website, Paul McCartney probably won’t be asked to cover up the Red Wings sticker on one of his guitars when he visits Comerica Park on July 24th;
• The Detroit Free Press’s Steve Schrader believes that Nicklas Lidstrom is the second-best sports import
[edit: to have won a playoff MVP award];
• As a for-the-record, via iDnes.cz, the Inline Hockey World Championships take place from June 19-25 in Dominik Hasek’s hometown of Pardubice, Czech Republic, and I’m guessing that Dick Axelsson will make his annual appearance playing for Team Sweden;
The Traverse City Trip Fund is about $200 short of my goal. I did the calculations and I’ve got $1,221.93, which is fantastic. That should cover the hotel (hotel rates are crazy as the Cherry Festival’s going on at the same time) but It doesn’t cover gas or food. I’ll chip in obviously and I do have some travel expenses to max out but I’m a bit short. If it’s at all possible to lend a hand, I’d be eternally grateful:
• And I wanted to let this one pass quietly: yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the crash which left Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakanov handicapped mentally and physically. The link goes to a story from ESPN’s Greg Garber from 2009, and I hope that Vladdie and Sergei are well today.
I know that the Wings haven’t forgotten them and wish that their lives could have turned out very differently, but I hope that we don’t just remember them for the people they were before the accident—I find that the quiet dignity with which Vladdie and Sergei live their lives today…That’s how I think of them, as good people who are surrounded by people that love them and well-intended caregivers, who serve as a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
Update: According to Norrkoping’s Tidingar, Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg, the Sedins and Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg will take part in a charity game for Forsberg’s “Icebreakers,” facing off against Jonathan Ericsson and Vita Hasten’s alumni team, in Norrkoping on August 11th.
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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.