The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/13/12 at 11:00 PM ET
Updated at 12:33 AM: I’ve had a week of actual hockey in July as a fine antidote to the lack of free agent insanity that seems to be giving the hockey world a case of believe-the-hype-itis, but I’m more than a little fried myself after wrapping up coverage of the Wings’ summer development camp, so you’ll have to excuse me for being a little punchy this evening.
I’m not disputing the fact that the Red Wings need to add another defenseman to the mix, at the very least, to stabilize their roster going into the 2012-2013 season, but I had to smirk at the answer the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau gave to a reader from Sweden asking a question about the Wings’ defensive depth going forward:
Adam, as a long time Red Wings fan – mainly because of Nicklas Lidström and Steve Yzerman, but also due to grinders such as Kirk Maltby, Tomas Holmström and Kris Draper – I’m wondering about Detroit’s chances of rebuilding on the fly.
In the system there is some intriguing names (Frk, Järnkrok, Jurco, Tatar, Nyquist and Pulkkinen), but the defense worries me. What will happen to that unit? Right now it’s only Niklas Kronwall that I’m happy to see as a top four D-man. Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson are at best No. 4 D-man and Ian White played awful in Detroit’s own end when trying to push for late game heroics against Nashville during the playoffs.
I do believe that the defense corps can keep Detroit’s playoff streak alive for one season more, but the likes of Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith are unproven and they don’t have the reputation to fill the void of Brad Stuart. (The void of Lidström could not even be filled with Ryan Suter, so let’s not go there.) Now to my question: do the Red Wings have some future D-gems like the ones I argue they have on offense?
Johan Lundevall, Solna, Sweden
Part of the problem I see here is that Wings fans may measure any and all newcomers against Lidstrom, which is the absolute worst thing they could do. They have solid North American prospects in the system such as Ryan Sproul of the OHL and Xavier Ouellet, and Europeans such as Alexei Marchenko and Mattias Backman, but remember, Lidstrom was a low-drafted prospect when he entered the NHL in 1991 – and as Ken Holland recently told me, he didn’t raise his game to its eventual Hall of Fame levels until fellow Detroit defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov’s tragic accident in 1997.
In other words, even one of the game’s all-time greats had to take more than half a decade to fully develop. Patience has to be there for a new generation.
That said, there’s little doubt a Wings’ blueline with no comparable replacements for Lidstrom and Stuart is significantly less imposing. Barring an acquisition such as Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester (who isn’t a savior by any stretch), they’re in a state where I think they’ll have to battle all season for a low playoff berth.
Now, everybody has been waiting for Detroit to eventually have a disappointing season and miss the playoffs for two decades. It hasn’t happened, but I could see a scenario similar to what the New Jersey Devils went through in 2010-11: one bad season, followed by a bounce-back year and a deep playoff run. If any team can replicate that sequence, it’s the Wings.
First and foremost, never just look at the Wings’ draft history over the last two or three years and write an article. Capgeek offers a peek at a certain Brad Stuart successor in the making named Brian Lashoff, avoid the Left Wign Lock and you’ll miss Sarah Lindenau’s treasure trove of articles about the Wings’ prospects—and a reminder that Tomas Holmstrom’s going to be the grand marshal of the Cherry Royale Parade in downtown Traverse City tomorrow—and skip RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest’s top 25 prospect list and you miss out on two players I watched display some serious potential in the wild stallion that is Nick Jensen and, depending on whether his jersey is really spelled the way he spells his name, Adam Almqvist and/or Almquist.
Almqvist looked fantastic last summer, and this year? He was a step below Brendan Smith in the “wow” department, the defensive equivalent of Teemu Pulkkinen’s Tomas Jurco.
While Jensen is a lanky puck-moving defenseman still growing into a 6’3” frame and making the occasional gaffe or three while he lugs the puck up ice on another offensive rush, using his strong skating to back opposing defenders off, Almqvist is comparatively tiny at maybe 5’10” and 170 pounds in his gear, using a stick so short Mickey Redmond would be proud, but he’s an equally talented skater, his positional awareness is way better and he doesn’t need to carry the puck up ice to read the play and fire off seeing-eye passes or surprisingly hard shots, and despite the fact he’s classically undersized, well…
He’s Gustav Nyquist as a defenseman. People said the Wings didn’t have any elite offensive prospects until Pulkkinen and Jarnkrok would develop into NHL’ers, and surprise, there’s an under-the-radar, undersized Swede who turns out to have serious-ass upside. In a year or two, people will probably be saying the same thing about Almqui…Qvi…However he spells it.
But for now, yes, the Wings need some help, and that’s why I had to physically restrain myself when Ken Holland, Ryan Martin and Jim Nill walked by, lest I yell, “GET A DEFENSEMAN, PLEASE!”
My best educated guess given the acute lack of results despite the amount of time Holland, Ryan, Martin and Mike Babcock spent on their phones, and given the lack of real movement in the free agent marketplace aside from re-signings and the younger reclamation projects like Wojtek Wolski and Peter Mueller being plucked from the recycling bin, we’re going to be waiting for at least another week or five until the Wings grab a band-aid defenseman (or two) and probably pursue a trade closer to whatever season we might have (given Paul’s CBA negotiation updates for Friday, we’re up in the air here, folks) or during said 2012-2013 season.
Ahem, per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
No decision imminent from UFA F Shane Doan regarding his future. Could be week ormore before he makes up his mind.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 14, 2012
@BossWolf Doan’s preference for staying in PHX has been acknowledged all along.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 14, 2012
Moving forward while shifting focus back to prospects, DetroitRedWings.com’s Andrea Nelson penned a profile of Grand Rapids Griffin-to-be Luke Glendening…
With a political science degree in his back pocket, Glendening graduated from the University of Michigan with many options. But he still had the same dream of playing in the NHL.
“It’s every hockey player’s dream I think, but you never know what will happen,” Glendening said. “I don’t know where my talent will take me or won’t take me, but I’m just going to put in the work and see what happens.”
Glendening is used to putting in the work. He graduated high school without a single offer to play hockey and had to work his way onto the Wolverines’ roster. After going undrafted in June, he decided to use that experience as one more opportunity to prove his doubters wrong.
And Glendening has done just that. He signed a one-year contract with the Grand Rapids Griffins, becoming the first player from the Greater Grand Rapids area to ever sign with Detroit’s AHL affiliate. Glendening’s goal is to become a player the Griffins can count on every day, and he’s working on those skills at the 2012 Red Wings development camp.
“I went to San Jose’s last year and I had a great experience,” Glendening said. “When I came here I didn’t really know anyone and I met some great guys. It’s been great to learn from the coaches but also some of the players.”
Glendening’s AHL contract may just be for the 2012-13 season, but he’s used to those one-year tryouts. And he’s not about to give up now.
“You just have to follow your heart and follow your dreams,” Glendening said. “It’s such a cliché but you have to be your biggest fan. People are always going to pull you down and say you can’t do this, you can’t do that. We’ve talked about it here, get people in your corner that believe in you and believe in yourself and you’ll have a shot.”
As well as a profile of Riley Sheahan:
Sheahan plans to work hard throughout the remainder of the offseason. After earning his first taste of the NHL a few months ago, he’s eager to be back on the Red Wings’ bench.
“I’m going to try to work my hardest to crack the lineup with Detroit,” Sheahan said. “Obviously that’s everyone’s goal here so you have to work extra hard in the offseason. Everyone is doing the same thing so you’re going to try to do whatever you can to get one up on everyone.”
The center got a sneak peek at the work his fellow prospects have been doing this week at the Red Wings’ development camp. He had plenty of time to show off his puck-handling skills, but it wasn’t all fun and games.
“It was hard work, but at the same time it feels good to know where you’re at,” Sheahan said. “There are still two months left until main camp. I think everyone’s doing a good job in the offseason so it’s fun to be in a competitive environment. At the same time you know you’re working hard.”
Sheahan will return to play for the Grand Rapids Griffins this fall, but hopes to receive another phone call from the Red Wings. With his debut far behind him, Sheahan will be more than ready to skate with the winged wheel on his chest.
And this time he plans on marking a few points on that scorecard.
The ladies get some eye candy with this one. The Red Wings have a list of players and prospects’ Twitter feeds so you can read the replies:
In the alumni department, via MLive’s Brendan Savage, I can’t help but laugh when reading what Dominik Hasek’s agent, Rich Winter, had to say to Pro Hockey Talk’s Mike Halford about 47-year-old client Dominik Hasek’s desire to return to the NHL as a back-up after three years outside the NHL and one not playing hockey:
“He will play,” Winter told ProHockeyTalk. “There is no option. He will play and he will excel and he will do all of the things he can do.
“That’s his view of it. There’s one objective, and that’s it — he won’t fail.”
Winter claims he’s already fielded interest from “about a half dozen” NHL clubs about the two-time league MVP.
“He’s done all of the stuff you’d expect a NASA scientist to do before they go into a venture like this,” Winter explained. “He’s measured his reflexes, he’s measured his reaction time and it’s identical to what it was at the time he won a number of Vezina trophies. He’s actually 1.6 pounds off his playing weight at the Nagano Olympics [in 1998].
“Who keeps records like that? I guess Dom. Who knows their body, does reaction time and reflex training and measurement? I guess Dom.”
Finally — and perhaps most importantly — there are the expectations Hasek has for himself. A noted perfectionist, he always held himself to an exceptionally high standard during his playing days…and that doesn’t seem to have changed during his time off.
“[Hasek] feels confident that he can be considerably better than any backup in this league,” Winter said. “He thinks he can push to be in the bottom-half of the top third of the league.That’s his view.”
The Wings already picked their Monster. They’re good.
• I shouldn’t say this, but I was surprised that only three red Wings made the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell’s list of the best European-born NHL’ers ever, especially given that he includes Valeri Kharlamov on an honorary basis:
1. Dominik Hasek: If the six Vezina Trophies don’t clinch it, the two Hart Trophies put him over the top. There are some who would argue that ‘The Dominator’ is the best goaltender in the history of the game and they’d have a pretty solid case.
2. Nicklas Lidstrom: The greatest defenseman of his era and one of the finest of all-time, Lidstrom was the epitome of poise and consistency. The only thing that puts him a slight notch below Hasek is the absence of Hart Trophy credentials.
9. Sergei Fedorov: Anyone who spent a significant period of time as one of the top five players in the NHL deserves to be on this list. Fedorov might have been the best two-way European ever to play the game.
All Igor Larionov did was win…
• If you missed it, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness reminds us that Joey Kocur doesn’t plan on doffing mitts when he tangles with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Alumni at Comerica Park, despite the history of vicious games played between the Wings and Leafs in the 80’s and 90’s:
“I think that’s going to be very exciting,” Kocur said. “Playing against Wendal (Clark) again. We had some good battles back in the day. I haven’t heard (Toronto’s) whole roster, but they have a lot of guys that we had a lot of good battles with. I think it will be kind of funny to line up next to those guys and kind of laugh about the old times when we used to hate each other.”
Fans should not expect, however, to see Kocur and Clark drop the gloves. Asked if there was any chance he might duke it out, Kocur let out a hearty laugh.
“If (the gloves) fall off, it’s to pick something up,” Kocur said.
If there is a downside to such an incredible event, it is the fact that the demand from alumni who would like to participate in the game far outweighs the number of positions available. Kocur is the alumni president, but it is Red Wings general manager Ken Holland that is in charge of actually extending invites.
“For something this exciting, every player that ever played for the Red Wings or the Leafs would like to be here,” Kocur said. “That’s the only hard thing about it, is that that can’t happen.”
While Lindsay, Delvecchio, Chris Chelios, Mark Howe, Dino Ciccarelli, Larry Murphy, John Ogrodnick, Chris Osgood, Mike Vernon, Mickey Redmond and Luc Robitaille are slated to be part of the team, there were two names – Nick Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman – that were notably absent. Naturally, the media asked Kocur if either could be convinced to participate in the game.
“I would hope so,” Kocur said. “I can’t see why Nick wouldn’t play. We could sure use him on defense. I don’t know that Stevie has put skates on since he retired. From what I understand he’s never put the skates on. He had a lot of tough injuries with his knees and stuff like that but, I can guarantee there’s a lot of calls going in to him and a lot of lobbying going on. He’s with a different organization, too, which makes it a little more difficult for him. Everyone who’s playing here would make a personal plea to him to show up.”
• Dino Ciccarelli also offered his take on Ken Holland’s difficult job:
“(Holland) called me, and I felt like a kid again trying to make the team (by) calling the coach. He said, ‘Dino, I don’t know. You’re on the bubble. You might make it and you might not.’ He told me the majority of the team is guys who have won the Stanley Cup, or are in the Hall of Fame. I wanted to make sure Kenny Holland knew I was in for sure.”
With his spot in the festivities assured, Ciccarelli has now turned his focus toward the next task at hand: getting his 42-year-old body into good enough shape to really skate. Ciccarelli said that he has kept pretty active in hockey, but admitted his game would need a bit of “fine-tuning” before December rolls around.
Just as they did with Kocur, the media pestered Ciccarelli about getting former captains Nick Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman involved in the event as well.
Ciccarelli was unsure if those players would eventually become involved or not, but he was all for their inclusion.
“It would be nice to have Nick back on the blue line for this game,” he said. “And, it would be nice to have my old line mate back, in Stevie. I have to believe, down deep, they want to be a part of it.”
And for the moment, I don’t know if I’m going to do an overnight report. I’ll be packing up and leaving in the morning, and I believe the check-out time is 11 AM—positively early by my non-development camp standards—Saturday I will be incommunicado for chunks of time, and on Saturday night and Sunday? I’ll be sleeping and hopefully preparing for a quiet week. I know that you’re desperate for Wings news right now, but for me, there was about a week of “off-season” between the time the World Championships ended and Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement, and the two days before the NHL Awards weren’t terrible, but other than that, I’ve been going full tilt since prior to the playoffs. I could use some “quiet.”
Update: From the Wings:
Wings prospects enjoy some well-deserved downtime after a week of hard work in Traverse City - beach soccer & team BBQ instagram.com/p/NCdoIkR4_Q/— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) July 14, 2012
• As it’s generated some controversy, I promise that I will give a good go at translating Mikael Samuelsson’s conversation with Hockeysverige’s Ronnies Skrivsmedja, though Uffe Bodin thinks the criticism was a wee bit misguided;
• I can’t quite figure Trevor Parkes’ game out because he’s such an up-and-down player, but his he’s sure as hell a power winger who can score goals, and the Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau spoke to Trevor about embarking upon his second pro season:
“In the AHL you’re definitely playing against men out there,” he said. “The toughest thing was the speed of the game, not so much the skating, but the quick decisions and the strength needed to play at that level. It was an adjustment that took some time for me to adapt to.”
With Parkes struggling early in the season, the Red Wings sent him down to Toledo of the ECHL for four games in December hoping he would find his scoring touch. The Fort Erie, Ontario native delivered with 4 goals and 17 shots in 4 games and earned a promotion back to Grand Rapids.
“Going down to Toledo helped me get my confidence back,” he explained. “I started playing better and it helped me bounce back. Unfortunately, that shoulder injury that knocked me out of the final 16 games set me back a bit.”
Parkes, who is finally healthy again, is no stranger to adversity. He was passed over in two OHL drafts and even passed through OHL waivers before earning a walk on spot with Montreal in 2009. He was also overlooked at the 2010 NHL entry draft but earned a tryout with the Wings and eventually signed a three-year entry-level contract.
Heading into his second season with the Griffins, Parkes is using his difficult rookie campaign as motivation. He’s been focusing his off season training on building his strength and he has already added ten pounds of muscle to his lanky frame.
“I got my feet wet last year and now I know what to expect,” Parkes said. “I want to get bigger and stronger so I can be a net front presence guy. I want to be a guy in the corner who can use my body and protect the puck, so the extra muscle will help. I’ve also been working on my speed and skill so I can score more at the pro level like I did in junior.”
With Wednesday’s press conference at Comerica Park behind them, the first question on everyone’s mind is whether the likes of Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov will be playing for the Wings in the alumni game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Wings general manager Ken Holland will call them all.
“The people we’ve asked are interested, they’re just making sure their schedules allow it,” Holland said. “We’ve announced what we know so far, but we’ll have 30 or 40 and maybe even 50 before we get into the game.
“I’m hoping a lot of them are going to play,” Holland continued. “We’re going to try and get as many of the greatest Red Wings to play in the 90-plus year history of this great organization.”
Update #1.5: Larry Murphy spoke to The Fan 590’s Norm Rumack about the Winter Classic Alumni game last night. The audio is kinda iffy, though…
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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.