The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/09/12 at 09:00 PM ET
Crazy things happened on Twitter a week ago, when one fan found Mike Babcock at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, the Forechecker found Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold’s plane headed to International Falls, Minnesota, the home of Ryan Suter’s agent, and a fine gent found Mike Ilitch’s plane en route to Madison, Wisconsin…
And it turns out that, on the day that Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were introduced as members of the Minnesota Wild, yes, last week, Mike Babcock joined Mike Ilitch, Chris Chelios and Ken Holland in attempts to convince Suter to play for the Wings.
As they were not successful, Chelios took the high road regarding Suter’s decision while speaking to the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple…
“You didn’t have to sell [Detroit],” Chelios said of joining the Wings. “It came down to a family/hockey decision. Minnesota was No. 1 on his list.”
Chelios said Suter and free agent forward Zach Parise, who also signed with the Wild, had talked about playing together before July 1, the first day of free agency. They each signed 13-year, $98-million contracts.
“Ryan’s an honest kid,” Chelios said. “I know the family 30 years. Money might have been a part of it, but his wife being from Minnesota had a big impact on it.
“It’s a great place to raise your kids, just like Detroit is. He made it easy on his family. The Suters aren’t afraid to jump in a car. None of the Suters have ever left Madison.”
And he repeated his comments to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“I know he was interested in coming to Detroit,” said Chelios, who met Suter with owner Mike Ilitch, coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland. “I was with him at a golf tournament and he touched on it. He had narrowed his list of teams (which included the Wings) and he didn’t want to play in the East. The history of the Red Wings over the last 15, 20 years, what kind of organization it is, you don’t have to sell it. It came down to a hockey-family decision. The Suters aren’t afraid to jump in a car.”
Suter and his extended family are all from Madison, Wisconsin, approximately five hours from Minneapolis, where his wife is from.
Suter and his friend Zach Parise signed 13-year contracts worth $98 million to play with the Wild.
“He made it easy on his family, his dad,” Chelios said. “None of the Suters have ever left Madison.”
Catching up with other stuff that happened while I was at the rink:
• In other free agent news, from Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov:
Alex Semin, formerly of the Washington Capitals, is one of the few standout players remaining in unrestricted free agency, both for the NHL and for the KHL.
Regarding the 3-year, $30-million offer from Russia that’s been reported: It is false on both the term and the money. I was told CSKA reps met with Semin’s agent Mark Gandler in the U.S. and offered a 2-year deal worth “almost exactly what he was making in Washington.” Semin made $6.7 million on a 1-year contract with the Capitals last season.
I personally spoke with Semin within the last week and he told me that he doesn’t yet know where he will play next season. He also has no timeline set to make that decision.
Back in February after the trade deadline, sources close to Semin told me he’d take his time to sign because he wanted to better understand where everything was headed with the CBA.
Another obstacle to Semin signing with an NHL team was removed last week: Zach Parise, who ended up with the Minnesota Wild on a 13-year contract. Gandler told me it was fair to say more clubs would be active trying to sign Semin after both Parise and Ryan Suter signed.
I believe the Detroit Red Wings made a least a couple of inquiries regarding Semin, who has 197 goals in 469 career games.
Semin is mostly looking for a longer term, I believe. Gandler also told me Semin’s priority is the NHL, by far — despite what the KHL might be offering.
• The Wings are, again, announcing their Winter Classic Alumni Game(s)’ rosters on Wednesday at noon EDT at Comerica Park, and it’s highly likely that the OHL will talk about its outdoor games as well as it appears that the whole “Hockeytown Winter Festival” will be discussed;
• If you missed it, part 2: the Wings signed Nathan Paetsch and Triston Grant to AHL-only deals. They’ll serve as depth players for the Grand Rapids Griffins;
• I tried to avoid the news in my morning session report from the Wings’ development camp, but yes, the Novi Patch‘s Rebecca Jasikot posted the listing for Nicklas Lidstrom’s former Novi home, and you can bet that Puck Daddy was all over the photos like white on rice.
• In news of post-shots not involving Lambert, the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell tossed off lots of grumbles, but he took a break to toss this one off:
News: The Detroit Red Wings hire future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom as a scout.
View: If Lidstrom learns half of what Red Wings current European head scout Hakan Andersson knows about identifying talent, he might turn out to be almost as good a scout as he was a defenseman.
• The more thoughtful take on harder issues, Sports Illustrated’s Stu Hackel pondered the Wings’ future…
Of the teams in the hunt for the two premier free agents, the Wings were considered their most likely destination and may have been most adversely affected by failing to land even one. The Flyers, Penguins and Blackhawks were in the running, but they all still have good young cores of talent, including some of the NHL’s top superstars. You can’t say that about the Red Wings’ roster now, as talented as it may be. With the exception of goalie Jimmy Howard and forward Valtteri Filppula, Detroit’s best players are all over 30 years old and the team lost its top defenseman, future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom, to retirement. Injecting a pair of elite 27-year-olds like Parise and Suter into the lineup would have mattered greatly.
For the past 18 seasons, dating back to 1993-94 when the NHL realigned into its current divisional and playoff format, the Red Wings have worn the mantle of the league’s most successful franchise. Probably not coincidentally, that was the season the Wings lured Scotty Bowman to run the bench, make hockey decisions for the organization and instill a championship culture. Since then, through four Stanley Cup championships and two more trips to the Cup final, the faces may have changed behind Detroit’s bench and on the ice, but the Red Wings have remained a dominant organization.
One hundred point seasons are expected in Detroit, and apart from the lockout shortened 1994-95 campaign, the Wings have had only had one season during the past 18 in which they didn’t hit the century plateau. In fact, expectations of ongoing excellence still surround the franchise. This is a team that has been called ‘The Harvard of Hockey” because of its continual high level of play and the cerebral style that Bowman installed and Mike Babcock maintains.
History seems to follow the Winged Wheel around. Even during this past season, not one of the Wings’ best, Detroit reeled off a league record 23-game home winning streak. But even during that great run, there were signs that all was not well. The Wings were merely .500 on the road during that early November to late February stretch and they ended the regular season in third place in the Central Division. They hadn’t finished that low since the 1990-91 campaign. Their power play, regularly among the league’s best, thanks to their supreme skill and skating, fell to 22nd (one reason Tom Renney was hired to be Babcock’s new associate coach; Renney’s Oilers had last season’s best power play).
As good as they were at home, the Wings couldn’t win a playoff game at Joe Louis Arena this spring and fell to the Predators in five first round games. With injuries starting to plague the aging roster — among them, outstanding forward Pavel Datsyuk, now 33, has been slowed for two consecutive seasons by various infirmities — and Lidstrom hanging up his skates (although, as announced on Sunday, he’s staying with the organization as a scout), the loss of pending free agent shutdown defenseman Brad Stuart via trade, the departure of UFA winger Jiri Hudler, the likely retirement of crease dweller Tomas Holmstrom, and questions about just how talented some of Detroit’s younger players are, the unmistakable impression is that the Red Wings’ status as one of the NHL’s best clubs may be in question.
(He mentions me down the line, which is kinda spiffy)
• In the alumni department, from DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford:
The stereotypical image of retirees soaking in the sun’s rays on the fairways of a golf course couldn’t have been more accurate on Monday afternoon as the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association hosted its annual golf outing at Oakhurst Golf & Country Club.
The event featured over 30 groups of golfers with at least a dozen alumnus. Proceeds from the outing are being donated to the Red Wings Alumni Foundation for Cancer Research and Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that offers scholarships and assistance to the families of soldiers disabled or killed in the line of duty.
The 18-hole scramble was held in conjunction with Sunday night’s President’s Ball Gala, a biennial tradition within the Alumni Association that gives the members a chance to reconvene and socialize while raising money for a good cause.
Among the many Wings’ greats who attended the gala and played in the outing including Alex Delvecchio, Dino Ciccarelli, Manny Legace, Nick Libett, John Ogrodnick, Paul Ysebaert, Mickey Redmond, and Joe Kocur, the current alumni president.
“Every two years we have our President’s Ball,” Kocur said. “We all get together and we don’t all get to get together very often ... anytime you can raise money for charity and do it and have fun it’s a great time.”
• Ditto, back in the, “If you missed it” department: Rick Bouwness held a Twitter-based Q and A with Jiri Fischer:
Q. What is your favorite part about your job? (from @aqgrad12)
FISCHER: “Seeing guys improve. It seems that once players get out of the junior or college ranks they join the pros and sometimes their coaches are too busy with systems – how to improve PP performance and how to fix the PK – that there isn’t enough time for them to really develop that one-on-one relationship with the players, not just helping them with their games but really listening to them and working with them as individuals. I get to do that. Seeing guys start as young, skilled kids with raw talent and then transitioning to good all-around players is very rewarding. Guys like Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Jimmy Howard – players that are very important on the Red Wings’ roster right now – have all developed in our system the last few years. That is very satisfying to see.”
Q. What has been your most memorable moment since you retired as a player? (from @SuperGirl_30)
FISCHER: “That would probably be during the first year I started working in the Red Wings’ front office. It was 2008 and we won the Stanley Cup. It was the first time I realized just how fast the NHL is, watching from a different perspective. I was standing behind the net in Pittsburgh near the Zamboni entrance, maybe five feet from the glass, and I was watching the Red Wings’ stars – Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom – run a power play and there was no space on the ice at all. There were obviously only four Penguins out there on the PK but they were so quick, so fast – there was no space for our guys to do anything. It was really amazing. The Wings managed to win that game and that series but I’ll never forget that moment I realized how it felt to be on the other side of things, to not be a player.”
• Also from the summer development camp, from the Wings’ Twitter account:
Andreas Athanasiou: “(Development Camp) has already been a great experience for me. I’ve learned a lot and everyone has been very welcoming”— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) July 9, 2012
Athanasiou (con’t) - “You see the class of the (Red Wings) organization right away which is probably why they’ve been so successful.” #DRWDC— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) July 9, 2012
• Also from the summer development camp, from MLive’s Brendan Savage, here’s a story about my favorite gap-toothed Wings prospect, Mitchell Callahan:
Callahan plays a physical game and isn’t afraid to drop his gloves when the opportunity arises. He said he led the Grand Rapids Griffins with 14 fights last season while finishing second among all American Hockey League rookies despite playing in just 49 games.
“I’ll do whatever it takes for me not to work a day job,” said Callahan, one of 41 players at this week’s Red Wings prospects camp. “Everybody likes to get goals but I’m not huge into stats. I just like to be a reliable defensive player.”
He also likes to fight, something that began when he played junior hockey. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Callahan was a dependable scorer in juniors, twice registering at least 20 goals while finishing with 57 in 204 games during three seasons with Kelowna of the Western Hockey League. But when it comes to Callahan’s statistics, it’s the penalty minutes that stick out. He had a total of 540 PIM with Kelowna – including 188 in 2008-09 – before racking up 103 last season in Grand Rapids.
“Growing up, I was always a leading scorer on my teams in youth hockey,” said Callahan, 20. “I had that little edge to me where my wires touch and I kind of snapped sometimes where I like to fight. My first year in juniors, about the third game, I got in a fight and my coach rewarded me with more ice time. So I thought if maybe I kept fighting, I’d get more ice time. That year, I got drafted by Detroit. If this is what I have to do for a living, I’ll keep doing it. I don’t mind it. I like it.”
In his first year as a pro, Callahan had had six goal and nine assists last season for the Red Wings’ top farm club in Grand Rapids. Although he’s headed back to Grand Rapids again this season, general manager Ken Holland said Callahan could eventually have a future in Detroit if he continues to develop.
“He’s a prospect,” Holland said. “He plays hard, feisty. Last year, he had a decent rookie year. It’s a big big jump from college and junior to the American Hockey League. I think he did a good job He’s feisty, he’ll fight, he plays with an edge. He’ll chip in a few goals. I think one day he has a chance to play in the bottom six and be an agitator.”
It should be noted that Jim Nill wasn’t so sure, suggesting that Callahan might be better served to instigate and agitate but pick his spots given that he’s not overly big.
• Tomorrow is Bryan Rufenach Day at the Wings’ development camp. They will only hold a scrimmage at 7 PM after raising funds for Rufenach’s family’s charity:
Bryan Rufenach, despite his recent tragic and untimely death while traveling through Europe, will continue to be a huge part of the 2012 Detroit Red Wings Development Camp. The 23-year-old defenseman was a seventh round selection of the Red Wings in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and signed a contract last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. Rufenach spent a majority of the 2011-12 season with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL where he collected 13 goals and 33 points in 54 games. The Lindsay, Ontario native had previously spent four seasons with Clarkson University where he tallied 21 goals and 55 points over his collegiate career.
Organizers of the 2012 Red Wings Development Camp in conjunction with the Detroit Red Wings, Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye have designated July 10th as ‘Bryan Rufenach Day’ with a portion of all proceeds to benefit the Bryan Rufenach Memorial Fund. The event begins at 4 p.m. outside Centre I.C.E. Arena in Traverse City, MI. Food provided by Mancino’s Pizza and Grinders will be available for purchase between 4:00 pmand 6:00 pm. Above the Garage will perform live at the event, while Red Wings Development Camp souvenirs will be sold to help benefit the fund.
Former NHL players, along with members of both the Red Wings’ and Grand Rapids Griffins’ management teams and coaching staffs will be on hand to sign autographs including Dallas Drake, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer, Aaron Downey, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Jim Bedard, Keith McKittrick, Jeff Blashill and Jim Paek.
The puck will drop on an intra-squad scrimmage at 7:00 pm that evening at Centre I.C.E. Arena. A brief ceremony to honor Bryan’s memory will be held prior to opening face-off. The family of Bryan Rufenach is expected to attend the July 10th benefit. To view the full roster of players participating in the development camp click here.
The cost of the event, which includes the intra-squad scrimmage, is $5 and will be collected at the entrance to the Centre I.C.E. Arena parking lot. Fans wishing to make additional donations to the fund may do so at designated areas throughout the arena.
Amongst Lindenau’s Twitter comments regarding Rufenach...
That would be Callahan. Members of the Toledo Walleye will be attending as well.
• From Lindenau’s regular Twitter account…
Bedard just said “how are you doing Lindy?” awesome…— Sarah Lindenau (@Lindy72) July 9, 2012
And finally, one from Nick and one from me. I led the questioning as Barnowski and I spoke to Mike Babcock for ten minutes...
And he took the lead when we both spoke to Wings capoligist Ryan Martin for another ten minutes. Yes, he is indeed much more than a lawyer who works with the salary cap:
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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.