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Red Wings evening tidbits: On Babcock’s coaching search, Osgood and a persistent rumor

In the feast-or-famine time for Red Wings news that is the middle of July, ESPN’s Scott Burnside provides a few new insights while revisiting the topic that is Red Wings coach Mike Babcock’s decision to hire Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters as his assistant coaches, starting with something we’ve heard before: Babcock was concerned that he started to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher or any of the adults in the Peanuts cartoons, drowning himself out after six years of the same message:

“The challenge was, how was I going to change that? How was I going to keep the good and evolve and improve?” Babcock said. “That’s what I was looking for. This was the biggest decision I’ve had to make in a long time.”

So, when longtime Wings assistant Paul MacLean took the head-coaching job in Ottawa and veteran NHL defenseman and Red Wings assistant Brad McCrimmon took his skills to Russia, Babcock didn’t merely take the path of least resistance by hiring two people he knew or two former NHL guys that were hanging around. Instead, Babcock talked to literally dozens of people; junior hockey people, AHL people, NHL people ... coaches, non-coaches, players, GMs. Who did they like? What did they think was important about the make-up of a coaching staff?

There were also several key questions Babcock needed answered in making these hires: if new ideas are the lifeblood of a coaching staff, where were the new ideas coming from? Did experience matter as much as whether the candidates knew what they were talking about?

Babcock knew Peters after coaching with him in junior in the 1990s, and Peters’ name continued to pop up as Babcock went through the process of vetting potential hires. As for Blashill, Babcock talked to him on the phone and met him in person. Babcock was impressed by how the former Western Michigan coach presented his ideas.

“I thought, there’s a guy that’s going to be a real, real good coach,” Babcock said.

Do the hires ensure the Wings get back to the Stanley Cup finals? Of course not. But in examining the process the Wings went through to make the kinds of decisions that often get overlooked, at least from the outside, it’s not hard to see why the Wings are who they are.

“This might have been the best process I’ve been through in the last 10 years,” Babcock said.

Also more or less in the, “Yeah, we know, but thanks for reminding us” category, we know that Red Wings GM Ken Holland will meet with Chris Osgood in the pair’s off-season locale/vacation spot/summer home, Vernon, British Columbia on Thursday, and as such, the Sporting News’s Craig Custance gives us a pretty good idea of what the Wings might do if Osgood does not return—sign a free agent, and sign a bargain-priced one:

Red Wings backup goalie. A decision on the future of veteran goalie Chris Osgood is expected this week. Osgood’s preference would be to stay in Detroit, but GM Ken Holland may like his other options better, including free agent Ty Conklin. Regardless of who it is, the Red Wings have little interest in spending much on goaltending behind Jimmy Howard, so whoever fills this hole must be willing to work cheap.

In case you forgot what Holland’s though process entails, the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker just posted an article detailing the meeting’s purpose and agenda:

“He’s going to be there and we’re going to meet,” said Holland, who is a native of Vernon, B.C. “We’re going to have a conversation face-to-face. Sometime on Friday or Saturday, after talking to him, I’ll probably have a decision on what we’re doing.”

Osgood returned from his 400th win golf trip to Scotland and Ireland on Tuesday, but he headed to Vernon on Wednesday, and Holland probably followed after becoming a U.S. citizen on Tuesday:

“Osgood landed (Tuesday) and we have been texting back and forth,” Holland said.

Holland’s willingness to allow Osgood to spend time thinking about his future has obviously changed the Wings’ goaltending options outside of #30…

“We explored July 1 (free agency),” Holland said. “I don’t want to make it look like we didn’t. We had some interest in some guys and they chose to go elsewhere.”
....
“We wake up after the dust settles on July 4 or July 5 and obviously Chris Osgood is still a legitimate candidate,” Holland said.

And now, six months after having what turned out to be major reconstructive surgery on his groin, it’s time for Holland and Osgood to hash things out:

“His initial reaction (after the season) is he wanted to play,” Holland said. Now, he’s gone to Europe and had more time to think. I think the biggest thing is time has gone by when you get to decide what your priorities in life are. I do think it’s a good time now to sit down with him and talk about it.”

Holland has said the team has been in contact with former Red Wing Ty Conklin, who played in St. Louis last season, and that Osgood isn’t a lock for the No. 2 spot.

“It all depends what his thoughts are,” Holland said. “I want to talk to him and see what he’s thinking. That doesn’t mean if he wants the job it’s his job. I want to talk to him. Let’s take one step at a time. Let me talk to him. If he’s not ready to make a decision, that is a decision.”

As for one of the Red Wings’ veterans who chose to return for at least one more season, a certain captain was deemed one of the NHL’s best over-35 players by NHL.com’s John Kreiser...

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Age: 41

For the second year in a row, the best news the Wings received after being eliminated from the playoffs is that Lidstrom will return for another season. After missing the postseason All-Star teams in 2009-10, Lidstrom had his best offensive season since 2007-08, scoring 16 times and adding 46 assists for 62 points, second among all defensemen. He won the Norris Trophy for the seventh time in a career that ultimately will end with induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

And Kreiser believes that Todd Bertuzzi merits “second over-35-team” status…

Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings
Age: 36

He’s not the All-Star he was in Vancouver a few years ago, but Bertuzzi has found a home in Detroit as a reliable third-liner who still can contribute offensively—he had 16 goals last season, and his 45 points were the most he’s had since 2005-06. Bertuzzi still has the size and hands to be a contributor, and he’s been a good fit with the Wings in the last two seasons.

And in the tidbit category:

• According to the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema, former Griffins coach Mike Stothers landed a coaching job with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors...

• I adore the fact that EA Sports’ NHL 12 producer Novell Thomas tells Operation Sports that Tomas Holmstrom’s the poster boy for one of the game’s new “signature traits”....

Net Agitators – players who position themselves in front of the net and are consistently screening and distracting the goalie. Example: Tomas Holmstrom

• And I’m going to mention this because it irritates the hell out of me: Via MLive’s Jared Purcell, a certain rumormonger who charges money to read made-up stuff has claimed that the Red Wings are interested in trading for Washington Capitals winger Alex Semin, and this rumor has gotten some traction despite the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever for the Red Wings. Sure, the Capitals are pressed against the salary cap and need to move a body or two, but why would the Red Wings essentially waste the cap space they have remaining to sign a goalie and go out and fill any holes that might pop up during the course of the season at the trade deadline to acquire a mercurial forward whose $6.7 million cap hit supports a winger who posted all of 28 goals and 54 points?

The Wings could hope for more from Jiri Hudler instead and pay him his $2.78 million salary, minus having to trade players or prospects, and receive the same results for less than half the cost. The concept makes no sense, especially given that if the Wings need anything on the wing, they could use some size, speed and physicality, so I don’t know why anyone’s giving it credence, save for the fact that it’s July.

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Comments

Red Winger's avatar

Babcock was concerned that he started to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher… drowning himself out after six years of the same message

Not to say “I told you so”, but a few of us this past season claimed this was indeed a real issue for the Red Wings. Now Babs has admitted as much.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/13/11 at 09:18 PM ET

Itrusteddrrahmani's avatar

Red Wings are interested in trading for Washington Capitals winger Alex Semin

lol

Posted by Itrusteddrrahmani from Nyc by way of A2 on 07/13/11 at 09:55 PM ET

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The Wings could hope for more from Jiri Hudler instead and pay him his $2.78 million salary, minus having to trade players or prospects, and receive the same results for less than half the cost.

I’m not advocating trading for Semin but…nobody honestly thinks there’s a chance in hell that Hudler scores 28 goals, do they?!?

Posted by Garth on 07/13/11 at 10:00 PM ET

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Not to say “I told you so”, but a few of us this past season claimed this was indeed a real issue for the Red Wings. Now Babs has admitted as much.

I guess that depends on what you think is a real issue. Winning your division, sweeping your 1st round opponent and rallying from 0-3 down to force game seven doesn’t seem too damning.

Aside from Fil, Happy and E, no un-injured Wing had a down-season.  I’m not saying its not a good idea to freshen up the coaching staff, just that sometimes the drowned out thing seems overplayed. 

I would be interested to know if the assistant coaches were told they might be replaced and encouraged to seek employ elsewhere, or if their leaving was their choice and it happened to coincide with Bab’s concern.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 07/13/11 at 10:08 PM ET

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I actually just watched the 2008 Final and its hard to be down on Hudler.  But on the other hand, the closed book on the top 6 doesn’t seem too sweet to me.  The last 2 years, they really didn’t look much like they’d go deep in the playoffs.  The Wings of yore loaded up on the big guns; and even recently, they didn’t replace Samuelsson.  Throwing another scoring winger in the mix seems pretty legit to me.  And Semin is only a 1 year deal…..it’s a gamble, that I would be thrilled with.  But would they ever let him go?  I doubt it.
I guess there will be young blood on the 4th line (?), which is probably a better plan anyway.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt on 07/13/11 at 10:19 PM ET

monkey's avatar

nobody honestly thinks there’s a chance in hell that Hudler scores 28 goals, do they?!?

It’s possible, but not likely.  It would be a nice surprise.  I’m not sure where “chance in hell” fits into that range.  I would consider Jiri Hudler scoring 28 in a contract year more likely than Dany Heatley scoring 70, ever, for whatever that’s worth.  Hudler did have 23 goals and 57 points in 2008-09, also a contract year.

Posted by monkey from Finland on 07/13/11 at 10:20 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

I guess that depends on what you think is a real issue. Winning your division, sweeping your 1st round opponent and rallying from 0-3 down to force game seven doesn’t seem too damning.

When you cherry-pick most of the positives then of course it won’t look too damning.

Wildly inconsistent defensive efforts. An inability to engage in even basic breakouts of the defensive zone that had even the most pollyanish fan confused. A middling Powerplay.

Those, coupled with the examples you provide, exemplify a Wings season that raised more questions than provided answers. Then again, it wasn’t a terrible season by any stretch.

But we are the Red Wings, not the Maple Leafs. Mediocre and half-assed efforts don’t cut it around here.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/13/11 at 10:24 PM ET

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I would consider Jiri Hudler scoring 28 in a contract year more likely than Dany Heatley scoring 70

Ok but…I’m honestly not sure what your point is…

Posted by Garth on 07/13/11 at 10:25 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

When you cherry-pick most of the positives then of course it won’t look too damning.

Wildly inconsistent defensive efforts. An inability to engage in even basic breakouts of the defensive zone that had even the most pollyanish fan confused. A middling Powerplay.

Speaking as a pollyanna, you’re mostly right, except for that middling powerplay thing.

Only Vancouver scored more PPG during the season. Percentage-wise, Detroit was 5th in the league.  Detroit’s power play was not good compared to previous years, but they were not middling when put into the context of this season.

Still, I think the new assistant coaches will solve that whole “they’ve tuned out Babcock” thing.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/13/11 at 10:31 PM ET

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Was great meeting you today George and awesome hearing some of your insights while actually sitting next to you and watching the players live, even if they are a bit haggard.  I hope I didn’t distract you much from your note taking, I was trying not to. 

A few of my obersvations (ok, all three of my observations, I don’t have near the practiced eye you do). 

Aubry really impressed me with his stick handling ability at the beginning, though there was a noticeable drop off as practice went on and he wore out.  He also seemed to act a bit like he KNOWS he’s now one of the top prospects on the Wings now and not everyone else on the ice is, aka a bit of ego.  I’m not saying that’s necissarily a bad thing just something I thought I saw.  Then again I watched him for all of 2 hours and you’ve watched him for over a week so I kinda wanted your take on that. 

Tomas Jurco really impressed me with his stick handling and soft hands, nuff said.

Alan Quine really impressed me with his work ethic and also seemed to have some good raw talent and speed.  Even at the end of practice he was giving 100% during his “shift” on the drills then visibly gassed after his shift was over.  Next shift same thing.  I can’t say this for most of the other guys on the ice.  It just really stood out as I know they are all burnt out but Quine just kept pushing 100%.

Posted by Dahrken from Grand Rapids, MI on 07/13/11 at 10:32 PM ET

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When you cherry-pick most of the positives then of course it won’t look too damning.

I forgot to cherry-pick achieving what they did despite the loss of 2 of their top-3 forwards and the #2 defenseman for significant portions of the season.

Wildly inconsistent defensive efforts. An inability to engage in even basic breakouts of the defensive zone that had even the most pollyanish fan confused. A middling Powerplay.

See above, add big E.

I’m sure a freshening up of the message can’t hurt, I just don’t think bringing on new assistants and Bab’s voicing a concern constituted an “Ah-ha, told you so” moment.  There are far more material explanations for the Wings occasional struggles last year, without even going into a debate about whether Bab’s message had a “real” impact or not.  Unless you think E is terrible because he’s just not getting the right motivation smile

Posted by dumbasrocks on 07/13/11 at 10:36 PM ET

monkey's avatar

Ok but…I’m honestly not sure what your point is…

I had a point?

Posted by monkey from Finland on 07/13/11 at 10:50 PM ET

SYF's avatar

• I adore the fact that EA Sports’ NHL 12 producer Novell Thomas tells Operation Sports that Tomas Holmstrom’s the poster boy for one of the game’s new “signature traits”....

Net Agitators – players who position themselves in front of the net and are consistently screening and distracting the goalie. Example: Tomas Holmstrom

I have NONE of the EA NHL franchise games on my XBox and 360 since ever but this is very cool.  It’s about time warriors like Holmstrom and Ryan Smyth get their due recognition for their dirty work.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 07/13/11 at 10:53 PM ET

monkey's avatar

Speaking as a pollyanna, you’re mostly right, except for that middling powerplay thing.

I’m with you JJ.  I can’t understand where the constant concern for the power play comes from, other than the loss of Rafalski.  The offense and power play were great last year- it was the defense and the penalty kill that were “middling”.

Posted by monkey from Finland on 07/13/11 at 10:54 PM ET

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I don’t think it’s too far fetched to think Hudler should hit 20 goals and around 50 points.  At just about 1/3 the price I’ll take my chances with Jiri.

Posted by Steve on 07/13/11 at 11:11 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I don’t know what Hudler’s capable of, but I know he’s a lot cheaper and offers about the same inconsistency as Semin does. There’s just no sense to that rumor.

As for the message getting stale, I’m kind of glad that the assistant coaches left because…We have to remember that while Babcock’s the captain of the ship, he’s not doing things alone. The coaching staff works as a team, and if that team’s message was getting a little stale, or even if the coach thought it was getting stale, then it was time to change things up, and a proactive coach makes the change before the bottom falls out. That’s what Babcock did.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/13/11 at 11:25 PM ET

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I don’t think it’s too far fetched to think Hudler should hit 20 goals and around 50 points.

If he plays like he did last year?

Honestly, the more I think about it, Semin might be a good pick up.  He’s got an issue with playing full seasons (only two 70+ seasons since the lockout) but he’s got 166 goals in 340 games.  That’s a goal every two games, so if he plays a full season he’s scoring putting in 40. 

Versus 10 goals last year by Hudler.

Semin’s on a one-year contract and if we trade Hudler (either in the Semin deal or otherwise) there’s room for Semin, a backup and a couple million leftover.

I’m not saying anything, I’m just saying…

Posted by Garth on 07/13/11 at 11:33 PM ET

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its more likely that the stock market crashes,  california slides off into the pacific ocean, or an asteroid crashes into Earth than Hudler would ever score 28 goals next season. Dream on, his play was disgraceful last season.  Regardless of what we do with our back up goalie situation (yawn) the Wings real problem is we need another top 6 forward candidate that can bring some speed and energy. Zherdev and Samsonov are candidates who are still available and could be had for reasonable dollars and could be lethal playing with Datsyuk. When we have the CAP room, it seems rediculous to wait till the trade deadline and hope that the likes of Hudler, Helm, Bertuzzi, Miller and others are going to bring some real offense. Its more likely that the moon suddenly disappears than that happening.

Posted by karlander on 07/13/11 at 11:34 PM ET

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offers about the same inconsistency as Semin does.

And 1/3 of the goals…

There’s just no sense to that rumor.

Isn’t there?  Washington needs to shed cap space, Detroit has a surplus, and Detroit is a team that conventionally spends to the cap, so going into the season with $7M+ in space doesn’t make much sense either.

Semin’s is a big contract and he’s surely overpaid (unless he can play 80 games, in which case he’s likely to score 35-40 goals), but it’s one year.  Last year Detroit had enough room to bring in Mike Modano and it didn’t pan out like we’d have liked it.  What’s the worst that happens if we replace Hudler with Semin?  He triples the Hudler’s goal totals and makes our top-six forwards that more dangerous?

And really, if you have the cap space doesn’t it make more sense to overpay for a 26-40 goal scorer than to overpay for a 10 goal scorer?

Posted by Garth on 07/13/11 at 11:51 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

No, there’s no sense to the rumor.

It f’s up Detroit’s cap space and plans for now—the cap space for a goalie and any other necessary alterations vanishes, and the Wings are “married” to the blueline and roster—and it doesn’t solve the spit and vinegar portion of the equation that the Wings were lacking when they didn’t quite grind down the Sharks.

Besides the point, the Capitals would want a mint for a player with one 40-goal season and one year remaining on his contract in the land of a picked-over free agent market and teams trying desperately to get to the cap floor. Why overpay to bring in an even more overpaid underachiever simply because overcompensation works?

Most importantly, we’re talking about a rumor not based in fact, but in Eklund fiction.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/14/11 at 12:03 AM ET

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It f’s up Detroit’s cap space and plans for now

It absolutely doesn’t.  Replace Hudler’s cap hit with Semin’s and there’s still plenty of room for a back up and then some.

the cap space for a goalie and any other necessary alterations vanishes,

Yeah, this would be one of the alterations.

And it definitively addresses Babcock’s request for a top-six forward.

and the Wings are “married” to the blueline and roster

You don’t think they’re married to the blueline as it is?  Going into camp there are going to be seven NHL forwads, a capable 7/8 guy in Janik and a kid who’s going to go all out trying to make the team in Smith. 

If they’re not happy with Commodore they’re going to sign a $6M defenseman?

Why overpay to bring in an even more overpaid underachiever simply because overcompensation works?

First off, I’ll take someone who underachieves at 28 goals over someone who underachieves at 10 goals and a handful of healthy scratches in favour of Drew Miller or Kris Draper any day.

I’m not going to pretend I know what Detroit would have to give up for a rental and neither should you.

Kenny Holland has shown that he is nothing if not patient.  He waited out the free agent frenzy and made two signings that could potentially end up being a couple of the best pick ups in July.  He’s shown that he’s not going to be forced into signing a back up until he’s good and ready to do so, and he’s been patient in his attempts to move Hudler.

As it gets closer to opening day, Ken Holland can ice a team with $7M in cap space with no problems, but if Washington wants to ice a complete roster they’re going to have to make moves.

And yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say: “Washington isn’t looking to make Detroit better and blah blah blah” but that’s ridiculous.  No team is ever trying to make another team better through trades.  You do what you have to in order to ice a full roster.

And sometimes, when you want to win you have to take a chance.  There is no question, I’m sure, in anyone’s mind that a team with Semin in the top six instead of Hudler should be a better team.  In order to ice a better team you have to take risks.  If Detroit trades one of their 23 picks in next year’s draft to get Semin and they win the Stanley Cup, was it worth it?

Most importantly, we’re talking about a rumor not based in fact, but in Eklund fiction.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Posted by Garth on 07/14/11 at 12:22 AM ET

Wings_Fan_In_KC's avatar

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day (and that makes it 5000% more accurate than Eklund will ever be).


Fixed for you.

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City... on 07/14/11 at 01:20 AM ET

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Fixed for you.

Good one.

Posted by Garth on 07/14/11 at 01:54 AM ET

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Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...a much needed hiatus… on 07/13/11 at 11:20 PM ET

By the way, I never ever said it was right or that the Wings would go for it, all I ever did was disagree with George saying that “the concept makes no sense”, because I think it’s ridiculous to say it doesn’t make sense.

Posted by Garth on 07/14/11 at 02:00 AM ET

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Oh hey, here’s a reason it “makes sense” that Detroit might be interested in Semin.  You know that “all of 28 goals” he scored last year?  Yeah, among Detroit players last year that ranks allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way down at tied for first.

But yeah, why would Detroit show any interest in a player like that?

Posted by Garth on 07/14/11 at 02:27 AM ET

monkey's avatar

If Detroit trades one of their 23 picks in next year’s draft

¿Qué hora es?

If the Wings dump Hudler, pick up Semin, and get a backup, they’re pretty close to the cap.  Just because Detroit has been pushing the cap every year since it’s inception does not mean they want to do it that way; in fact Ken Holland has stated repeatedly he would rather have a cushion to work with during the season.  Is $1-2 million enough for him to feel comfortable?

I agree that Alexander Semin qualifies as a “top six forward” but I am unsure if Detroit would see acquiring him as good value.

Posted by monkey from Finland on 07/14/11 at 08:41 AM ET

WingsFanInBeanLand's avatar

Did you guys know Kirk Maltby was a 50-Goal scorer In Juniors?

Posted by WingsFanInBeanLand from where free agents no longer dare. on 07/14/11 at 11:30 AM ET

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Depending on what we throw in, trading for Semin doesn’t seem too crazy to me.  But why the hell would the caps want Hudler for Semin?  There have to be easier ways for them to shed $4mil in cap space.

Posted by Nick on 07/14/11 at 12:30 PM ET

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Is $1-2 million enough for him to feel comfortable?

If they picked up Semin, dropped Hudler and signed a back up, even if they gave the back up a million dollar contract, they’d still be above $2M (according to Capgeek) and that would be more than we’ve had in any year since the Cup win…

We’ve had years with less than half a million in cap space, $2M+ would be a luxury!

I agree that Alexander Semin qualifies as a “top six forward” but I am unsure if Detroit would see acquiring him as good value.

Admittedly I’m assuming they get rid of Hudler, but I don’t see how he would not be good value, assuming he stays healthy.

Even on a down year last year he had nearly 3x the goals that Hudler had.  He’s a pure goal scorer, and if he played on a line with Franzen and Filppula it could be the year that they all live up to potential, where Semin and Franzen both hit 40 goals and Filppula picks up a thousand assists or so…

Posted by Garth on 07/14/11 at 12:40 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.