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Red Wings exec Kris Draper talks about Wings-Predators and playoff violence on Fan 590

Updated 3x with a partial transcript of the interview from Sportsnet at 11:53 AM: Red Wings special assistant to GM Ken Holland (that’s his title) Kris Draper spoke to The Fan 590’s Greg Brady and Jim Lang this morning, splitting a nine-and-a-half-minute interview between discussing his steadfast belief that the Wings are not, as suggested by several pundits in the recap cycle, cooked geese, and then assessing the levels of violence and player disrespect taking place during this year’s playoffs in an incredibly, incredibly eloquent manner.

Draper’s just as baffled by the explicit intent-to-injure plays and blatant head-shots, illustrating some sort of fundamental lack of respect between players and disregard for the NHL’s ham-handed disciplinary procedures, as the rest of us are:

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Inline update: Sportsnet thankfully provides us with a partial transcription of the interview:

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Draper told Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Wednesday morning. “It’s getting dangerous right now. (Hossa) is a friend of mine and I saw that hit and it’s pretty scary.”

So far head shots and suspensions have been the story of the NHL playoffs and it continued on Tuesday night after Chicago Blackhawks Marian Hossa left the game on a stretcher after a vicious hit from Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres. The former Red Wings forward has been through the grind before and said he understands the amount of grit and toughness needed for a Stanley Cup run. But Draper believes the players have gone too far and the dirty play has gotten out of hand.

“I know what’s at stake and what’s on the line and I know you want to compete and do everything you can to win the Stanley Cup,” Draper explained. “But this stuff is crazy with crosschecks to the face, elbows to the heads, leaving your feet and targeting heads. I don’t know what to make of it.”

Like many former players have expressed in the past, Draper echoed the sentiment that the lack of respect between players remains a prominent issue in the NHL and said Shea Weber’s hit on Henrik Zetterberg was another clear example.

“I think that’s the players right now—the respect isn’t as great as it should be,” he said. “You can seriously hurt people and that’s the unfortunate thing of what’s going on right now. . . . You have to respect the opponent and it seems now more than ever that guys are going right for the head. Somebody might get hurt here and we’ve got to stop this. Shea Weber tried to hurt Henrik Zetterberg. It was clear cut. He tried to punch him right in the head. He didn’t get enough of him so he grabbed his head and slammed him in the boards. He just got a fine.”

Draper, who played in 1157 career NHL games, made it clear that the league needs step in before it goes too far and someone suffers a serious injury.

“Something’s got to happen, there has to be something greater or something bigger to settle everything down,” he said. “I know (Shanahan) is trying and doing the best that he can but with the way that it’s going . . . this has to stop. Unfortunately we’ve had these kind of incidents and that’s always the lead story in the U.S.”

And if you lost sleep over last night’s loss like I did, here’s a little morning reading offering both sides of the optimism/pessimism equation:

97.1 the Ticket’s Jeff Riger remains a steadfast believer in the Wings’ chances of salvaging some pride against the Predators, to the tune of offering five reasons why the team is not, to quote the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, “Done Like Dinner”...

But fellow Ticket pundit Eric Thomas believes that it’s not Jimmy Howard’s fault (article via RedWingsFeed, and it includes a nice wallpaper-sized image of Howard making a save; Riger’s article’s image is a little more indicative of the day-late-dollar short defense which the Wings have exhibited thus far) that a team which might be either too…advanced in age and/or too thin in terms of clutch offensive performers to compete with Pekka Rinne’s goaltending needs some tweaking over the summer.

Update: And, again, via RedWingsFeed, MLive’s Josh Slaghter notes that the Wings haven’t exactly rallied from 3-1 deficits to win playoff series, um, ever, and that such events are incredibly rare throughout the course of NHL history.

Update #2: Optimism? The Wings can has it, from NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:

“You can’t look at the big picture,” said 41-year old Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who like most of his teammates has been in this position plenty of times before. “You’ve got to break it down and look at that one game [on Friday]. We’ve got to win one game and that’ll be our mind-set. We can’t look any further than that or we’re done. We know we just have to keep our mind on that next game.”

If they let their minds wander, only bad things can come of it. Despite the Predators being on the verge of clinching, it’s been kind of a weird series. An argument could be made that each of the first four games was won by the team that got outplayed for much of the game, including Detroit’s lone victory in Game 2 at Bridgestone Arena—when the Red Wings won 3-2 despite putting only 17 shots on goal.

Conversely, in all three losses they have outshot Nashville by wide margins and controlled the puck for long stretches of time. Rinne, however, has been outstanding. The Preds defense is also putting up hockey’s version of a soccer “wall” in front of him—continually collapsing into a cluster in front of the 6-foot-5 Rinne, who’s still able to see over them just fine. Nashville has blocked 61 shots through the first four games of the series and the Predators defensemen are usually positioned close enough to the net that they’re in great position to clear out any rebounds. It’s left the Red Wings only one frustrating option to try and score more goals than the eight they’ve potted on a whopping 138 shots.

“Their goalie is making saves,” Detroit’s Drew Miller said. “We just have to find a way to score. We’re out there working hard and it shows that we want to win. We just have to keep putting shots on net and eventually they’re going to go in.”
“[Lidstrom] said we’ve got to go to Nashville and just try to win one … then win another one when we get back here,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who’s currently on the losing end of the goaltending matchup against Rinne by a sizable margin statistically speaking. “We have to start with Friday and not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve been in this situation before and we know what we’re capable of. Sometimes when you feel like you’re outplaying them, [but] you don’t always win. You have to remain positive.”

As Howard pointed out, that’s the main message from Lidstrom, Detroit’s legendary captain. He’s not only hoisted the Stanley Cup four times, but Lidstrom has now played in 262 NHL playoff games during his 20-year career.

“It’s disappointing when you’re not getting rewarded on the chances you’re getting,” Lidstrom said. “You can’t get discouraged. That’s playoff hockey. You have to battle through it.”

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Incognetis's avatar

I still really take issue with the premise that Rinne is playing out of his mind.  They simply have not made it difficult enough for him.  This series is giving me horrible flashbacks to 2006 against Edmonton where Roloson played well, but weak shots from the outside just to produce rebounds weren’t having the desired effect.  I still feel like the Wings are relying too much on long-range shots instead of trying to find some space (I realize there is very little) in the middle.

Posted by Incognetis from Delaware... Hi... I'm in... Delaware on 04/18/12 at 12:16 PM ET

Ducksworth's avatar

They simply have not made it difficult enough for him.

Exactly. Shots from 40-50 feet away are NOT going to beat this goalie, especially with nobody in front of the net half the time. This is the least threatening Red Wing team I’ve ever seen thus far after nearly 20 years of Red Wings hockey. Yeah we had 40+ shots but how many were actually high quality? Since after the ‘09 season KH has done nothing to make this team better, virtually the same team for the past 3 years and it hasnt been working. Time for changes this off-season.

Posted by Ducksworth from Brownstown, MI on 04/18/12 at 12:25 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Yup and yup. Rinne’s been made into Dwayne Roloson by his own efforts, his defensemen’s shot-blocking and ability to “box out” the Wings to close down their slot like Babcock’s Anaheim Ducks did by clutching, grabbing, wrestling and otherwise obstructing the Wings’ players (and, despite the spate of penalties being called, the Predators are kinda getting away with similar things because the Wings aren’t going to the net with enough urgency or gusto), and the Red Wings’ bizarre collective and individual decisions to endlessly peel off at the side boards and pump pucks back to the point—a sure sign of a complete and total lack of confidence in themselves by the Wings’ forwards—fire single, unobstructed and unretrieved-rebound (when there are rebounds) shots on Rinne from oblique angles and extended distances from the net.

I don’t understand why only Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom have made Rinne’s life difficult. This year is like a combination of 2001 against LA, when the Wings made Felix Potvin look like he was still a capable NHL goalie, 2003, when Giguere and obstruction doomed the Wings, and 2006, when Roloson and the Oilers were as built to win in the playoffs as the Predators’ coaches and management have over-built Nashville’s roster to very specifically defeat Detroit come playoff time.

Thanks to free agency and perhaps the simple fact that the searing disappointment of three short springs can’t sit well with Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kronwall, Howard and the Wings’ leaders, nor the younger players who have been over-relied upon in Filppula, Hudler, Quincey, Ericsson, White, Abdelkader, Miller and the absent Helm, as well as the breaking-in of what I might suggest is Babcock’s honest technical error in attempting to fill the voids left by his on-ice coaches in Rafalski, Draper and Osgood and the men flanking his shoulders in McCrimmon and MacLean with assistant coaches who had no NHL experience…

This team can make a few significant tweaks, maybe finally replacing Rafalski, as some Wings fans on Twitter have suggested, adding a fiery, Draper-like personality to the locker room, and bolstering the team’s scoring up front, as well as giving Jimmy Howard a more capable back-up (even if that’s Joey MacDonald)...

Will, alongside a summer’s worth of hard thoughts and decisions made by Holland, Nill, Ryan Martin, Babcock, Blashill, Peters and the rest of the Wings’ hockey operations staff regarding the team’s attempts to regain their mojo, confidence and swagger, remedy the problems the Wings started having in February and have never been able to overcome.

I’d also like to point out that, by post-lockout standards, the Wings are in fact still an elite, contending team. They make the playoffs every season, they win over half their regular season games, they win at least a round or two more Aprils and Mays than not and their program remains attractive to players who are willing to take less than market value to join the Big Red Machine. That’s not exactly going to the conference finals—which is the Wings’ minimal playoff expectation every season—on a yearly basis, but in the cap era, that’s still pretty f***ing impressive.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/18/12 at 12:43 PM ET

Incognetis's avatar

the Red Wings’ bizarre collective and individual decisions to endlessly peel off at the side boards and pump pucks back to the point

God this kills me.  Filppula has been particularly bad about this over the first four games.

Posted by Incognetis from Delaware... Hi... I'm in... Delaware on 04/18/12 at 12:50 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

if I were Babcock, I’d pull Helm aside and say “hey, since you’re not able to play and have some free time around the locker room, here are some pie plates and a couple of cans of shaving cream.  go have fun.”

this team needs a mental release.  they need some fun.  they aren’t having fun on the ice.  their problem is mental, not physical or talent.  and it may not even be mental in the “effort” category it’s mental in the “stuck in mud” category.  they’re behind the power curve and a few good pies to the face, some laughs and general levity and comaraderie might loosen them up a bit.

hell, today would have been a great day for some paintball or bowling.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/12 at 01:46 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

George, Thanks for reminding me that Hudler has been in front of Rinne for at least 2 goals, he is the smallest player out there.  Good for Huds!!!  I was shocked when I first saw him doing it and thought that was a waste of time, but it is working for him!

Why aside from Huds and Homer is no one else going to the net?  Ask Babcock I would guess!  Media in Detroit are too easy on Babs.  How about some Toronto, NYR, Nucks, type questions for the coach!  It is part of his job!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 04/18/12 at 02:38 PM ET


Not so fast, Kris. It’s, you know, good for business.

We basically need more of this headhunting stuff, it makes for a great show, says Brian Burke. He is praising Shanny’s work and is absolutely loving it. He thinks these playoffs are the most compelling in a long time, compares them (sic!) to Woodstock 68.

R S V!  sick

www (dot)  usatoday ()  com/sports/hockey/nhl/story/2012-04-18/brian-burke-comments-on-nhl-suspensions/54383282/1

Posted by Alex on 04/18/12 at 02:38 PM ET

socalwingnut's avatar

One thing I keep hearing from reporters is how Rinne can"see over” his defensemen and opposing forwards. I’m 6’3” and I can’t “see over” players who are 6’1” or so. I still have to look around them. Granted I’m a forward, but the premise is the same.

George, you’re a goalie so correct me if I’m wrong, but if Rinne is trying to look over the top of players, wouldn’t he have trouble getting back down into the butterfly as easily since he’s kind of stretching his upper body? Meaningless point, but one that reporters always go to when they gush over Rinne’s 6’5” height.

Posted by socalwingnut on 04/18/12 at 07:20 PM ET

socalwingnut's avatar

How about firing a few shots into that soccer fence they’ve got going? Defensemen start taking a few off the feet and ankles and maybe they will part like the Red Sea.

Posted by socalwingnut on 04/18/12 at 07:27 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Sorry I’ve been AWOL.  Hope nobody thinks I’ve given up on the Wings.  Just a long, busy day and I’m just now getting caught up with my reading here.

Great stuff, George and great comments from everyone on these post-game posts.

I’m not ready to write the obit yet, ‘cuz it really isn’t over until somebody wins their 4th game.  I can’t pretend I am overly optimistic, but anything can happen.

So I’ll save the post mortem for when it’s really done.



Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 04/18/12 at 08:12 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.


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