The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/08/12 at 10:09 PM ET
Updated with a substantial portion of evening news at 8:40 PM: Red Wings GM Ken Holland and his compatriots will make their annual trek to the Breakers’ Resort in Florida for GM’s meetings on Monday, March 12th, and while Holland isn’t sure whether he’s going to be on board with the popular concept of bringing the red line back to prohibit two-line passes, as he told Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika (more on his column later)...
“The game is fast,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland. “We want the game to be fast. But how do you get the game to be a little bit controlled?”
But Holland did tell the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek that he’s going to push for his version of the Burke “trading teams should be able to split the cap hit” plan—i.e. an albatross that’s unlikely to pass—in asking the GM’s to consider extending overtime to 5 minutes of 4-on-4 hockey and then 5 minutes of 3-on-3 OT to reduce the number of games which are decided by shootouts. His conversation with Duhatschek is particularly interesting because Duhatschek pushes Holland just as he’ll push his peers regarding the possibility of adopting a 3-2-1 point system instead…
Holland’s thinking is that playing 3-on-3 would open up the ice so much that a goal would almost certainly be scored. On the rare occasions it didn’t happen, the shootout would be the last-resort tiebreaker.
Shootouts might eventually become as rare as ties in the NFL – something theoretically achievable, but in practice almost never happens. Through Thursday, 13.54 per cent of NHL games were decided in shootouts this year, the second-highest total since the league introduced the format in 2005-06. If successful, the measure would further devalue the shootout in the NHL standings – which can only be a good thing to all the purists and old fogeys out there. The GMs made a similar, but far-less radical shift a couple of years back, when revamping the criteria for playoff qualification.
So how does this relate to the 3-2-1 point system that’s remained more popular with reporters (and some fans, myself included) than bringing back the red line has become popular with GM’s who are ignoring the ridiculous amount of obstruction being let go by referees?
“I was a big believer that we should go to the three-point game three or four years ago,” the Wings GM said. “I’m not a fan any more. What do you want? More separation? Less races?
“In the [Western Conference], you could maybe say there are two teams out of it, but from [No.] 13 on, they have a chance. I mean, we’re sitting here in early March and realistically, 28 teams can say, if they win nine out of 10, they would make the playoffs,” he said. “I like it the way it is. If you look at the West, Vancouver, St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville, you’ve got four teams at the top, all within about six points. You’ve got about five teams at the eight-hole, between seventh and 11th, within four or five points. What more do you want? It’s stretch run time. We’re all rounding the bend and it’s a horse race. I think the races are incredible. So I’m not a fan. I was a fan. I’m not a fan any more.”
Still, there is something a little nonsensical about a standings system in which some games are worth three points and others just two. That creates a scenario which is mathematically improbable: a false .500 that makes it look as if 23 out of 30 NHL teams have winning records. And even though Holland understands that is not a rational system exactly, he thinks the ends justify the means.
“I agree … from the mathematical point of view,” he said, “but last year, on the final day of the season, we beat Chicago in the afternoon and Dallas lost to Minnesota [to decide the last playoff spot]. In the East, Carolina lost their last game. If they win, they get in. Two or three years ago, Philadelphia and the Rangers had a shootout to decide a playoff spot. Why do you want separation? History shows there are great races right until the last weekend. Why would we change that – and run the risk of losing that intrigue?”
And finally, Holland spoke to WBBL’s Hugh Simonson on Thursday evening, discussing the Red Wings’ injuries (as discussed in the off-day thread, Bertuzzi won’t play on friday due to his groin injury, necessitating Gustav Nyquist’s call-up, and it appears that Jimmy Howard’s groin injury, Nicklas Lidstrom’s ankle injury and Pavel Datsyuk’s knee won’t heal from surgery until sometime during the California trip,” as Holland tells “Huge”).
Holland is happy with his team defense, his penalty-killing, he’s thrilled with Joey MacDonald’s play, he likes what Doug Janik and the call-ups have done in terms of establishing depth down the line and giving players experience, but he also readily admits that losing Datsyuk and Lidstrom has yielded a team that’s simply trying to tread water until the pair return, and that’s a concern given that the Red Wings want to fend off the Nashville Predators and eventually retake the Central Division lead from St. Louis.
Holland does believe that the Wings need to make hay during their 4-game road trip starting in Nashville, but he feels that there are “positive signs” in their 1-goal losses which may turn them into 1-goal wins sooner than later.
Let’s also say that Holland’s comments about Joey MacDonald sound like the Wings will be more than happy to bring him back as their back-up next season, too.
There remains a responsibility among players to protect themselves. Why anyone would come up the right wing wall in his own zone with his head down against the Red Wings is beyond me, when defenseman Niklas Kronwall has become famous for blowing guys up in that spot.
Chicago’s Patrick Sharp almost got it Sunday night, but he picked his head up just in time. Kronwall might actually have gotten the worst of that hit. But the Philadelphia Flyers’ Jakub Voracek tried to carry the puck with one hand and his head down Tuesday night. He picked up his head just in time to get smacked by Kronwall’s left shoulder.
Kronwall wasn’t penalized on the play. He wasn’t suspended, either. He has never been suspended, and he might represent the very line between vicious, clean hits and vicious, dirty hits. It seems like he has adjusted slightly to the new era, keeping his feet on the ice better than he used to and turning his back into hits to make sure he makes full body contact and doesn’t pick the head.
There are more examples, though. The Flyers’ Danny Briere stopped in front of the San Jose Sharks’ Marc-Edouard Vlasic on Feb. 28 and ended up going into the boards. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Kris Letang lowered his head to reach for a puck at the last instant on Feb. 29 and was drilled by the Dallas Stars’ Eric Nystrom.
“I see a lot of hits that I think everybody’s jumping on and saying are dangerous now, but I would like to see players have the mindset to protect themselves better, not put themselves in a vulnerable position,” said Tippett long before all of these incidents. “I’m not letting any bad hitters off the hook here. I think we’ve got to get that out of our game, too. But there’s a lot of hits I think players could protect themselves a lot more, be more aware of their surroundings on the ice.”
And here’s what Cotsonika thinks about the Wings as a team in his power rankings list:
4. Detroit Red Wings: No panic in Detroit, either, even though the Wings have run into injury trouble and a little slump. At least Henrik Zetterberg is heating up. He has 20 points in his past 15 games.
• Via RedWingsFeed, part 1: Here’s NHL.com’s EJ Hradek on the Kronwall hit:
• Via RedWingsFeed, part 2: Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples spoke to high-schooler and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s captain Stephen “Scuba” Beauvais about his attempts to start a charity for pediatric cancer research/support, which Wings alumnus Shawn Burr and some of the Red Wings’ current players are buying into;
• Via RedWingsFeed, part 3: Larry Murphy, a birthday boy, spoke to NHL Live’s Hradek and Ed Cohen for 5 minutes….
• This is an oldie but goodie, from Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski:
Update: The Detroit News embedded a video of Ted Kulfan and Gregg Krupa speaking about the Wings’ injuries in Kulfan’s off-day column:
• Wings coach Mike Babcock made an intriguing comment about why the Red Wings recalled Gustav Nyquist while speaking to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness…
And Kronwall made some equally intriguing comments about his hit and hitting:
“Everything is getting reviewed, which I think is a good thing,” Kronwall said. “You just try to play the game and let (Brendan Shanahan) and his guys take care of the rest. Everything happens so fast out there you’re not really thinking, you just try to lay a clean check on someone,” Kronwall continued. “It’s always unfortunate when someone gets hurt. It’s not always easy to judge right away whether it’s a good hit or not. You always want to think it’s a good hit, but you can’t really tell until you see the replay.”
Kronwall delivered a similar check earlier in the season to Philadelphia’s Danny Briere.
“If you hit someone with your shoulder usually you’re going to hit him in the chest or in his shoulder and you’re good to go,” Kronwall said. “In the past there’s been times I’ve come off my feet. That’s always something I’ve been trying to work on. I think that’s still a learning curve and I’m getting better at it.”
And like Tomas Holmstrom’s play in front of the net, Kronwall feels referees have been keeping an eye on him.
“I think they have for the last few years now,” Kronwall said. “I don’t think there’s any news … every once in a while I step up in the play and try to make a check. Again, I’m not trying to focus too much about it. The moment you start thinking too much about it, that’s when you get in trouble, your arm comes up or you lift off your feet.”
• In prospect news, from the University of Notre Dame:
The Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) announced the top three finalists for six of the major individual awards that will be presented on Thursday, March 15 at the historic Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit.
Notre Dame junior center Riley Sheahan (St. Catharine’s, Ont.) is one of the three finalists for the conference’s Best Defensive Forward award along with Michigan’s Luke Glendening and Northern Michigan’s Justin Florek.
Sheahan is one of the CCHA’s top face-off men and often draws the assignment of stopping the opposition’s top forward line. His outstanding skating ability, high hockey I.Q. and active stick help him shut down passing lanes and create turnovers. The junior center also is having his best season on the offensive side as he has career highs in goals (9), assists (15), points (24) and power-play goals (5). He is currently fourth on the team in scoring. Florek is a solid two-way left wing for the Wildcats while Glendening has been a top shutdown forward all season long for the Wolverines.
And according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Roman Augustovitz, Wings prospect and Saint Cloud State University defenseman Nick Jensen was named to the WCHA’s third all-star team.
Update #2: FYI: The New York Times’ Peter May confirms that Boston University has thrown Max Nicastro out because of his alleged sexual assault. He’s not playing for the team, not enrolled at Boston University, nothing.
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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.