The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/10/12 at 04:18 AM ET
Updated with injury news of a different kind at 7:33 AM: The most difficult part of being a Red Wings blogger during the “summer” is that you never know when a particularly intriguing story will hit the interweb, and especially when your team has a dozen players committing semi-blasphemy in some fans’ eyes, and back over on this side of the Atlantic, Danny Cleary just had knee surgery, and we’re all sitting on our hands, waiting to hear what Nicklas Lidstrom plans on doing (and whether that might affect the Wings’ free agency strategy)...
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James delivers something of a middle-of-the-night bombshell in speaking to Wings GM Ken Holland about the aforementioned Lidstrom, scouting the Wings’ players, prospects and potential targets at the Worlds, and, oh yeah, the team’s whole free agency and potential trade strategy thing (what the Chief is calling, “The Summer of Ken,” 2012 version):
Holland plans to head to Helsinki today and remain at the tournament, which is split between Helsinki and Stockholm, through the final May 20. The only thing that could send him home early, he said, is if he’s summoned by captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom is debating whether to return—which is what the team is rooting for—or retire.
“Nick knows my plans,” Holland said. “I’ll come home if he says he’s made a decision, but I don’t sense that’s going to happen.”
Likewise, Holland doesn’t anticipate hearing from Tomas Holmstrom regarding his future either, until next month. June figures to be a very busy month, as it’ll kick off with a three-day meeting with the team’s scouts.
Plans will be formed on how to engage in free agency come July 1; the Wings will be “aggressive,” Holland said, regardless of what Lidstrom does. Most certainly those plans will include pursuing defenseman Ryan Suter, if he hasn’t been re-signed by Nashville.
Meanwhile, Holland will watch his players do what they didn’t do in the playoffs: Score and score some more. Johan Franzen had a goal and Henrik Zetterberg two assists in a dominating 5-2 victory over Germany Wednesday. Zetterberg is second on Team Sweden with six points, while Franzen is third with two goals among five points. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has a goal.
He also thinks that Jonathan Ericsson’s back injury might mean he’s done for the Worlds tourney, but Swedish team doctor Bjorn Waldeback continues to toss off the Swedish equivalent of, “He’s day-to-day.”
And, as it turns out, Holland just so happened to weigh in on the same topics at a little more length via the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg:
At some point in the next few weeks, Ken Holland will meet with Nicklas Lidstrom, and you can be sure of this: At least one of them will stay with the Red Wings. That’s Holland. After years of joking that he would retire when Lidstrom does, Holland can’t pretend anymore.
“Yeah, yeah,” Holland said Wednesday. “I’m hoping Nick is going to do it one more year. But I’ve still got some time to go.”
(Before you calmly say “ONLY ONE MORE YEAR!?!?!?!” you should know that if Lidstrom comes back, he will commit to only a year. He could play more if he chooses.)
As general manager, Holland is, as always, balancing two of the toughest jobs in sports. He wants to make the Red Wings deeper, grittier and stronger now. And he wants to position the team to contend in several years.
As Rosenberg notes, the Wings don’t believe in tanking after making the playoffs for 21 straight seasons simply to accumulate high draft picks, and one can only find so many Zetterbergs, Datsyuks, and, as I’ve certainly seen during the Worlds, Calle Jarnkroks, so free agency, which the Wings haven’t utilized in terms of high-impact players since 2009…
Can be the great equalizer:
If the Wings can convince Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter to join them, that changes everything. Suter is 27 and positioned for another eight years of stardom. The Wings then can sign another star, either this summer or next, and hope one of their prospects becomes a star. Oh, and Suter also can help keep that little playoff streak going. Holland said he didn’t fear missing the playoffs, but he admitted that even in the summer, “You wake up every day, and you’re nervous. It’s such a fine, fine line between finishing fifth (in the conference) and finishing ninth.”
After Nashville beat the Wings in five games in the first round, coach Mike Babcock bluntly said his team needed to get better. Holland, ever the steady hand, sounds more confident. He sees a lot of good players in their prime on his roster.
“Certainly with a tweak here or there, a couple of good things happen to us this summer, we make a couple of moves, there is no reason we can’t contend in the West,” Holland said.
Keeping Lidstrom would be a huge start. But in the long term, finding the next star is more important. The Wings have balanced the present and future for two decades. This summer, Holland will try to do it again.
I don’t normally say this out loud, but I am appreciative of and grateful for everything the Wings’ beat writers do, because their travel schedule is even more brutal than the players’ travel, they churn out an utterly ridiculously inordinate amount of content from very limited time speaking to players, coaches and management, they offer insights and analysis and they keep on working when they should be resting up in the summer like the players do…
And especially this morning, I want to thank St. James and Rosenberg for totally making losing even more sleep than I usually do completely and totally worth it.
Update: And here’s why GM’s like Holland probably have spit-coffee-all-over-their-desk moments when their players say, “Hey, can we go to a tournament where we’re going to play 7 times in 12 nights, or 10 in 16?”
Henrik Zetterberg spoke to Aftonbladet’s Tomas Ros about the toll playing 22+ minutes per game has taken upon him, and his comments aren’t the only ones made by a Wings player—Tomas Tatar suggested to several Slovak websites that he’s spent quite a bit of his off-ice time receiving massages and trying to recover from back-to-back games so that he doesn’t sustain injuries. This is more or less the norm for the vast majority of the players participating in the Worlds:
Zetterberg forced to take treatment after games
After the 5-2 victory against Germany yesterday, Henrik Zetterberg sought treatment immediately after the game.
Worn out after tough game schedule: “There will be some wear.”
He is the Tre Kronor’s biggest star, and now he’s working the team’s medical staff hard so that Henrik Zetterberg can stay fresh throughout the World Cup. Last night, Henrik Zetterberg chose to skip “mixed zone,” where the media is waiting, to receive treatment as quickly as possible.
“There will be some knocks and hits during games. I’m not hurt, but I need to cool down quickly,” he says.
“Must be chilled”
This despite the fact that, during the season, he had small injuries, and in February, Zetterberg was even on the IR with injuries, but didn’t miss any games.
Now the World Cup is here and the game schedule is hectic and so far, the Tre Kronor have played four games in six nights.
For many NHL pros, there’s a big shift from having rested for three weeks to the World Championship-rush with practice each day and close games.
Zetterberg is not injured. But [instead] worn.
“Of course. When you’ve played a game you get some small blows and such. I’m not hurt, but I need to cool down and be ready for tomorrow,” says Zetterberg about his body’s condition.
He’s chosen to not practice either Sunday or Tuesday. Instead, he’s ridden a bike or worked to not tear his groin or other body parts stressed by skating.
Tre Kronor doctor Bjorn Waldeback does not want to reveal too much about the wear and tear on Zetterberg, but puts it succinctly: “He’s taking soft tissue treatment, and a little general treatment,” says the doctor.
Zetterberg had a very good game against Germany yesterday, and his line registered four points. Now Zetterberg leads the tournament in assists throughout the World Championships [with six] and has proven once again that he possesses strong hockey sense. A healthy and fresh Zetterberg is a must for success at the World Championship.
You might also want to check out the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper’s take on Ryan Suter’s future if you’re interested in that situation…
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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.