Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings locker room clean-out day news: Lidstrom gives a lecture, Eaves expects to recover

Updated 11x with sand-kicking from Nashville at 6 PM: The Detroit Red Wings’ players assembled at Joe Louis Arena today to take their team picture for the 2011-2012 season, clean out their lockers, in the cases of Jimmy Howard (USA), Justin Abdelkader (USA), Valtteri Filppula (Finland), Jonathan Ericsson (Sweden), Henrik Zetterberg (Sweden), Johan Franzen (Sweden) and the already-departed Tomas Tatar (Slovakia) and Jakub Kindl (Czech Republic), pack up their gear to head over to Stockholm and Helsinki to take part in the World Championships, and to begin the process of taking end-of-season physicals, receiving off-season workout recommendations, and to begin engaging in exit interviews with coaching and management staffs which will utilize the information gleaned from said players to formulate an organizational master plan in terms of attempting to reload the Big Red Machine at the Entry Draft and via trades and free agent signings.

The players aren’t exactly stating anything of staggeringly stunning note today—thought Nicklas Lidstrom assuaged some Wings fan’s fears by suggesting that he still likes his team’s chances of contending for a Cup—as noted by WXYZ’s Brad Galli...

Walking into the Joe for the Red Wings last media availability of the year. Cleaning out the lockers never fun, especially before May.
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Henrik Zetterberg: “We definitely need some changes. What they are, I’m not sure.”
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Niklas Kronwall said when you lose, you need to make changes.
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Justin Abdelkader on Lidstrom’s potential return: “I hope so. I really hope so.”
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Henrik Zetterberg said he had a feeling last year about Lidstrom’s return. Said it was right. He said he’s got a feeling again.
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Nicklas Lidstrom: “I haven’t had my talk with Kenny (Holland), but I don’t think he’s thinking rebuilding.”
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Lidstrom said his decision won’t be based on money. “It hasn’t been the last few years.”
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Lidstrom said he didn’t allow himself to think Game 5 was his last game. “I haven’t had the feeling that this is it.”
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Lidstrom: “I really like the core we have here.”
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Lidstrom said, in fact, Barry Trotz said “Please don’t retire.” Lidstrom: “I was flattered to hear it.” #RedWings
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Lidstrom’s oldest son has been in Sweden the past two years. “That will factor in.”
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Lidstrom on Ryan Suter: “He’ll be a very good fit for a lot of teams.”
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Lidstrom: “Kenny (Holland) will do whatever he can to put the best product on the ice.”
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Lidstrom said it was “probably his wife” who told Babcock she doesn’t like him being around the house.
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Lidstrom spoke to reporters for nearly 20 minutes. Reiterated over and over he will make his decision by July 1.
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Somebody asked Lidstrom if Suter as a Red Wing would keep him here. Nick: “He’s a good player.”
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Tomas Holmstrom: “I love the game. I’d play four more years.” But he’s not leaning either way.
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Holmstrom: “I don’t know yet. Sometimes it’s just lots of pains and aches.”

97.1 the Ticket’s Jeff Riger...

Nik Kronwall thinks it would be sad if Stuart were to leave but understands its a business and he expects definite change
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Kronwall believes the Wings can be just as physical then other trends and feels that Detroit had proven that
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Same as the last couple years, players telling the media that they are trying to convince Lidstrom to come back
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Lidstrom says money plays no factor in decision to come back, would not really answer if he would be willing to take less money to come back
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Lidstrom on Ryan Suter: “He’ll be a very good fit for a lot of teams.”
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Lidstrom admitted that the offseason grind is a big part of his decision and will not skimp on it if he decided to come back
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Lidstrom said him and Holmstrom have not talked about retiring. He would not say if he thought Homer would call it quits.
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Lidstrom doesn’t believe a massive shakeup is needed, he still likes the Wings core
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Lidstrom thinks he will make his decision before Holland signs anybody, so who is brought in will have no bearing on his decision
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Lidstrom says Barry Trotz looks him to come back in the handshakes after the Preds series, it was brought up if he thought Trotz was lying
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Meant Trotz told him to come back
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Holmstrom doesn’t know what he’s going to do, admits the pain and lack of ice time plays a huge factor
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Holmstrom wants more ice time, claimed he didn’t whine about it but wants to play close to 15 minutes a game

ESPN’s Craig Custance...

Zetterberg says he’s playing in World Championships.

The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...

Locker clean up taking place. http://t.co/oR6oM8Ag
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Danny Cleary says if he had to do it all over again he would have had surgery during season.

Fox Sports Detroit’s Wakiji, again…

Very patient #Redwings Lidstrom spoke 15 minutes. Of course still said no decision yet but definitely before July 1.
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#Redwings Lidstrom said Holmstrom’s decision would not impact his, said they haven’t talked about it.
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The locker of #RedWings Tomas Holmstrom’s. Last time it’ll have his stuff in it? http://pic.twitter.com/rZyXOZFI
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#RedWings Holmstrom speaking to media. Has not made a decision yet. http://pic.twitter.com/18km9RRt

The Free Press’s Helene St. James...

Update from #redwings clean out day: Nicklas Lidstrom will still take some time to decide future
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Lidstrom said Nashville coach Barry Trotz told him: Please don’t retire, when two shook hands after series
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Holmstrom said he’d love to play 3-4 more years, but doesn’t know if physically able to, will take some time to decide, talk to GM Holland

And the Red Wings’ official Twitter account:

Patrick Eaves says he’ll be ready to go next season. ‘I still have a ways to go, but I will be ready next season.’
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B. Smith: ‘Just getting a feel for what life is like up here. How fast the game is.’ (On what he learned in 2012)
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Smith: ‘I think selfishly, I want him back so I can pick up more from him.’ (On Lidstrom)
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Kronwall: ‘All you can do now is go home and get in as good of shape as possible for next year.’
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Lidstrom says that he has no idea of a timetable. He will meet with GM Ken Holland for an exit interview, like the rest of his teammates.
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Lidstrom: ‘We didn’t make many mistakes, but we made a few that really cost us.’ (On the NSH series)
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Lidstrom: ‘I still like the core we have in here.’
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Lidstrom said he was happy with the first half of the season. Felt he dropped off a little bit in the second before getting hurt.
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Lidstrom: ‘You have to be motivated. You have to have that drive. That’s what I will think about.’
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Lidstrom said that these first round results (With DET, VAN, SJ and PIT losing) have shown how much [parity] there is in the league.
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Lidstrom confirmed that Barry Trotz said ‘please don’t retire’ while in the handshake line following the NSH series.
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Lidstrom said that he thinks he will make a decision prior to the start of free agency on July 1st.
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Holmstrom said that there haven’t been many discussions with Nick Lidstrom about their futures. Says there is no timetable.
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Brendan Smith at the Red Wings locker clean out day at Joe Louis Arena. http://instagr.am/p/Jz0_c_x48f/

Update #1 : Here’s more from Riger...

Franzen ” there’s always haters when you lose” on criticism of team not scoring enough goals
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Franzen ” its always about physical when we lose but when we win we are fantastic physically”
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Franzen admits he was disappointed in his playoffs
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Stuart on if he would stay ”I guess I could suck it up like I did the last 2 years”
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Holmstrom did say he couldn’t see himself playing for another team

The Wings...

Pavel Datsyuk skated this morning at JLA. Says he hasn’t made a decision on competing in the upcoming World Championships.
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Jimmy Howard and Justin Abdelkader have been named to Team USA for the upcoming IIHF World Championships.
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Howard said he’s excited to play for Team USA, but wishes his team were still in the playoffs. JH wore stars and stripes for WJC and U18’s.
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PHOTO: The aftermath of a season cut short. http://instagr.am/p/Jz3-9rR49B/

Galli...

Brad Stuart very upfront about his plans. Respects the organization but family weighs most heavily on decision. “It’s getting harder.”
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Stuart said “the team was great about” letting him go home for a couple days to see his family.
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Is this the last time we’ll see this locker in Detroit? http://pic.twitter.com/5kPX9Td8

And both the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are confirming Abdelkader and Howard’s inclusions in Team USA’s roster.

Update #2: From Wakiji:

#RedWings Stuart: I love it here. Yeah, if it was a purely hockey decision, I would stay. But I’ve got other things to consider.

The Wings...

Babcock: ‘I think we should be there every year.’
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Babcock: ‘We feel like we have some room to add and we’re going to do that with Ken (Holland).’
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Babcock: ‘The reality is that we have lots of good pieces, lots of players in their prime, but we’ve been disappointed two years in a row.’
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Babcock on Nick: ‘I just think he’s too good to quit.’ Then Babcock went on about how he isn’t involved in those discussions.
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Babcock on having players go to World Championships: ‘I don’t like them going. I would rather have them playing here.’
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Babcock said the World Championship opportunity would be fantastic for guys like Filppula, Howard and Ericsson.
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Babcock: ‘Our best part of our season was when we had lots of depth and we were able to go after teams with our third and fourth lines.’

Riger...

Babcock very non committal on if the team needs a major change
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Babcock on Nick ” he’s too good to quit”
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Babcock seems sure that Stuart is leaving
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Babcock keeps repeating there was just not enough depth, he’s not blaming the Mule like others are
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Babcock would be happy to help recruit free agents, also doesn’t think the team will make many trades, more free agents instead

And Galli...

Babcock said he’ll recruit free agents…if he’s told. “I got air miles.”

And here’s a bit from the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff regarding Danny Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom:

Cleary is confident that after undergoing surgery next week on his injured left knee, that he will be able to come back next season as strong as ever.

“I think it will be fine,” Cleary said. “I’ve just got to go in, have the surgery on it, then just get on a maintenance program and I’ll be fine.”

Cleary estimated he’ll endure a six-week recovery period following surgery. “There’s significant issues going on,” he said. “They’ll know more when they get in there. There’s a lot of different things. There’s tears in there, there’s cartilage damage, there’s bone on bone, there’s a lot of fluid. The build-up of fluid was a major issue. I’m hoping that we can get it resolved.”

If he had it to do over again, Cleary admitted he would have undergone surgery on the knee back when trouble first flared up in November, talking about how the injury impacted all facets of his life. “Just the everyday things, even walking – I walked with a limp since November,” Cleary said. “The games were really hard. I tried as hard as I could, gave it everything I can, but what are you going to do? It’s hard playing on one leg. Looking back on it, we were hoping it would calm down, but it never did. I would have had the surgery (in November).”

Holmstrom, meanwhile, is uncertain as to whether he wants to put his body through the rigours of another NHL season at age 40. “I love the game, I would love to play three or four more years,” Holmstrom said. “It’s so much fun to come to the rink. It’s just whether the body can take it one or two more years. It’s all about the wear and tear on the body. I just know that mentally, the last couple of years, I’ve had to go through stiffness, soreness, aches and pains. It can be pretty tough during the regular season.”

Holmstrom will make his decision regarding retirement soon, but wants to take a little time to see how his battered body responds to some down time. “I don’t know yet,” Holmstrom said. “I need to rest the body up and bit and see.”

He insisted that whatever Lidstrom decides to do won’t impact his decision, but his limited role during the 2011-12 season might affect the outcome. “If I’m going to play next year, am I going to play on the fourth line and get 7-9 minutes of ice time a game?” Holmstrom wondered. “That’s tough to do. Of course, you’ve got the power play, too, but it’s not that easy to get out there and make something happen when you’re getting limited ice time.”

Update #3: The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness has filed reports about Brad Stuart...

Quick quote from defenseman Brad Stuart, who is an unrestricted player and has been rumored to want to play the rest of his career on the West Coast.

“The situation isn’t normal, do I want to stay or do I want to not stay? There’s a lot of other factors other than hockey,” Stuart said. “That’ll be something that over the next little while I’ll have to figure out. I love it here. Yeah, if it was a purely hockey decision, I would stay. But I’ve got other things to consider and other factors other than just hockey. Those are things I guess I’ll have to figure out in the next month and a half.

“I’ve been living here, my family’s been in California,” Stuart added. “I’ve got a stepdaughter that needs to finish high school so that’s how it is. There’s really no way to get around that. I guess it’ll be up to me to kind of decide what needs to be done. It’s been a tough couple of years. As much fun and as great as it’s been to play here, it’s been equally as tough not he family side of it. Those are things I’d like to consider, at least try to fix.”

And Nicklas Lidstrom:

“I’ll take my time, having a meeting with Kenny (Holland), an exit meeting like all the players have and go from there,” Lidstrom said Tuesday as the Wings cleaned out their lockers at Joe Louis Arena. “I won’t make a decision soon. I won’t put a timetable on it,” Lidstrom added. “I’m sure Kenny would like know before July 1 to see what’s going on. That’s what we did last year.”

Lidstrom will weigh many things when making his decision from motivation to his health and also what he family wants him to do.

“It’s always hard losing in the first round especially since we felt we had a pretty good team going into the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “We did have a good regular season, but we got hurt and couldn’t get back to playing up to our standards. We did play well at times in the playoffs, but not good enough to beat a good Nashville team. That stinks, but I don’t know if that’ll be part of my decision or not.”

Lidstrom said money won’t be a factor.

“You’re still disappointed losing out so mentally you’re not happy with how things ended,” Lidstrom said. “Physically I feel OK. My ankle was hurting me late in the year and a little bit in the playoffs, but we have good doctors and it really didn’t bother me when we started playing games. I’m happy with how I played the first half of the season, I felt I dropped off a little bit in the second half, then I got hurt with 60 games into the year,” Lidstrom added. “I think that slowed me down I bit. I wasn’t where I wanted to be after I got back from that injury.”

He does feel he can play another season.

“I believe so,” he said. “I feel physically I can still play. I can contribute, but you have to be motivated and you have to have the drive and that’s something I will think about.”

And, via RedWingsFeed, here’s an early video of Babcock’s presser from the Windsor Star:

: Here’s a bit more from Galli...

Eerie feeling. Left the Joe and bumped into Nicklas Lidstrom. Grew up watching him play the right way. We may never see another like him.
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Nick’s generosity with the media shouldn’t be understated. He would genuinely field questions for 10-15 minutes. Every. Day.
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Babcock talked about the offseason, started to say “minor” tweaks. Paused. Then said “tweaks” would be made.
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Babcock downplayed the idea of trades. Said he liked the main pieces, and they’ll look to add more to that.

And Riger:

Holland on what its like when Lidstrom has decided and wants to meet him to tell him ” its like game 7”

The Windsor Star just posted a 9-minute video of Henrik Zetterberg’s comments…

And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger offers some quips as well:

Anybody recognize this guy? Must be a popular dude ... #RedWings http://twitpic.com/9dfh0p
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As expected, #RedWings Lidstrom and Holmstrom said they will take some time to decide whether to return or retire.
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Lidstrom impressed with #Preds potential UFA Ryan Surer: “I’m sure a lot of teams, if he’s available, will be looking at him.”
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Reporter to Lidstrom re: Surer “Is he a perfect Red Wing?” Lidstrom (laughing): “You said it (not me). He’s a very good player.” #RedWings
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Lidstrom: “I want to take a few weeks and get over this. It’s hard when you’re just a few days away from losing.” #RedWings
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BTW, Lidstrom stood there and fielded questions until every last one was asked. At least 15 minutes worth. That’s a great captain. #RedWings

Update #5: From Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples:

With the Red Wings out of the playoffs, it does mean an opportunity for some of their players to represent their country at the IIF World Championship. USA Hockey announced today that Jimmy Howard and Muskegon native Justin Abdelkader will join the American team for the tournament in Helsinki and Stockholm.

MiHockey writer Dave Waddell will have more from the Red Wings’ locker room clear-out day later on, but here’s a quick hits summary from the DRW Twitter feed:

• After skating this morning, Pavel Datsyuk said he is still trying to decide on whether he wants to play for Team Russia or not.

• Nicklas Lidstrom said he will be trying to make a decision about his future prior to the start of free agency (July 1). The Wings’ captain said that Nashville coach Barry Trotz asked him to come back for another season during the handshake line at the conclusion of their first-round series.

• Tomas Holmstrom said he and Lidstrom have not discussed their futures, and that he doesn’t have a timetable on his own decision.

• Patrick Eaves expects that he will be able to play next season. The forward has been battling concussion-like symptoms.

MLive’s Brendan Savage just filed a Lidstrom update...

“I’ll do the same as I did last year,” said Lidstrom, who turns 42 Saturday. “I’ll take my time, have a meeting with Kenny, an exit meeting like all the players have, and go from there. I won’t make a decision soon. I won’t put a timetable on it. I’m sure Kenny would like to know before July 1 to see what’s going on. That’s what we did last year.”

As well as something of a teaser for later-day columns:

• Will defenseman Brad Stuart, an unrestricted free agent, return to Detroit or sign with a West Coast team? In five seasons with the Red Wings, Stuart’s family has never joined him in Detroit, instead remaining in California. He discussed his options.

• Will the Red Wings bring back forward Tomas Holmstrom? Lidstrom’s close friend is also an unrestricted free agent and whether or not he returns will almost certainly be up the team. Holmstrom’s production dwindled after Christmas and he finished the season playing on the fourth line.

• Forward Danny Cleary’s knee. The veteran forward has been dealing with knee issues for much of the season and said he will have surgery next week to address several problems. Cleary said he expects to be back at full strength when the training camp begins.

• Goaltender Joey MacDonald’s back. MacDonald said he doesn’t expect to require surgery after missing the end of the regular season and playoffs with a back injury.
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Pavel Datsyuk, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in February, said he hasn’t decided whether to play in the World Championships but he has been asked by Russian Hockey Federation. Datsyuk said it will depend on his “issue.”

NHL.com’s Hedger says that there’s no secret to what’s ailing Datsyuk:

Datsyuk unsure yet if he will play in World Championships for Russia. Says he will see how knee feels. #RedWings

Update #6: In which Galli hazards a guess…

My predictions on #RedWings: Stuart gone, Holmstrom retires, Lidstrom comes back, add a top-6 forward (Dustin Brown), will overpay for Suter

And NHL.com’s Hedger adds more quips to the equation:

Me: “Watching PHX was like you guys against Nashville. Nashville blocked alot of shots too.” Franzen: “Their goalie blocked a lot of shots.”
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Datsyuk on change for #RedWings: “There needs to be. It might not be something really big, but there has to be some change for sure.”
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Datsyuk unsure yet if he will play in World Championships for Russia. Says he will see how knee feels. #RedWings
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Zetterberg: “There might have to be some tough decisions here, but we believe in our management and they’ll make the right call.” #RedWings
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Zetterberg: “Look at Pittsburgh ... they had a pretty good offense and they’re out, too. You have to have a good mix in your group.” #NHL

As does Wakiji:

#RedWings Lidstrom on Suter: He’ll be a good fit for a lot of teams. We saw the minutes he can play. He’s a top defenseman on their team.
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#RedWings Abdelkader: They invited me. Anytime you can play for your country, it’s a big honor and I’m excited about the opportunity.
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#RedWings Z: We have a good team here. If we do the right changes, some tough changes, but if we do that we’ll be right back next year.
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#RedWings Cleary: I’m going to get the surgery done and hopefully just rehab it.
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#RedWings Cleary: Looking back on it, we were hoping it would calm down, but it never did. I would have had the surgery (in November).
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#RedWings Holmstrom: I don’t know. For sure I would love to play with him (5) 1 more year, but I don’t think it matters if he plays or not.
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#RedWings Datsyuk: I think so, there needs to be. It might not be something really big, but there has to be some change for sure.
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#RedWings Datsyuk: It’s a good thing we make the playoffs, but the last few years we don’t go too far. The second round is not good.
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#RedWings Datsyuk: We have a few with injuries, but we need more score. When the playoffs start, we have not many goal scorers.

• You may not find it surprising that the Red Wings’ video praising Pavel Datsyuk’s nomination for the Selke Trophy highlights his offensive exploits:

• Regarding Shawn Burr, he spoke to WJR’s Frank Beckmann today:

 

Download file

• And here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ initial locker room clean-out report:

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, as expected, said what he has been saying all along, that he’ll take some time to decide whether he’ll be back for a 21st season. The Wings want him back, but he said the biggest decisive factor for him will be motivation; motivation to spend another off-season going through the rigorous training it takes to prepare what will, as of Saturday, be a 42-year-old body for the punishment of an 82-game season.

(Personal opinion: Lidstrom is more likely to come back if there’s a lockout-shortened season.)

Defenseman Brad Stuart sounded very unlikely to be back. He says his family can’t move from San Jose, Calif., and while his stepdaughter only has one year left of high school, spending another year away from his boys, ages 4 and 5, would be almost unbearable.

Forward Tomas Holmstrom said he’d love to play more hockey but doesn’t know whether he can physically hold up any longer.

From players to coach Mike Babcock to general manager Ken Holland, the song was much the same: The 2011-12 Wings were a good team, but tweaks are needed.

“My message today is, I still think we’ve got the nucleus of a very good team,” Holland said. “I think we’ve got a nucleus that can compete with the other teams in the league, but it’s tough. It’s parity. It’s going to be hard to make the playoffs. We’re going to try to make some change, but to think that we’re going to kind of change the entire makeup and we’re going to get tougher and we’re going to get grittier, whatever things you think that we lack—I don’t know if that’s possible over one summer. That’s a drafting plan, that’s a free-agent plan, that’s a trading plan, that’s a development plan.”

Holland said he’d trade a player if it would make the team better, but pointed out that few teams trade their core players. As for acquiring offensive help, he pointed out that high-scoring teams in the regular season, such as Vancouver, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago, are all out after the first round of the playoffs.

St. James posted a video of Ken Holland’s remarks:

Update #6.5: The Hockey News’s Lyle “Spector” Richardson offers the following assessment of the Wings’ off-season changes to come:

The Wings currently have more than $43.5 million invested in 17 players for next season and assuming the salary cap for 2012-13 remains around $64.3 million, their ability to sign Parise and Suter to heavily front-loaded, cap-friendly contracts is there.

Assuming the two cost a combined $12 million, that would push Detroit’s payroll above $55 million, leaving enough for modest raises to Hudler, Helm and Abdelkader, while Quincey would have to accept a pay cut from his current $3.125 million to remain in Detroit. Holmstrom, who was clearly a spent force this season, is expected to retire.

The wild card is Lidstrom, who made $6.2 million this season and could seek roughly the same salary should he return for another season.

Holland could afford to sign Lidstrom, Parise and Suter, but their combined salaries would make it difficult to re-sign most of their remaining free agents, unless Holland sheds salary elsewhere from the lineup via trades, demotions or buyouts.

Should Holland fail to reel in Parise or Suter, he’ll consider other free agents, as well as trades and promotions from the farm team, to address his needs this summer.

It will be a summer of change for the Red Wings, but as more than one Detroit pundit suggested, it will be more of a retool than an overhaul.

Update #7: Wowzers, LOTS of video. WJBK Fox 2 posted a 7:06 clip of Babcock speaking to the press…

Babcock Reflects on Season: MyFoxDETROIT.com

A 3:58 clip of Lidstrom’s comments…

 

Lidstrom Talks About His Future: MyFoxDETROIT.com

And a 2:26 clip of Holmstrom speaking to the press:

 

Holmstrom Discusses Uncertain Future: MyFoxDETROIT.com

Update #7.5: Here’s the Detroit news’s Ted Kulfan’s clean-out day report, which mostly focuses on Lidstrom’s decision-making process:

If Nicklas Lidstrom is leaning one way — retirement or returning for a 21st NHL season — he wasn’t offering any clues Tuesday.

“I’ll do the same as I did last year — just take my time,” Lidstrom said Tuesday. “I’m gonna have a meeting with Kenny (Holland), an exit meeting like all the players have, and go from there. So I won’t make a decision soon. I wouldn’t really have a timetable on it. I’m sure Kenny would like know before July 1 to see what’s going on. That’s what we did last year.”

The NHL free-agent signing period begins July 1. Lidstrom missed 11 games of the regular season in February and March after he was hit in the ankle with a puck.

“Physically I feel OK,” Lidstrom said. “My ankle was hurting me late in the year and a little bit in the playoffs. But we have good doctors and it really didn’t bother me once I started playing games.”

Lidstrom, 41, was asked if he could play another year if sufficiently motivated.

“I believe so,” he said. “I feel physically that I can still play. I still believe I can contribute. But you have to be motivated and you have to have the drive, and that’s something I’ll think about.”

Update #8: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose provides a locker room clean-out story which includes comments from unusual suspects:

“I think everybody is a little depressed because we didn’t do as well as we thought we would do,” rookie defenseman Brandan Smith said. “Going out in the first round and how we did it is really tough. It’s a little frustrating that way, but at the same time I think some guys are happy to go home and see their families. It’s a bittersweet feeling and saying your goodbyes is never great anyways.”

Neither is losing in the first round of the playoffs, which is foreign to the Wings’ organization. But for the third consecutive spring, the Wings didn’t reach the conference finals, which they had done in each of the three previous seasons, including 2008 and ’09 when they reach the Stanley Cup finals. The playoffs are the measuring stick used by the Wings, who have qualified for an NHL record 21-straight postseason appearances. No other franchise in the four major North American sports – including Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Basketball Association – has come close to matching the Wings’ dominance.

Obviously, injuries in the final quarter of the regular-season played a significant factor in the Wings’ playoff preparedness. It’s hard not to regain that mid-season continuity late in the season and into the opening round of the playoffs when so many pieces weren’t playing at 100 percent. Guys like Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Danny Cleary (knee), Patrick Eaves (concussion), Todd Bertuzzi (groin), Darren Helm (knee), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Johan Franzen (lower back), Jakub Kindl (oblique), Jimmy Howard (groin) and Joey MacDonald (sciatica) all dealt with late-season injuries that forced them to miss games.

“I thought our injuries late in the year hurt us,” said Lidstrom, who missed 11 games with a badly bruised right ankle. “We weren’t able to get back up to speed and we didn’t fully recovery.”
...
“We needed to score more goals,” center Henrik Zetterberg said. “At the end of the year we didn’t play as good as we usually do. Look at our last 20 regular-season games we didn’t have our best record. Some has to do with injuries, but we have to be better. We had a good stretch at home here, but we didn’t play well enough on the road. It was little things. I think every guy has to be a little bit better. If every guy chips in a little more we would be that much better. Injuries hurt us, even though we had players that came in and played really well. I think it eats up on other players that had to play more minutes. It hurts you, but I don’t think that’s the whole answer, but I don’t think we know the whole answer either.”

Some answers may come this summer once the NHL’s free agency period begins on July 1. The Wings have five players – Lidstrom, defenseman Brad Stuart, forwards Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom and backup goalie Ty Conklin – who can become unrestricted free agents. Lidstrom and Holmstrom won’t sign anywhere else, so their futures with the club are still uncertain, and while some of teammates have thoughts on whether the pair will return for another season or retire only time will tell.

“I’ve got a gut feeling, but I’m going to keep that (to) myself,” said Zetterberg, when asked about Lidstrom’s future. “I had a gut feeling last year too and it turned out to be right so we’ll see in a month or so. In the end we hope it’ll be a nice decision. He’ll do what he needs to do. It’s a big commitment to make if he’s mentally prepared to come back too. Everyone hope he’s going to make that commitment.”

Regardless of what the roster looks like next season, Monday was an unsavory time for the players who may have said their final goodbyes.

“Even if you know you won’t be playing with a guy you’ll still see him on a different team, so you always have that friendship,” forward Drew Miller said. “But it’s not a good day. It’s only a good day when you win. It’s definitely one of those days that you deal with and get it over with. You pack everything up and say your goodbyes.”

And it took a while, but here’s Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji’s clean-out day report. She provides updates on the statuses of Patrick Eaves (concussion) and Joey MacDonald (bulging disc in his back)...

“I’m having less and less headaches and able to work out a little harder,” Eaves said. “I just got to stay with it. It’s all symptom-related, as soon as symptoms starts to go down I can do more without getting worse then I can move on. I’m very confident I’ll be ready. We have some time here I can recover and get treatment. I should be ready to go.”
...
“I can see a big improvement over the last couple of weeks and I still believe if we would have continued on here I would have been skating probably within the next week or two (but not playing),” MacDonald said. “I’m going to stick around here for another 3-4 weeks and before I leave here I want to be 100 percent, ready to rock.’‘

MacDonald said he has had two cortisone injections and feels he’s at 75-80 percent right now. His main focus now is getting ready for next year.

“I want to be ready in July, start skating,” MacDonald said. “That (being the backup next season) is the plan. I want to stick around here and be 100 percent ready. It’s going in the right direction. I’m 75-80 percent right now.”

And the Wings are crossing their fingers regarding Lidstrom:

“I feel physically I can still play,” Lidstrom said. “I can contribute, but you have to be motivated and you have to have the drive and that’s something I will think about.
Training is part of it. I know what I have to do to get ready for a long year. I’m not willing to sacrifice that to have a good summer or take it easy. I know what I have to do and it’s a grind to go through, which all of us do in here. Then you hit the grind of season. It’s a long year. You play 3-4 games every week for over six months and that takes its toll on you too.”

Lidstrom’s oldest son, Kevin, has been playing hockey in Sweden the last two years. He said his second oldest son, Adam, is also considering playing in Sweden next year. Having two of his boys back in Sweden could influence him. Lidstrom’s teammates have already started lobbying him to stay.

“In the end we hope it’ll be a nice decision,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “He’ll do what he needs to do. It’s a big commitment to make if he’s mentally prepared to come back too. Everyone hopes he’s going to make that commitment.”
...
“I enjoy playing with him the last 10 years,” Datsyuk said. “It’s hard to say if he play next season. Everyone hope he play another three years. He’s our captain. We hope he come back.”

Update #9: Wakiji essentially wrote a second article’s worth of stories about Brad Stuart....

“I’ve been living here, my family’s been in California,” Stuart said. “I’ve got a stepdaughter that needs to finish high school so that’s how it is. There’s really no way to get around that. I guess it’ll be up to me to kind of decide what needs to be done. It’s been a tough couple of years. As much fun and as great as it’s been to play here, it’s been equally as tough on the family side of it. Those are things I’d like to consider, at least try to fix.”
...
“Now flying in for a day is sometimes worse than not coming at all because they get all emotional,” said Stuart, who has four and five-year old sons. “I made it through the last few years. It’ll be a decision we have to make whether we can do it again.”
...
“I think he’s a top four defenseman for us,” Lidstrom said. “He’s always out there, killing penalties, playing against the top lines and he’s a physical presence for us too. That’s something we’ve needed back there and he’s been filling that role for us. He’s hard to play against. I’m not sure what Stuie wants to do, but he’s been a big part of our team and hopefully he’ll stay with the team.”

And the Wings’ takes on potential changes to their lineup:

“It’s a good thing we make the playoffs, but the last few years we don’t go too far,” Pavel Datsyuk said. “The second round is not good. We need to improve ourselves for sure. We need at least two steps (to conference finals).”
...
“We still have a solid core group of players that’s been part of this team for a while that are still contributing to this team,” Lidstrom said. “I don’t see the team slipping. There’s a lot of parity in this league and if you don’t play as good as you have to you’re going to lose and that’s what happened to our team.”
...
“I think [Suter’s] a very good player,” Lidstrom said. “He’ll be a good fit for a lot of teams. We saw the minutes he can play. He’s a top defenseman on their team, can play against the top lines and can be a contributor offensively. He joins the rush. He’s a good skater. He plays well in the own zone. I’m sure a lot of teams, if he’s available, will be looking at him.”
...
“They’re good players,” Zetterberg said. “Great players and seem like two really good guys too. They’d be a good fit in here. We’ll just have to wait and see where they decide to go.”
...
“We need to have more fun out there, get some confidence back,” Franzen said. “We looked like a drained team kind of in most of the games. Get some joy back, believing in ourselves, knowing that we’re a good team and play for each other.”

• Via WXYZ, here’s Brad Galli’s report, which includes comments from Mike Babcock, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Hollmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Brad Stuart,

• The Free Press’s Helene St. James confirms that Jim Nill turned down an invite to leave his position as the Wings’ assistant GM to join the Montreal Canadiens:

Nill told the Free Press that a “family illness,” combined with a very comfortable situation with the the Wings, made him decide to stay put.

“Montreal made contact before the playoffs began,” Nill said, adding that Wings owner Mike Ilitch, after speaking to Nill about the situation, “granted permission for me to talk to Montreal, which he didn’t have to do.”

That was tantamount to saying Nill could leave early, despite having four years left on his contract. The Canadiens announced that Pierre Gauthier was relieved of his GM duties March 29.

“I spoke with Montreal a couple of times, had good conversations and was very interested,” Nill said. “But in the end, for personal reasons, this is not the right time.”

• Via RedWingsFeed, here’s the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s report about Stuart and Holmstrom:

“There are a lot of other factors than other than hockey,” Stuart said Tuesday. “That’s something over the last little while I’ll have to figure out. Living here and the family spending a lot of time in California — my daughter needs to finish high school, that’s just the way it is, no way around it, and it’ll be up to me to decide what needs to be done. It’s been a tough couple of years. As great as it has been playing here, it’s been equally (tough) from the family side.”

Stuart, 32, had 21 points in 81 games this season. He has been with the Wings the last four seasons. The Kings traded Stuart to the Wings in February 2008 for a second-round draft pick in ‘08 and a fourth-rounder in 2009.

Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, meanwhile, knows he’ll be around hockey, whether it’s in the NHL or not.

“Three kids playing hockey — I’m going to be a rink rat for sure,” said Holmstrom Tuesday as the Wings cleaned out their lockers.
...
“I’ll take some time and see how the body is,” said Holmstrom, who has battled numerous injuries in recent seasons.

The passion to play is still there, however.

“I love the game and I’d love to play three or four more years; it’s still a lot of fun to come to the rink,” Holmstrom said. “(It’s whether) my body can take it; there’s a lot of wear and tear on the body.”

• The AP posted the bare bones of an article by Larry Lage which will be filled out with quotes a few hours from now:

The Detroit Red Wings have gathered for their annual team picture.

Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t sure, or won’t say, if he will come back.

The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner said Tuesday he plans to decide by July 1 whether to return or retire. He believes his body can hold up for another season, but isn’t sure if he’ll be mentally motivated enough to play again.

Tomas Holmstrom insists he’s not leaning toward calling it a career or coming back because he has taken a beating in front of the net for 15 seasons.

Lidstrom says the Red Wings need to make just a couple tweaks this off-season for them to bounce back from a first-round exit.

• And finally, the first crop of videos from the Wings’ website have hit the web. Here’s Pavel Datsyuk speaking to the media…

Here’s Johan Franzen…

 

Here’s Niklas Kronwall…

 

And here’s Henrik Zetterberg:

 

We’ll find out whether the Wings’ website will post the comments made by Lidstrom, Stuart and Babcock over the next few hours.

Update #10: 97.1 the Ticket’s Jeff Riger focuses on Nicklas Lidstrom’s future…

A lot of people believe Lidstrom will not return to the Wings if he believes the team is not Stanley Cup caliber anymore. “I think this team just needs a couple tweaks” Lidstrom said. I like the core that we have in here, if you look around the league there is so much parody. Teams are so close to one another so if you are not playing well or on top of your game you are going to lose and I think we have seen that in other series as well. Having said that, I still like the core that we have in here.”

Lidstrom was asked if he would consider a farewell season? A season where everybody knows he is leaving so he could essentially get standing ovations and the honors he deserves throughout the league? “I don’t think so, that has not crossed my mind either” said Lidstrom. I want to play out the season and not have to think about that and be reminded about it, just go out there and play and make a decision in the off season.”

Obviously Nick is thinking about family, his body and his passion as factors as if he chooses to come back for another season or not. “I know what I have to do to get ready for a long year” replied Lidstrom when asked about the grueling off season regiment it takes to remain a NHL caliber player. “I’m not willing to sacrifice that to have a good summer or take it easy during the summer time. It’s a grind to go through which all of us do in here and then you hit the grind of the season too. It’s a long year you play 3-4 games every week for over six month; it takes its toll on the body too.”

So does money play a role in his decision?

“No, no it doesn’t” Said Lidstrom “It wasn’t a factor last year or the last couple years so that is not a fa

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Comments

Avatar

I missed Eaves

Posted by moocat on 04/24/12 at 01:55 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Lidstrom confirmed that Barry Trotz said ‘please don’t retire’ while in the handshake line following the NSH series.

Hahahaha…. if Lids retires the Wings will make a huge run at Suter. One less team trying to lure his Dman away the better, for him and his team.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/24/12 at 02:00 PM ET

w2j2's avatar

Lidstrom said, in fact, Barry Trotz said “Please don’t retire.” Lidstrom: “I was flattered to hear it.”

Cool thing for Trotz to say.

He spoke for millions of hockey fans around the world.

Posted by w2j2 on 04/24/12 at 02:07 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

And now we wait. 

I don’t participate much in the “what Holland should do” discussions, so won’t be blabbing in here as much as usual, but I’ll be reading and appreciating everything you do, George.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 04/24/12 at 02:16 PM ET

42jeff's avatar

Stuart on if he would stay ”I guess I could suck it up like I did the last 2 years”
...

Wow…so it looked like he’s been sucking for a while.  Looks like he started sucking when he started sucking.

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 04/24/12 at 02:33 PM ET

42jeff's avatar

Looks like he started sucking when he started sucking.
Posted by 42jeff from Minot, North Dakota on 04/24/12 at 01:33 PM ET

stopped..ugh…whatever.  Delete please

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 04/24/12 at 02:34 PM ET

Avatar

Man, that last pic, the one of an empty Wings locker room, just…sucks.

What a long off-season ahead.

(sigh)

Posted by Red Winger from work on 04/24/12 at 02:37 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Stuart on if he would stay ”I guess I could suck it up like I did the last 2 years”

Hmmm. Maybe after watching the Sharkies, Brad’s not quite as anxious to spend the next few years there as he was before. If that’s what he was hinting at, I wish he’d come to that conclusion a few weeks ago because he looked like he had already checked out by the time the playoffs started. It’s probably the worst he’s played since he became a Wing.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 04/24/12 at 02:44 PM ET

Avatar

Pavel Datsyuk skated this morning at JLA. Says he hasn’t made a decision on competing in the upcoming World Championships.

Being a professional hockey player is the f@#$ing life. He’s probably feeling down about the result of this season, but hell, he’s able to go out and ring a few of the cross-bar for an hour if he chooses. Probably the most relaxing feeling no matter how the day’s going. I hate my job.

Parise. Suter. Make your best pitch KH. However, they need to get thicker up front. As mentioned here several times, as well as with Babs, it’s frustrating watching other teams take liberties with Dats, Z, Val and Huds. The Preds executed a perfect removal of the Wings skill via physical imposition, and the Wings weren’t able to punch back to allow the skill reestablish itself. KH doesn’t have to blow anything up, but rather add a few pieces to protect these guys. Bertuzzi and Ericsson are too old and too timid, respectively. Actually, I thought Ericsson made some good strides this season - even with his physical game compared to last season.

Posted by Jesters Dead on 04/24/12 at 03:12 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

People have to lay of Stuart. He did suck it up, and he was a fantastic player for the Wings. If he comes back, we should welcome him excitedly, and if he gets an opportunity to play for a California team, or Vancouver, or even Phoenix or Dallas, we should wish him well, thank him for the memories he gave us fans, and tell him to enjoy having more time with his family.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/24/12 at 03:18 PM ET

Avatar

Am I the only one who thinks its really irrelevant whether Dan Cleary or Patrick Eaves comes back?
Both are more 4th liners and in Eaves case a specialist than key players in the lineup.
WE NEED PLAYERS WHO CAN PUT THE PUCK IN THE NET.
Nashville didnt beat the Wings because Helm got hurt. I love the speed Helm brings but he will never score much. And I love the feisty play of Justin A - but again will he ever be much more than a 3-4th liner.
Its easy to fall in love with players, I’m afraid we have done that with Cleary, Miller, Eaves and Justin - and sorry to say - I think it might be time to say goodbye to them.

Posted by Acim on 04/24/12 at 04:03 PM ET

Avatar

Next years Western Conference barring major injuries -

St Louis
Los Angeles
the train wreck that is Vancouver
Nashville (unless it wins it all this year)
Chicago (if they get even a slight upgrade at either def or goal)
Phoenix or wherever they play (if Tippett) coaches
Colorado IF they spend even a little money
Then we have the Wings, San Jose, Edmonton (again they have so many #1 draft choices) and Anaheim and Calgary fighting for spots 7-8.

That’s IF the Wings lose Nick and make minor lineup changes.

Posted by Acim on 04/24/12 at 04:21 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

Danny Cleary says if he had to do it all over again he would have had surgery during season.

Really?  Imagine our surprise at this one.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 04/24/12 at 06:26 PM ET

Avatar

Stuart on if he would stay ”I guess I could suck it up like I did the last 2 years”

In other words, he can be convinced to stay. How hard will Holland push for it? It might depends on how likely he thinks it is for Lidstrom to return and how likely he thinks he can get a #1/#2 free agent defenseman. (A lot of places mention how much money the Red Wings have available, but free cap space this past season doesn’t carry over, and adding $12M in Suter and Parise (of course, the actual cap figures would be lower) likely puts them over next season’s cap.)

Posted by bleep bloop on 04/25/12 at 12:40 AM ET

Avatar

With Holland’s recent record and his attitude in the posted interview .. I’m afraid this summer will again be .. Much ado about nothing.

Posted by Edd from Wauseon, OH on 04/25/12 at 08:17 AM 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.