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Red Wings mid-day news: digging into a Hockeytown defense and preparing for Bryan Rufenach day

Waking up with a start after a surprisingly poor night’s worth of sleep, I see that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Howard Sinker mocking a certain part of the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo’s suggestion that failing to land Zach Parise and Ryan Suter does not in fact mark the end of the world as we know it…

n retrospect, it may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to the Red Wings. Sure, they need a replacement for defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, perhaps the greatest player to ever take his position. Suter was the best available option. But he is not Nicklas Lidstrom. He has never been a second-team NHL all-star nor a Norris Trophy finalist for best defenseman in the NHL. His plus-minus ratio is minus-4 in 39 career playoff games, and he was a minus player in last spring’s playoffs, too.

And the Red Wings offered $90 million for him? They are fortunate he turned them down, getting $98 million instead from the Minnesota Wild, who paid a similar amount for Parise.

Depending on which source you believe, Lidstrom ranks with Jaromir Jagr for having earned the most money in his NHL career — approximately $100 million. Most of Lidstrom’s career was played before the hard salary cap the NHL deploys was put in place. He played 20 years, never on a team that missed the playoffs — and won four Stanley Cup championships. He was a first-team All Star 10 times. He won the Norris Trophy seven times.

Even last season, even in his 40s, Lidstrom was considerably better player than Suter until he took a shot off his ankle which greatly hindered his play.Honestly, two Ryan Suter’s don’t equal one Nicklas Lidstrom.

Parise didn’t lead the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals. He had eight goals, 15 points and was minus-eight in 24 playoff games — hardly the stuff of Wayne Gretzky.

Here’s a simple question: All things equal, including salary for the coming season, would you trade Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall for Suter and Parise? I wouldn’t — even before salary considerations. Datsyuk ($6.7 million) and Kronwall ($3.9 million) are making less combined for this season (a reported $10.6 million) than Parise and Suter are each ($12 million apiece). Parise and Suter are younger, but that won’t be true deep in the future. Thirteen years? What a ridiculous length for their contracts.

As Paul has already posted, CBA negotiations are resuming today, with ESPN’s Scott Burnside critiquing the owners a nd Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski offering a layer’s perspective of the negotiations as a whole…

And because we really have no clue what the hell Shane Doan is thinking (via RedWingsFeed, MLive’s Phillip Zaroo has posted only a portion of the various rumors surrounding his destinations), or whether that wild rumor from Russia and/or Pittsburgh regarding Alex Semin’s future (supposedly he is going to sign a 2-year, $10 million contract with them today) is true, I’m gathering that some of you are intrigued by the fact that the Stars may very well trade Brenden Morrow.

I’m merely going to shrug my shoulders about this one:

 


Today in Traverse City, again, it’s Bryan Rufenach day, per the Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau:

Bryan Rufenach, despite his recent tragic and untimely death while traveling through Europe, will continue to be a huge part of the 2012 Detroit Red Wings Development Camp.  The 23-year-old defenseman was a seventh round selection of the Red Wings in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and signed a contract last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL.  Rufenach spent a majority of the 2011-12 season with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL where he collected 13 goals and 33 points in 54 games. The Lindsay, Ontario native had previously spent four seasons with Clarkson University where he tallied 21 goals and 55 points over his collegiate career.

Organizers of the 2012 Red Wings Development Camp in conjunction with the Detroit Red Wings, Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye have designated July 10th as ‘Bryan Rufenach Day’ with a portion of all proceeds to benefit the Bryan Rufenach Memorial Fund.  The event begins at 4 p.m. outside Centre I.C.E. Arena in Traverse City, MI.  Food provided by Mancino’s Pizza and Grinders will be available for purchase between 4:00 pmand 6:00 pm.  Above the Garage will perform live at the event, while Red Wings Development Camp souvenirs will be sold to help benefit the fund.

Former NHL players, along with members of both the Red Wings’ and Grand Rapids Griffins’ management teams and coaching staffs will be on hand to sign autographs including Dallas Drake, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer, Aaron Downey, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Jim Bedard, Keith McKittrick, Jeff Blashill and Jim Paek.

The puck will drop on an intra-squad scrimmage at 7:00 pm that evening at Centre I.C.E. Arena.  A brief ceremony to honor Bryan’s memory will be held prior to opening face-off.  The family of Bryan Rufenach is expected to attend the July 10th benefit.

Lindenau will be covering the event via a photo gallery and per her Red Wings Camps, as well as her regular Twitter account.

As DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness notes, the Wings’ prospects had a night off minus the two-a-day sessions that will resume on Wednesday 7 AM wake-up call for players not peeling off their gear till 9:30 at night and a 6 AM wake-up call for me, the prospects were dutifully employed in the “spreading goodwill” department:

After three days of grueling on-and-off ice training sessions, Red Wings development camp participants were able to enjoy an evening away from Centre Ice Arena on Monday as they made a special appearance at the popular National Cherry Festival. All 41 players attending this month’s camp were on hand for the proceedings, signing autographs and mingling with event patrons, including nine-year-old hockey fanatic Joey Marshall.

“It was neat to meet all of the players,” said Marshall, a Grandville, Mich., minor hockey defenseman on vacation with his parents. “I got all of their autographs. They were very nice.”

Traverse City has played host to the National Cherry Festival every summer since 1926, coincidentally the same year Detroit played its first NHL game. A celebration of cherries, tourism and community involvement, the festival attracts over 500,000 visitors annually and is a source of tremendous pride for the citizens of Grand Traverse County.

“It was really great of the players to come out and show their support for the festival,” said longtime Traverse City resident and Wings’ fan Kyle Douglas. “Everyone loves the team up here and getting to see them in person is a real thrill for us.”

For their part, the Wings’ prospects have nothing but fantastic things to say about their camp’s host city.

“I’ve actually been blown away by this town,” said goalie Jake Paterson, a Toronto native. “It’s a really nice spot. Our hotel is right on the beach and it’s just gorgeous up here, I can’t say enough good things about it.”

As the Wings’ Twitter account notes, the prospects are already gearing up for tonight’s scrimmage given that, at least in their minds, it’s their first chance to truly impress against players they’re familiar with:

They’re also mindful of the gravity of today’s events, because, as MLive’s Brendan Savage notes, there’s a Grand Rapids Griffins jersey with Rufenach’s #44 hanging directly over the center ice faceoff dot:

“I think it’s phenomenal,” said [Brendan] Smith, the only player among 41 at the prospects camp who is slated to start the season in Detroit. “He was a great kid. The development camp (last year), he dominated some of the off-ice stuff. He put away the weights.  For the bench press, he was the top guy. Pull-ups, he was one of the top guys. He was really a put-together kid. It’s so unfortunate.”

A German-based website reported that Rufenach died when he touched a power line after climbing on a stationary train car in Grindelwald.

“I don’t even know what to say about the incident,” Smith said. “I don’t have all the facts or everything. I feel for him and his family and all condolences to them. One of my buddies just went in for a critical EKG and in talking to him, (he said) ‘Every day, you have to take it as it’s your last.’ A fluke thing could happen to anybody. You have to honor what you have right now and respect it.”

Rufenach, 23, was a rookie last season who played 54 games with Toledo and 13 in Grand Rapids. He had 13 goals and 20 assists for Toledo, the Red Wings’ ECHL affiliate, and had two assists for Grand Rapids.

“We roomed together on the road when he got called up to our team,” said forward Mitch Callahan, who played in Grand Rapids last season and met Rufenach at the prospects camp last year. “I used to hang out all the time here in camp with him. He was a real good buddy of mine. It’s unfortunate that happened to him. I think it’s great the Detroit Red Wings and Traverse City are having Bryan Rufenach Day. It’s awesome. It makes you appreciate pretty much everything in life.”

Per your requests, I’m going to focus much more on speaking to the Wigns’ brass as several of you have asked me to speak to Jiri Fischer, Chris Chelios (good luck with that one, folks, he’s sneaky about getting away from people holding sound recorders), Jiri Fischer and especially Jim Nill, so I can only tip my hat to Nick Barnowski for posting a short interview with Nill and getting ‘em down in an article penned for Michigan HockeynNow;

“The most important part of this camp is probably the off-ice,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “All of these guys need to develop physically. You want to make sure they’re going at it the right way, so the most important part is being in the gym.”

Leading the way in that department is Griffins strength and conditioning coach Aaron Downey, who designed a circuit based workout program for the players to do when not practicing on the rink. Players not only do traditional weight-lifting and stretching, but practice lifting techniques by doing exercises such as doing lunges while carrying a log or tossing a 50-pound medicine ball back and forth.

“Our off-ice conditioning has taken a whole new step, and hopefully that will help us long term,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. “In order to make it through the 82 games and the playoffs you have to train that much harder, and that’s what [the players] learn from this.”

Players participating in the camp are split up into two teams, “Team Zetterberg” and “Team Lidstrom.” When one team is on the ice, the other is training in the Centre Ice concourse or weight room.

When on the ice, coaches such as stickhandling expert Tomas Storm and power skating instructor Andy Weidenbach (also head coach of Cranbrook’s high school team) put the players through a number of drills to not only get a taste of their skill level, but to teach them proper technique.

“We watch their skating – do they have good speed, are they mobile, can they change direction well,” Nill said about what he looks for when watching practice. “The basics, how do they handle the puck, how is their shot release, are they quick on their shots.”

I’ll try to transcribe that ten-minuter with Babcock at some point, but this quote was indeed a beauty:

“I don’t care what walk of life it is, you need to maximize your potential, that’s what these kids are here to do and we’re trying to help them along the way,” Babcock said. “If you want to be good, you gotta love it, you gotta live it, you gotta eat it, you gotta train it. If there isn’t a huge drive you got no chance and in the end if you aren’t very competitive you aren’t going to be a Red Wing.”

Perhaps equally interesting, and also on my interview list, the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s James Cook penned an article about the younger Babcock taking part in the camp:

The forward and son of the Wings’ head coach just finished his junior year at Detroit Catholic Central, where he played on the Shamrocks’ 20-5-1 team.

“It’s a fun experience,” Babcock Jr. said. “Just to get the opportunity to come here and see what it’s like. Having the opportunity to play with some really, really great players is fun. Being the coaches’ son, I get teased a little bit, but it’s more like, ‘I can’t kick him out at (locker room soccer) or whatever. He’s the coaches’ son or we’ll get cut.’ But it’s fun. It’s not a really big deal.”

His fellow players aren’t going to give him a free pass, even though he’s the boss’s kid.

“I skated with him once in the summer, and he’s a good little player,” said Notre Dame center and 2010 first-round pick Riley Sheahan. “You just play him like anyone else. Everyone’s going to be intense, and I’m sure he will be, too.”

At only 150 pounds, Babcock is a year younger than any other player at the camp.

“I’ve always been too small, too light, whatever,” Babcock Jr. said. “It’s never been a problem, so hopefully it won’t be that much of a difference. I haven’t had much contact yet. (Today’s) scrimmage should be interesting.”
...
“It’s real simple — he’d like to be a college athlete,” the elder Babcock said. “He’s a really good student. And in our family, there’s a lot of pressure to get a university degree and a lot of pressure to maximize your potential. But nothing has anything to do with hockey. That’s his deal. He’s a long way from playing at this level. I like to watch all my kids play sports, whether it’s my daughters or my son. It’s enjoyable, and yet I’m here watching our prospects. It’s great to see people get an opportunity and get pushed. When they start playing, these are big men out here. This will be an eye-opener for him and be good for him.”


In the also of Red wings-related note category, former Wings prospect Logan Pyett has signed with the New York Rangers, per Kevin from Blue Seat Blogs...

And I’m gonna try to curl back up for an hour or two. If it’s OK with you, I won’t cover all the Rufenach outdoor festivities and will try to focus on the game a little more, but I will be heading to the rink around 5 to see what’s up and to find my perch as the local TV stations have been advertising the game. Methinks there will be more than enough media there to make finding a typing spot very difficult.

Update: Via RedWingsFeed, the Wings have posted a clip from the Red Wings alumni Association’s charity golf outing:

Their “President’s Ball” looks pretty spiffy, too:

 

Update 32: I adore Lyle Richardson, but Spector’s suggestion that the Red Wings might be interested in acquring Shea Weber should the Predators do the unthinkable and trade him…Of course tehy would, but can you imagine how expensive he’d be given that the Predators have in fact established themselves as “arch-rivals” of a sort? It’d be insane.

 

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Comments

Avatar

Transcribing the Babcock interview would be great. I just figured you were swamped, so I tried grabbing a few pieces from it (and that quote you have, he said in 2 different ways), but my earlier post probably scared people away due to length.

Posted by Bugsy on 07/10/12 at 03:38 PM ET

Avatar

If Shea Weber turns down Nashville’s long-term offer than he will make Nash’s GM’s trade demands look like peanuts—no matter if it the Wings or anyone else.

That should be known pretty quickly as Weber is going to have to have one of those 13 year deals to minimize his cap hit.

Posted by dca from in Mich on 07/10/12 at 05:46 PM ET

SYF's avatar

In retrospect, it may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to the Red Wings.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 07/10/12 at 05:47 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

In retrospect, it may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to the Red Wings.

Da Nile ain’t just a ...

...river…

...Egypt…

blah, blah, blah

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/10/12 at 05:56 PM ET

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Disagree with the naysayers above.

Smith and Nyquist and Emmerton and Mursak and Brunner are not going to get better playing in the AHL.  They need to play in the NHL, make their mistakes and learn from them.

People forget that in 1991, nobody thought Fedorov, Lidstrom, and Konstantinov were going to be as good as they were.  Give the youngsters a chance.  The Wings can always trade a few of them, as Tatar, Jurco, Pulkinnen and Jarnkrok are pushing for the show in the next year or so as well.

As for Weber, I’d think that Ericsson, Franzen, Andersson, Tatar, and two first rounders would be a fair haul for the Preds.  Even if the Wings have to include Kronwall, it’s a GREAT deal for both teams.  Weber IS NOT going to be a Predator in 13-14, I guarantee it.

Posted by BobaFett from Las Vegas on 07/10/12 at 08:04 PM ET

Avatar

“In retrospect, it may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to the Red Wings.”

My these grapes sure are sour.

Posted by voline on 07/10/12 at 11:26 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Posted by BobaFett from Las Vegas on 07/10/12 at 06:04 PM ET

Good stuff, from Vegas!

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 07/11/12 at 12:08 AM ET

Avatar

Holy shite leo! Nice.

Posted by ElCapitan on 07/11/12 at 12:34 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.