The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/20/12 at 04:17 PM ET
Updated 3x at 5:22 PM: This entry covers a little bit of everything, so let’s get started and start with the kind of, well, let’s call it a bipolar focus that Red Wings fans have become accustomed to since Nicklas Lidstrom retired:
Happy 34th birthday to Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk! You can wish him a happy birthday here- on.fb.me/QgGkVg— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) July 20, 2012
My 7-year-old told me it’s Pavel Datsyuk’s birthday. Why he would know this, I don’t know. Then he asks, “Which #RedWings will retire next?”— The Wheel Deal (@Bill_Roose) July 20, 2012
Geez son, Pasha is just 34-years-old! He’s gotta have at least another 5-6 good seasons left in ‘em, right?— The Wheel Deal (@Bill_Roose) July 20, 2012
My hope is that Datsyuk feels like this 34-year-old does: my aches and pains remind me that I’m in my 30’s, but mentally, I feel like I’m still in my late 20’s, and I tend to get pissed off when it’s suggested that I should start slowing down soon. Datsyuk has never been a player who’s had to do anything less than work his ass off to out-compete his opponents, and given that he’s a gym rat as well as a rink rat, I fully believe he’s got more like 8-10 years left in his career.
And as you know I’m a bit of a hockey gearhead, I must note the following:
Want a new helmet without paying a penny for it? You can win one of five, brand-new Warrior Krown 360 helmets from MiHockey by entering right here!
Perani’s annual sale kicked off yesterday and is going on through Sunday, July 29, so now’s the perfect time to get that new piece of equipment you’ve been meaning to buy.
Shifting focus back to a somewhat gloomier vein of Red Wings news, I’ll let
Pro Hockey Talk’s Ryan Dadoun take it away…
Today, we continue [dedicating days to profiling NHL teams] with the Detroit Red Wings.
They have by far the longest active postseason appearance streak, but it will be put to the test next season. You could argue that Detroit’s dynasty has been waning for years and it was certainly sent a shock by the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and departure of Brad Stuart.
They were left with quite a bit of cap space, but their efforts to sign free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter failed. Instead they inked Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson while watching unrestricted free agent Jiri Hudler walk.
Barring a trade, Detroit will need to look inwards to fill the rather large hole left in their blueline. It would help if Kyle Quincey steps up after a rough return to Detroit in 2011-12. The Red Wings will also be counting on Brendan Smith to have a solid rookie season.
Will the Detroit Red Wings’ dynasty survive? Stick around PHT today for more on that and other questions.
Time to panic, Wings fans? PHT’s Joe Yerdon thinks so:
The Detroit Red Wings are doing something next season they haven’t done since 1991-92: Play without Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line.
When Lidstrom called it a career following the season, it ushered in a new and frightening era for the Red Wings. For 20 seasons Lidstrom was the rock on defense. He played the biggest minutes and was simply the greatest defenseman of this era and now the Wings have to find a way to replace his minutes and production. Uh oh.
Without Lidstrom, Detroit’s blue line is a bit suspect. Niklas Kronwall becomes the default No. 1 guy and (likely) will pair up with Ian White on the first pairing. Jonathan Ericsson and recently signed Kyle Quincey shape up to be the next best pairing and one that comes with a lot of questions. Ericsson was, to put it nicely, inconsistent last year while Quincey has a penchant for poorly timed penalties.
Rounding out the potential top-six are a pair of young hopefuls in Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith. Smith comes in with high hopes of being the next big thing on the blue line with an offensively strong game and a University of Wisconsin pedigree. Kindl will get his first big chance to prove himself after getting peeks the last few seasons.
No one can recreate what Lidstrom brought to Detroit and the prospect of moving on without him must be terrifying for Wings fans, but for coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland, figuring things out from this point on will prove to be their biggest challenge.
Cue the free agency lament!
The Red Wings headed into free agency with oodles of salary cap space and tons of cash to spend. They set their sights high thinking they could pull off the daily double landing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Instead, it was the Minnesota Wild who pulled off the feat thanks to their desire to play at home and leading to columnists declaring that Detroit were no longer the chosen ones in the NHL.
With all that money and a need to add a scorer and a blue liner, the Red Wings then missed out on Matt Carle who landed in Tampa Bay with Steve Yzerman. Detroit even missed out on getting in the Shea Weber derby thanks to Philly’s offer sheet but were believed to be investigating a possible trade. Hoo boy.
Instead of addressing needs they went in a different direction adding agitator Jordin Tootoo and bringing back Mikael Samuelsson, two not-so headliners. Is that enough? Not hardly. Sure they’ve still got Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard, and Niklas Kronwall and those are great players to have, but they fell short in the playoffs last year and that was when they had Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. They’re both gone and Detroit’s free agent whiffs stand out even more.
GM Ken Holland says he’d rather go with his kids and unless Detroit works out a deal with Alexander Semin, that’s just what they’ll have to do. Are guys like Gustav Nyqvist, Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, and Tomas Tatar ready to be prime time players? Holland and the Wings faithful will have to hope so.
I’m sticking with my optimistic take on the Red Wings’ systematic pursuit of every avenue by which they can improve the team—especially because Holland’s desire to “go with his kids” has turned out be something of an empty party line, with the Wings having looked into acquiring Rick Nash, if we are to believe Ansar Khan and Chuck Pleiness, very seriously exploring Shea Webers’ desire to sign an offer sheet tossed his way, and the Wings’ willingness to wait for Shane Doan to decide whether he’d like to join a “favorite” for his services should he ever decide to leave Phoenix…
So I fully believe that the Wings will eventually find their 20-goal-scorer and top-pair defenseman, even if it takes until October or November to do so, but that’s just me.
I’m still pissed off about missing out on Carle, though.
Again, via RedWingsFeed, the Wings do face an uphill battle in terms of their defensive corps, as noted by the Score’s Cam Charron:
[E]veryone, myself included, that the Wings were going to use their cap space on [Ryan] Suter. He was unrestricted, the Wings would have a roster spot open for a No. 1 defenceman, and without enough depth or an obvious candidate to step into that spot, unless you think that Ian White’s strong possession numbers weren’t a result of Lidstrom.
For the record, they weren’t. While White had a +13 Corsi per 60 rate this season, it worked out to about +14 per 60 with Lidstrom and +9 without him on the ice last season. It’s nothing to sneeze at, and I doubt that the Red Wings, who are the embodiment of puck-possession, forward-thinking hockey will suddenly become the Minnesota Wild without a clear No. 1 defenceman leading the way.
As it happened, Suter wound up in Minnesota. Shea Weber signed an offer sheet in Philadelphia, a front-loaded behemoth that the Predators can’t possibly match if it isn’t money they weren’t willing to commit to Weber until now. Should the Predators not match the 14-year, $110M commitment offered up by the Flyers and Weber finds himself off the team, look out.
Detroit has done little to improve. They lost out on the two major free agents and sit with piles of salary cap space and have Niklas Kronwall and his -6.6 Relative Corsi as their highest paid defenceman. White, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson,Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith round up the rest of their corps. While it was passable last season, everybody is now shifted upwards one spot in the depth chart, and that’s a tough problem to fix.
In the Q and A department, the Free Press’s Helene St. James offers a blunt assessment of the Wings’ courtship of Shea Weber…
@BLaRose19 No, Wings talked to Weber, as did other teams, but he picked Philly. Can’t force an offer on RFA who isn’t interested— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 20, 2012
And while I highly, highly recommend that you read MLive’s Ansar Khan’s Q and A with readers about one Alexander Semin, but Khan’s simpler take on why the Wings haven’t signed Semin yet tells the tale just as well as the rest of his first “Ask Ansar” column does:
What I can tell you is that some on the Detroit Red Wings don’t think highly of him. It’s obviously an opinion many around the NHL share, which is why Semin remains unsigned. But, just because the Red Wings aren’t enamored with him, it doesn’t mean they won’t make a pitch for him, considering they need a top-six forward and their options are limited.
Shane Doan is Detroit’s top priority. But Doan’s decision on whether to re-sign with Phoenix or move elsewhere might not happen for weeks. From what I gather, the Red Wings are prepared to wait as long as it takes, regardless if it means missing out on Semin.
If they don’t land Doan, maybe they’ll take a flier on Semin, if he’s still available. If he’s goes elsewhere in the meantime, they can live with it.
If the Red Wings do pursue Semin, in all likelihood, they will minimize the risk by offering a short-term deal (one or two years).
In terms of Khan’s questions and answers…
Question: What are the chances of them signing Semin if Doan stays with the Coyotes or signs elsewhere? Also, do they not feel they can turn this guy around? They take chances on other players and it works out. We the fans believe they have the coaches, especially with Tom (Renney) now with them, to help Semin.—Vince.
Ansar Khan: Good point, Vince. The Red Wings haven’t shied away from reclamation projects (Danny Cleary, Andreas Lilja, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, to name a few). However, those players were low-risk. They took short-term deals for a low salary. Semin likely is seeking at least $5 million a season. Also, if playing with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom didn’t motivate Semin, playing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg might not do the trick either.
Question: Why do you think the Wings haven’t made a strong push for Semin? Doan is aging and will command too much for his old bones. Why not get Semin on a three-year deal? With the leadership of Z and Pav, Alex should be able to fit in.—Gene.
Khan: I think all teams are hesitant to give him more than two years, believing his motivation might further diminish with the more security he gets. Doan is older (36 in October) and won’t provide as much offense as Semin, but nobody can question Doan’s heart, desire and leadership. The Red Wings love those qualities. That’s why they want him badly.
Question: I am curious about the method we are employing going after free agents. We are flush with money, which has much less value than it once had. I’m hearing that teams are offering Semin $5.5 to $6 (million), but are pushing for 1-3 years. We may have the assets to trade for a player, but we certainly don’t have enough for two trades. Why aren’t we offering to overpay Semin, say $7.5 (million)/year to push for a two-year contract? This seems like one of the few strengths that large amounts of cap size provides. If we wait until Doan makes a decision, then all the other teams that lost out on Doan will then be vying for Semin, so I don’t understand the value of waiting to make a push, only to see the stock rise.—Zack.
Khan: The $70.2 million cap might be rolled back in the next CBA, so that’s something teams must take into account. And the Red Wings still need a top-pair defenseman more than a forward. If the Red Wings make a pitch for Semin, I can assure you they won’t offer him more than Henrik Zetterberg, who has a cap hit of slightly more than $6 million.
Also in the Semin Q and A department, from the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau:
Hi Adam. What’s the deal with Alexander Semin still being unsigned? I have him in my keeper-league, points-only fantasy pool and we need to submit our protected 10 by Aug. 1. Do you think he’ll go to the Kontinental League? Do you think I should protect some other bum like Brad Boyes, Ville Leino, Wojtek Wolski or Brooks Laich instead? Thanks for your insight.
Kent Zalaski, Golden, B.C.
Adam Proteau: Hi Kent. As we’re seeing, Semin is not a highly valued individual – at least, in combination with his contract demands – right now. I’ve said for a while now I think he winds up in the Kontinental League, which has bundles of money just waiting to be thrown at any Russian star willing to come home and assure himself a spot representing his country at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The possibility remains Semin will swallow his pride and accept a smaller payday with a shorter term (one or two years) to stick around the NHL. (In addition, an altered and more restrictive collective bargaining agreement might make him more attractive to teams.) But I’m still going to guess he goes home.
But I wouldn’t say all the players you listed as alternatives are “dogs.” Boyes (who signed a low-risk, one-term deal with the Islanders) may not have much left and Wolski doesn’t appear able to build on his early-career success, but Leino and Laich could be significant components on their respective teams.
I know that they’re much older than Semin, but if I were to offer a slate of “favorites” based on Capgeek’s list of remaining free agent goal-scorers, Petr Sykora scored 21 goals for the Devils, Mike Knuble’s a year removed from multiple 20-goal seasons despite being 40, Jason Arnott can score 20 and is a big, heavy body, 26-year-old Eric Fehr defines the term “wild card” and Andrei Kostitsyn may be even “wilder”...
And on defense, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jaroslav Spacek, Pavel Kubina, Michal Rozsival and Scott Hannan can all get the job done, and if you’re looking for “wild cards,” former Ottawa Senators defenseman Matt Gilroy is someone who hasn’t panned out at the NHL level but has high-scoring potential and is only 27, 28-year-old Chris Campoli is in a similar situation, and if the Colaiacovo-like Cam Barker ever gets healthy, he’s four years removed from a 40-point season and is all of 26 years old.
And finally, the Hockey News’s Lyle Richardson offers a refresher course on the Shane Doan saga:
It’s increasingly apparent right winger Shane Doan is in no hurry to leave the Phoenix Coyotes.
Despite considerable interest around the league (reportedly by as many as 16 teams), Doan’s agent, Terry Bross, claimed his client was still awaiting clarification regarding the sale of the Coyotes to an ownership group headed by former San Jose Sharks executive Greg Jamison.
Bross told The Arizona Republic they’re hearing “tidbits” around the league that the sale will get done, but hasn’t heard anything new from the Jamison group. He hopes for more word from Jamison on Friday.
Bross again suggested if no reassurance of a sale is forthcoming, Doan will have little choice but to consider the offers he’s already received.
Doan’s obvious first choice is to re-sign with the Coyotes. Bross claimed he’d had talks with GM Don Maloney, but that they’d stalled until the ownership situation is resolved.
The Kings, Red Wings, Sharks, Penguins, Canucks and Sabres have reportedly made offers to the Doan camp. The Rangers are believed to be interested, while the Predators would also be keen to speak with Doan should he decide to move on.
For now, Doan’s fate remains tied to the sale of his long-time team.
Semin won’t move till Doan does as Doan’s asking price will likely determine the real-world “market value” for a 20-goal-scorer, a market value that crazy Mark Gandler will have to abide by regarding his classically enigmatic Russian client, so one domino falling will beget the other tumbling down.
Update: The Wings posted a clip of Datsyuk dekeing and dangling with a soccer ball prior to a game this past season:
Update #2: You will all be excited to know that the Flames announced that Jiri Hudler will wear #24 for them.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was all doom and gloom for the Red Wings when it comes to their future. Things didn’t go their way this summer in free agency and life without Nicklas Lidstrom seems mildly terrifying.
Funny thing about all that, it’s not totally grim as Detroit has a bevy of prospects on the way that give them a reason to be hopeful and some of them might not be too far off, either.
Some guys you’ve gotten a peek at already. Forward Gustav Nyquist is a former University of Maine product the Wings are high on as a potential offensive weapon. Brendan Smith is a former Wisconsin defenseman the Wings hope can help fill the void left by Lidstrom’s retirement and Brad Stuart‘s departure to San Jose. That’s asking a lot of Smith, but he’ll have every opportunity to make his mark this season.
Looking further ahead, Detroit’s future forward corps looks potentially scary. Tricky skill players like 2011 draft pick Tomas Jurco, 2012 pick Martin Frk, and a slew of 2010 picks like Riley Sheahan, Calle Jarnkrok, and Teemu Pulkkinen are all high on Detroit’s list of hopeful Wings stars.
Some may be eager to start tossing dirt on the Red Wings’ run of success, but the kids just might be all right to prevent a downturn in the Motor City.
Update #3.5: ESPN’s Grant Sonier tossed off a slate of summertime organizational prospect rankings, in an Insider-only blog entry, of course, and I cannot emphasize enough that anyone who acknowledges the Wings’ possession of players like Adam Almqvist, Nick Jensen and free agent signing Brian Lashoff:
18. Detroit Red Wings (Previous Ranking: 6)
With a win-now mentality, the Wings have spun off a few first-round picks lately to acquire roster players. Combine that with their strong finishes in the standings and they haven’t had many huge scores from the draft lately. Potential? Yes. Sure hits? No.
Now, following the graduation of Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist to the big club, they fall down our rankings a bit. However, by sticking to their philosophy of drafting high-skill players, they have a number of prospects with solid potential, just no imminent stars. Czech Forward Martin Frk (Halifax-QMJHL) was the most recent example, selected in the second round this year. He now joins a system with Tomas Jurco (Saint John-QMJHL), Calle Jarnkrok (SWE) and D-men Xavier Ouellet (Blainville-Boisbriand-QMJHL) and Ryan Sproul (Sault Ste. Marie-OHL). Goaltender Petr Mrazek (Ottawa-OHL) has really come into his own. Could there be a diamond in the rough among this group? Detroit has found them in the past.
Sleeper Prospect: Mattias Backman, D, (SWE) (fifth round/2011)
Some players are just smart enough to figure out a way to get to the NHL, and his character, to go along with his overall improvement in skating, gives him a real chance.
Yeah, and you could say the same for Almqvist, despite his small size and use of a shorter stick, and Lashoff is indeed a Brad Stuart II in the making.
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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.