The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/30/12 at 05:36 PM ET
Updated 2x with in-retrospect quotes from Pleiness at 6:17 PM: Amongst this afternoon’s Red Wings stories:
• Jakub Kindl may have been bumped from the Czech World Championship team, but as several Czech readers noted on Twitter, the Czech Ice Hockey Association’s website suggests that Kindl was the one who chose to decline the team’s invitation to play in the World Championships, forcing the Czechs to replace him with 20-year-old Jakub Krejcik (while the team waits and hopes for higher-profile defensemen like Marek Zidlicky, Pavel Kubina, Andrej Meszaros, Michal Rozsival, Roman Josi or Roman Hamrlik to be eliminated from the second round of the NHL playoffs; something fishy’s going on, but my grasp of translated Czech isn’t nearly nuanced enough to figure out what’s up);
• In Sweden, echoing this morning’s stories, if you happen to be in Sweden, you can watch interviews with Niklas Kronwall (who says that the Swedes’ World Championship roster looks great on paper as it’s balanced in terms of role players and stars and representatives from every age group) and Henrik Zetterberg (who’s thrilled about playing in front of his friends and family and felt that it was more or less obligatory to join the Tre Kronor and see super-prospect Jakob Silfverberg first-hand because his Z’s NHL team didn’t go far in the playoffs) from TV4.
• Kronwall, Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson and Johan Franzen practiced with the Swedish national team today, and you can watch an Aftonbladet interview with Zetterberg which contains footage of the four practicing—but I don’t think you’re going to get much out of it (again, I could use some feedback as to how closely you want me to cover the stuff that neither you nor I can “get” when spoken);
• Niklas’s brother Staffan apparently gave an interview to TV4 about playing alongside his brother, according to Aftonbladet’s Lukas Sahin, understandably gushing about their mother’s role in both players’ hockey development as Tove Kronwall took care of her three sons (Niklas and Stafffan have an older brother named Mattias) by herself after the boys’ father, Hasse, died of a heart attack in 1992—very sadly on Niklas’s 9th birthday;
• And Zetterberg was excited and hopeful about Sweden’s chances of winning the World Championship while speaking with Expressen’s Jonatan Lindquist, and good news for Sweden came down on what was Monday evening Swedish time in that Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson will play for Sweden as Karlsson’s resolved some insurance issues;
• Back over on this side of the pond, the Free Press’s Helene St. James took note of the fact that Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean became the second of Wings coach Mike Babcock’s assistants to be named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach, following Todd McLellan’s status as a finalist in 2009. Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski believes, however, that an HBO 24/7 treatment might yield belated recognition for Babcock next season:
(We’ll just assume that Mike Babcock will never win this award as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings if he hasn’t already. Until, of course, voters get a chance to enter his mind during next season’s HBO 24/7 and he comes off as the smartest man on the planet. More on that in a moment.)
Our pet theory is that every year there’s an HBO 24/7, one of the two coaches will be in the Jack Adams top three. It’s like a four-episode infomerical for their candidacy, and both Dan Bylsma and John Tortorella won fans thanks to what the cameras and editors presented on the show.
• Via RedWIngsFeed, there’s English-language multimedia to be had from Red Wings TV as Ken Kal counts down his top 5 moments of the 2011-2012 season:
• In the “way back machine” department, the Detroit Free Press re-posted an article Mitch Albom penned on April 30th, 1987, when the Wings defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs and advanced to the Western Conference final to play the Edmonton Oilers. It’s kind of neat to read an article from the days when Mitch covered and cared about Detroit sports and over his aspirations to be recognized for his literary chops as an author and self-contained entity as opposed to a journalist, but it’s kind of sad to know that someone as unbelievably talented as Albom basically “got bored” with the Wings and Detroit sports in general around the time the Wings won their first modern-day Cup and Oprah latched on to Tuesdays with Morrie;
• In an incredibly, incredibly different and much more serious vein, the Boston Daily’s Renata Brio reports that Boston University has taken a huge step forward in terms of addressing the kinds of behaviors which, to put things incredibly delicately, cost Wings prospect Max Nicastro his hockey present and future (in other words, BU finally established a sexual assault center…In 2012, people, 2012…);
• In equally starkly different talk of somewhat weighty issues, ESPN’s Craig Custance’s Insider blog for today (link goes to a paywall, sorry) spoke to several GM’s about the probability that CBA uncertainty will significantly affect the ways in which teams, including the Red Wings, will court Zach Parise and Ryan Suter by attempting to sign them to those notorious “lifetime” contracts:
Every general manager is repeating the programmed line that this summer is business as usual. It’s not. With the CBA expiring in September, there’s going to be a new set of rules. The NHL would love to close the loophole that allows long-term contracts to significantly lower salary-cap hits. It might be in Pittsburgh’s best interest to get Crosby signed long-term to a cap-friendly deal while it’s still allowed.
Despite talk that amnesty won’t be an option in the new CBA, there are still people around the league who believe teams will have more flexibility to get out of bad long-term deals once a new CBA is agreed upon.
In other words, NHL GM’s believe that teams will be able to “eat” salary in trades under the new CBA, facilitating player movement and the ability to move “bad contracts” or under-performing players.
As we’ve learned over the years, however, the Red Wings’ GM isn’t thrilled with the concept of “getting married” to too many players at the same time, and as Custance points out that both Parise and Suter are all of 27, you’ve got to wonder whether the Wings will be willing to sacrifice more chunks of cap space for the next 8-10 years to two players:
“We’ve made some decision in the past on [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Johan] Franzen that are long-term deals,” said Red Wings GM Ken Holland, who is expected to be aggressive in free agency this summer. “I don’t know how many of those you can have on one team.”
And that may be the biggest roadblock for teams pursuing Suter and Parise. If you already have a couple of these long-term deals on the books, is it a great idea to lock in another one? Should ownership even allow it? The answer is yes, if you want to lure elite talent to your franchise.
“We’ve got money; what we don’t have is players,” one NHL source said. “If I’m a GM, I’m using every opportunity to acquire significant assets any way I can.”
But we’ve seen how all those long-term deals forced the Blackhawks to get into a situation where they had to get rid of high draft picks like Jack Skille, not sign an elite goaltender long-term thanks to the Sharks’ poaching of Antti Niemi and get rid of higher-profile players like Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Tomas Kopecky, Troy Brouwer, Andrew Ladd and Brian Campbell (and role players like Ben Eager, John Madden, Dave Bolland, Cam Barker, Brent Sopel, Adam Burish and Nick Boynton, as well as a “bad contract” in Cristobal Huet—I mean they turned over almost two thirds of their roster!) all to accommodate Toews, Kane, Hossa and Hjalmarsson’s long-term deals…
So I really do wonder if the Wings might take an alternate route and, say, sign the underachieving Alex Semin or the unproven P-A Parenteau instead of Parise, and one of the “second tier” defenseman under Suter in Dennis Wideman, Matt Carle or Jason Garrison, all so that the Wings don’t have to essentially live in fear of Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, down-the-line players like Tomas Tatar and even Calle Jarnkrok, and current strong performers like Jimmy Howard, Valtteri Filppula and even someone like Ian White blossom into bona-fide stars who can demand high salaries and long-term deals to retain their services.
Holland and the Wings’ management have a very fine line to walk this summer, and while Mike Ilitch won’t mind his team spending itself to the cap, regardless of what the “upper limit” turns out to be, one has to wonder if the Wings will choose to only pursue one of Parise or Suter, or not pursue them at all, because the braintrust in Holland, Jim Nill and de-facto assistant GM and capologist Ryan Martin decide that adding two more players to the “lifetime contract” mix will hurt the team going forward.
• Second-to-last, and in a lighter vein, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff took note of several players’ comments regarding “sweetening the pot” to encourage Nicklas Lidstrom and/or Tomas Holmstrom to continue their playing careers…
“If they quit, it’s going to be a big hole to fill,” said Detroit forward Johan Franzen, who was already plotting ideas to entice them back. “Maybe I’ll unpack their hockey bags every game. I don’t know. Homer likes candy, so I’ll always bring candy and stuff like that.”
“I really haven’t given it much thought,” [Jimmy] Howard said. “I tried to just block it out and hope it doesn’t come true and he decides to retire, because I still think he can play. He’s still one of the best.”
That, according to Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall, should be all Lidstrom needs to know – that he can still play elite minutes and play them well. “I would think so, but at the same time he’s so humble and normal,” Kronwall said. “Maybe he needs to see some videos.”
Like Howard, Kronwall is opting for the power of positive thinking approach when it comes to Lidstrom. “I think he’s coming back,” Kronwall said. “But maybe that’s just what I’m hoping.”
Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson was taking a more realistic approach, accepting the possibility that their hockey lives may go forward without aid of this dynamic Swedish duo. “I don’t know, I really don’t know,” Ericsson said. “Last year, I really felt more towards that (Lidstrom) was going to play another year. This is another year from that, so I don’t know how he feels. But I know he’s going to make the right decision for him and his family. He’s going to take a lot of time thinking about it, too.”
Ericsson also felt that people shouldn’t underestimate the contribution that Holmstrom makes to the team. “He’s a character guy in here,” Ericsson said. “He always brings a smile, even though he doesn’t know that he’s funny. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with him, too. Of course they’re two guys who have been in the organization here for at least 15 years. Hopefully they’re going to be back, but it’s not my decision to make.”
• And finally, CCM Hockey posted a press release today, encouraging pee-wee players to register for a random selection drawing which will allow them to take part in the “CCM Skills Camp” this summer. The event will stop Metro Detroit on July 21st and 22nd, taking place at the Compuware Sports Arena in Plymouth, and it promises the following:
This year, CCM brings the game to the next level with the CCM Skills Camp: a once in a lifetime opportunity for 11 and 12 year old players to learn how to train and play like the pros.
This extraordinary tour of 8 cities across Canada and the United States features state of the art training, advanced hockey skills and the mentorship of NHL coaches and specialized professionals, such as skating coaches and nutritionists, to help elevate each player’s game.
In every city, selected Pee-Wee players will be invited to one amazing day of training, playing and pro treatment at the same facilities as their favorite NHL stars. Serious young hockey players will not want to miss this incredibly exciting opportunity.
Update: “Station Nation’s Jamie Tozer has the schedule for the QMJHL final between Tomas Jurco’s Saint John Sea Dogs and the Rimouski Oceanic if you find yourself in New Brunswick this weekend:
A full schedule for the Sea Dogs – Oceanic series can be found below (all times Atlantic):
GAME ONE – Friday, May 4: 8 p.m. @ Harbour Station
GAME TWO – Saturday, May 5: 7 p.m. @ Harbour Station
GAME THREE – Wednesday, May 9: 8:30 p.m. @ Colisee de Rimouski
GAME FOUR – Thursday, May 10: 8:30 p.m. @ Colisee de Rimouski
*GAME FIVE – Saturday, May 12: 5 p.m. @ Colisee de Rimouski
*GAME SIX – Monday, May 14: 7 p.m. @ Harbour Station
*GAME SEVEN – Wednesday, May 16: 7 p.m. @ Harbour Station
Update: MLive’s ever-industrious Brendan Savage confirms that Jakub Kindl’s been booted from the Czech team;
• The Art of Strength a gym which the Wings use to train during the off-season, is opening a new facility in Birmingham, MI, per a press release;
• And many thanks to Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski for mentioning today’s entry in his “Puck Headlines.”
“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 three to four weeks and before I leave here I want to be 100-percent, ready to rock.”
MacDonald hasn’t been on the ice since March 14 when his back flared up in a 4-0 loss in Anaheim. It was learned later that he had a slightly bulging disc.
“I want to be ready in July to start skating,” MacDonald said. “That’s the plan. It’s going in the right direction. I’m 75-80 percent right now.”
MacDonald, 32, had back surgery in 2006, but doesn’t think that will be necessary this time around.
“I had two (cortisone) injections already,” MacDonald said. “I’m working out, doing stuff I wasn’t allowed to for three weeks, so hopefully within the next little bit (I will start skating).”
MacDonald has one year left on his contract that pays him $550,000. The Wings have plans for him to backup Jimmy Howard after he unseeded Ty Conklin for that role during the season.
“I was disappointed when I got hurt, but getting the opportunity to come in and play a lot, be put in tough situations, like when we had that home streak going, I thought overall it was a good season,” MacDonald said. “Even down in Grand Rapids I thought I played well. Getting a chance up here to prove I can be the second guy.”
As well as some in-retrospect quotes from Wings coach Mike Babcock, Ken Holland and Johan Franzen about the Mule’s playoff downs:
“Two years ago we played 12 playoff games and he had one point in every game,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s was one of the guys we look to score. (Nashville) did a real good job on him.”
“I don’t think you want to point at the Mule,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t think we scored even strength at all. I think you want to point at all of us.”
Franzen is your classic streaky goal scorer and is often criticized because of that. After a five-goal outburst in Ottawa two years ago, Franzen went 14 straight games without a goal and finished and had just two goals over his final 27 games.
“You always get that criticism when you lose,” Franzen said. “There are always haters when you lose. You know you’re going to have to listen to that, but you can’t pay too much attention to that. “The year I scored 13 (in the playoffs), I had one goal in the first four or five games,” Franzen added. “You never know when you’re going to get going. It is what it is.”
“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.”
“We didn’t have a good ending to the season, including playoffs,” Franzen said. “You’ve got to come into playoffs with confidence.”
“We’ve got a super team in here,” Franzen said. “We’ve just got to realize that and find a way, because it’s so hard to score on some teams. We’ve got good players,” Franzen continued. “If we need to find more pieces, I don’t know, but the focus is on getting the pieces that we have going again and tell ourselves that we are a good team and we can do this.”
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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.