The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/13/12 at 09:43 AM ET
You and I already know that the Red Wings are playing the free agency waiting game as the marketplace has slowed to a crawl, and just as importantly, the Wings’ management has chosen to wait for free agents’ asking prices to drop and/or teams’ asking prices for defensemen to slide back down from the stratosphere before adding a defenseman and possibly a goal-scoring forward to the roster. According to the Free Press’s Helene St. James, Wings GM Ken Holland has headed back to his hometown of Vernon, British Columbia as things slow down for the next month or so:
The Wings remain in contact with the agent for unrestricted free-agent forward Shane Doan, but Doan is talking to the Coyotes, too, and odds all along have been that he stays in Phoenix. Alexander Semin remains available, but teams are wary of a forward high on skill but low on production and lax in attitude.
The Wings have weaknesses to address, but that’s basically a league-wide problem. They’d like to improve their defense, but there’s no one particularly attractive on the market, and trades aren’t easy to make. And the Wings aren’t the only ones seeking help on the blue line: St. Louis needs a top-four guy; Philadelphia needs two after losing Carle to free agency and Chris Pronger to a concussion.
Holland left Wednesday for his off-season home in Western Canada, where he’ll continue to conduct business.
But the Wings aren’t going to spend money just for the sake of doing so; if they can’t get value for their money, they’ll keep it and look to make a trade around the deadline.
Up here in Traverse City, the Wings’ summer development camp wraps up with a scrimmage from 8:30-10:30 AM, and while the Detroiter in me wishes it were held closer to home, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan notes that TC provides a more comfortable environment for players who were previously holed up in hotels in Downtown Detroit when they weren’t taking part in on-ice activities at Joe Louis Arena:
When they were working out at JLA, the young players were transported from either Troy or downtown Detroit, to and from the rink. Be it in Troy, or Detroit, there simply wasn’t as much to do for an 18- to 20-year-old hockey player.The choices were limited.
In Traverse City, it’s so much different. The team hotel has been near the water, so there’s endless opportunities to spend time on the beach swimming, or killing time with a variety of water sports.
They can fish. Play an infinite amount of golf on super courses. A ton of great restaurants are within close range. Plus, there’s a chance for them to bond doing all those things.
Give a lot of credit also to Centre ICE Arena, where the locker room facilities are now better than the New York Islanders’ Nassau Coliseum, and maybe a few other NHL arenas. Being in Traverse City helps the Wings’ young players grow in a variety of ways.
A great move, indeed.
To some extent, this busts a free agency myth, too: so many people assume that the Red Wings’ players have to live within the confines of the City of Detroit, and they don’t seem to understand that Metro Detroit consists of about between 4 and 5 million people, depending on where you draw its boundaries, spread out over an area covering a 50-to-80-mile radius of the city limits, in every direction but directly southeast of downtown as that’s Windsor and Ontario. It’s a great place for professional athletes to live because they can fade into the community and do their own thing, but when we’re talking about players just getting familiar with the Red Wings Way, sometimes it’s better to bond in a smaller, more centralized location.
Anyway, while I can’t post the whole article and there’s no link yet, the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s subscription-only service posted an article by Dennis Chase, who discussed the camp’s conclusion…
Jim Nill was pleased with what he saw at this week’s Development Camp at Centre ICE. On the ice and off. “We’ve been happy with the overall camp,” said Nill, the Detroit Red Wings’ assistant GM. “All the players came to camp in good shape. We always see what happens on the ice, but it’s about what happens off the ice too; seeing how they’re developing as far as conditioning, which is as important as on ice this time of year. We’ve been very happy with that part of the camp. It’s just been a solid camp. It seems the players understand that it’s a year-round thing. It’s not like they can just show up here without doing anything. They were all prepared. That’s nice to see.”
Forward Landon Ferraro was among those who tried to add size and strength during the offseason.
“I put on seven pounds,” Ferraro said. “That helps. My overall fitness test scores went up, and I was able to keep my body fat down, so I’m putting on the right type of weight. That’s what I like about this organization. If you’re 176 pounds, they just want you to be the strongest 176 pounds. If you can play at that weight, you can play at that weight. Obviously, I would like to be at 185, or somewhere in there, but as of right now it doesn’t look like it’s happening. I’m the type of guy who sits on the couch, goes to stand up and burns a thousand calories. I just need to make sure that I’m as strong as I can be at my size.”
Defenseman Ryan Sproul also tried to bulk up in the off-season.
“I was about 185 pounds last year. I’m trying to get up to 190, 195,” the 19-yearold said. “I’ve been doing a lot of heavy lifting. I think it’s paying off.”
Sproul will play one more year in juniors as will Xavier Ouellet, an 18-year-old defenseman. Both were taken in the second round in the 2011 draft, as was forward Tomas Jurco. Jurco, 19, will play in Grand Rapids this season. Ouellet, like Sproul, will return to juniors.
“I’m here to do my best and try to get ready for the NHL,” Ouellet said. “I want to play in the NHL as soon as possible and I’m working hard (to accomplish) that. I’ve been training six days a week, working with a nutrition program. It’s been a busy summer.”
he camp ends today with a scrimmage from 8:30-10 a.m.
“We’re not really sitting here analyzing,” Nill said. “This is more like going to school for them. We’re trying to send a message that, ‘Hey, this is what the expectations are. We’re giving you the tools to learn the most you can.’ Now it’s up to these guys to develop and see where they fit in.”
We had some server problems last night, so if you haven’t read my Day 5 wrap-up, I’d encourage you to do so…
And the Wings’ website did indeed catch some of Tomas Jurco’s magic-making in a highlight clip from Thursday’s activities:
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also took note of the fact that Jurco’s making the transition from major junior hockey (where he played for the Saint John Sea Dogs) to the AHL this season..
“It was a great season,” said Jurco, 19. “But now I’m excited for the opportunity (here) for me. I’m trying to do my best and work hard this summer and show everyone I can play at a higher level.”
Jurco will play with the Red Wings minor league affiliate in Grand Rapids this season. But given his size (6-foot-2, 193 pounds) and skill set, the transition to pro hockey might not be that traumatic. He’s physically bigger this summer than last, and given his frame, Jurco’s expected to get stronger.
“I’m getting as ready as I can,” said Jurco, who averaged 29 goals in three junior hockey seasons. “I’m nowhere yet. I have to get there (the NHL), and there might be a chance (in the future) but I have to work hard for that chance and show everybody that what is expected for me, I can do.”
During last year’s development camp, Jurco seemed timid. This week, he was the one joking with teammates, initiating impromptu soccer games, and finding music in the locker room.
“It’s just more confidence and knowing what to expect,” Jurco said. “I know what’s going on, what the schedule is, and knowing most of the guys, which is a big plus. Just knowing what the next day is going to be like, that’s a big plus.”
I can’t quote Kulfan’s entire article, but he also talked to Jiri Fischer about Martin Frk’s progress…
“When he gets the puck, he wants to be great,” said Jiri Fischer , director of player development for the Red Wings. “Every time he is on the ice, he wants to make something happen. He wants to make things happen offensively, loves to shoot the puck. He’s working on his skating and he understands that is what he has to do. But as an 18-year-old in this camp, he’s holding his own.”
Frk will play another year in Halifax (Quebec League).
“I know Detroit always has a great team, an older team, and it’s harder for young guys to come play,” Frk said. “But I’m going to work hard, I know I need to improve my skating and defense, and I will work on those things.”
Selected with the next pick in the draft, Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads might have been a surprise to fall to the Detroit Red Wings at 49th overall when one considers that at this point last year, he was thought to be a lock to be selected in the first round. Frk’s main issue in his draft year was also injuries, with a concussion robbing him of the first half of the season and leading to him trying to play catch-up with both his on-ice play and conditioning upon his return. While no one doubts the Czech’s scoring abilities (some scouts have already referred to his shot as ‘NHL-quality’), Frk is very much a project at this point. Following last season’s selections of Tomas Jurco and Xavier Ouellet, the Red Wings are quietly developing a talented stable of QMJHL talent.
At the Frk-ian end of the developmental spectrum, as the Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau notes, Ben Marshall is very much so a long-term project as an undersized defenseman with three years of college eligibility left before he has to think about earning a contract with the Wings, and because he’s an undersized player (though he’s much bigger than the 5’8,” 150-pounder the Wings drafted as a junior in high school), the University of Minnesota defenseman will need each and every one of those three years to both fill out physically and become a top defenseman for a very deep Minnesota team:
Size has always been a concern for the 5-foot-9, 175 pound defenseman, but he’s hoping his other skills offset his small stature. Marshall is a dynamic skater with a top flight speed and outstanding offensive instincts.
“Obviously I don’t have the size that a lot of these other guys have,” he said. “My biggest attributes are my speed and my skating, but I know I need to work on my strength. I took about two weeks off after the season but have been lifting weights all summer.”
Marshall has spent the last week at the Red Wings development camp in Traverse City, MI. This is his third camp since being drafted by the Wings 201st overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft.
“I was still in high school during my first camp,” he said. “Now I have a year of junior and college under my belt and I am a little more confident. It also helps that my roommate this week is Brenden Smith and he’s giving me a lot of insight about the Red Wings and what his journey was like.”
While Marshall’s offensive game is his strong suit, he is working to improve defensively. Finishing his rookie campaign with a plus-13 was a solid step in the right direction but he’ll need to show he can be even better while taking on a larger role next season.
“My defensive game has come a long way,” he said. “My coach at Minnesota, Mike Guentzel, taught me a lot of details that help defensively especially at the college pace. It’s really helped me to adjust positionally. I still have a lot of work to do, but the good thing is I have plenty of time to improve.”
Perhaps shifting just as wildly to the other end of the spectrum, Teemu Pulkkinen is so very close to being NHL ready, but he’s far enough away that MLive’s Brendan Savage notes that the Wings want him to go back to Finland for at least one more season with Jokerit Helsinki before he cracks the big club’s roster, leaving those of you who’ve attended this camp and certainly those of you who will be in Traverse City for the prospect tournament and main camp wishing he could come over to North America (he’s not eligible to play in the AHL yet due to IIHF rules):
“He’s one of the most skilled guys we have here,” Fischer said. “He has one of the top shots, if not the top shot in camp. He’s a special player. Last summer, it started and this summer he took the next step. He’s really focused that ‘I’m going live hockey. I’m going to be a hockey player’ and he’s doing anything he can to put himself in a good spot. Fitness is a big part of it. I was really impressed with his fitness testing. He really came in good shape.”
The Red Wings made Pulkkinen their fourth-round pick (111th overall) in 2010 and then signed him to a three-year entry level contract two months ago.They like Pulkkinen for a variety of reasons but near the top is the fact that unlike many Europeans, he doesn’t tend to overpass the puck and instead isn’t afraid to shoot at will. Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said Pulkkinen reminds him a bit of former Detroit sniper Brett Hull. He’s not the only person who has made that comparison.
“I head that,” Pulkkinen said with a grin. “Of course, it’s nice to hear somebody say that. I don’t think about it too much. I do my own job and focus on my own game and my own shots. I have to practice and score goals.”
While Pulkkinen is one of the Red Wings more highly regarded prospects, he probably head back overseas to play one more year in Finland regardless of how well he does at the main training camp in September. Because Pulkkinen, 20, played in Europe and was drafted in 2010, he’s not eligible to play for the Red Wings’ top farm club in Grand Rapids until 2013-14. He could play in Detroit this season but Nill said the Red Wings don’t want to keep Pulkkinen around only to have him spend many nights watching from the press box as a healthy scratch.
The Red Wings don’t think that will help his development at bit. So Pulkkinen appears headed back to Finland, where he had 24 goals and 57 assists in 111 games the past two seasons for Jokerit Helsinki. Pulkkinen is OK with that scenario if it plays out.
“Of course I want to battle for a place in Detroit,” he said. “I’m coming here and doing my best but if I don’t make the Red Wings team, I go back to Finland. That’s a good choice for me to play one more year in Finland.”
Shifting gears to focus on present-day Wings:
• I thought this was interesting: Yes, as Tomas Holmstrom told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that he will either play in Detroit or not play at all, but as Homer seems to be on his way out, Andreas Elvstrand and Per Sandberg from Pitea Tidningen, his hometown newspaper, report that Holmstrom’s stayed in the U.S. for the summer due to green card issues that may have prohibited him from coming back to the U.S. after a summer in Sweden.
That being said, Holmstrom’s stated that he plans on living here for at least two more years before deciding whether to move his family back home, and while this is just a guess, I think a retired Tomas Holmstrom will remain in Novi, watching his kids play hockey and telling the neighborhood kids to get off his damn lawn, for sure…
• And we may be talking about Danny Cleary in the same vein five or six years from now given his knee issues, but for the moment, DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford offers a “By the Numbers” take on his 2011-2012 season:
800: Played in career game No. 800 on Feb. 6 against Phoenix. By the end of the season, he had played 492 total games with the Red Wings.
250: Number of points he has collected with the Red Wings, which puts him 29th on the all-time franchise list for points.
33 Number of points the right winger accumulated during the regular season (12 goals, 21 assists), which marks his sixth consecutive season tallying 30 or more points.
199: Had a total of 199 shots on goal during the regular-season, the third highest on the team and his career-best in a single season.
In the alumni department:
• The Fan 590 posted an interview Kris Draper conducted with Jeff Blair, speaking about the Winter Classic Alumni Games:
&bul; I couldn’t help but smile when I read what Ken Holland told Dino Ciccarelli about his participation in the games, per the Macomb Daily’s Fred Costello:
While ex-Wing Joe Kocur is the president of the Red Wings Alumni Association, it is actually general manager Ken Holland who is tasked with selecting the alums for the outdoor games.
“(Holland) called me, and I felt like a kid again trying to make the team (by) calling the coach. He said, ‘Dino, I don’t know. You’re on the bubble. You might make it and you might not.’ He told me the majority of the team is guys who have won the Stanley Cup, or are in the Hall of Fame. I wanted to make sure Kenny Holland knew I was in for sure.”
With his spot in the festivities assured, Ciccarelli has now turned his focus toward the next task at hand: getting his 42-year-old body into good enough shape to really skate. Ciccarelli said that he has kept pretty active in hockey, but admitted his game would need a bit of “fine-tuning” before December rolls around.
Just as they did with Kocur, the media pestered Ciccarelli about getting former captains Nick Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman involved in the event as well.
Ciccarelli was unsure if those players would eventually become involved or not, but he was all for their inclusion.
“It would be nice to have Nick back on the blue line for this game,” he said. “And, it would be nice to have my old line mate back, in Stevie. I have to believe, down deep, they want to be a part of it.”
• If you find yourself in Cambridge, Ontario on July 18th—which is five days from now—the Cambridge Times’ Bill Doucet reports that Kirk Maltby and several active NHL’ers will be taking part in an autograph session and charity hockey game at Cambridge’s Hespeler Arena;
• The Montgomery (Pennsylvania) Times-Herald’s Gordon Glantz penned a pair of articles about Mark Howe, but I’m going to place them in the “further reading” department as, to be very honest, they’re kind of hard to read, even by my rambly writing style’s standards;
• Due to time constraints, ditto for Petr Klima’s chat with Hockej.cz’s Vaclav Jachim (link goes to the Google translation of the article);
• If Jake Chelios counts as a Wings alum, we’ll go with one more “for further reading” story as Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Tracey Myers spoke to the Michigan State University defenseman/forward about taking part in the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect camp;
• Surprise! Via NHL.com, the Buffalo News’s Mike Harrington reports that Dominik Hasek’s agent, Rich Winter, did indeed contact the Sabres to see whether they’d be interested in taking on a 47-year-old back-up goaltender:
[Sabres GM Darcy] Regier acknowledged he joined Lindy Ruff in a couple of meetings with Dominik Hasek about the Sabres’ goalie possibly making a return to the NHL but that Buffalo has passed.
“One thing I am sure of: He has no doubt in his mind that he can play,” Regier said. “I think it probably gives him a little bit of lift seeing somebody like Brodeur play at 40 in the Stanley Cup final. I know better than to question Dom’s desire and his ability. Unfortunately, it’s not something that was going to fit here.”
And finally, parts one and two:
• I need to get my butt to the rink, so I’ll refer you to the Wings’ Twitter account for their prospects’ replies to questions asked by fans…
• And I nearly spit out my Diet Mountain Dew when I read this blurb from the Pioneer Press’s Charley Walters:
Reed Larson, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer from Minneapolis, spent 10 seasons playing for the Detroit Red Wings. The former Gophers defenseman also was captain of the Red Wings, who were bought by Mike Ilitch in 1982.
Larson compares Craig Leipold, the Minnesota Wild owner who last week committed $196 million to free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, to Ilitch. It was Ilitch who turned the then-lowly Red Wings into four-time Stanley Cup champions.
“Leipold is like Ilitch—he’s got the will, the drive, and he’s willing to put out,” Larson said Thursday, July 12. “When Mike took over, it took a little while for the team to find itself; it just doesn’t happen overnight. The Wild remind me of Detroit in their building days. Unfortunately, in any sport, you’ve got to spend some dough, and I commend Leipold for doing it. Craig has shown he has the passion to win. He’s not just doing this for business or a write-off. He cares about the people, the community. He wants to win. He wants to create a champion. Everyone can always say that. But he’s shown me that he’s doing it. This is going to be a very fun team to watch.”
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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.