The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/15/11 at 10:56 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ wrapped up their summer development camp on Thursday, and were very happy with their decision to both shift its venue to Traverse City and open it up to the public. There’s good news and bad news in that department for fans like you and me—the good news is that the Wings plan on returning to Centre Ice Arena next year at this time, so no one who wishes to see the prospects will have to scramble to find lodging on short notice. The bad news is that the early-July camp will continue to coincide with Traverse City’s Cherry Festival, so if you do want to get up here, you’re going to have to plan ahead (and here’s hoping that the Wings release the dates for their summer development camp earlier in the year next time around).
According to the Free Press’s George Sipple, Wings assistant GM Jim Nill is all but ready to officially declare that the team’s eight-day camp’s status as a de-facto road trip for new and returning prospects provided the perfect environment in which to introduce them to and reinforce the fundamentals of training and playing like Red Wings:
Assistant general manager Jim Nill said feedback from the players was positive about the decision to move the camp Up North this year. When the players weren’t at the rink, they hung out on the beach, dined together and played miniature golf. One night, the team had a barbecue on the beach. “Chris Chelios, Aaron Downey and Jiri Fischer were out there just talking hockey, sharing their experiences with the kids,” Nill said.
The Wings already utilize Centre Ice for an NHL prospects tournament (Sept. 10-14) and will hold their annual training camp there (Sept. 17-22).
“The arena environment is great,” Nill said. “They’ve got two big dressing rooms connected together. They had a great fitness room upstairs. They’ve got room outside if they have to go for a run or play soccer.”
Several prospects who attended last year’s camp in Detroit said the surroundings were much better this year.
“We’ll go back and review everything, but my recommendation will be to go back there,” Nill said.
The Wings finished camp with a scrimmage Thursday. Nill said recent draft picks Tomas Jurco (35th overall in the second round) and Alan Quine (85th overall, third round) each scored two goals to lead Team Zetterberg. Nill said the players were to bus back for exit interviews in Detroit on Thursday, then watch the Tigers play tonight at Comerica Park before returning to their hometowns.
Nill also spoke to the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s Dennis Chase Dennis Chase (subscriber-only, sorry) about the incredibly high likelihood that they’ll return to Centre Ice:
“That’s the game plan,” assistant GM Jim Nill said Thursday after the weeklong skills camp for the organization’s top prospects concluded. “We’re going to look at it, but it seems to make sense to have it up here. With the building we have here, with the added dressing rooms, it’s just a great situation for us. And it’s a great atmosphere (for the players). It gives them a chance to bond. They’re out playing mini-golf or out on the beach at night. They’re getting to know each other. That’s how you build a bond and that makes you a team down the road. It’s worked out well here.”
Nill told Ann Reeves, camp director, that he would get back to her in a couple of weeks regarding next summer’s plans.
“They definitely want to come back,” she said. “They’re going to go back and evaluate the costs, but (Nill) told me he wants to look at the calendar and get a date set for next year. That’s wonderful news.”
“This year has definitely been the most exciting camp for us as a staff and for the players,” said Jiri Fischer, director of player of development. “There’s always something to do here.”
The 40 players arrived in town last week during the Cherry Festival. The only hiccup came Monday when on-ice practice had to be canceled when a compressor at the arena went down.
“That was a gut-wrenching morning, having to call Ken (GM Ken Holland) and Jim and telling them we had a problem,” Reeves said. “They came up here, not solely because of, but it was driven by their facility issue downstate. I was nervous about that. In hindsight, from what Jim told me today, they’re going to schedule a day off next year because it was to their benefit to do so, to give the boys a day off. This camp was longer in duration days wise (eight days), and also longer by the day (mostly 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). So there was a silver lining in it. We’ll plan some fun things for them to do in the area that day (next year).”
The full day off is a very, very smart idea—the prospects really dragged their butts on days 5 and 6, and they needed an honest-to-goodness break.
As for the Wings’ takes on how their prospects fared, I conducted some interviews with Nill and Fischer on Thursday and gave my own impressions last night, and the Record-Eagle’s Chase (again, subscriber-only, though I’ll drop a hint that I might have purchased today’s e-edition and am engaging in a little control-C and control-V-ing) spoke to Nill and Fischer about the ways in which their newest draft picks have improved over the past week:
“You can see the skill level and that is very encouraging,” he said during the camp’s final scrimmage. “They all came to camp, overall, in good shape. They still need to get stronger, but the base is there. We’ve been very happy.”
“[Tomas] Jurco has high-end skill,” Nill said. “He’s got good size (6-foot-2, 187 pounds). He’s a big, strong kid. He can make plays out of nothing, score goals out of nothing.”
“It (camp) was kind of hard for me,” Jurco admitted. “I wasn’t working out a long time because we were playing in the Memorial Cup just over a month ago. Then, I had to have a month off to rest (after) a long season. So, for me, this was a hard week. But I think I did pretty well. I’m excited for next time.”
The lanky 6-3, 185-pound [Ryan] Sproul came on strong for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League last winter.
“He played very well here,” Nill said. “He’s a big rangy kid. He really had a great second half to the season (in 2010-11). He has a lot of upside to his game.”
“I think this (camp) really opens their eyes,” Nill said. “They’ve always been told by their junior coaches or college coaches they have to do this, they’ve got to do that. This starts to affirm what those coaches said.”
That’s the theory.
I’m headed back home this morning and early afternoon, so I’ll be away from the blog, but as Ken Holland told MLive’s Ansar Khan and the Free Press’s Helene St. James that neither Chris Osgood nor Kris Draper’s futures with the team will be determined until next week, this should be a relatively “slow” day (hopefully).
Please let me know what you’d like me to do in terms of the in-retrospect coverage of the tournament, because while I emptied the audio recorder of the interviews I took, I’ve got at least a hundred pages of notes on my laptop and I’ve got more than enough thoughts, observations and opinions regarding the 39 players that took part in the camp that I can keep ‘er going for at least a few more days.
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning: Per the Red Wings’ Twitter account:
Justin Abdelkader will make a special appearance with the world-renowned U.S. Navy Blue Angels on July 20 at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti.
• According to Buffalo Business First’s James Fink, former Wing Dominik Hasek’s charity hockey organization, “Hasek’s Heroes,” will celebrate its 10th anniversary by doubling its reach in the Buffalo area;
• And ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers offers this “from-the-Blackhawks” take on the possibility of the Red Wings moving to the Eastern Conference:
Q: I know Gary Bettman is on a mission to destroy the NHL, but how can he possibly consider moving Detroit to the East? Not only would he split up the Hawks and Wings, but five of the Original Six would be in one conference. So long to Original Six games for half the hockey fans on the planet. All this so Detroit fans can be tucked in at a decent hour? Come on. He can’t be that clueless.—Adam (Chicago)
A: As long as they don’t move Vancouver to the East I think things will be OK. I would bet more and more fans couldn’t name the Original Six teams if you spotted them half the teams. Yes, the Hawks and Wings rivalry is still great, but I’m not totally opposed to change. If you’re a Wings or Blue Jackets fan, those West Coast games are starting at 10 or 10:30 p.m. Hawks fans would go nuts if that was the case here, so I can understand why they want to move and why they might be accommodated.
That’s it for me for now. I’ll check in on the day’s Wings news when I get home.
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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.