The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/08/12 at 08:34 AM ET
On a morning where Hockeysverige’s Uffe Bodin and Hokejportal.net’s Andrej Cicman are wondering aloud whether the Red Wings have finally reached the end of their 21-year streak of playoff appearances, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons offers an English-language version thereof:
Ken Holland loves to keep track of the number of times I’ve predicted the beginning of the end for the Detroit Red Wings’ run of 100 point seasons. And so far, his record is close to perfect and mine, well, is nowhere close.
You know this has been a difficult off-season for the Red Wings when their best acquisition has been the signing of assistant coach, Tom Renney. They’ve lost the irreplaceable Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement, probably won’t bring Tomas Holmstrom back, have traded Brad Stuart away, said goodbye to 25-goal scorer Jiri Hudler and missed out on Ryan Suter in free agency.
So we will say it again, this time with some certainty: The Red Wings’ string of 12 straight 100-point seasons will end this coming year. And as you read this, Holland is getting his scissors ready to clip this out — and save it.
But of all people, the Free Press’s Mitch Albom of all people who boldly declares that, “Detroit is Still Hockeytown” this morning, and he suggests as much with the backing of one Ken Holland:
“If you look at the length of these contracts, you can’t be in the free agency market every year,” Ken Holland said Friday from Traverse City. “When we made a decision to keep Zetterberg, that was 12 years. Johan Franzen was 11. You can afford one or two more of those and the rest has to be drafting and developing. ... It’s great to have a press conference, but you might only have one press conference every decade.”
Wings fans are spoiled. The years when names like Hasek, Robitaille, Hull or Lang could be added because Mike Ilitch spent more than other owners are gone. Everyone has the same money now. It’s a salary cap world.
But Detroit is still a star on the map. Consider how many NHL cities have to fight for fans. Look at how attendance dips in places like Colorado and New Jersey, despite their successful histories. Look at Phoenix or Dallas, which always battle warm weather and distracted fan bases.
Then look at Detroit, with four Stanley Cups in the last 15 years, a committed owner and a rabid fan base. Hockey players are a big deal in this town—they don’t even need to be All-Stars. Their post-career options are strong. And it’s an Original Six team.
“We’re still Hockeytown,” Holland said. “There’s still sex appeal to play here.”
“I’m disappointed,” Holland said, “but there’s free agents in 2013, 2014, 2015.”
As for whispers that Mike Babcock might be scaring away players because of his tough reputation, Holland said, “I’ve heard that. There’s no doubt Mike pushes the players. But that’s part of why we’re successful. Mike is one of the most respected coaches in the business. I don’t believe anybody makes a decision not to come to Detroit on account of him. The fact is, in contracts this long, you may play for three or four coaches anyhow.”
Hey, we all like to shop with an owner’s money. But it’s not a defeat when the bag comes back empty—it’s just a development. In a league where the No. 8 seed wins the title, chemistry, unity and a hot goalie count more than one superstar anyhow. The Wings deserve patience and belief, considering their last two decades. And Hockeytown deserves better than a premature funeral.
Shifting focus, the Free Press’s Helene St. James bulked up her article about Wings prospect Brendan Smith, with Smith suggesting that he’s trying to add some “bulk” of his own:
Smith, 23, has been working out in the Toronto area with Peter Renzetti, the Wings’ strength and conditioning coach, with a focus on being sleeker.
“I know a lot of guys that kind of bulk up with weight and then they lose speed, and that would hurt my game, especially with how I skate,” Smith said. “That’s probably one of my better attributes, so the biggest thing is to get stronger and not lose any speed.”
“Brendan is an elite player, and we know he can play in the league,” assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “There’s going to be some growing pains, but that’s part of the system we’re in.”
Smith has a lot of assets: He’s 6-feet-1, a smooth skater, smart and likes to join the rush. And as the Wings saw last exhibition season when he took out a Chicago opponent, Smith plays with an edge. He just needs to fine-tune that edge so the hits don’t lead to a suspension.
Between knowing he’s being counted on for next season and getting a taste of the NHL last season, Smith’s confidence is high.
“I think the biggest thing is, they threw me in the lineup when some of our big D went down and it was at the end of the year, where everybody has played 60-some games,” Smith said. “And I thought I did well. There’s obviously a huge area of improvement that I have to keep on making, and that’s what I’ll do—decisions in the defensive zone with the puck, sometimes instead of looking for that home-run pass, it’s see that you’ve got to go boards-out or glass-out. But they’ve told me they love the way I play with my offensive abilities.”
“This is his year,” assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “We need Brendan Smith to be ready. And he is ready. He played very well last year.”
When the Detroit Red Wings missed out on marquee free agent Ryan Suter, it was a mixed bag for Smith.
“I was talking to my dad about that,” Smith said, smiling. “It’s kind of nice for myself. It’ll probably let me jump into that position and get a little more ice time. Obviously, he’s a stud of a defenseman, so I’d love to have him with the Red Wings organization. Everyone in Michigan knows we want to win. That’s why we play the game, and he’d have helped us do that. But I think we have the ‘D’ corps back there to do it. Personally, I think (Niklas) Kronwall is one of the best defensemen (in the league). He’s underrated. I’m going to try to follow suit by watching him on and off the ice.”
With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart requesting and being granted a trade to San Jose, Smith finds himself in prime position take one of those vacancies. The Wings are left with Kronwall, Jonathan Ericcson, Ian White and Kyle Quincey (who is a restricted free agent) as NHL-proven blueliners. Smith and Jakub Kindl are among the contenders for the other two spots in the top six. Kindl has played in 106 NHL games in the last three seasons, producing three goals, 17 points and a -1 rating — not the kind of numbers the organization was hoping for from the young offensive-minded defender, who was also a former No. 1 draft pick.
In 14 games with Detroit last season, Smith posted a goal, six assists, 17 hits and eight blocked shots.
“I was pretty happy with how I played,” Smith said. “And hopefully I can take that into this camp and hopefully this next full season. I’ve been talking to the coaches and Ken Holland and Jim Nill — and they’re expecting a lot out of me. And so am I. The big thing for something like this is to show I have been working out a lot. I’ve put on some weight, but still kept my speed. I think the biggest thing for me here at this camp is to show some leadership. “
In foreign-language news, SME.sk and SITA, the Slovak news agency, report that Tomas Tatar and many members of the Slovak World Championship team will be facing off against members of the Czech World Championship team in the 2012 Adriatic Cup, a charity hockey tournament that starts today in Teplice;
• In Finnish, from the Bermuda Cup charity tennis tournament, Valtteri Filppula told Ilta Sanomat’s Eetu Ampuja that he doesn’t expect to be named the Red Wings’ captain, suggesting that “one of the Swedes” might continue that tradition instead, though he wasn’t tipping his hat to which one he felt would get the job;
• And despite the Nicklas Lidstrom-sized crater on the Wings’ defense, Filppula told MTV3.fi’s Kasperi Kunnas that he believes the Wings’ defense can help make up for Lidstrom’s departure by committee;
• In rumor-related news, in Russian: Sport-Express, citing no one, claims that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are negotiating with Alex Semin, with the Penguins offering Semin a 4-year, $18 million deal and the Wings offering him a shorter-term deal at $5 million per season, and Sport-Express claims that both salaries trail CSKA Moscow’s $10 million offer, but the report suggests that Semin wants to play in the NHL first and foremost.
It’s worth noting that while CSKA Moscow GM Sergei Fedorov says that he’ll pursue Semin, SKA St. Petersburg’s GM, Alexei Kasatonov, says that the KHL’s richest club isn’t pursuing Semin;
In English-language rumor news, as Paul noted, the Arizona Republic’s Paola Boivin made mention of the Red Wings’ interest in Shane Doan, who will begin fielding free agent offers tomorrow…
[H]is 16-year stay in Arizona is at risk of ending because of an ownership mess that appears to be growing more complicated by the minute. And it’s not just the Kings who appear to have interest in Doan. Eleven teams have inquired about the player, his agent, Terry Bross, said Friday. New York, Detroit and Montreal are among the group, according to various reports.
And finally, via Paul, the Vancouver Province’s Tony Gallagher is calling out teams like the Hurricanes (and Minnesota Wild) for chasing after Zach Parise despite taking $20 million in revenue-sharing bucks from the NHL’s richer teams. Good call.
From what we are led to believe, only the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings have expressed any real interest in Semin.
So if I’m a fool for suggesting the Senators should take a chance on Semin, then I guess Lou Lamoriello and Ken Holland are fools, too.
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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.