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The Malik Report

Red Wings off-day report: Conference call ripples, a Franzen story and Grifins news

Updated with video, Frozen Four and Griffins stuff at 6:38 PM: I believe that conference calls are nothing less than fascinating, though not necessarily because players and hockey executives tend to speak their minds. While Red Wings GM Ken Holland and captain Nicklas Lidstrom were thoughtful, thorough and forthcoming during today’s conference call, it’s almost as interesting, if not more so, to witness the media’s myriad interpretations of the comments made, and the ways in which writers and bloggers can twist and turn comments to support points they’re trying to make.

For the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, Ken Holland’s comments about the fact that the Red Wings have yet to define themselves despite the fact that they’re only three games removed from the playoffs proved most interesting:

“We’re still trying to find ourselves,” said Holland Monday during a teleconference with national writers.

Holland pointed to the goals-against, where the Wings rank 21st (227 goals-against, 2.87 average), and the difficulties at Joe Louis Arena (21-13-6 record). As good a season it has been, Holland wants to see more consistency heading into the playoffs.

“Right around Christmas time we started to get hit with injuries,” said Holland, noting the losses of Pavel Datsyuk (broken hand), Mike Modano (lacerated right wrist), Danny Cleary (broken left ankle), Brad Stuart (fractured jaw) and Chris Osgood (sports hernia) in that time frame. We did a good job of finding ways to win games and filling holes for people we had lost. We sort of held where we were at (in the standings). We came out of the All-Star break, I don’t think we’ve played nearly as consistent as we did earlier in the year as we’ve got our bodies (players) back. I’m not sure that’s the case.”

Holland likes the way young players such as Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jakub Kindl have strengthened the team.

“Our team is deeper today than when the season started,” Holland said.

Holland wasn’t asked to clarify the injury statuses of Osgood or Niklas Kronwall, but he was asked to weigh in on the league’s decision to take—and this is important, Larry Brooks—Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson’s suggestion to remove shootout wins from the playoff tie-breaking equation (Holland suggested that while he proposed the idea, it was Howson who championed its cause), for a story in which the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston discusses the tightness of playoff races in both conferences over the season’s final week:

A win isn’t necessarily worth what it used to be in the NHL. As the push for the playoffs hits high gear in the final week of the regular season, the league’s new tiebreaker rule will help determine what the first round matchups look like.

General managers decided a year ago to alter the tiebreaking format and have the first criteria become the greatest number of wins in regulation and overtime (excluding the shootout) — rather than simply the total number of wins. It’s reflected in the standings on the NHL’s website by the “ROW” category.

“My feeling is that if you win in 60 minutes or you win in the five minutes of overtime it has a little more impact and means a little more than if you win a shootout,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, a driving force behind the change. “It certainly appears, as you look at the standings, they’re so close in the West and the East ... it certainly could (come in to play). If my team wins more in regulation and overtime than your team does, I think that we should get the tiebreaker.”

The second tiebreaking criteria is the greater number of points earned in games between the tied teams while the third is goal differential. With a total of just 49 games to be played in the NHL regular season, there were still 20 teams with a mathematical chance of earning a trip to the post-season.

I’m pretty sure that the Wings earned a well-deserved day off from practice on Monday due to the lack of updates from the Wings’ beat writers, but I listened to the press conference while taking my mother to her accountant’s to file her taxes, and Bleacher Report’s Matt Hutter and independent journalist Greg Eno asked the majority of the questions, along with Johnston and the Sporting News’s Craig Custance (as I recall it)—St. James, Khan, Kulfan, Pleiness, Waddell, Duff, Sipple, none of the usual suspects asked a question—so while Hutter does write for the infamous Bleacher Report, I’m going to offer his take on the answers Holland and Lidstrom gave him, especially regarding Jimmy Howard’s maturation:

Speaking of younger Red Wings’ players, regarding his second-year goalie, Jimmy Howard, being ready to back-stop his team during the playoffs, Lidstrom expressed confidence in his ability to do so.

“I think he gained a lot of experience being part of the playoffs last year,” said Lidstrom,  “knowing what it takes and that it is different than the regular season and the pressure is there and you have to show up every night. It’s a lot tougher than the regular season.”

As green as Howard might still be when it comes to playoff experience, Lidstrom said that Howard has benefited, not just from his experience last year, but, from being around the team in previous years.

“I think he learned [what it takes to succeed in the playoffs] from last season,” said Lidstrom,  “but he’s [also] been around the team when he wasn’t playing. When we won the Cup in ‘08, he was on the outside looking in.”

Though Howard never suited up for the Red Wings during their 2008 Cup-run, Lidstrom feels he gained a great deal of knowledge nonetheless.

“He was part of the team travelling with us. He knows what it takes to win, and he’s seen it, and we still try to encourage him, whether it’s a goal he didn’t like he let in or a game you didn’t like, you always try to encourage the goalies.”

Also of Red Wings-related note this afternoon, conference call transcript reading excluded:

• Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner issued a freak-out post regarding an interview Franzen gave to another journalist that Regner listened to, and that interview was given to the AP’s Larry Lage. Lage discusses Franzen’s goal-scoring slump at length today:

“I’ve got as little of confidence as usual,” Franzen joked with a nervous laugh during a terse interview.

The burly Swede known as “Mule” in the Motor City had five goals on Feb. 2 at Ottawa, becoming the first NHL player to pull off the feat since Marian Gaborik did it for Minnesota in 2007. Then, he went into a slump that has created a concern for Detroit heading into the playoffs next week.

“Hopefully he gets on one of his streaks because we really need him,” general manager Ken Holland said.

While Franzen made no promises regarding another run of serious post-season scoring…

“It’s been a while since I’ve done any playoff magic,” he said. “We’ll see.”

His teammates believe that his goal on Sunday should help Franzen break out of his crisis of confidence:

“No doubt, he puts a lot of pressure on himself when he’s not scoring,” [Henrik] Zetterberg said. “So, it was nice to see him get that one to hopefully get him going for the playoffs.”
....
“I think it was very big, hopefully it’ll give him some confidence that he needs,” [Nicklas] Lidstrom said. “The way he scored it — going hard at the net and whacking at the puck — was important. He’s been great in the playoffs the past few years, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come next week.”

• This was already posted, but it’s worth repeating: TSN is actually asking fans whether Todd Bertuzzi out-qualifies Roberto Luongo, Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks fans, Tim Thomas and Alex Ovechkin as the player and/or team and/or fan base that “deserves” to win the Cup the most this season;

• Looking back—really, really far back into the past—today’s Red Wings playoff moment on its Twenty Straight website involves Detroit’s 1998 Stanley Cup win;

• Looking forward, ESPN’s Scott Burnside states the obvious regarding two of this week’s “Games to Watch”:

Wednesday: Red Wings at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET

The Red Wings pulled off two big wins this past weekend to lock up the Central Division. Getting Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard back was key to hitting the playoffs on a high note. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, will pretty much need to run the table this week if they hope to catch one of the three teams at the bottom of the bracket (Montreal, Buffalo and the New York Rangers).

Prediction: The Wings will turn out the lights of the Canes’ playoff hopes.

I swear, Mr. Karmanos, it’s not personal. Mike Ilitch doesn’t dislike you anymore. The Wings just need to take care of business, and it has nothing to do with your once-bitter rivalry with the Ilitch empire.

Friday: Blackhawks at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Hawks are not doing anything the easy way; they lost to Tampa on Sunday to keep Dallas’ and Calgary’s playoff dreams alive. Plus, the defending Cup champs close the regular season with a home-and-home versus Detroit. This is Act I.

Prediction: The Blackhawks take the drama out early with a win at Joe Louis Arena, but will it be enough?

• Looking further ahead, ESPN’s Sean Allen suggests that Pavel Datsyuk will rebound from an injury-plagued season to dominate on the ice in terms of points and fantasy hockey impact during the 2011-2012 season:

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: This was not a banner season for Datsyuk, but injuries to himself and his Red Wings teammates can take most of the blame. Datsyuk still managed to offer up more than a point per game. In fact, his pace would have been a 90-point season and a return to his elite level after a 70-point season in 2009-10

• And looking further down the line, the Grand Rapids Griffins signed a player who may evolve into a starting goaltender 5-7 years down the line to an amateur try-out contract today (as RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau reported on Sunday), and the Griffins called up two players whose futures with the team and Wings organization are a bit tenuous at present, too:

The Grand Rapids Griffins on Monday signed goaltender Petr Mrazek (M’RAZ-ihk) to an amateur tryout. In addition, the Detroit Red Wings today reassigned right wing Willie Coetzee and defenseman Sebastien Piche to Grand Rapids from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.

Mrazek, a 19-year old native of Ostrava, Czech Republic, recently concluded his second campaign with the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, where he posted a 33-15-3 record with a 2.84 GAA and four shutouts in 52 games. Detroit’s fifth choice (141st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, he led the OHL with a 0.920 save percentage this season and ranked among the league’s leaders in GAA (5th), wins (3rd) and shutouts (T2nd).

Coetzee, 20, has played in 36 games for Toledo this season, showing 20 points (9-11—20), four penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating. The Maple Ridge, B.C., native has also logged 25 contests with the Griffins during his rookie campaign, earning five assists, eight PIM and a minus-7 rating.

Piche, 23, has spent the majority of his sophomore pro season with the Walleye, appearing in 48 games. He ranked among the top ECHL blueliners this season with 12 goals (T4th) and 33 points (T10th), while finishing second among Walleye defensemen in points and ranking among the team’s overall leaders in goals (T6th), assists (21, 8th), points (9th) and power play tallies (8, 2nd). A native of La Sarre, Quebec, Piche also shows two assists and 13 PIM in 11 contests with the Griffins.

All three players will be available for action when the Griffins visit the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday at 8 p.m. EDT.

The Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema confirms, and the Griffins’ “Afternoon Shift” talks about the reasons why the Griffins are signing prospects to amateur or pro try-outs and are giving youngsters ice time now that the Griffins’ playoff hopes have been extinguished:

The final weeks of a hockey team’s regular season have little in common with the holiday season, except in one respect: this is the time of year when teams like the Griffins get to peek under the paper and get a glimpse of the treasures they’ll be unwrapping for a future roster.

Players whose junior or college seasons end prematurely often sign amateur tryouts with AHL clubs to get their toes wet in the pro game. Not unlike Griffins who join the Detroit Red Wings as “black aces” during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these young players are brought in to soak up everything about the game at this level, to help make their future transitions easier. And often times, they have their training wheels removed, get inserted into the lineup and are expected to contribute.

Several current Griffins got their first taste of pro hockey in this fashion, including Joakim Andersson, Willie Coetzee, Cory Emmerton, Brian Lashoff, Jan Mursak, Jordan Pearce and Brent Raedeke. More recently, two-time Hobey Baker finalist Gustav Nyquist left Maine to sign with the Griffins on March 25, and he promptly registered points in each of his first three games with Grand Rapids.

Today, the Griffins welcomed another such player in Petr Mrazek, a highly touted OHL goaltender who was Detroit’s fifth pick in the 2010 draft and has been praised as perhaps the best netminder in the history of the Ottawa 67′s franchise. With the Griffins’ playoff aspirations down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth, it’s anyone’s guess whether the young phenom will get a chance to strut his stuff this week.

If he does, he’ll break Thomas McCollum’s record and become the youngest goalie to ever play for Grand Rapids (19 years, two months to McCollum’s 19 years, nine months in Oct. 2009). If he doesn’t, he’ll do his best impression of a sponge while whetting the appetites of coaches and fans for what the future has in store.

I’ll say this about Piche and Coetzee: with the Griffins likely to lose Doug Janik (his contract becomes a one-way deal next season) and Derek Meech (who becomes an unrestricted free agent), Piche’s got a very good chance of becoming a full-time member of the Griffins’ blueline, alongside Brendan Smith, Travis Ehrhardt, Greg Amadio, Brian Lashoff, Sergei Kolosov, Logan Pyett and the graduating Gleason Fournier (that makes 8 defensemen, which is pretty much what you need to go through an AHL season)....

I suppose you could say the same of Coetzee given that Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton are out of minor league options, and at this point, it seems unlikely that the Wings can afford to keep Ilari Filppula around (he’ll either go back to Finland, sign with another NHL team or be plucked off the waiver wire), but the Griffins will also welcome Nyquist, Landon Ferraro, Mitchell Callahan and possibly Trevor Parkes to their forward lines, so the Griffins’ roster in general will remain crowded next season (though Mrazek will head back to the OHL).

• As a reminder, per the University of Notre Dame’s athletic site, Wings prospect Riley Sheahan and the Fighting Irish will face off against the University of Minnesota Duluth on Thursday, April 7th at 5 PM EDT, and their semifinal will air on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com;

• And we’ll just pretend that Yahoo Sports’ Ryan Lambert read Darren McCarty’s statements suggesting that he still has no respect whatsoever for Claude Lemieux the hockey player before rambling on about the McCarty-Lemieux autograph signing at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mt. Clemens this past weekend.

Update: Here’s Custance’s first quip from the conference call:

It’s the final week of the NHL’s regular season and, as expected, there’s still much to be determined. Entering Monday’s games, only eight of 16 teams have clinched playoff spots. And those who have, like the Flyers and Red Wings, are hoping to build momentum.

“That can carry you into the playoffs,” Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s hard to sit and wait for the playoffs and then turn it on and play your best.”

• And, per DetroitRedWings.com’s Jake Duhaime, the “Don’t Miss a Minute” viral video campaign may already have a winner:

Update the second: Hockey’s Future’s DJ Powers posted a little preview of the Frozen Four match-ups, describing the University of Notre Dame as follows:

Notre Dame, winner of the Northeast Regional, comes into the Frozen Four after posting a pair of one-goal wins over Merrimack and host New Hampshire respectively. The win over Merrimack came in overtime.

The Fighting Irish are led by the dynamic freshman duo of T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee (NYI), who rank first (53 points) and fourth (44 points) in the nation respectively in rookie scoring. Lee continues to be one of Notre Dame’s most reliable point-producers, having posted two goals and an assist in the regional. His overtime game-winning tally versus Merrimack in the regional semi-final was his seventh of the season, which co-leads the nation among all NHL prospects. Lee plays left wing on Notre Dame’s newly-formed top line alongside sophomore Riley Sheahan (DET) and junior Billy Maday. The trio accounted for eight points (four goals, four assists) in the regional.

Notre Dame’s methodical and patient style of play proved challenging for Merrimack and New Hampshire to overcome in the regional and could give their opponents in the Frozen Four the same difficulty. Although the Fighting Irish come into the Frozen Four ranked 32nd in the nation overall on the penalty kill, they also have registered 12 shorthanded goals as well. That ranks first among the Frozen Four teams and second overall nationally. Only Boston College posted more shorthanded goals this season. Notre Dame has nine players on their roster that have posted shorthanded goals, including two each by Tynan, sophomore defenseman Sam Calabrese and senior defenseman Joe Lavin (CHI).

• The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo gave the Red Wings’ organization praise for its consistency...

The Red Wings are readying to take part in their 20th consecutive postseason. Think about that for one sec: The Florida Panthers will miss their 10th consecutive postseason cut. Since 1997, the Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups. In that span, the Panthers haven’t won a single playoff game. Nicklas Lidstrom has never even missed the playoffs.

How do the Red Wings do it? Through draft and development. Yes, they’ll add a free agent now and again, like Marian Hossa a few years back. But for the nost part, the Red Wings’ core is homegrown.

Despite the fact that in the past 17 years the Red Wings haven’t picked higher than 19th in the draft, despite the fact that in the past 14 years they’ve had six first-round picks, the Wings keep unearthing talent later in the draft: (Darren Helm, 132nd, 2005); Johan Franzen, 97th, 2004; Jiri Hudler, 58th, 2002; Valtteri Filppula, 95th, 2002; Henrik Zetterberg, 210th, 1999; Pavel Datsyuk, 171st, 1998; Tomas Holmstrom, 257th, 1994).

In this salary-cap era, Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill and his incredible staff has managed to preserve this impressive core. Why? Most players with a desire to win first never want to leave Detroit.

It’s no wonder the Red Wings are the envy of 29 teams. It’s why former Wild GM Doug Risebrough told Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on a plane a few years ago, “If anybody wants to pursue your model, it’s a ridiculous thing. Guys want to stay there. You have a culture there of winning. Nobody can follow your model.”

• Regarding those 20 straight playoff seasons, the Red Wings’ PR department offered an…unusual…press release…

Special delivery due to Wings’ STH
Monday, 04.04.2011 / 4:18 PM / Press Release
By Rick Bowness - Public Relations Coordinator

DETROIT—Red Wings’ season ticket holders will be receiving a very special delivery this week, as for the 20th consecutive year the team will be distributing playoff packages throughout the dominion of Hockeytown. To commemorate the Red Wings’ incredible two-decade-long playoff-appearance streak, this year’s collectible post-season ticket packages are brandished with matrix-based Quick Response (QR) codes that will allow fans to view highlights from throughout Detroit’s last 19 Stanley Cup drives.

Earlier this year, Red Wings fans had the opportunity to vote for their favorite playoff moments from 1991-2010 by visiting the team’s official website. Through extensive online balloting, a carefully-selected assemblage of 32 classic playoff moments was whittled down to the 16 that will be featured on this year’s high-tech post-season tickets. Season Ticket Holders will be able to access video footage of Hockeytown’s favorite playoff moments from the last two decades on their smartphones by downloading a special mobile app at http://gettag.mobi and then scanning the QR codes emblazoned upon each playoff ticket included in their forthcoming packages.

• The Red Wings’ players were engaged in some high-tech stuff recently, per the Wings’ website:

• And the Grand Rapids Griffins posted their weekly press release today, and let’s just say that it’s a little overly optimistic:

Still Fighting: Grand Rapids’ last hope for qualifying for the Calder Cup Playoffs is claiming fourth place in the North Division and fending off all potential crossover candidates from the West Division. Entering the final week of the regular season, the Griffins currently sit in sixth in the North with 80 points, one point behind fifth-place Toronto (81) and two in back of fourth-place Abbotsford (82). However, any one of three teams from the West – Oklahoma City (87), Chicago (86) and San Antonio (85) – is poised to claim that berth instead.

Breaking it Down: To maintain any chance of making the playoffs, the Griffins must win each of their final four games and hope Oklahoma City loses each of its last three. The earliest Grand Rapids can clinch is Sunday’s season finale in Milwaukee, while the earliest it could be eliminated is Tuesday, with a San Antonio win over Rockford (since San Antonio and Oklahoma City play each other on Friday). Here’s a breakdown of the playoff race (teams in bold have clinched over Grand Rapids):

Also of note as the Griffins play road games against Milwaukee on Wednesday and Sunday, a road tilt against Rockford on Saturday and hold their home finale on Friday vs. Abbotsford at 7 PM:

Packing the House: The Griffins, whose average attendance of 7,149 ranks fifth out of 30 AHL teams, are guaranteed to finish with an attendance increase for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Heading into this Friday’s home finale at Van Andel Arena, their attendance of 278,812 is just 1,815 shy of last season’s total. An anticipated sellout for the final home game would give the Griffins a 3.2% attendance increase over last season, and the season-long figure of 289,646 would mark their second-largest in 10 seasons of AHL membership (297,905 in 2008-09).
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Ironman Between the Pipes: Rookie goalie Jordan Pearce’s run of 20 consecutive starts for Grand Rapids (12-5-1-2 from Feb. 16-March 26) ended on Friday in Abbotsford, just four starts shy of the franchise record set by Joey MacDonald from Feb. 25-April 9, 2005. Pearce, who nonetheless entered the game in relief in the third period, allowed just one goal in four periods of action against the Heat over the weekend, stopping 41 of 42 shots for a 0.76 GAA and a 0.976 save percentage. He has now played in 22 straight contests and in 29 of the Griffins’ last 30 games, and he sits in 10th place on the franchise’s all-time list with 20 career wins.

Smith Named to AHL All-Rookie Team: Defenseman Brendan Smith last Wednesday was named to the 2010-11 AHL All-Rookie Team. Smith, 22, ranks among the AHL’s top defensemen with 12 goals (1st among rookies, T7th overall) and 32 points (5th rookies, T29th overall) through 59 games. Despite having missed 17 games due to injuries, he stands among the Griffins’ leaders in goals (1st defensemen, 7th overall), assists (20 – 2nd defensemen, 9th overall), points (2nd defensemen, 10th overall), plus/minus (plus-8 – 3rd defensemen, 5th overall), penalty minutes (117 – 2nd defensemen, 3rd overall), power play goals (five – 1st defensemen, T4th overall) and game-winning goals (four – 1st defensemen, T1st overall). In Grand Rapids history, only two rookie defensemen have registered more points than Smith’s 32, and both are currently playing in the NHL: Florida’s Clay Wilson (37 in 2005-06) and Colorado’s Kyle Quincey (33 in 2005-06). Overall, Smith’s point total ties for the 12th-highest ever by a Griffins rookie. The Mimico, Ontario, native becomes the third Griffin to be named to an AHL All-Rookie Team, joining current Detroit Red Wings Justin Abdelkader (2008-09) and Jimmy Howard (2005-06). This marks the second significant AHL honor for Smith this season, who became the first rookie defenseman in Griffins history to be chosen for an all-star game. However, he was forced to miss the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic due to injury. Smith is now a top candidate for the AHL’s Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award (outstanding rookie), the winner of which will be announced on Thursday.
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Among the Best: Francis Pare is the only Griffin to have appeared in all 76 games thus far, giving him a chance to join 18 previous Griffins who played in every game of a regular season. In addition, his seven first goals already tie for eighth on the team’s single-season list…With 10 power play goals, Jamie Tardif needs one more to break into the Griffins’ single-season top-10. His three shorthanded goals also tie for fifth all time.

Instant Impact: Forward Gustav Nyquist, the Red Wings’ third choice (121st overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, registered a point in each of his first three games with the Griffins (1-2—3) prior to Grand Rapids’ 1-0 loss in Abbotsford on Saturday.

 

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Comments

Nathan's avatar

George, have the Wings not liked what they’ve seen from the elder Filppula enough to try and keep him around? There are four forwards going into FA and/or potential retirement this off-season.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/04/11 at 07:35 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I saw that Mrazek was in the lineup in last year’s WJC but I couldn’t find him on the ice when the Czechs played Canada because the Czech team did not put their players’ last names on the back of their sweaters.  Would’ve been great to see him play as I’ve seen Jarnkrok play for Sweden.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 04/04/11 at 07:39 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Ilari’s played very, very well, but at this point, it appears that Mursak and Emmerton have the edge on Ilari. I’m just guessing that Ilari can earn more money somewhere else.

Mrazek didn’t play for the Czechs at the 2011 World Junior Championships. He’d been blacklisted from the team for not signing a contract with a Czech Extraliga club.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/04/11 at 08:27 PM ET

perfection's avatar

i’d like to see Ilari at least get a chance as well. Not only did he lead the griffins this year in scoring, but his age obviously gives him a different level of maturity than the kids (with that said, he’s probably not worth LOSING a young prospect over… which is why you definitely have a point).

i managed to see one Griffins game live this year here in Chicago and I thought Ilari was fantastic. Him and Tatar seemed far and away the most effective players on the ice… all kinds of slick moves. Ilari was making stuff happen every time he was on the ice.

It definitely made me want to see Ilari and Val on a line together at least one time. Brothers sometimes form a different kind of chemistry and Ilari seemed to like to shoot a lot more than Val does. It’d be very very interesting to see them feeding one another on a line with Cleary maybe?

I think Mursak has obviously earned a place on the team. I believe Babcock has basically said as much on more than one occasion. He clearly loves his style, speed, and effort. I really haven’t seen enough of Emmerton to have too much of an opinion about him though I was at the game in Detroit where he had his first NHL goal. He looked like an NHL player out there, no doubt. But it’s really hard to compare to Ilari because I only saw Ilari play against AHL defenders.

As always though, TOO many good players is a much better problem than not enough. It’s pretty safe to say that Drapes is done (though I’m sure he’ll get the Maltby offer of a two-way), I have to wonder if we’ll retain EITHER Eaves or Miller because of how effective they’ve been. I’d think they’d try and keep Eaves who definitely has a much bigger upside and brings virtually the same PK skills as Miller but at what cost? It comes down to whether he really wants to be a Wing or not as I’m sure he could get more money somewhere else. The same would be true for Ilari too. Of course there’s more money out there… but is it worth NOT being a Red Wing?

Ericsson is the big tossup for me. It seemed like Holland drew a line in the sand a couple of months ago basically saying a decision hadn’t been made on Ericsson - the same guy who was being touted as our future #1 defender only two playoffs ago. I’m thinking it isn’t that the Wings don’t want him, but that Ericsson and his agent may be seeking a “future #1 defender”-type contract and he just hasn’t showed that kind of stuff since two playoffs ago. The Wings see him as a work in progress and aren’t going to pay him more than that. Personally, I think it would be a BIG BIG mistake to give him up. I know he’s made some mistakes, but when you see those glimpses of what he can be, it just makes you drool. I think it’s too early to give up on him and would try and get him for 2 or 3 more seasons if possible.

Last thing about next year’s squad and our cap and such… all of this obviously hinges on Lidstrom as well. It seems like the consensus is that he is going to come back, but he hasn’t said it and I’d think whatever happens in the playoffs - win, lose, injuries, etc. will affect his decision. But I have to say, if we don’t win the cup this year and Lidstrom DOES come back for one more chance, I’d like to see him take a significant pay cut. Not because he deserves it… hell, he deserves the $9 mil a year that most every other team would give him, even now at his age… but he’s the CAPTAIN. I’m totally down for players getting what they can in their careers and making their fortune, but at some point, when you’ve made as many millions of dollars as Lids has, I just stop really caring about the bottom line. Fact is, his great grandchildren are probably set at this point. Would it really kill him to take a page out of Stevie Y’s book and take like $3 or $4 mil instead of $7 in his last year?! Like he really can’t pay the bills with that salary? if we had another $4 mil in cap space it could make a HUGE difference. how much do you want to win Captain Lids? that is the question.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/04/11 at 10:50 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Red Wings won’t ask Nick to take much of a salary hit, if anything. He’s not going to take $3 million when the reality of the situation is that he’s definitely still a $6 million a year player, and I don’t think that we should begrudge him for that, not for a second.

Regarding Ericsson, it’s gonna be about money, plain and simple. If he wants Brett Lebda money (see: a 200% raise), he’s going to walk, and if he’s willing to be flexible, he’ll stay. The Wings seem to regard him much more highly than we do.

Regarding the team going forward, it’s as much about what Chris Osgood, Mike Modano, Ruslan Salei and Draper want to do as much as anything else as this team is very loyal to its veterans, and keeping Modano in the mix means that the Wings have him pegged in as a 3rd-line center or winger, which affects the ice time Helm, Abdelkader and Mursak would take…

And Salei and Ericsson’s decisions will determine whether the Wings bring in another veteran as a #6/7 guy as Kindl’s rather obviously earned the #6 defenseman’s spot.

At this point I think the Wings are more interested in bringing Eaves back than Miller, but it is entirely possible that the Wings will re-sign Eaves and Miller, bring in Mursak and Emmerton and see which 3 players win spots and which player ends up being waived or traded. The Wings are more than willing to over-build and cap themselves out and lose players after training camp, and in all honesty, that kind of overbuilding…

Works. It works very well.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/05/11 at 01:09 AM ET

perfection's avatar

it does… to a point. At some point, you just can’t let a young player with an entire career ahead of them go for one or two more seasons from a veteran (Lidstrom obviously being the exception… and Homer too for that matter. he is Lidstrom’s perma-screen after all). I’m really thinking about Draper here. I think he’s had his best year in many years this season and I’ve been pretty impressed with him. He’s even regained his faceoff dominance. But no matter how he plays in the playoffs, no matter how he plays in training camp, no matter how he plays in the preseason, it just is NOT worth losing either Mursak or Emmerton on waivers for one more season of Draper playing 8 minutes every other game… no matter how good he is.

i agree that Ericsson comes down to money, that was exactly my point.

and I just disagree with you about Lidstrom’s salary. Was Steve Yzerman really a $1.25 million dollar player his last season or just a BADASS captain who was willing to take an 80% paycut the first year of the cap so that his team was better?That’s leadership, putting the team before the individual, etc. And I’m not saying Lidstrom should take $1.25 million either. I realize his value as a player is much higher than Yzerman’s at that point in his career, but all I’m saying is he could STILL make a substantial $3.5 million a year and we could add another Brad Stuart caliber d-man… which would make our team incredibly better. 

And while I obviously get your point and don’t think the team would or should ever ask him to do it, Nick Lidstrom has made around $93 million including this season in his career. so he ends up with $97 million instead of $100 million… boo hoo.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/05/11 at 03:01 AM ET

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I went to a handful of Griffins games this season (they kept winning all their Wednesday games, and thanks to a team promotion, I kept getting free tickets as a result), and I really enjoyed watching Fils the Elder.

But is he NHL material? Not sure yet. The AHL is stuffed with older guys who can light it up in the minors but can’t gain any NHL traction. Take a look at the top 10 in AHL scoring this season: Corey Locke (26), Alexandre Giroux (29), Darren Haydar (31), Keith Aucoin (32), Jason Krog (35), Marc Pouliot (25), Brian Willsie (33), Brad Moran (32), Nigel Dawes (26), and Ben Walter (26). Not a one of them younger than 25, not a one of them likely to get a real shot (or in some cases, another shot) at full-time NHL work.

Needless to say, being a borderline all-star at the AHL level, at 29 years of age, is not a particularly strong indicator of future sustained NHL employment. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed watching Ilari and I hope he does get a shot, but speaking objectively? Not bloody likely.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/05/11 at 04:36 AM ET

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The Wings seem to regard him much more highly than we do.

Clearly.  I was actually thinking about this on Sunday.  I don’t get to see many Wings games, but I’ve started streaming them and was a little astonished when the announcers were talking about Kindl and Salei battling for the 6th spot for the playoffs, as it appears that Ericsson has claimed the 5th spot.  I found this odd because here and elsewhere on the ‘net, people don’t seem sold on Ericsson at all.  From what I’ve read, with expected rookie hiccups aside, Kindl seems to be progressing much more quickly than Ericsson has.  I have to wonder if it’s based more on the promise that he showed in the playoffs a couple years ago than what he’s shown since then.  I guess if you see a guy play as well as Ericsson did in his playoffs it’s hard to dismiss him when he doesn’t progress as quickly as you’d like.

I’m also curious how Eaves and Miller fit.  I have to think that Detroit signs Eaves at least.  Letting him go would be a HUGE mistake and unless he demands some crazy salary, I don’t see him going anywhere.  Miller’s an interesting case because he’s essentially a Kirk Maltby type player who’s going to be great on the PK and reliable defensively with a limited offensive upside.  Frankly put, he’s a bit of a luxury on a team that has great defensive players who can also put points on the board.

With a bottom half that’s already going to include the likes of Helm, Abdelkader, Mursak, Emmerton, Modano, Cleary, Hudler and likely Eaves (and maybe Drapes?) it’s hard to imagine where he fits.  If Draper or Modano hang them up then does Miller accept a role that sees him rotating with Emmerton & Mursak?  And even then, as a guy who wasn’t developed by Detroit he’s going to get the short end of that rotation, so does he want that?  I’d hate to see Miller go because of the numbers game but man I just don’t see a scenario in which we can keep him.

And man, Norris or not, Stanley Cup or not, willingness to take a paycut or not, I’m nowhere near ready to let Lidstrom walk away.

Posted by Garth on 04/05/11 at 04:45 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

The problem I have, quite honestly, with the whole, “Lidstrom should take a huge pay cut” argument is that it’s usually used to proffer the concept that, somehow, Lidstrom is still somehow an inferior captain not only to Yzerman, but also someone else that the Wings could have chosen, and more than a few Wings fans have already passed that judgment upon Lidstrom because he’s only earning $1.4 million less than he did in 2008.

I don’t get it.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/05/11 at 05:39 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

and in all honesty, that kind of overbuilding…

Works. It works very well.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/04/11 at 11:09 PM ET

I agree completely. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of the cap that good clubs have to deal with, but clubs that are scared to pump their team with talent for training camp and preseason competition for fear of losing a young player just can’t be successful. Every game is too tooth and nail now, you’ve got to get as much competition as possible for each spot, let it play out during camp, and make the hard decisions.

There were lots of people freaking out about losing Ritola. Not such a big deal, was it? wink

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/05/11 at 10:03 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Oh, and by the way… while I like Mursak and Emmerton and Eaves and Miller… let’s level here. Eaves is the only one that’s show the potential and somewhat consistent spark to have top six talent at the NHL level. I like the way the Wings develop players, but go back and look—they didn’t wait on Datsyuk or Zetterberg. So while it’s always possible one of these kids ends up as a diamond in the rough, the fact they were marinating the maximum amount of time tells us that in all likelihood they aren’t going to show top-end skill.

Everyone just needs to remember that during the offseason. One or maybe even two of these guys will not be Red Wings, and it will not be the end of the world, because the Wings have Helm, Abdelkader, possibly Draper, with Tatar and Nyquist waiting in the wings for the coming couple of years.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/05/11 at 10:07 AM ET

perfection's avatar

George, I know Lidstrom is your favorite player (and he is definitely one of mine… top 5 for sure), he’s hands down the best d-man in the league, and is a fine captain who has earned and reearned his C a billion times over.

but he is still an inferior captain to Yzerman. you’re talking about the greatest captain in the history of sports. i don’t think the paycut has anything to do with it, though Yzerman went from $6m to $1.25m in the first season of the cap. and he did it solely to try and win one more. Lidstrom isn’t some horrible captain if he doesn’t do the same, I’m definitely not saying that. He’s still an awesome captain either way and, again, i actually think as a player, he is worth MORE than his salary this year. i just think he’s made enough money that he can afford to take one for the team if the team is really his priority. i won’t hold it against him if he doesn’t though. i’m sure he needs two more Bentley’s really really bad.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/05/11 at 01:09 PM ET

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Why are we singling out Lidstrom here? That’s not fair, especially when you consider that, at $6.2 million, he’s already making a cool million or two less than what he’s actually worth.

The Red Wings players know that they have a veteran team with a lot of top-end talent, and they won’t have a bunch cheapo EL contracts artificially dragging down their cap number. As a result, EVERYBODY buys into the system and agrees to take fair market value or less, so that the team can continue to be successful.

Who, among the veteran, seven-figure Red Wings, is overpaid? In my own subjective opinion, I’d say Rafalski, Hudler, and at this point Draper and Osgood. But the Draper and especially Osgood deals looked much better the day they were signed then they do now (and they probably could have gotten more elsewhere), and the Hudler arbitration award actually seemed pretty fair based on his track record up to that point. Rafalski was the only deal that looked like a potential stinker, but the real problem was term, not salary. He was worth $6 million until about probably sometime last year.

Who is making fair market value? I’m gonna say Filppula, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Modano, Stuart, Kronwall and Salei. The Filppula and Kronwall contracts looked like steals when they were signed, though unfortunately neither player has quite met their expected potential. If they had jumped ship when they were RFAs, they’d probably be making much more today than they are now.

Who is making less in Detroit that they could on the open market? My picks are Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom (all $8 million + players signed at an average hit of about $6.3 million), Franzen and Holmstrom.

In summary: nobody should have to take a huge hometown discount all by himself because everybody buys in and everybody shares the sacrifice. The Red Wings can pull it off because the players want to win, and because Ken Holland very, very rarely overpays for players.

Addendum: Yes, Yzerman dropped from $6 million to $1.25 million after the lockout. But before the salary cap/earlier free agency, the Red Wings (and many other NHL teams for that matter) typically paid their veterans above what they were actually worth. Since you didn’t have a cap and didn’t have 22-year-old RFAs demanding $6 million a season, veterans could demand (and receive) a higher share of the revenue.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/05/11 at 02:45 PM ET

perfection's avatar

your point is taken and in essence I agree with you….

the secret to the Wings’ success is utilizing their reputation to get players to sign for under market value. that’s how they do it.

but i still think that being a captain DOES make you ‘different’ and is cause to be ‘singled out’. i also think that guys like Z, Dats, and Franzen are young enough that they still should be seeking their fortune. after all, careers aren’t that long and they have a chance to make their family set for life. and that’s great. but Lidstrom has already done that. His family is set for many many generations and he is the CAPTAIN. so all I’m saying is that if ANYBODY were to take a slightly bigger discount for only the FINAL year of his career so that the team could get one more ringer and have an edge over the rest of the league, it’s up to Lids.

again - it’s not that i think he “owes” it to the team or the fans or that i think the team should “ask” him to do it… I’m just saying he can afford to do it and it would be a very “Captain"esque thing to do.

and are you really trying to tell me that even on one leg in the cap world that Steve Yzerman was only worth $1.25 mil? yeah, we’re talking almost $300,000 LESS than Brett Lebda. Really? Do you seriously think that EVERY single team in the league wouldn’t have given him $3-4 mil to play his final season with them? and if so, wouldn’t that make it his actual “value”? and he took less than half that. but this is Yzerman we’re talking about. perhaps it’s a standard that is unfair to apply to anyone, even the Perfect Human.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/05/11 at 04:50 PM ET

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Personal, subjective opinion: Steve Yzerman, at age 40-41, on one leg, with a developing history of missing a number of games each season, was probably worth $2 million at best based on performance alone (he spent a lot of time on line 4 that year), plus however much else you want to tack on for experience and leadership. So yes, he did take a discount to play one more season, and I love him for doing it. But (warning: sacrilege coming up) he was also probably a little overpaid at $6 million the season before.

The other thing you have to remember is that Lidstrom has been taking gradual salary cuts while the overall cap number has increased by about 50 percent. In 2005-2006, Lidstrom was almost 20 percent of the team’s payroll by himself. This year, he’s taking up just slightly more than 10 percent.

Meanwhile, Yzerman took his paycut when the Red Wings had to cut overall payroll from about $80 million to about $39 million. Even after across-the-board salary reductions, the team still had to buy out Derian Hatcher, Ray Whitney and Darren McCarty just to make it all fit.

Yzerman was still a capable contributor and fearless leader, but it was clear that his role with the team was going to be that of a bottom-six forward. You just can’t give a bottom-six forward $3-$4 million per season on a $39 million budget. Even if he’s named Steve Yzerman.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/05/11 at 06:00 PM ET

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In summary: nobody should have to take a huge hometown discount all by himself because everybody buys in and everybody shares the sacrifice.

The rub is that Lidstrom is the only big contract that’s ending this year.  The rest of the expiring contracts are all pretty small, making either just below or just above a million, and any of those players taking “discounts” wouldn’t make much of a difference.  Also, while we can all agree that Rafalski is overpaid, how do you change his contract?

Posted by Garth on 04/05/11 at 10:32 PM ET

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To me there’s really only one scenario in which the Wings can ask Lidstrom to take a pay cut.

They’d have to do well in the playoffs but not win and they’d have to either want to trade for a player or sign a UFA who could put them over the top and would need a little bit of extra cap space to do so.  That way, if you go to Nick and tell him you’re going for it, that you want to win him another Stanley Cup so he can retire as a winner and you need him to take a bit of a cut to do so.

To have him simply take a pay cut so they can get a slightly more expensive backup or to bring a 40-something year old Mike Modano back into the fray or to get another cheap guy to be a rotating 7th d-man, it isn’t worth it.

Posted by Garth on 04/05/11 at 10:54 PM ET

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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.