The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/10/12 at 05:51 AM ET
Updated 2x at 10:13 AM: This entry starts with a disclaimer: this might be a little inelegant as I’m still kinda dippy from sleeping all of Thursday, and I’m on the clock to take the mom to a doctor’s appointment (again) today, so here goes:
I’m sure that the Wings’ brass, even given CBA uncertainty and what Holland told Ted Kulfan is a dead period in terms of discussion with free agents and other GM’s, is indeed talking to the Flames about Bouwmeester, the Coyotes about Keith Yandle, the Ducks about the disgruntled Lubomir Visnovsky, the Ottawa Senators about Sergei Gonchar, and I’m also sure that the Wings are talking to each and every one of the available free agent defensemen’s agents to determine said players’ contract demands.
That being said, it’s one thing to talk, and it’s another to seriously pursue trade or free agency options, and just as the Coyotes’ likely price tag for Keith Yandle is less than appealing, I can’t imagine that the Wings are any more interested in surrendering the assets the Flames would require for Bouwmeester’s services.
Despite the Flames’ status as sitting only $3.5 million under the salary cap, when you also use Capgeek’s Flames roster chart or the Sports Forecaster’s Flames depth chart to actually look at their defensive depth, it becomes apparent that the team’s not exactly swimming in offensive defensemen.
Yes, the Flames added Dennis Wideman to the picture, but that picture only involved Mark Giordano and Bouwmeester as the Flames’ offensively-minded defensemen, with a mix of more defensively-oriented veterans like Cory Sarich and Anton Babchuk and youngsters like T.J. Brodie, Derek Smith and Chris Butler constituting the balance of the Flames’ blueline.
In other words, any trade for Bouwmeester would likely involve the Wings having to send a defenseman back Calgary’s way, and as the Calgary Sun’s Wes Gilbertson suggests, it’s not as if Jay Feaster can save any sort of face as a GM by saying, “Whoops, we paid this guy way too much, we’re in cap trouble, so we’ll just pawn him off for some draft picks and minor prospects!”—especially with the Flyers and Predators looking to shore up their bluelines as well:
Bouwmeester is slated to earn US$6.68 million for two more seasons and has a no-trade clause in his current deal. He might be tired of hearing his name in the rumour mill, but don’t expect the chatter to stop anytime soon.
The Flames, who have missed the playoffs in three straight campaigns, would be crazy not to listen to offers for their soft-spoken assistant captain. They’d also be crazy to give him away without a quality return. The Flames don’t need to trade him, and they shouldn’t unless the Wings — or some other squad — present a package that makes sense. Addition by subtraction doesn’t apply here.
Bouwmeester has become a lightning rod for criticism at the Saddledome, mostly because his offensive numbers — a dozen goals and 82 points in 246 outings for the Flames over the past three seasons — don’t match his salary-cap hit. Thanks to the acquisition of former Washington Capitals defenceman Dennis Wideman, who was immediately signed to a five-year, $26.25-million contract extension, he’s suddenly described as ‘expendable.’
Not so fast. Bouwmeester’s recent average of four goals per season is something you can find elsewhere. What won’t be so easy to replace is the time he logged on Calgary’s back-end. Bouwmeester averaged 25:57 of ice-time per game in 2011-12, the sixth-highest total in the NHL.
There’s a reason other teams are inquiring about his services. And unless the Flames can become a better team by trading him away, they should keep him.
The Calgary Herald’s sports staff adds a second take on the situation…
The 28-year-old Bouwmeester played in all 82 games for the Flames last season, recording five goals and 24 assists and a minus-21 rating.
He is entering the fourth year of a lucrative five-year, $33.4-million deal given to him when he was acquired from the Florida Panthers following the 2008-09 season. His cap hit in the final two years of his deal will be $6.68 million.
According to the report, the Red Wings stepped up their interest in Bouwmeester after learning the Philadelphia Flyers could make an offer in the wake of losing rearguard Andrej Meszaros all of next season with a torn Achilles tendon. The Flyers also make sense after having their 14-year, $110-million offer sheet for all-star Shea Weber matched by the Nashville Predators last month.
Bouwmeester is the National Hockey League’s iron man, playing in 588 consecutive games dating back to the 2003-04 season.
But I keep coming back to what the Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak had to say about the probability of the Flames actually moving Bouwmeester after adding Wideman—over three weeks ago:
Bouwmeester has a no-trade clause and doesn’t appear interested in waiving it, but the rumours aren’t slowing down.
Still, as much as Bouwmeester is in the driver’s seat if the Flames want to make a trade, the Flames are in the same boat when it comes to dealing with the rest of the league. Unless the new collective bargaining agreement forces their hands, the Flames don’t have to trade away Bouwmeester, even though the club currently has nine defencemen on one-way contracts and a 10th in T.J. Brodie who is fully expected to be in Calgary all season.
It would be no shock for the franchise to put both Brett Carson and Clay Wilson in the minors for the whole season and have eight defencemen on the roster, if all are healthy. More likely, their preference is to deal away Anton Babchuk and his $2.5-million salary.
Wilson has since been released after signing with Donbass Dontesk of the KHL…
Yet for some reason, there are those out there who figure clubs would be doing the Flames a favour by taking Bouwmeester off their hands for next to nothing, or even worse, for their junk.
(Seriously, does anybody believe those in the Twitterverse who say the Flames may deal Bouwmeester for Montreal Canadiens deadweight Scott Gomez and his absurd contract or to Boston to take Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas while he goes on a sabbatical?)
In hindsight, the contracts given to Babchuk, Carson and Wilson aren’t doing much of anything for the Flames these days. Likewise, GM Jay Feasters pre-draft words he expected to make a trade created anticipation which hasn’t been met. But Feaster is not boxed into a corner, therefore he and the Flames should take advantage of dealing from a position of strength, even if means not making any trade at all.
They are well within their rights to ask for a top-dollar price from any team interested in Bouweester.
And that’s why the Wings, who only have six NHL defensemen signed and can’t afford to let any of their top-nine forwards go, despite the desires of some of you to see the team pawn off Valtteri Filppula or Johan Franzen.
Long story long, as I said last night, it’s great to know that the Wings are indeed exploring every possible avenue in terms of attempting to improve their team, but the Flames would likely be asking the Wings for the same sort of Yandle-like compensation package—think Brendan Smith, another top prospect like Gustav Nyquist, a top-six forward and/or a 1st round draft pick—and it makes absolutely no sense for the Wings to surrender top prospects and/or a critical part of the team’s forward corps (which weren’t bolstered by the promised top-six goal-scorer we all expected the Wings to sign) to fill one hole on the roster by creating two more.
I would be much less surprised to see the Wings go after the 6’3, 200-lb Babchuk, whose $2.5 million salary would give the Flames some instant cap relief and whose untapped offensive potential at 28 years of age makes him the kind of reclamation project that the Wings tend to sign at this time of year. [Edit: as RyanNPike on Twitter noted, however, Babchuk’s also a “rusher” as opposed to a crusher, and he makes defensive errors on a very regular basis. /end edit]
Somewhat ironically, via RedWingsFeed, Michigan Hockey Now re-posted a conversation the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell had with Holland at the Winter Classic Alumni showdown presser. Holland suggested that his team didn’t plan on making drastic changes outside of pursuing one more defenseman, and that he expects the vast majority of the team’s improvement—or at least its attempts to not fall off significantly sans Lidstrom—to come from the players the team already has on its roster:
“I don’t think we need a whole bunch of guys,” Holland said. “I think if we can get one more player…We’re done in goal and we’ve got a lot of pieces up front. With the loss of Lidstrom and the loss of Stuart we’re not as deep as we have been in the past, but the two players that are going to replace them are Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey. It’s not like we lost two guys and we don’t have any players.”
Of course patience isn’t what the Wings’ faithful want to see. The excitement of sports is in the action and certainly the likes of Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren can claim that title in the NHL. Holmgren has shown he isn’t afraid to create offer sheets (Shea Weber), trading young stars (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter) or making risky signings. But for all the fireworks, Holmgren’s moves have resulted in Weber staying in Nashville, Richards and Carter helping Los Angeles win the Stanley Cup and the Flyers being left with goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s horrible contract and the Flyers being tight against the salary cap. What may rescue the Flyers’ situation is precisely the same thing the Wings are counting on – the rise of their young, drafted talent.
“We’re in a cap world,” Holland said. “We’re moving some younger people in. If we’re not moving younger people in, we’re going backwards. Brendan Smith has to play. Gustav Nyquist has to have an opportunity. Jimmy Howard is 27. We signed Jonas Gustavsson and he’s 28. Darren Helm is 25. Those players have to be a part of where we’re going.”
Realistically, Holland is also keeping an eye on the future where he sees some of his own key players, goalie Jimmy Howard, Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary next year, and Pavel Datsyuk in a couple of seasons, become UFAs. Detroit currently has a touch over $13-million in cap space with 23 players signed. With that type of purchasing power and flexibility, Holland remains confident he can get something done. It almost certainly will be the acquisition of another defenseman to bolster the top four.
“I don’t because I field calls,” said Holland of whether Detroit has slipped down the NHL rankings of desirable teams. “We might not always be No. 1, but we were one of two teams that Ryan Suter met with. The other thing is, once you make those types of decisions, you’re out of the game for a decade. We’re not going to have major announcements this year, next year and the year after. The league doesn’t work like that. I’m confident that at some point in time, and it might be next year, that the history, the tradition, the commitment of our ownership and the passion of the Red Wing fans is going to all add up to us bringing a player of significance here.”
In other Wings-related news, in bullet-point form…
• In alumni news, as noted by Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy, Dominik Hasek is now training with his first pro team, HC Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga, while still hoping to latch on with an NHL team as a back-up goaltender, and SI’s Stu Hackel offered Hasek’s translated take on his rationale for continuing to pursue NHL employment:
Undaunted, Hasek has been training with Pardubice and he told the team’s website on Thursday that the reason was not to play again for his homeboys, but to get ready again for North America. “I do not want to change my decision,” he said. “I want to play well in the NHL once again.” He added that if he couldn’t catch on with an NHL team, he’d finally retire.
Hasek added, “I have not received an offer. My agent is in contact with three clubs….Maybe nothing will come of it. I believe that I’m going to prove that I can outplay others and some team will want me as their goalkeeper.”
He also said that he just wants a shot at making an NHL team and to take another run at the Cup. If he has to be a backup, he’ll be OK with that. He just wants to be wanted. “I will not return as the Dominik Hasek of the nineties who won individual trophies,” he admitted. “But I believe I have the form that I could stay in the NHL, and can be beneficial to the team. It is my goal.”
Having not played for over a year, Hasek went into his garage and pulled out his goalie equipment, which he said was exactly where he threw it after he last played in 2011. He joked that some mice may have been living in his gear, but he was more concerned with getting back into shape. “After a long time, it is always about the pain,” he admitted.
• In a very different vein, the Vancouver Giants’ website retold the history of Red Wings prospect Marek Tvrdon, who overcame a shoulder injury which cost him the vast majority of his draft year to be drafted by and eventually sign with the Wings, with its focus upon Tvrdon’s 2012-2013 season in the WHL:
As it turned out, almost a full season away from hockey didn’t deter one team from admittedly ‘taking a chance’ on the player they’ve compared to Marian Hossa. And that team has arguably the best draft history of anyone in the NHL – the Detroit Red Wings selected Tvrdon in the 4th round, 115th overall in the 2011 entry draft. And Marek literally didn’t believe it. He recalls “I was just sitting at home and my agent called and told me that Detroit drafted me. I was very excited, but I couldn’t trust him the first time.” Suddenly, Tvrdon was on a path to playing alongside his NHL idol, Pavel Datsyuk. Now even though Detroit seems like a desirable destination for any aspiring NHL’er, due to his circumstances and only appearing in 12 games, Tvrdon felt very fortunate just to be given a chance by anyone. “I didn’t care about what team I went to, I didn’t care about anything, I was just happy being drafted,” he said. Although he is now drafted, Marek knows it’ll be tough cracking the Red Wings lineup with their depth of talent.
So last season, as an 18-year old, he embarked on a mission – a mission to show the team that put faith in him that they made the right decision. “I just wanted to show Detroit that they made a good pick by drafting me, even though I only played 12 games. I know it was a risk for them.” And did he ever show them. Marek Tvrdon emerged as a WHL superstar with 31 goals and 74 points in just 60 games, in addition to 3 goals and 6 points in 6 playoff games.
With a season full of highlights, maybe the biggest of them all was on October 21st vs Victoria, in front of Red Wings Director of Player Development Jiri Fischer (who was forced to retire after going into cardiac arrest during a game in 2005). That night, Marek, well aware of who was watching and extra motivated, came up with a dominant performance scoring 2 goals and 2 assists, and prompting a post-game dinner with the former Red Wing. Even to this day, Jiri calls Marek on a monthly basis to check in and give him a few pointers (in their shared language, much to Marek’s appreciation).
So after such an impressive campaign in 2011-2012, fans have to wonder what Marek has in store for an encore during his 19-year old season. Well Giants President and Majority Owner Ron Toigo has an idea. After watching Marek last season, on his recent appearance on the TEAM 1040 during Presidents Week, Toigo boldly stated that he believes Tvrdon has enough talent to lead the WHL in scoring in 2012-2013. How do you respond Marek? “I don’t know but I’m going to try. For sure I want more points than last year.” And the Giants will certainly look for more from #17, as they expect to be without last year’s goal scoring leaders Brendan Gallagher and Jordan Martinook.
But at the end of the day, individual goals and points only mean so much. Whatever happens personally, Marek still has the bigger picture in mind. “I want to win something. I never won anything in my life, no Cup, nothing.” As a matter of fact, his team in Slovakia, HC Nitra, never made the playoffs in the 3 years he was there, so last season vs Spokane was the first time in his life that Marek even participated in a playoff game.
In the meantime, this Slovakian prodigy has flown back home to spend 9 days catching up with family and friends, in advance of the Giants training camp starting August 23rd. And despite spending 2 years in Canada, he still considers himself a European deep down. “Definitely. I still haven’t changed my taste in clothes or food from Slovakia,” he admitted, adding that he’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy with absolutely “NO vegetables!” That might help explain how this European grew to be a manly 6’2 and 217lbs.
Oh, and as for that comparison to fellow countryman Marian Hossa, he simply responded by saying “I don’t feel like Marian Hossa, I feel like Marek Tvrdon.” And if he keeps developing at his current pace, that might be just as good.
• In foreign-language news, Pavel Datsyuk conducted an interview with Sports.ru’s Maria Mikhalenko, and I’ll try to translate some of it today or tomorrow, but it’s just waaaaaayyyyy too long to offer you anything but the Google translation thereof this morning;
• Also from Russia, via Puck Daddy‘s Sean Leahy, Canadian and Russian junior teams are tangling in a short series to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Summit Series, and the Canadians visited the memorial to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl on Wednesday, with Brad McCrimmon’s father, Byron, in tow:
• Statistically speaking, I’m not sure what the hell to think of the Puck Stops Here’s statement that Cory Emmerton had the worse “Corsi” stat of any NHL player during the 2011-2012 season—skewering the guy seems a bit unfair given that he was a fourth-liner—so I’d rather have you and I take a gander at Zack Crawford’s “By the Numbers” look back at Niklas Kronwall’s 2011-2012 season:
36: Number of points he had during the regular-season. For the first time since joining the team in 2003, he had the highest number of points among Detroit defensemen. He finished the season with a career total of 217 points.
82: He and fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg were the only two players to play in all 82 games this season, marking his first season without missing a single game.
177: With an average of 2.16 shots blocked per game, he led the team with 177 blocked shots. The next highest was Brad Stuart with 115.
22:52: Average time on ice during the regular-season, the third highest on the team. Only five Detroit players averaged over 20 minutes a game this season.
• As noted by the Detroit Free Press’s sports staff, Darren McCarty will make a charitable appearance in Traverse City on Tuesday, August 14th:
Former Wings forward Darren McCarty—scheduled to play in the alumni game—will sign pregame autographs at Wuerfel Park in Traverse City before Tuesday night’s 7:05 game between the Beach Bums and the Joliet Slammers. Traverse City players will wear special jerseys during the game that will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to research for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
• On Thursday, Stevie Roxelle delivered another excellent installment of Biscuit Fox;
• As Paul noted, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle’s Kevin Oklobjiza explained a major reason why the Wings haven’t signed any AHL veterans to two-way contracts—with a possible lockout in the offing, teams want their prospects on two-way deals to have roster spots just in case the season doesn’t start on time;
• Speaking of which, USA Today’s Kevin Allen made two predictions with Wings-related significance in offering 10 “bold predictions” for the 2012-2013 season:
7. The Winter Classic will draw 116,000 to 118,000 at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich.: The football attendance record at Michigan is 114,804 (vs. Notre Dame, Sept. 10, 2011). The Red Wings-Toronto Maple Leafs game will sell out. Detroit is Hockeytown, and Leafs Nation probably could fill the entire stadium if they could get that many tickets. There probably will be some standing-room tickets. Plus, in determining official attendance records, the Guinness Book of Records counts people in the stadium (excluding the news media and team members). Depending upon how many workers and others are in there, you could see the attendance pushing toward 120,000.
The worry: Ticket prices too high, bad economy, potential for lockout, ugly weather, game being delayed, etc.
9. The NHL schedule will be at least 60 games: Certainly, there is potential for a lockout, and losing games is a real possibility (see the NBA). But unlike in 2004, there is no sense that either side is anticipating a lost season. In the summer of 2004, we were already predicting that. Donald Fehr might be new to the NHL Players’ Association, but this isn’t his first rodeo. The NHL’s first proposal was harsh, but we can guess that Fehr expected that. Everybody knows the finished new deal won’t look anything like that proposal (see NBA and NFL). If there is a lockout, it will be a short one because both sides are too scared to blow up another season.
The worry: Negotiations fall apart, and both sides resort to a war of words.
And that leads us into CBA news: As you know by now, Gary Bettman made it official in stating that the players will be locked out if there is no CBA agreement by September 15th, and ESPN New York’s Katie Strang, the Sporting News’s Jesse Spector, the CP’s Chris Johnston, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen and the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein all offered in-person updates…
Duly noting that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr will present a counter-proposal to the league’s draconian one on Tuesday in Toronto, with the PA very upset that the NHL’s version of “revenue-sharing” almost entirely consisting of player givebacks. The NHLPA posted a video of Fehr’s comments to the media…
And Sportsline’s Brian Stubits and Puck Daddy’s
Harrison Mooney offered a Twitter play-by-play.
What do I think about this “meaningful gulf” between the NHL and NHLPA’s views of the ways that the NHL should operate economically?
Easy. We have to wait until the PA’s counter-proposal is delivered and leaked to the media before we find out how significant that “gulf” is, and in the interim, the only thing I will suggest is that the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts’ shoulder-shrugging at the supposed inevitability of a half-season’s worth of 2012-2013 play starting with the Winter Classic, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector’s mocking of both sides in “dispelling some CBA myths” and Damien Cox’s attempt to tell you that you should only be apathetic about a game he’s never given two shits about to begin with (and, as evidenced by his Twitter lashing out at fans who dared to complain about the refereeing in the U.S.-Canada Olympic women’s soccer game before admitting that he didn’t watch the important parts thereof, a game he probably doesn’t watch very closely anyway)...
NO ONE should have the luxury of telling you what to think about what’s going on. You and I are hockey fans and Red Wings fans (at least the vast majority of TMR readers are), and we deserve the right to read about what’s happening, determine and hold our own opinions, we have every right to discuss those opinions and respectfully question the viewpoints we disagree with, and we have every right to be pissed off at the NHL, the Board of Governors, the NHLPA, the players, the owners, whoever we deem to be at fault for this situation.
You know where I stand—I believe that the NHL is the one holding the gun to the players’ heads and is the party that’s set to lock out the players and fans for the third time in 18 years, and I stand behind the NHLPA here.
I find it ridiculous that Bettman and the NHL suggest that they’ve been waiting to deliver their stupid proposal while the players have dithered when the fact of the matter is that the 100,000-plus pages of independently-audited team books that Bettman’s deemed “irrelevant” and NHLPA #2 Mathieu Schneider has deemed essential to forming their response weren’t available until last week, and I don’t buy the concept that a $3.3 billion industry’s ownership should simply suggest that every time they renegotiate the terms of their economic operations with the employees that are their moneymaking product, they should demand nearly a quarter of their salaries in givebacks to serve as economic band-aids while never really addressing the problem that is smaller-market franchises being consistently bailed out by the moneymaking ones via a tremendously flawed revenue-sharing system, all while attempting to saddle the business losses of the most troubled franchises upon taxpayers (though any community with a pro sports team has every right to dump money into their team if they so choose).
The current system works very well for the biggest markets and doesn’t work very well for the smallest ones, especially given the decisions made by the people who are at the negotiating table as representatives of the Board of Governors of their own free will, and in my opinion, a larger “payroll range” with a lower floor and some sort of luxury tax (hey, I’m biased, and want my Wings to be able to enjoy their competitive advantage over their weaker sisters) would more meaningfully address the systemic problems with the current system.
But that’s my educated take on the situation and who’s to “blame,” and while encouraging you to form your own opinion, I’m sure I’m showing hypocrisy by admitting that as much as I am opposed to the owners, I will neither stop wearing my Wings gear, nor will I stop watching hockey if the Red Wings’ owners march lock-step with their compatriots and choose to lock out the Zetterbergs and Datsyuks and you’s and me’s of the hockey world. It’s a very odd and probably contradictory position to take, but it’s mine and I own up to it, and again…
I fully expect you to be smart enough to dig through the BS being issued by both sides to make your own judgments and decisions as to who to support and who to hold at fault if training camp doesn’t start on September 16th, 2012.
What I will encourage you to not lose is your passion for and dedication to the game so many of you love, nor your subjectivity and emotional attachments to your favorite players and teams. We fans are more than allowed to hold our biases and our own educated opinions, and we have every right to express them. Without us, Damien Cox doesn’t have a job, nor does Gary Bettman, and if they’re going to pander to us, take us for granted and treat us like shit, they can go *#$%@& themselves.
I’m not going away anytime soon, and I’m sure as hell not shutting up about a game I refuse to shrug my shoulders toward if its owners choose to lock out its players for the third time in a row, not for a second.
In the programming department, I’ll be in and out on Friday, barring more exhaustion-induced sleep. The mom has a doctor’s appointment (hooray, new medical issue! Grumble) at 11:15, and I have a pal who is joining the military, so we’re having a very understated blow-out that will keep me indisposed from about 5 till midnight. Sorry!
Update: This is pretty cool. The Griffins placed two GoPro cameras on their bench, and Brendan Smith being a talker ensued:
Update #2: [sarcasm] Thank you, NHL.com’s John Kreiser, for offering some much-needed pessimism regarding the Wings’ future while asking “Key Questions” for every Western Conference team, because there’s totally not enough fatalism going around [/sarcasm]:
Detroit Red Wings: Who will fill the holes on defense?: Nicklas Lidstrom is back in Sweden, Brad Stuart is back in San Jose—and Detroit will spend training camp trying to find replacements. Lidstrom retired this summer and Stuart went back to Northern California as a free agent, leaving the Red Wings with four defenseman who have significant NHL experience. That means a there’s a lot of pressure on youngsters Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl to step up and fill some pretty big skates. If they can’t, the Red Wings could be headed for their biggest drop since they joined the NHL’s elite two decades ago.
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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.