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Red Wings overnight report: An enthusiastic Brunnstrom and Abdelkader’s consistency

Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill turned the Babcockian, “Good for him and good for us” theory regarding Fabian Brunnstrom on its head on Tuesday night, suggesting to the Free Press’s Helene St. James that the Wings in fact believe that Brunnstrom faces serious pressure to impress the Wings as opposed to both Detroit’s brass and 29 other potential employers’ decision-makers…

“He called us, and we told him to come on in,” assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He’s had a disappointing two seasons in the NHL and knows this is his last chance.”

And Brunnstrom at least sounds incredibly enthusiastic about what’s become a high-stakes opportunity while speaking to Heslingborgs Dagblad’s Linus Ahlin, suggesting that he’s going to try to fulfill a childhood dream in sticking with the Wings:

Brunnstrom gets a chance with his dream team

Now it’s confirmed that Fabian Brunnstrom has signed a try-out contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

“It couldn’t have been better,” says the Jonstorp native.

Fabian Brunnstrom has been training hard over the summer while waiting for a [chance to return to the NHL]. And in three weeks, the forward will go over to attempt to stick and play his way into a contract.

“It’s the world’s best hockey team. Of the 30 teams in the NHL, I had hoped most upon [going to] Detroit,” says Fabian.

The try-out contract means that the 26-year-old will play and train with Detroit during training camp, which will take place approximately one month from now. The team’s NHL and AHL teams’ [rosters] participate [in the camp].

“Just getting the offer to go there is gigantic for me. Once I heard about it I didn’t hesitate for a second. It’s a great honor.”

Fabian says that Detroit was his favorite team since his childhood. He also remembers playing home games against the team during his time with the Dallas Stars.

“There were always many Red Wings fans at the games in Dallas. Many people follow the team, and they want players who really [know how to] play hockey. Everyone I’ve talked to says that it’s a top team that is like a big family,” says Fabian.

Detroit has, at present, 14 forwards under contract. The team also includes a well-known handful of Swedes, including Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jonathan Ericsson and Johan Franzen. Now Fabian Brunnstrom wants to join the group—but the competition is tough.

“It’s painfully obvious that there are so many Swedes on the team, and I’ve met and talked with some of them previously. This is what I’ve wanted all the time, and now it’s about being in top form,” says Fabian.

It’s good to know that Brunnstrom’s driven to earn a spot on his favorite NHL team’s roster—because he’s gonna need to absolutely dazzle to change the Wings’ plans regarding giving Cory Emmerton every opportunity to earn that 14th forward’s spot and avoid being waived instead.

Shifting gears to discussing the steps forward that (which?) players already on the roster need to take for the Wings to improve from within, the Free Press’s St. James has worked remarkably hard to essentially offer prescriptions for eight players—Jiri Hudler, Niklas Kronwall, Danny Cleary (who St. James notes somewhat dubiously rigged the bobblehead vote to earn plastic immortality), Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Mike Commodore (I blathered on about my three “key” players in Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi and Brad Stuart recently)—and today, St. James discusses the progression that Justin Abdelkader could be expected to make as he…

Well, as he attempts to prove that he and not Darren Helm should be the team’s third-line center of the present, never mind the future:

Last season saw Abdelkader grow in his first full season with the Wings. He showed his versatility playing center and wing mostly on the third and fourth lines, where he used his speed and instincts as a defensive forward. He didn’t fare as well in the playoffs, when he uncharacteristically took several bad penalties.

Abdelkader, like Darren Helm, is one of the Wings’ building blocks—not a star player, but the type of utility forward every team needs. He’s a strong skater, he can penalty kill, and he’s got an offensive side that shows especially when he plays on a skilled line (like last season, when he was with Danny Cleary and Mike Modano).

At 6-feet-1, 215 pounds, Abdelkader is one of the team’s bigger forwards. He developed his fighting skills last summer and held his own during the three tussles he got into last season. Fighting isn’t a big part of today’s NHL, but good for Abdelkader that he has that in his repertoire if needed. Primarily, though, he needs to use his size to hit defensemen and wear them down.

Abdelkader also has shown his work ethic when it comes to face-offs. He won 46.5% of the 318 he took during ‘09-10 and improved to winning 52.8% of the 430 he took last season.

Abdelkader has the potential for a bright future. He’s versatile and just needs to keep developing.

In theory, the Wings can stack Abdelkader and Helm on the same line with Patrick Eaves if Mike Babcock truly wants to build a super-checking line that can stand up to the legacies of the Wings’ various Grind Lines, but especially as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg all but proved that while Babcock wants to split them, they’re most effective in tandem, the team’s better off in terms of its depth directly up the middle if Abdelkader and Helm compete very hard to leapfrog each other and earn time with the team’s more offensively-minded forwards.

The Wings don’t really have a “top six” because Franzen, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Holmstrom, Zetterberg, Datsyuk and—assuming he rebounds—Jiri Hudler would all qualify as such on other teams’ rosters, but with the “top eight” overflowing onto the third line, the center who can best establish himself as a two-way player who can hack defensively without sacrificing the offensive abilities of his linemates will earn the opportunity to work their way into that “top nine” on a permanent basis, too, and at present, Abdelkader looks like the player who’s better suited to that role—and the fact that he can drop the gloves on occasion doesn’t hurt, either.

If you missed it, I posted a very late update to my evening post in which Wings radio play-by-play man Ken Kal discussed the effects of Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood’s retirements will have on the roster going forward in a conversation with the (Calgary) Fan 960’s Eric Francis and Pat Steinberg, and you can listen to the interview here:

Download file

And along those lines, I’m pleasantly surprised to report that Sports.ru’s Artem Zyryanov wrote a superb tribute to Rafalski which holds up even in translation…

As for the bobblehead storyline, Todd Bertuzzi does believe that Cleary needs to back up his promise to sign each and every one of the 7,500 bobbleheads that the team will hand out on his “night,” and Bertuzzi’s campaigning for one player in particular to win the last week’s worth of fan voting, as he told St. James:

“He cheated,” Bertuzzi told the Free Press. “And I’m too old for a Bobblehead. Helm or Abby need one. I’m voting for Helm.”

Helm sits next to Bertuzzi in the locker room, and the two have become good friends. Last Halloween, Helm dressed up as Bertuzzi for the team’s costume party.

Abdelkader leads the voting on detroitredwings.com for the fourth and final week, holding at nearly 70% as of this afternoon. The poll runs through Monday.

Bertuzzi, meanwhile, is looking forward to the Jan. 12, 2012 game against Phoenix, when the first 7,500 fans at Joe Louis Arena will get the 6.5-inch Cleary figurine.

“Can’t wait to see Cleary sign 7,500 bobbleheads after the game, like he promised all our fans,” Bertuzzi said.

Also: the Free Press is confirming that Pavel Datsyuk will be included in McFarlane Sports’ 30th series of NHL sculpture figures. Here’s what the release from Spawn.com had to say about Datsyuk:

PAVEL DATSYUK 2 – It would be appropriate to call Datsyuk Detroit’s “Swiss Army knife” except that he’s Russian. He does it all for the Red Wings – an equally accomplished scorer and playmaker, Datsyuk contributes on the power play and the penalty kill, has earned the Selke Trophy (Best Defensive forward) in three consecutive years, and also delivers faceoff wins 55% of the time.

Now I’m going to stray from the Red Wings-related script for a minute or three. I think it’s worth mentioning that the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation camp (a.k.a. the Shanahan summit) will get underway in Etobicoke, ON today, and NHL.com’s Dan Rosen both handicapped the slate of rules to be tested and reported that the NHL will consider replacing turnbuckles with curved acrylic glass.

The NHL Network’s going to simulcast TSN’s “That’s Hockey” from the camp for the next two days, and both the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle and the Sporting News’s Craig Custance have stated that they’re going to follow the action intently.

As the players testing the various rule tweaks are comprised of top prospects for the 2011 Entry Draft, you can bet that Ken Holland, Jim Nill or some of the Wings’ amateur scouts will attend the camp.

• This is just a personal thing, but I’m frankly pissed off by the media’s general insistence that Rick Rypien’s passing clearly only has something to do with the fact that he was an enforcer.

At least the Sporting News’s Custance and the National Post’s Bruce Arthur are willing to separate the person from his role and state very openly that what Rypien struggled with on a most regular basis was depression.

The concept that we (as in the media—so many pundits are simply saying that Rypien’s leaves of absence from the Canucks were due to “personal issues,” which is as clear as mud—and fans) can talk about almost anything in hockey, from substance abuse to religion, politics, the equality of female hockey fans and hockey players and the concept that supremely manly men might have a teammate who doesn’t believe that the female form is immaculate, but we can’t talk about the fact that people suffer from mental as well as physical illnesses, and that words like anxiety and depression (see: Johan Franzen’s admitted struggles to overcome serious social anxiety disorders, at least in speaking to the Swedish press) are the only dirty ones left…

That’s unfortunate at best and plain old sad at worst. I’ve pulled a Franzen and admitted to dealing with an anxiety disorder on a daily basis and that doesn’t make me crazy—it just makes me someone who deals with a chronic illness as best he can. I understand that there will always be stigmas attached to mental illnesses, and I understand that stating the truth in my case could very well jeopardize my chances of getting a job or health insurance, but I’m not going to deny something for the sake of its status as a taboo.

Otherwise...The NHL’s national TV schedule will come out sometime today, and while I’m talking about personal shi…I mean stuff…The mom is in the hospital at present, so if I’m not around when the Wings post the press release stating their local and national TV schedule, I’ll have Paul post it…

And after all that blather, I’ve gotta try to raise funds to help me get to the one place where I don’t feel particularly nervous or intimidated, the rink (with the exception of speaking to Mike Babcock, I haven’t felt intimidated talking to even Nicklas Lidstrom, which is…not my “normal,” but it’s kinda cool), so here’s the here’s the Paypal button.

Again, the prospect tournament and training camp are two weeks long, and while I know I’ve probably exhausted your charity to fund heading to the summer development camp, I can’t afford to spend 15 days in Traverse City on my own, so any penny you can spare helps, big time:

You’ll have to use my email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate…please and thank you and this makes me feel really uncomfortable, still.

So that’s that. Sorry for being heavy-handed this morning. Sometimes you’ve gotta say what you’ve gotta say, and in Rypien’s case, whatever happened, I think that something’s very wrong in the conversation…

And that being said, I think that the tragedy of his passing very obviously transcends any agendas regarding discussing any illnesses or a player’s role on a team as that might be detrimental to his health.

It’s about the person, bottom line, and if someone is suffering, there is no shame in explaining the reason why so that the person may receive the help they need to alleviate their discomfort. From a broken bone to an addiction to a neurochemical imbalance, and everything in between, it’s about advocating for the people we care about and ourselves, too, regardless of the taboos involved, so that we get better, or at least learn to cope with what we’re dealing with. That’s all.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink



George, it would probably be helpful if you posted your target number and your current number for the Paypal donations.

Posted by RyanVM on 08/17/11 at 11:00 AM ET


I just sent you a small donation as that is actually more than I can afford.  I think this trip is so important that we all should sacrifice a bit to help you be our eyes and ears.


Posted by DocF from Reidsville, NC on 08/17/11 at 12:09 PM ET


Way to overstate the article G.  For those that didn’t click the link, it was definitely a 2-sided story, as you can clearly read in this first line.  It’s clear Rypien suffered from depression in every article I’ve read.  Here’s some highlights from the one you dogged ...

To suggest fighting in hockey killed these men would be a ridiculous oversimplification. But to say it had no part in the issues that besieged both NHL tough guys would be just as off base.

Bare-knuckle fighting on command in the course of a hockey game is not only barbaric and physically destructive, but can also be tragically damaging to the minds of the men who choose to engage in it.

The evidence of lives ravaged by the role of enforcer in the NHL is long: Dave Semenko, Louie DeBrusk, John Kordic, Bob Probert. Now Boogaard and Rypien.

All dealt with emotional troubles off the ice and all had tough guy roles on it. There’s a connection. It’s undeniable.

The physical damage, in particular post-concussion syndrome, is more than enough reason to remove fighting from hockey. The continuing evidence of what the job psychologically does to human beings is beyond damning.


“I can look back and say fighting’s pretty much given me a life, but it’s also kind of destroyed my life,” DeBrusk told Farber. “The fact that I am a fighter on the ice and the difficulties I’ve had with that job definitely brought me to drink a few times. I’d go out after a game and all I could think of was the pressure I had on me during the game. Maybe I didn’t fight. There’d be the guilt that I didn’t fight, the feeling of worthlessness, I guess. Then I’d go out and drink myself into oblivion and maybe I’d get into a fight later. I’ve been advised by people who have helped me in rehab not to go back to my job.”


“We’ve all had that oh-I-think-my-girlfriend’s-pregnant feeling, that sick-to-your-stomach feeling when you have to do something you don’t want to do,” said Kelly Chase. “It’s like when you’ve had somebody in school organize a fight for you. You know that at 3:30 you’ve got to go out and have that fight. That’s how I feel every game and probably how I’ve felt since junior hockey. Eventually that’s what chases a lot of guys away from the game.”

Winnipeg Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger was unwilling to link the deaths of Boogaard and Rypien to fighting on Tuesday.

“I can’t answer that question because I can’t speak for him. But there seems to be a developing trend there,” said Heisinger.

One former NHLer told me on Monday that fighting needed to be looked at, but there was evidence of lots of players who walked away from the role emotionally intact.

“Look at Kris King, he’s a vice-president with the NHL. What about Ken Baumgartner? He’s an investment banker and Stu Grimson is a lawyer,” said the former player.

Posted by jkm2011 on 08/17/11 at 12:09 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

Every 15 minutes someone dies by suicide. It remains the 11th leading cause of death in this country. Though suicide attempts are not reported, it is estimated that close to one million people make a suicide attempt each year.

Research has shown that 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death, most often unrecognized or untreated depression.


Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 08/17/11 at 12:30 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Any argument for keeping fighting in the game is now without merit. The ride of demeaning, base violence is over. The NHL must act and it must do so swiftly. Newly anointed player safety czar Brendan Shanahan needs to make this his top priority.

Fans who say they love hockey and its players must demand it. Fighting must go. Don Cherry’s pleas to keep it in the game must be disregarded as misinformed rubbish.

“It’s their job and no once forced them to take the job,” a reporter who covers the NHL told me on Monday night when I suggested fighting plays a role in the destruction of too many players’ lives.

Fine. If they can’t help themselves, let’s help do it for them. The detrimental effects far outweigh any anecdotal theories about keeping the game honest.

It’s funny that he claims the detrimental effects far outweigh any anecdotal theories about keeping the game honest when all he offers is anecdotes about the worst stories among NHL tough guys, using six men who played hockey between 1978 and today.

Anybody have any idea about how many people have played professional hockey since 1978?  How many of them were considered “tough guys”?  How many of them have died tragically?

It’s a knee-jerk reaction and it’s not helpful. People get up on their pedestals and start screeching about one side or the other being misinformed or using dirty tactics in their argument while doing the same thing just ends up making the rational people tune them all out.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/17/11 at 12:36 PM ET

awould's avatar

It’s a knee-jerk reaction and it’s not helpful.

It’s exactly that.

1. There is no real evidence at all that there is a cause/effect relationship between hockey fights/enforcer roles and depression or anxiety issues. Those issues may exist completely independent of their job. Any single example of a scoring forward, a lady byng winner or something, who has depression makes this argument invalid, based on the criteria used to support it (anecdotes).

2. If there is a cause/effect, why is it assumed that the fighting leads to the mental issues?  It is just as likely that the mental issues leads a person into those types of roles.

I don’t doubt that this role on a team may cause *some* players stress/anxiety, but that is an individual basis, not a cause to demolish the entire thing. A guy counted on to score goals feels stress too, I’m sure. The only compelling argument against fighting is the risk for concussions from bare knuckle punches to the noggin. I’m not sure what statistics there are to determine how big of a problem that is, but I don’t subscribe to the “even just one is too much!” argument.

Posted by awould on 08/17/11 at 01:58 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

I’ll gladly chip in george. I love the blog. AND IT’S FREE!

Posted by Keyser S. on 08/17/11 at 02:11 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

[iSorry for being heavy-handed this morning. Sometimes you’ve gotta say what you’ve gotta say, and in Rypien’s case, whatever happened, I think that something’s very wrong in the conversation…

Don’t ever apologize for saying what you want, or feel you need, to say.  It’s your blog.

I believe that people who have faced struggles in their own lives tend to be more empathetic toward others who struggle.  I’ve always thought, for example, that people who say that Johan Franzen “doesn’t care,” aren’t able to sense how excruciatingly difficult it seems to be for him to speak to reporters.

There are some people, unfortunately, who will look at a tragedy like Rypien’s death and see it only as another excuse to start an argument.  Seems to me there something very wrong in our society.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 08/17/11 at 04:22 PM ET

RedMenace's avatar

Don’t ever apologize for saying what you want, or feel you need, to say.  It’s your blog.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Florida, wishin’ I was back in the Mitten on 08/17/11 at 02:22 PM ET


George, do what you’ve gotta do bro, and don’t worry about pissing a few people off.  You don’t have to be even and unbiased, so don’t apologize when you feel the need to stand on the old soapbox.

Keep your head up through all the stuff you’re going through, man—you’ve got a pretty big group of imaginary friends who are behind you 100%.

Posted by RedMenace from The Luke Witkowski Fan Club on 08/17/11 at 06:25 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

The Red Wings are Fabian’s dream come true?

Couldn’t he have made that come true 3 years ago, but instead chose the Dallas Stars?

Posted by RWBill on 08/17/11 at 08:39 PM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

jkm2011, you have no idea how mental illness works. stop embarrassing yourself.

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 08/17/11 at 08:51 PM ET


The point is that depression is a medical condition and teams are bound by terms of doctor-patient confidentiality when it is not a physical condition that must be reported under terms of the CBA. 

We don’t have the right to know all about his mental issues.  But if the player, or in this case, the blogger, wants to tell us about his/hers, s/he is free to do so.  Maybe it helps them with their problem.  I am fine with that.  But telling others how they should or should not report their personal problems is the issue I had with the comment.

There are some people, perhaps a majority, perhaps not, that don’t want these issues to become public.  I believe Franzen is one of those people.  He’s not out there telling the world about his “problem” on a nightly basis, if indeed it is more than a case of shyness—which we don’t really know for sure, do we?  Unless you’ve talked with his doctors or read the labels on prescription bottles in his locker, you really shouldn’t label him as having a social anxiety disorder.  I think a lot of people in his shoes, a new country, new language, unfamiliar surroundings, no family, would be insular his first couple years in the league.  That’s NORMAL, NOT A DISORDER.  Ask Pavel.

Docs (and amateur docs online and elsewhere) these days are so quick to diagnose a “problem” and prescribe a “cure”.  I don’t think of serious shyness as a disease.  Players have the right to medical, non-hockey-related privacy, just like they have the right to tell the whole world about their problems if they choose to.

So I’m not sure what you want the reporter to do.  They guy, when he was alive, obviously didn’t want to talk about it.  Maybe you want reporters to steal medical records?  Beg his doctors/parents/girlfriend/etc. to diagnose his condition more in depth than that?  You’d butcher him for that too, wouldn’t you?  Isn’t the term “depression” enough?  For me it was.

Posted by jkm2011 on 08/17/11 at 11:19 PM ET


Darren Helm definitely deserves the third line spot over Justin Abdelkader. Helm has improved dramatically every year and if Filppula slips at all on Line 2, Helm is more than capable of stepping right in and doing the job.

Posted by Louis Foltz from Clarkston on 08/18/11 at 02:02 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

All I’m asking for is advancing the concept that it’s OK to talk about mental illnesses so that regardless of one’s line of work, a person can receive the help they need.

It’s not about making the private public for me, should a person wish to keep things private, because there is and always will be stigmas related to admitting one has a mental health issue—it’s still a sign of weakness to some and, as the Toronto Star’s seemingly purposeful misquote indicates that there’s always a tendency to call someone “crazy”...

But if errectile dysfucntion’s supposedly an issue we need to make public, can we please suggest that it’s equally allowable for a person to be treated in a supportive manner if they choose to talk to their coworkers about seeking help for mental illnesses, or these issues become public in the course of time?

That’s it really. As for the role of the enforcer…I think it’s pretty clear that it takes its toll, but I’m not sure whether the conversation involves eliminating the position (which seems unlikely given the nature of intimidation in the game) or whether there’s something to be said for ensuring that these guys are neither punching each other’s brains into a permanently concussed state and maybe that they’re not alone in the world just because they’re doing a thankless job.

I dunno. I can only speak to what I know about and I knkow about the ways peole treat the mentally ill and how it remains a big taboo in sports to discuss the issue despite the fact that those “1 in 5 people will battle a serious mental illness in their lifetime” statistics are very accurate.

Otherwise, it’s much better that we are trying to address these issues and discuss them, even if we disagree with each other on very fundamental levels, than things would be if we continued to sweep them under the rug and suggest that a player have a few beers and get over himself—or a co-worker, friend or family member, for that matter.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/18/11 at 02:16 AM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

ok, jkm2011, I’ll give you some cred on your Confidentiality argument. Unfortunately, you didn’t come close to mentioning that in the first comment. In reality, those doctor-patient confidentially laws are stomped on all the time. It’s only been in recent times where some news outlet won’t release the name of a rape victim or a victim of a large-scale event, until the family has been notified. The laws do need to be better defined.

My hullabaloo was with you seemingly connecting fighting and fighting only to being the cause of mental illness in hockey players. Do I need to go through the motions, stating how absurd that is or am i mis-reading you?

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 08/18/11 at 01:50 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.