The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/17/11 at 07:38 AM ET
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:
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.
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.
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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.