The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/17/11 at 08:01 AM ET
In retrospect, there were two very distinct locker rooms at the Red Wings’ summer development camp, and the ways in which they operated were somewhat unexpected. “Team Lidstrom” and “Team Zetterberg’s” players rosters intermingled in the “home” and “away” teams’ locker rooms, but the “home” team’s room, whose ranks included Brian Lashoff, Brent Raedeke, Brendan Smith and Thomas McCollum and the turning-pro Gustav Nyquist and Landon Ferraro, or, in plan-speaking terms, more “veteran” players, was the lighthearted one, where players hopped in the shower and then returned to play that ball-can’t-touch-the-ground soccer that hockey players seem to adore.
The “road” team’s locker room was comprised of more try-outs and 2011 draft picks than the other one, but it adopted a little more serious tone, despite the fact the mostly-serious Travis Ehrhardt helped run the room, mostly because gap-toothed goofball named Mitchell (or Mitch) Callahan ran the room. The Free Press’s George Sipple suggests that Callahan’s blend of a willingness to drop the gloves, an instigator’s on-ice persona and his evolution from essentially a player who fought and did little else for the Kelowna Rockets to a player who became an unconventional leader gives the next generation a singular element of on-ice sandpaper, and Callahan won’t dispute that suggestion…
“I’m the first guy they’ve drafted with my style of play in 11 years, I believe,” Callahan said recently while attending the Red Wings’ development camp in Traverse City. “It’s gotta be an honor, and they kept me around and signed me to a contract, so that means they must like you.”
Callahan, 19, said he has never paid much attention to statistics.
“I think it’s how you play in all three zones,” he said. “I’m not going to be the guy that puts up 100 points a year. I know that. I’m comfortable with that. ... Plus-minus is huge for me.”
Callahan was plus-11 as a rookie with Kelowna, then finished minus-1 with 47 points in 72 games in 2009-10. The coaching staff in Kelowna challenged him to be a better defensive player this past season, and he responded, setting career highs with 23 goals and 31 assists in 62 games, with 87 penalty minutes, and he finished plus-4. He played in all situations and finished the season as the team’s top defensive forward.
“He came in ... as an instigator and tough guy,” said Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill. “And he’s been on the U.S. world junior team and was one of the leading scorers on his team in juniors, so his game has transformed where he’s a good all-around player. To play in the world juniors, you gotta have pretty good skill. He’s physical. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves, but he’s a good player now.”
If his game continues to evolve in the American Hockey League next season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, he may wind up with the Wings as an agitator who chips in 30 points and 100 penalty minutes per season.
I won’t dispute that suggestion, nor the fact that “Emcy2four” is one of the more…Goofy people you’re likely to ever meet, but his easygoing nature belies a very serious hockey player lurking under that gap-toothed grin. On the ice, Callahan very regularly speaks to the coaches to make sure that he’s getting drills absolutely right, and for someone who was probably 5’10” and 170 very skinny pounds with his hockey equipment on when the Wings drafted him two years ago, he now possesses a Kris Draper-like rippled frame.
Just as tellingly, when I asked him about the fact that he and Landon Ferraro doffed the gloves during the final scrimmage, he used a very telling word to explain why he wrestled with a frustrated Ferraro and refused to exchange punches, waiting for de-facto referee Curt Fraser to break up the scrum instead—he didn’t want to be a “liability” and hurt himself or Ferraro by actually fighting.
He’s not going to develop into the heavyweight brawler that the Bruise Brothers fans feel the team absolutely must possess to regain its long-forgotten honor, but if you can imagine a hybrid of Darren McCarty’s enthusiasm and willingness to tangle with players bigger than himself, the pre-lockout Kirk Maltby’s ability to grind on his opponents and frustrate them into taking dumb penalties and Dallas Drake’s forechecking ability, and you’ve got what Callahan’s “upside” might be.
Otherwise, having spoken to quite a few hockey players over the past few years, I can definitely tell you that there hasn’t been a Red Wing like Mitch Callahan in a long, long time, but it must also be said that aside from Brendan Smith, the Wings have no other prospect that is as certain as Callahan is to make the NHL and contribute in his own way, either.
Neither the Wings’ management nor fans like you and me can kick up our heels and think about the prospect tournament and training camp until the playing futures of Chris Osgood and Kris Draper are determined sometime this week, and the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont offers an out-of-towner’s take on the situation:
The Red Wings are unsure whether to bring back veteran forward Kris Draper and goalie Chris Osgood, both of whom have had a long, glorious run in Hockeytown. GM Ken Holland, who just last week became a US citizen (stick salute!), might have to let the 40-year-old Draper go in order not to lose prospect Cory Emmerton (a potential waiver casualty if he’s not with the varsity). Osgood, 38, who dropped to a backup role with the emergence of ex-UMaine Black Bear Jimmy Howard, would have been out of the mix for certain had the Wings been successful in landing Tomas Vokoun. But Vokoun, hoping to play a No. 1 role, opted instead for Washington (one year, $1.5 million), which could mean Osgood is good to go again. Holland also has ex-UNH standout Ty Conklin, Osgood’s partner in Detroit in 2008-09, as a potential candidate. Conklin spent the last two seasons with the Blues.
Aside from Conklin, there’s just nobody out there who’d be willing to back up Howard—despite the fact that the musical starting goalie’s chair department possesses nowhere for Marty Turco or Ray Emery to place their goalie pants, the pair want to start, not back someone up for 50 games.
And while this is a marginally Wings-related note, if Holland does make another move this summer, and especially if we’re talking about bolstering the team’s forward lines, there is one period of time in which those of you who plan on tuning out after we find out whether Osgood and Draper will return might want to tune back in:
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli and his staff will keep a keen eye on which players might become available next month in the wake of arbitration decisions. The traditional buyout period is the two-week window leading up to July 1 free agency, but often a small number of players, usually vets, become available in August after the arbitration process. Clubs tagged with a pricey ruling have the option to keep the player at the mandated price, and buy out another roster player if they need to make room under the salary cap. If clubs find the arbitration price unsavory, they can refuse to pay, immediately rendering the player an unrestricted free agent. “I’d anticipate some buyouts and maybe some walkaways,’’ noted Chiarelli. “We try to stay close to that, and if there is someone there who interests us, we’ve got some [cap] flexibility.’’ The obvious place for Chiarelli to look would be on defense, where the club has a couple of prospects - Steve Kampfer and Matt Bartkowski - to offer depth beyond the top six. But there is always room at the inn for solid, experienced blue liners, especially if the price is right.
Sixteen of the NHL’s teams either filed for arbitration against a player or had the player do the same, and the hearings take place between July 20th and August 4th, allowing the Coyotes, Lightning, Rangers, Devils, Islanders, Jets, Blackhawks, Ducks, Kings, Avalanche, Sabres, Canadiens, Hurricanes, Canucks and Predators another opportunity to buy out players.
Other than arbitration hearings’ results and the contracts which are reached before them, the next two or three weeks (hopefully the second as I’ll be in Grand Marais, MI from the 24th till August 2nd) will be the “deadest” of the summer, with the news cycle cranking back up (at least in English—European teams begin their training camps and start playing in exhibition games and tournaments in the first week of August) before the Research, Development and Orientation camp takes place in Toronto on August 17th and 18th.
That doesn’t mean that Paul, Alanah or I will be taking much time off, however, as the time of being constantly on watch for breaking news is, to some extent, more difficult than going with the flow of regularly-breaking news (it’s kind of like playing goal for a team that doesn’t give up a scoring chance for 35 minutes and then forgets how to play defense for the next 20, like, say, the Red Wings), so you shouldn’t expect many closers like this admittedly kinda predictable comment from the Free Press’s Steve Schrader, who offers a particularly cheesy “Stevie Award” to Mike Commodore:
The ‘Jonathan, Sony Ericsson Has Your Number’ award
To Mike Commodore, the new Red Wings defenseman who’s considering a grassroots effort to get him to wear jersey No. 64 as an homage to the vintage Commodore 64 computer. If he does, it also could lead to some kind of tie-in with a company marketing an updated version of the computer. Yeah, sounds like a plan. But why stop there? Maybe Jakub Kindl could pay tribute to the Kindle 2.”
Not unless the Wings retire Red Kelly’s #4 (too soon?).
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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.