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Red Wings overnight report: coaching search begins to take shape; yes, Dick’s staying in Sweden

Updated 2x with 13 minutes of McCarty-with-Lemieux video at 9:55 AM: We’ve known for several days now that it’s all but certain that the Red Wings have vacancies to fill on both sides of coach Mike Babcock’s shoulders as one assistant coach, Brad McCrimmon, left the team to helm Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL, and it’s becoming more and more certain that Paul MacLean will become the Ottawa Senators’ next head coach.

Thanks to a set of Twitter updates and reports from this morning, however, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of who might replace McCrimmon and MacLean. Via RedWingsFeed, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons posted the following…

Mike Babcock is interviewing asst coaches because he wants “new ideas” next season. RonWilson, 3 yrs out of playoffs. not changing his staff
Among those Babcock has interviewed: Former Windsor coach Bob Boughner. Word continues that Wing asst Paul MacLean will end up in Ottawa.

And TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Wings might complete a junior hockey circuit (Boughner coached the Windsor Spitfires prior to his year spent as Columbus’s assistant coach) by tapping someone who’s helmed the Plymouth Whalers and Kitchener Rangers’ benches:

More coach spec: Much talk of Pete DeBoer being candidate for DET asst coach job. BTW, Jim Playfair expected to be named PHX assistant coach

DeBoer had a rough go as the coach of the Florida Panthers over the past two seasons, but we’re talking about the Florida Panthers here.

The Windsor Star notes that the Wings have doggedly pursued Boughner despite the fact that he supposedly left the Blue Jackets for family reasons:

Boughner, who led the Spitfires to back-to-back Memorial Cup championships, spent last season in Columbus as an assistant to head coach Scott Howson.

In his first season behind the bench with an NHL team, Boughner helped the Blue Jackets finish with a record of 34-35-13.

After leaving Columbus, the 40-year-old said he planned to spend time with his family before making any decisions on his coaching future.

As for MacLean, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch confirms that the Ottawa Senators have interviewed MacLean twice and will probably choose the moustached man over former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish or the Senators’ AHL affiliate’s bench boss:

While Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst had his initial interview with GM Bryan Murray Friday, Detroit assistant Paul MacLean—considered the leading contender for the job—was in for a second session at Scotiabank Place.

With Murray trying to get a coach in place before the draft June 24-25, it’s believed MacLean, former Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish and Kleinendorst are on the short list. But MacTavish’s name may soon be crossed off. The belief is he has emerged as the top contender for the vacant coaching job with the Minnesota Wild.

As for Kleinendorst, 50, his stock has risen after winning the Calder Cup. He did a terrific job with the club’s prospects, but is in a difficult position. A bad precedent was set with the hiring of Cory Clouston out of Binghamton. No one is sure where Mississauga Ice Dogs coach Dave Cameron—the favourite of owner Eugene Melnyk—stands in the process with Ottawa. The belief in OHL circles is Cameron will not be back in junior next year.

MacLean, 53, who has been on Mike Babcock’s staff in Detroit since 2005-06 and is familiar with Murray from their days in Anaheim—where Murray was the GM and hired MacLean as an assistant under Babcock in 2002—was a finalist for the Columbus Blue Jackets job last spring that went to Scott Arniel.

Once Murray makes his final choice, the top candidate usually meets with Melnyk before a deal is completed. Murray likes to make sure the owner is comfortable with the decision.

Both the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo and the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson believe that MacTavish is all but assured to join the Wild, with Matheson offering this about MacLean:

MacTavish has also interviewed for the Ottawa Senators coaching job, although sources feel Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean, who has a long history with Senators GM Bryan Murray, is the leading candidate to replace Cory Clouston.

As for the rumors about MacLean interviewing for the Winnipeg NHL franchise’s job, the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe doesn’t believe that the Winnipeg team is intrigued by other candidates, and only the Winnipeg Free Press’s Tim Campbell believes that the Winnipeg team wants to speak to MacLean or Brad McCrimmon, though I’m guessing that McCrimmon isn’t exactly going to leave Russia when the Peg’s management seem to want to promote the Moose’s coach, Claude Noel, instead.

I know I’ve tossed out quite a few names you might not be familiar with, so here’s the bottom line:

MacLean will probably end up as the Senators’ coach, and it appears that Bob Boughner is all but assured to join Babcock, with Pete DeBoer getting serious consideration as well.

If I were to throw out a dark horse’s name at present, I wouldn’t go with Ken Hitchcock—I’d suggest that Babcock might ask the Phoenix Coyotes to speak with Ken King, who’s a dear friend of Babcock’s, but I don’t think Dave Tippett would let King go easily. Boughner and DeBoer are very solid candidates, and as they’re both from Windsor and have coached three perennial junior hockey contenders in the Spitfires, Whalers and Rangers, they’d offer “new ideas” which proved successful for them in the past.

The other big contractual news of the day doesn’t come as much of a surprise: according to Aftonbladet’s Daniel Grefve, Dick Axelsson will remain a restricted free agent who’s technically unsigned but still is Red wings property because he “said no” to the Wings’ best contract offer for the 2011-2012 season.

This isn’t a big deal—the Red Wings are very happy with the concept of Axelsson playing for Modo Ornskoldsvik with Ulf Samuelsson as his head coach/mentor and both Markus Naslund (the team’s GM) and Peter Forsberg (part-owner) as active in the team’s management, yielding a superb playing environment for a player that the Wings are considering bringing over for the 2012-2013 season—but I don’t know how to put this otherwise…

NHL teams can sign players who are their property but have active contracts with Eliteserien teams until June15th, via the NHL’s transfer agreement with the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, so the Swedish press tends to assume that if a player should sign with an NHL team, even if it’s simply to either retain his rights or, in the case of HV71 defenseman Adam Almqvist, to keep the player’s rights by bringing a prospect into the organizational fold…They think that “signing equals leaving Sweden for the NHL,” so the concept that Axelsson has “said no” to Detroit is seen as a big victory for Swedish hockey.

Grefve does a superb job of attempting to explain the subtleties of the NHL’s CBA in his article, but that doesn’t stop him from cranking up the, “He’s not leaving for Detroit” factor to 11:

Axlesson has said no to Detroit

All indications are that Dick Axelsson won’t play NHL games this fall.

Chose to stay with MoDo—turned down 4.7 million Swedish Kronor: “A fairly simple decision”

About a month ago, Axelsson signed with Modo. A few weeks later, he received a contract offer from Detroit. But Modo fans can exhale—Axelsson’s turned down the NHL club.

“It was a pretty easy decision,” he says.

On May 20, Dick Axelsson signed on with MoDo, but it didn’t mean that the speculation about his future ended, because Detroit scout Hakan Andersson told Sportbladet shortly after that Detroit would probably offer him a contract. That opened a possibility that Axelsson would leave.

“It’s possible,” said Axelsson to Sportbladet.

Can exhale

But now it looks like Modo fans can exhale. A short time ago, Detroit sent a contract offer to Axelsson, but it wasn’t as attractive as Dick had hoped [it would be]. It was just a “qualifying offer,” which is the lowest salary a team can offer a player to retain its NHL rights, representing a 10% increase in salary compared to his last contract with Detroit.

For Axelsson, that meant $753,000 US dollars (just over 4.7 million Swedish Kronor) if he’d earned an NHL spot. But Axelsson wasn’t happy with the offer.

“I decided to turn it down,” he says.

You didn’t think about giving it a go?

“No, I didn’t like [the offer].”

Not disappointed

He was not disappointed.

“No, I kind of expected that the [contract] would be like this,” he says.

As such, everything suggests that Axelsson will play for Modo next season. Detroit has until Wednesday to sign him to a contract, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll offer him a contract that’s sufficiently attractive for him to sign.

Which is the whole point.

As the Stanley Cup Final reaches its conclusion either tonight or on Wednesday, the Wings have of course popped up in stories discussing statistics (Tim Thomas has all but equaled Dominik Hasek’s performance against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2002), the Cup’s name-brand recognition as Paul noted via a Canadian Press story about the Stanley Cup’s travels in which Cup-keeper Phil Prichard was floored by the fact that the Stanley Cup is well-known in Pavel Datsyuk’s hometown of Yekaterinburg, Russia….

While on Pritchard’s watch, the cup has traveled to some remote locations, like Kandahar, Afghanistan and Yekaterinburg, Russia, the latter being about 1,667 kilometres northeast of Moscow and hometown to Pavel Datsyuk, a member of the Detroit Red Wings’ 2007-2008 championship team.

Despite its remoteness, he said, Yekaterinburg’s residents were not unfamiliar with the cup.

“We could have been in Northern Ontario; we could have been in Minnesota,” said Pritchard. “I mean, people had Red Wings’ shirts on. They had pucks, you know, they had mini sticks to get signed. Other than the language, you wouldn’t know where you were.”

Kirk Maltby spoke to the Sporting News’s Craig Custance about the fact that the Vancouver Canucks might feel just a wee bit jittery today…

There’s nothing that can prepare a player for what the Canucks are going through now. It’s a restless night, leading up to the game that can change an entire career.

Kirk Maltby won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and still remembers the emotions before Game 6 of the 2008 finals in Pittsburgh.

Like the Canucks, the Red Wings had a chance to win it all on the road. A small group of players went out to dinner on the night before the game, an Italian place near the team hotel. Some of the players in the dinner party already had Stanley Cup rings—guys like Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Maltby. But Danny Cleary was one win away from his first.

He, more than anybody in that group, has to reflect what the Canucks are experiencing at this moment.

“He was beside himself,” Maltby told Sporting News. “It’s, ‘Holy smokes—one more win, one more win.’ “
Maltby remembers his restless night before Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals when he and the Red Wings had a chance to sweep the Flyers. He was calm enough to partake in his usual pregame nap. It wasn’t until he was making the short drive from the team hotel in Detroit to Joe Louis Arena that he got nervous. There were people everywhere—Red Wings signs, jerseys and colors filled the streets.

And I guess that when you’re talking about “most hated teams” and the fact that neither the Canucks nor Bruins can seem to wrap their heads around the fact that, should you go far in the playoffs, you’re bound to be portrayed as villains (instead of, “Why not us?” it’s “Why us?” and you could argue that neither the Bruins nor Canucks have displayed particularly thick skin when it comes to brushing off disparaging remarks), so the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin’s grumble about the NHL’s willingness to allow its referees to punish “divers”...

Reporters who have never been cross-checked in the teeth or speared in the groin wax eloquently about the corrosive effect of diving on integrity.

Yet there is no protest when referees appear to pursue vendettas against players such as Alex Burrows or Tomas Holmstrom. In the Stanley Cup final, zebras have been exacting retribution on players who have “shown them up” by dramatizing hits to the head, slew feet, high sticks and boarding.

And I’m going to hold my venom but not hold my tongue regarding this quip from the Vancouver Province’s Jason Botchford, who argues that the Canucks should proudly win the Cup even if they’re “hated,” because even the Red Wings didn’t win with class and dignity:

The Canucks have been framed as nasty, contemptible and sometimes ruthless. Say that last sentence out loud and history may laugh at you. It comes off like the morality bar has been moved suddenly and dramatically. Either that, or this is re-writing history right before our eyes.

There seems little context. If the Canucks don’t deserve to win, what did Claude Lemieux deserve? Even the beyond-criticism Detroit Red Wings haven’t always won with honour, especially when Vladimir Konstantinov was doing his Vlad the Impaler thing. Then, there were the Dallas Stars who relied on lots of dirty Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk play to get through Colorado and win a Cup. Sorry, the Canucks don’t measure down to their evil-doing predecessors and it’s not even close.

Okay, politely:

1. Bull-you-know-what.

2. I learned to pattern my goaltending style after Kirk McLean, the Canucks’ stand-up stalwart in the 1994 Cup final, and the reason I was banished to the crease by my street hockey-playing pals was because somebody who had the hands to score goals was told that being 6’ and 250 lbs at 14 meant that you were supposed to push people around, and so I learned how to play dirty by watching Vladdie at work.

The thing that always stuck with me, however, wasn’t the fact that you could drive opponents to distraction, if not self-combustion, by relentlessly hacking and whacking them—I learned that it was just as important, if not essential, to expect that playing physically meant that for every thundering check you’d deliver, you had to expect to skate away from two or three delivered to you because being on the receiving end of the physical game came with the territory, and I also learned that for every big check you could deliver, it was the ones you let up upon, saying, “I could have really knocked you into next week,” that were the ones that delivered the biggest messages.

Vladdie was a mean, nasty and vicious player, but he also understood that he was living by the sword and would have to simply skate away when guys targeted him right back, and if he really wanted to smoke you, he knew that you were supposed to target your opponents face-to-face.

That’s the “old time hockey” sort of stuff that makes the hits delivered by people like Aaron Rome, who still insists that he had every right to send Nathan Horton jaw-first into next week because you’re allowed to “punish” players if their heads are down (why the hell do you target someone’s head? You want to knock those guys on their asses, not put your shoulder directly into their faces simply because you can), look truly stupid.

You don’t do that stuff. Yes, sometimes people are going to get hurt and sometimes you want to leave them bruised and sore, but it’s not supposed to be your job to intentionally hurt players who leave themselves vulnerable, and it’s not a physical player’s job to expect that if he plays a mean and nasty style, he’s also immune from having to absorb vigorous checks from his opponents without issuing anything more than a, “Good hit, I’ll get you next time” and then skating away.

That’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s how you’re supposed to both predate upon and respect your opponents at the same time, and that’s how Vladdie played.

In the charitable vein, the Oakland Township Patch’s Jen Anesi offers a bit of news about a tough-as-nails player engaging in a charitable venture for tornado victims in Missouri…

Baldwin Elementary to host fundraiser for Joplin: Students from Baldwin Elementary are teaming up with Sprint and Papa Joe’s for an all-day fundraiser Tuesday in the Papa Joe’s parking lot in Rochester Hills. The fundraiser will run from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and will include free hot dogs, a raffle for Meadowbrook Theater tickets and a chance to met retired Red Wings forward Ted Lindsay.

And I might suggest that you “Like” the Sergei Fedorov foundation’s Facebook page. Fedorov, who’s not exactly rolling in it thanks to a messy interaction with a financial manager who squandered most of Fedorov’s earnings, spent $15,000 of his own money to help a young man in need;

And finally, today’s “count de money” day. I’ll let you know where I stand in terms of the TC trip fund later today.

Update: More about Axelsson? You bet, via Expressen’s Magnus Nystrom:

I’ve been called traitor and Judas

Ornskoldsvik. In Karlstad, He’s called “traitor” and Judas.”

Peter Forsberg has another description: “Dick Axelsson is a really great hockey player, and he was our number one priority when we were looking at new acquisitions,” says Foppa.

I’m convinced that Modo will have a good season in the Eliteserien, and that Axelsson made the right decision to choose Modo.

And Axelsson himself says, “I’ll play the best hockey of my life this winter.”

Last season, he won the Eliteserien title with Farjestad and was a crowd favorite in Karlstad.

Now he’s hated by their fans.

“Yes, there’s been some nasty stuff on Facebook and elsewhere. I’ve been called ‘traitor’ and ‘Judas,’” says DIck.

Farjestad did everything they could to keep Axelsson, but GM Thomas Rundqvist was turned down.

“He wasn’t very pleased. So it wasn’t all positive in the end. He didn’t think I was making a smart decision to move to Modo,” says Dick, who’s sure to be booed when he returns to his old stomping grounds.

“Yes, I will be. It’s obviously a bit unfortunate. But it is what it is. I’m still very happy with my decision.”

“Modo will have something big going on. Markus Naslund and Peter Forsberg really wanted me here, and I’ve had good discussions with them. This seems like the right step for my career,” says Dick.

Foppa: “We really believe in him”

It may sound odd to be “just the right step” in his career when he’s leaving the Swedish Eliteserien champions for a team that had to fight for its life in relegation play last year.

But Axelsson’s right. In Modo, he’ll have a completely different role than in Farjestad.

He’ll get the chance to lead the team.

“It seems that Dick really wants to play hockey. We really believe in him,” says Peter Forsberg.

Axelsson makes no secret of his desire to play in the NHL. He wasn’t happy with the two-way contract he was offered by the Red Wings this spring. A contract like that pays you much less if you end up in the AHL, but the offer itself was a clear message that the team isn’t convinced that he’s ready to play in the NHL.

“I want a one-way contract. I want to play in the NHL,” says Dick.

That’s what separates Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund from their colleagues in the Eliteserien—Modo’s new management pair have no problem signing players who see Modo as a springboard with which to advance their careeers.

That’s how they sold Axelsson on Modo.

Modo’s thinking smart.

Axelsson’s thinking smart.

Now, the artistic Axelsson wants to become better at training.

When we meed in Ornskoldsvik, he talks about his tough summer workouts, and his only wish is that he’s reluctant to be photographed during his strength workouts. It’s not so nice a picture when you’re being pushed to your limit.

“Now it’s you who is the king here”

He describes working out on an exercise bike, when players ran intervals, going for 90 seconds at full speed, then 30 seconds of rest, 18 times in a row.

Try it for yourself and you’ll see how hard it is.

“I had a very high pulse at the end and felt a bit dizzy,” says Dick, and continues: “I’ve become much better in terms of training. I used to be young and stupid. I thought I was awesome and didn’t have to train as much. But if you want to succeed, you have to train really hard.”

He also knows that he needs to raise his lowest level [of play]—just as he did last year, but he has to raise his level [of play] even higher.

In his best moments, Axelsson is absolutely a world-class player, and after I pressed him for a while, he admitted that even his opponents would praise him on the ice after a beautiful goal.

That’s how good he is.

That’s how good a performer he is.

Therefore, I’m not surprised as Axelsson is himself when he receives his gloves in team colors, palms repaired, before a training session with Modo.

“It’s already fixed,” said Dick, surprised, to the equipment manager.

“Of course it is. It’s for you. Now it’s you who is the king here.”

Update #2: DetroitRedWings.com’s Dave Burke provides a “By the Numbers” review of Drew Miller’s season, and WDIV posted a story and video chronicling Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux’s appearance at a charity dinner last week—and the video’s 13 minutes long!

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Lucce's avatar

I Exhale as a Redwing fan, there are far better players out there…

Posted by Lucce from Kingdom of Zweden on 06/13/11 at 09:01 AM ET

AndrewFromAnnArbor's avatar

In Karlstad, He’s called “traitor” and Judas.”

No surprise there.  I said as much earlier.

And Axelsson himself says, “I’ll play the best hockey of my life this winter.”

I’ll believe it when I see it.  But more to the point, we don’t necessarily need to play his best—he’s already a pretty damn good player when he actually shows up.  If he said “I’ll play the most consistently good hockey my life this winter,” then I’d sit up and take notice.  Until then, talk is cheap, and he can rot in Ornskoldsvik until he’s ready to EARN a spot with the Wings.  Hard work comes before big money, kid.  Not the other way around (though I suspect Floppa and Naslund have just taught him that very wrong message).

Posted by AndrewFromAnnArbor from Fortress Europe on 06/13/11 at 11:26 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Not the other way around (though I suspect Floppa and Naslund have just taught him that very wrong message).

Posted by AndrewFromAnnArbor from Fortress Europe on 06/13/11 at 10:26 AM ET

Harsh! smile

Seriously though, those are two players that had excellent NHL careers. And Naslund in particular sort of had the same types of talk surrounding him when he was young that Axelsson does.

To be fair, the big difference is that at least Naslund was in North American and had some NHL games under his belt, and he really had his big NHL break out at 25. Even if Axelsson grows up big time in the next year, odds are his first chance to put up numbers in the NHL wouldn’t be until he was 27.

I’m not holding my breath, but the guy has a lot of talent, and the Wings can be patient, hold his rights, and hope he grows up. And if he does, they could have another late-bloomer on their hands, ready to come over and make an impact at 28 or 29. And best of all, he’d come cheap for at least a couple seasons.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/13/11 at 11:50 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Sick of hearing about this Axelsson clown. We got rid of Avery so we don’t need this bozo with his crappy attitude polluting our teams chemistry. The guy sounds like somedays lebron james would want as a teammate.
Hope Boughner gets the job with the Wings. Short drive for him across the river and he’s a former Red Wings draft pick too so it would be cool to see him working here.
Whalers coach possible? Karmonos won’t mind him going to work for Ilitch, lol.

Posted by Slumpy from Under My Wheels on 06/13/11 at 02:50 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.


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