The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/30/12 at 04:51 AM ET
In theory, anyway, I’m supposed to be on vacation, but after a day spent mostly doing what one does after a long trip preceded by a longer couple of weeks—sleeping—I woke up and found that Alex Kovalevich wanted me to check out some rumors he’d found and posted on Red Wings Grinder, his blog.
So I looked immediately to something I have limited access to this week in Twitter, checking out the ever-helpful RedWingsFeed and what people had been asking me (go figure, over 3,500 people put up with my Tweets) to see what was up.
And here come a pair of disclaimers and an axiom:
1. First and foremost, it is my opinion that bloggers and Twitter members who are trying to make a living in sports still get a pretty bad reputation, and in many cases, I feel it’s undeserved as at least a majority of people trying to make a living talking about sports—which ain’t no easy way to make a buck—conduct themselves in a professional manner;
2. I hate bad-mouthing other bloggers or people on Twitter. On top of the bad rep, I think that far too many people are also attempting to make a profession out of criticizing whoever puts writing out there—though putting up with constructive criticism that may not be polite is simply part of a writer’s job description, and reader feedback and criticism are always encouraged around here—and I don’t want to be one of them. In a pot-kettle war, no one wins anyway, so it’s not my cup of tea.
3. That being said, there are three rules for anyone who wants to start or maintain a blog and/or a Twitter account to discuss sports as a “fan,” especially if they want to be taken seriously:
a) The first is that you don’t make shit up. Plain and simple;
b) The second is that you always, always cite your sources. If news, information or quotes didn’t come from you, listen to your high school English teacher and don’t pass it off as your own;
c) And the third is to try to be thoughtful. Very few people can be controversial, angry or serve as pot-stirrers and last. The act tends to wear fast, and people who can offer some salient discussion while also motivating many individuals to vent—like the Chief—are few and far between. If the rest of us want to stick around, simply shaking one’s fist at the sky and writing about it won’t cut it as a schtick.
And with that, we’re going to descend into territory I’d rather not venture into:
Alex’s links sent me to someone who’s trying to become the next Eklund, one “Hockeyinsiderr,” extra “r.” included. This fellow popped up just before the start of free agency and started throwing, “Player X will sign with team Y for Z years at salary A!” around, filling in the blanks with every name and every team, but the fact that if you fling enough paint in every direction, you’ll hit the side of a barn hasn’t dissuaded thousands and thousands of people from following a bilingual (English and French) hack who’s “broken” a couple of signings thanks to nothing more than laws of averages.
Today, Mr. Insiderr posted three Tweets about the Red Wings, and that got a rumor-happy Wings fan base desperate for news on July 29th to get into a tizzy—mostly because they’ve already been discussing this theoretical trade amongst themselves for the past three months:
BREAKING NEWS: The Detroit #REDWINGS are #ALLIN on YANDLE. Hearing OFFER ON THE TABLE and awaiting #Coyotes ownership resolution.
Source: “As of this very moment the #RedWings are 100% the front runners to land Yandle. Best offer as of right now but things can change.”
More on #RedWings: After missing out on Suter, plan B is Yandle. #CONFIRMED offer on the table from Detroit source. Plan C= Bouwmeester.
More than a few Wings and Detroit sports bloggers ran with this made-up stuff as fact, and even Championat.ru got in on the festivities.
The reality of the situation, however, is quite different, though something tells me that suggesting as much won’t stop you from believing the hype.
The Phoenix Coyotes have five defensemen signed to one-way contracts in Yandle, Zbynek Michalek, Rostislav Klesla, Derek Morris and David Schlemko, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson is signed to a two-way deal. After that, as the Sports Forecaster’s Coyotes depth chart notes, they’ve got a pretty solid set of prospects.
Up front, the Coyotes have more or less swapped in David Moss and Steve Sullivan for the departing Taylor Pyatt and Ray Whitney, and yes, if Shane Doan leaves, they’re going to need some scoring, but with the 25-year-old Yandle leading the team in scoring from defensemen with 43 points and being inked to a deal that will pay him $5.25 million for the next four years, there’s no real point for the Coyotes to get rid of their #1 defenseman unless the team they traded him to gave back both a scorer and at least an NHL-ready defender in return.
As such, I don’t buy the concept that the Red Wings—who are not only the Coyotes’ self-styled “arch-rival,” but also are known to rather desperately need a top-pair defenseman—can somehow peddle off Valtteri Filppula, his 23 goals, 66 points and last year of a 5-year contract that’s paying him $3.5 million in real-world dollars but only $3 million against the cap in an even exchange.
The Wings would have to add at least an NHL-ready defenseman to the mix, and I would imagine that the Coyotes would ask for nothing less than Brendan Smith to sweeten the pot.
So, realistically, we’re talking about Filppula and Smith for Yandle.
Now does that make sense for Phoenix and Detroit? For Phoenix, it involves trading their best defenseman for a scoring forward, thus creating one hole on the roster to fill another, and for Detroit, it involves trading both one of the team’s leading scorers and someone who scored 20 goals in a summer where Detroit has yet to add their supposedly desperately-needed top-six forward to the mix, and the team’s best defensive prospect, to Phoenix for a top-pair defenseman.
That’s creating holes two and three to fill the Nicklas Lidstrom-sized crater on the Wings’ blueline.
I don’t buy this. I don’t buy it for a second. Yes, we know that the Red Wings are probably exploring, if not exhausting, all of their trading and signing options, but the team has no leverage in trade talks given the losses of Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, and while the Wings do have 16 forwards inked to contracts at present, and 14 on one-way deals, the team’s going to need every ounce of scoring it can get, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson included, to ensure that there’s something to balance what will be an obvious drop-off from the blueline, even if the Wings do make a trade.
Moreover, because of the lack of leverage and any sensible NHL team’s management’s desire to not create one roster hole to fill another, at this point it appears that the Red Wings are much more likely to add a defenseman via the free agent marketplace—as suggested on Sunday, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jaroslav Spacek, Pavel Kubina, Chris Campoli, Cam Barker, Matt Gilroy, Michal Rozsival, Scott Hannan and Milan Jurcina are not exactly the belles of the ball, nor are they any team’s realistic “Plan B” players, but there were no real “plan B” players, only “plan D” ones, and there’s a reason that those “plan B” players haven’t been signed yet as of July 30th:
Their agents are asking bargain bin players to be paid “plan B” prices.
And this Bouwmeester stuff? Sure, it sounds like a theoretically nice “plan C” for the Wings, but as the pundits who actually cover the Calgary Flames have suggested, Bouwmeester, Dennis Wideman and Mark Giordano are the team’s three best defensemen, and as such, even with the Flames in some cap trouble and Bouwmeester taking a $6.68 million chunk out of the team’s cap figure, it would make much more sense—as the Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak proffered last week—for the Flames to simply jettison disappointing 28-year-old Anton Babchuk and his $2.5 million contract.
Babchuk can put up 25-30 points and is 6’5,” 200 pounds and possesses a right-shooting cannon, and that kind of player is pretty damn valuable these days.
As for Bouwmeester?
Well, as Sportak suggested last Tuesday:
Say what you want about Bouwmeester’s disappointing offensive production since coming to Calgary, but defencemen who can play as much as he can night after night are as rare as top-flight centres — and we know how much luck the Flames have had trying to find a qualify middleman during the last decade.
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.
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.
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 [Flames GM Jay] 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.
I’d rather, if I may unintentionally start a rumor, have Babchuk given that the Flames will be looking for a Yandle-sized return.
And I’d rather spend my vacation with my family instead of chasing this crap down on a Sunday night and writing about this for an hour to try and calm y’all down, but this is my job, and I try to be professional about it.
In actual news regarding factual events and reminisces:
• Ken Holland shared his thoughts on the Wings’ rebuild-in-progress on Sunday, and USA Today’s Kevin Allen added what one might call some obvious points of emphasis to the mix in something of an off-season “to-do” list for the entire NHL:
1. Shane Doan’s recruitment: Doan, 35, has made it clear he would prefer to stay in Phoenix, provided he can be convinced Greg Jamison’s attempt to buy the Coyotes is on solid ground. But there’s enough interest in Doan that it seems plausible some team will offer him a four-year deal with a big number attached. Imagine how Doan could freshen up the Detroit Red Wings’ lineup, or the Pittsburgh Penguins’, Nashville Predators’ or Philadelphia Flyers’, etc.
3. Bobby Ryan still could be traded: The Anaheim Ducks would deal him only if they are wowed by an offer. But that could happen. The Flyers presumably would like to answer the Rangers’ acquisition of Rick Nash. Ryan has averaged 33 goals a season for the past four seasons and he’s 25. He could score another 300-plus goals before he retires.
4. Lubomir Visnovsky has filed a grievance: The defenseman believes the Ducks didn’t have the right to trade him to the New York Islanders. He had a partial no-trade clause, which he waived in 2009 so he could be moved from the Edmonton Oilers to Anaheim. An arbitrator will have to decide whether Visnovsky had permanently surrendered his no-trade when he agreed to the 2009 deal. He would be a nice fit for an Islanders team that needs to make the playoffs. Plus, the Islanders need his $5.6 million cap hit to help them get to the salary cap floor.
5. Useful players still available: In addition to Doan, several intriguing free agents remain, including Jason Arnott, Carlo Colaiacovo, Pavel Kubina, Petr Sykora, Brett Clark, Andrei Kostitsyn, etc.
9. Red Wings pondering a defensive move: The Red Wings have decided they want to give Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl a chance to play, and they have decided they won’t overpay just to add a body. But the Red Wings have been too competitive for too long for them not to look at their trade options to add a veteran defenseman.
I don’t think that Ryan’s coming to a Western Conference team, I could say the same about Doan, Visnovsky is an intriguing name if his grievance does go through, and yes, the Wings are going to try to make a move, but again, you if you fill one hole by digging another, you’ve accomplished nothing.
• If you missed the Denver Post’s Terry Frei’s report, the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein, Sportsnet, the Toronto Sun and Pro hockey Talk’s Mike Halford all want you to know that the Bertuzzi-Moore civil suit has been rescheduled to take place in January, 2013, and as Frei stated, the case may be pushed back again at the behest of Bertuzzi’s attorneys, mostly because it could take two or three months;
In Swift Current for Sask[atchewan] Hockey Hall of Fame banquet. Gordie Howe, Sid Abel, Glenn Hall,Bryan Trottier among those being honoured.
• In the alumni department, part 2: former Wings coach and assistant GM Nick Polano spoke to the Hockey News’s Mark Malinowski in a “getting to know you” feature:
Greatest Sports Moment: “Being named head coach of the Detroit Red Wings (1982).”
Most Painful Moment: “Mr. Ilitch - when he didn’t want me to coach anymore. But he was kind enough to move me upstairs (1985).”
Closest Hockey Friends: “Bryan Murray, Jimmy Devellano, Scotty Bowman, there’s so many, Al Coates, Al MacNeil. So many, I’m afraid I’m not mentioning some, I have so many friends.”
Toughest Competitors Encountered: “Steve Yzerman. I coached Steve his first year in the National Hockey League in Detroit. We didn’t have a very good team in those days, but this kid got us into the playoffs. He was 18 years old, scored 39 goals. Everybody talks about his skill but he competed every night.”
• And in the alumni department, part 3: DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford spoke to former Red Wing and Maple Leaf Norm Ullman about being traded away from the team he still calls his own:
By the time forward Norm Ullman was traded from the Red Wings to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1968, he had already played 875 games over the course of 12 ½ seasons. In the history of the Detroit franchise, only nine other players have played more regular-season games. So it’s no surprise that the versatile forward was a little disoriented the first time he laced up with the Leafs to play against the Wings.
“That was really strange,” Ullman said. “The first time we played Detroit, you’re so used to that uniform – the Detroit uniform and everything – that you just automatically thought you were with them for a split second and then you realize ‘No, I’m not’. You always wanted to pass the puck to somebody in the red and white sweater.”
The first game against his ex-teammates was memorable for more than just the strangeness of skating against his old team. Ullman had been part of a multi-player deal that traded him, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith to Toronto in exchange for Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and the rights to Carl Brewer.
The trade came as a shock to many Leafs’ fans, most of whom couldn’t imagine trading Mahovlich, one of their most productive stars at the time. As a result, when the two teams met in Toronto less than a week after the trade, the intensity of the game was charged by the recent events.
“The first game after the trade, that was unbelievable,” Ullman recalled. “The way the game went, the tension and everything. The game started and Detroit jumped into us, they were beating us 4-0 at the end of the first period. People started cheering for Detroit. You almost felt like crawling under the bench or something.”
Despite Detroit’s lead, Ullman and the Leafs didn’t end up disappointing their fans that night.
“The second period, we come back, we scored two goals and made it 4-2,” he said. “And then we’re going into the third period and we scored five goals or something in the last period. And all of a sudden we took the lead and then the fans were going crazy.”
• At the other end of the spectrum, the Free Press’s George Sipple spoke to the Penticton Vees’ coach about their acquisition of Red Wings prospect James De Haas from the Ontario Junior Hockey League. The BCHL and OJHL are both Junior A leagues—a step below Major Junior hockey—which don’t pay their players stipends, so their players can retain their NCAA eligibility. De Haas plans on heading to Clarkson University after a season in British Columbia:
The Vees expect De Haas to follow in a line of defensemen who have gone on to have success in college hockey. “With the teams we’ve had here in the past, we’ve had some very talented defensemen,” Vees coach and general manager Fred Harbison said in a phone interview Sunday.
Harbison mentioned Mike Reilly and Joey Laleggia as two recent examples. Mike Reilly, a 2011 fourth-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, led all Penticton defensemen with 24 goals and 59 assists for 83 points in 51 games this past season. Reilly is heading to the University of Minnesota.
Joey Laleggia, a fifth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 NHL draft, led the Vees in scoring with 82 points in 58 games in 2010-11 and was named the Hockey Commissioners Association national rookie of the year after leading all freshman defensemen with 38 points for the Denver Pioneers this past season.
De Haas (6-feet-3, 197 pounds) will get an opportunity to play in all situations for the Vees, which won the Royal Bank Cup last season. “We’re losing a lot of players from our championship team and James is a kid that we found out about and kind of targeted and watched,” said Harbison, a former assistant coach at St. Cloud State. “James, to me, can play in all different situations. He’s not a one-dimensional player. Our goal is to make sure when he leaves here he’s as well-rounded as he can be when he gets to Clarkson.
Harbison said he’s used to having guys for just one season. “Our teams are known to be able to skate,” he said. “We try to make the players better in those eight or nine months that they’re with us, and in the process we hope they help us win some hockey games, which we have been doing.”
• And finally, from both RedWingsFeed and my search engine monkeys, Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard made quite the charitable gesture in his hometown of Ogdensburg, New York, per the Ogdensburg Journal’s Dave Shea:
While establishing himself as the Detroit Red Wings number one goalie, and as an NHL All-Star, Ogdensburg’s Jimmy Howard has become a team leader in terms of community service. Recently he provided a great service Ogdensburg youngsters and to the Ogdensburg Minor Hockey Association, which was the starting point to a career which has seen him compete very successfully at the highest level at the collegiate and professional ranks.
When contacted by lifelong friend Jon Shaver, Howard immediately agreed to purchase new uniforms for every player in the Ogdensburg Minor Hockey Association.
“It is very important to give back to the community and to people who have supported me,” said Howard while signing autographs after posing for a picture with a group of OMHA players in front the Richard Lockwood Community Arena which houses the Jimmy Howard Rink. “I really didn’t have to do much. Just one make one phone call. The jerseys look great. They have the old style Maple Leaf emblem which I like.
Howard met the young players and their parents shortly after arriving in the city for a weekend visit from his home in [Maine] where he is enjoying the summer months after a whirlwind finish to the 2011-12 season where he played for Team USA in the World Championships after the Red Wings were eliminated from the NHL playoffs.
Howard, who will begin the second year of a two-year contract with the Red Wings in the upcoming season, is excited about the prospects of Red Wings if two major goals can be accomplished. If the Wings can avoid the large-scale rash of injuries which hindered them last season and if the NHL players and owners can come to terms on a collective bargaining agreement.
“I have been working hard all summer with a trainer at the University of [Maine] and I feel great. The camps are scheduled to open in September but nothing will happen without the collective bargaining agreement,” said Howard. “Like everyone else I am hoping that it will get done.”
I don’t know why Shea had Howard listed as living in Minnesota—and I thought that might panic people given what happened with the last player the Wings were interested in who had ties to the Midwest—so I want to state that, for the record, Howard spends his summers in Maine, and he works out at the University of Maine, his alma mater.
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About The Malik Report
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.