The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/26/12 at 05:32 AM ET
Today at 3 PM EDT, TSN and the NHL Network U.S. will air the Hockey Hall of Fame’s announcement of its 2012 induction class, and it’s all but assured that three-time Stanley Cup winner and long-time Red Wing Brendan Shanahan will receive a call from the HHOF’s selection committee sometime this morning.
The present-day Red Wings’ organization has stolen some of the spotlight away from Shanahan’s day in the sun, however. The general manager who took over after Scotty Bowman snagged Shanahan from the Hartford Whalers is doing his best to ensure that the standard of excellence to which the organization’s held itself since Shanahan’s time with the team, the standard of excellence the team was able to maintain when Steve Yzerman retired and Shanahan moved along six summers ago, and the standard of excellence the team was able to maintain while Nicklas Lidstrom played for them will not slip.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s moves on Monday offered the team’s best “sell job” to potential unrestricted free agents. The Wings didn’t exactly have a Jordan Staal to trade or a Zbynek Michalek to move to clear cap space for a run at the Ryan Suters and Zach Parises of the world, but the Wings ensured that any potential signee understands that the team has more than a fantastic owner in Mike Ilitch to offer them:
The organization also has a management team that refuses to pin its hopes upon players the team may not be able to sign, and that management team made bold strokes to improve the organization by essentially “reassigning” assistant coach Jeff Blashill to Grand Rapids, where he will succeed Curt Fraser as the Griffins’ coach, opening up a “roster spot” over one of Mike Babcock’s shoulders for a more seasoned coaching veteran’s voice.
On Monday night, two days after coach Mike Babcock went so far as to suggest that the promise of a top-six forward’s spot—at least to start training camp, anyway—helped them land one of the “best players not playing in the NHL” in 26-year-old Damien Brunner, Holland very boldly stated that the team was more than willing to offer the other “best player not playing in the NHL,” unrestricted free agent prospect and 21-year-old defenseman Justin Schultz, a roster spot (as well as a rookie cap max, $3.8 million deal) to land his services.
Are the Wings going to land Schultz? Probably not, given that teams like the Canucks, Maple Leafs and Oilers are more likely to finish the summer needing someone to step in and join their defensive corps, even if he hasn’t played in a single professional game, but in making his sales pitch to someone he can talk about without incurring tampering fines as Schultz became an unrestricted free agent at 12:01 AM on Monday, Holland talked up his team and the opportunities available on defense.
As such, it’s worth revisiting Holland’s choice of words while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“We’ve contacted his agents to express the Detroit Red Wings are interested in signing him to a contract,’’ general manager Ken Holland told M-Live.com. “We think there’s a tremendous opportunity in Detroit.’‘
Many teams will be making a pitch for Schultz, a tremendously gifted offensive defenseman who some believe is ready to be a top-four NHL defenseman without having played a game as a pro.
Opportunity, not money, will be the deciding factor in securing Schultz. The Red Wings are prepared to guarantee him a roster spot at the start of the season, something every team that pursues him will need to do. Schultz’s contract will be the same wherever he goes. He is restricted to a two-year entry-level deal with a base salary of $925,000. His team must make a $3.8 million salary-cap commitment, however, due to potential bonuses, many of which are not realistically attainable. His AHL salary would be $67,500. So it’s clear why he wouldn’t want to spend any time in the minors if he doesn’t have to.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Schultz, who turns 22 on July 6, is expected to meet with his agents in Toronto on Tuesday and begin considering offers. He can’t sign until July 1.
Schultz, a right-handed shooter, has good hockey sense and puck-moving ability. He has a tremendous shot and can quarterback a power play. He had 18 goals and 44 points in 37 games this past season; 40 goals and 113 points in 121 games over three seasons.
“I like that he’s 22 (soon), he skates well, he’s close to being an NHL defenseman,’’ Holland said. “We’re prepared to give him the opportunity to be on our team. With the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (signed with San Jose), there’s a tremendous opportunity. We’re trying to rebuild on the fly. We think he would be a good fit.’‘
And the same is true for Holland’s words to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“He’s close to being an NHL defenseman,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s a young player. We’re prepared to give him the opportunity to be on our team.”
Schultz, who turns 22 on July 6 and played three seasons at Wisconsin, was drafted by Anaheim in 2008 prior to starting college, 43rd overall, but couldn’t reach a deal with the Ducks, who had until Sunday before he could begin talks on a contract with any other team. And the Wings seem prepared to get a deal done.
“We’ve expressed we’re interested in signing him to a contract,” said Holland, who plans to meet with his agents (Don Meehan and Pat Morris) either Tuesday or Wednesday. “We think he’s a good prospect. We think there’s a tremendous opportunity in Detroit.
“With the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, there’s a tremendous opportunity,” Holland added. “We’re trying to rebuild on the fly. We think he would be a good fit.”
Holland was a little more understated in speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James about their contract offer, however;
The Wings plan on being among those pursuing defenseman Justin Schultz, provided they make his list of landing places. Schultz, who turns 22 on July 6, became an unrestricted free agent Monday upon the expiration of a 30-day window to sign with the club that drafted him 43rd overall in 2008—the Anaheim Ducks.
Many teams will be interested in Schultz, who can only sign an entry-level contract, but he’s meeting with his agent this week to narrow his choices. There are indications he wants to play in Canada, but he played collegiately at Wisconsin and might include a few U.S.-based teams. Schultz is the sort of mobile, puck-moving guy the Wings like for the back end.
“We’ve expressed interest,” Holland said. “We’ll see what happens.”
If you need a reality check, I might suggest that you read the Vancouver Sun’s Ben Kuzma’s take on where Schultz might end up, with Kuzma guessing that Vancouver (Schultz is from British Columbia), Edmonton, the New York Rangers and Chicago might be more likely landing spots.
In terms of the “program’s” narrative, however, we know that the Wings have very publicly stated that their drafting strategy has made a seismic shift toward pursuing bigger, stronger players more able to play chip-and-chase hockey, and we know that Ken Holland said he’d be aggressive on the free agent front, but the team had something of a gaping hole in its coaching roster as the team allowed Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser to join the Dallas Stars…
And I don’t think that anyone would argue that Mike Babcock’s decision to go with two coaches who possessed no NHL experience in Bill Peters and Jeff Blashill panned out as he’d hoped, so the team killed two birds with one stone in reassigning the person with the least experience in Jeff Blashill to Grand Rapids (where Blashill will report to Wings assistant GM Jim Nill, the Griffins’ general manager) providing a replacement for Fraser and the opportunity to bring new voices into the fold at both the AHL and NHL levels.
Holland spoke to the Free Press’s St. James about the team’s decision and the Wings’ NHL coaching plans going forward, suggesting that the team was going to fill Fraser’s skates as soon as humanly possible…
“After Curt Fraser left, I asked Jeff if he had interest to let me know,” general manager Ken Holland said. “I told him, if he doesn’t take it this summer, it’s not like it will be there next year. He’s decided it’s something he wants to pursue.”
Blashill, 38, joined coach Mike Babcock’s staff last summer after one year at Western Michigan, coming in fresh along with Bill Peters. In dividing up the special teams, Blashill was assigned the power play. The Wings struggled to score with the man advantage all season, often unable to get set up and keep possession of the puck.
A new assistant brings a chance for a new perspective. Asked if he will seek someone with NHL experience, Babcock said, “I think so,” but added that he thought the coaching group he had last season “worked fantastic through the first 60 games. Then we got injured, and we never recovered,” as a team nor as individuals.
“I know what I want,” Babcock said. “I’m not going to overthink this. If I can find that guy and he has experience, I’ll hire him. If I find him and he doesn’t have experience, I’ll hire him. I want a good hockey man who has passion.”
It will be a coveted position; it has been a stepping-stone for those who’ve held the job: Todd McLellan become head coach in San Jose, and Paul MacLean was a finalist for coach of the year this past season, his first as head coach in Ottawa. Brad McCrimmon had just taken over coaching a team in Russia last summer when he died in a plane crash.
And Holland presented MLive’s Ansar Khan with an aggressive timetable for replacing Blashill:
The Detroit Red Wings have a short list of candidates for their assistant coaching position created by Jeff Blashill’s departure to Grand Rapids and could have someone in place by the end of the week or next week. The Red Wings hired a pair of assistants with no NHL coaching experience last summer in Blashill and Bill Peters, who remains on staff. They might be inclined to bring in somebody with experience in the league, but general manager Ken Holland said they are open to different types of candidates.
“We’re not sure if we want a defenseman who’s played the game or (someone) on staff who’s got coaching experience,’’ Holland said. “ Mike (coach Babcock) is talking to a few people. We want to make sure we’re not missing anybody. Mike wants to take a few more days.’‘
Blashill was named the Griffins’ head coach on Monday. Jim Paek, who’s spent seven seasons as an assistant coach for the Griffins, might be a candidate for Blashill’s former position.
“Lots of people on staff have coaching experience and tons of playing experience,’’ Holland said. “Does Mike feel comfortable with someone internally, or do we go outside the organization?’‘
Holland said he hasn’t spoken to any of the former players in the organization about whether they would be interested in coaching. The list includes Chris Chelios, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Kirk Maltby and Jiri Fischer.
Potential candidates outside the organization include Mike Haviland and Bob Boughner.
At this point, I don’t think that Chelios, Draper or Osgood have any interest in coaching, and Fischer’s found his niche as the team’s director of player development (given that Bob Boughner left the Blue Jackets to return to the Windsor Spitfires and spend more time with his family, I don’t think he’s interested, either), but we’ll see about Maltby and Paek.
Paek may be the most intriguing choice as he’s played in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, and he’s also worked with the Griffins since 2005, serving as the lone assistant on Curt Fraser’s bench. He’s a hard-ass and then some when he needs to be, but he can be the supportive, “nice guy” assistant to serve as a bridge between players and the head coach, so he may end up bringing a boatload of ideas he’s never been able to use to the Wings’ bench.
Not all news is good news on the Wings’ front, however, though I suppose you and I saw this coming. From MLive’s Khan:
Holland said he spoke Monday to Petr Svoboda, the agent for forward Jiri Hudler, and they will talk again Thursday or Friday.
“He’s interested in staying. We’re interested if a number works,’’ Holland said. “We’re not where he wants to be (salary-wise).’‘
Hudler might be able to earn $4-4.5 million on the open market, so he’s probably not coming back…
And I guess that’s where I’ll end regarding the Wings’ “program”: the team also repaid Brad Stuart for his years of service by giving him a lengthy head start on July 1st by sending his rights to the San Jose Sharks.
The “program Jimmy Howard” suggests as a stand-alone entity in terms of selling the Wings’ appeal involves treating players well from the beginning of their tenure with the team to the end of it, regardless of whether you’re Stuart or Mike Commodore, who received a second lease on NHL life by being sent to Tampa Bay, while the Wings were battling injuries on defense, so that he could battle for a job with the Bolts.
Regarding Mr. Shanahan’s likely visit to Toronto this November, the NHL Network U.S. outlined its and TSN’s coverage of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s announcement as follows:
NHL Network U.S. will simulcast TSN2’s live coverage of the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee Announcement on Tuesday, June 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET.
The 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee Announcement will be made by Bill Hay, Hockey Hall of Fame CEO and Chairman of the Board, along with Co-Chairs of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee Jim Gregory and Pat Quinn.
Some of the first-year eligible players for the Hockey Hall of Fame include Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Mats Sundin, Jeremy Roenick, Curtis Joseph, Gary Roberts and Claude Lemieux.
TSN’s Steve Kouleas hosts the coverage and is joined by TSN and NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson and Steve Dryden, Managing Editor of NHL on TSN. Reporter Ryan Rishaug will report live from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
NHL Network’s Cisco NHL Live at 5:00 p.m. ET and NHL Tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET will provide additional coverage of the announcement.
As the Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski notes, there’s a long list of players who’ve been overlooked, but two players seem to be “locks” to receive calls from an organization that can induct up to 4 players per year, and their careers were at least partially intertwined, as NHL.com’s Dan Rosen notes:
Joe Sakic: This is an absolute no-brainer. Sakic, who now works in Colorado’s front office, amassed 1,641 points in 1,378 NHL games spread across 20 seasons with one franchise. He started his career in Quebec and moved with the team to Colorado, where he helped the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001.
Sakic won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1996 and the Hart Trophy, Lady Byng Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Award) in 2001. On the international stage, he won gold at the 1988 World Juniors, 1994 World Championship, 2002 Olympics and 2004 World Cup.
Brendan Shanahan: He’s the second no-brainer for the Class of 2012. Shanahan, who is now one of the most visible executives in hockey as the head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, scored 656 goals and had 1,354 points in 1,524 games over 21 seasons. One of the premier power forwards to ever play the game, Shanahan played for the Devils, Blues, Whalers, Red Wings and Rangers before returning to New Jersey for his final season.
Shanahan won the Stanley Cup three times with the Red Wings (1997, 1998, 2002) and won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2002. He is the only player in NHL history with more than 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes (2,489).
Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan seem to be simple first- ballot picks for the committee that meets Tuesday in Toronto. Sakic was an elegant player, slick and silky. The vision we have of him is his quick-release wrist shot from the high slot. He always was a dominant player. With 1,641 points, he’s ninth on the NHL’s all-time points list.
Shanahan was the power winger that every team coveted. He could score a big goal or win a big fight. Hs was ruggedly tough along the boards. He netted 656 goals. The lasting image of Shanahan will be seeing him taking a cross-ice feed in the left wing circle and blasting it into the upper corner of the net on a one-timer.
The debate this year will be about Mats Sundin, Jeremy Roenick, Eric Lindros, Dave Andreychuk and Pavel Bure, among others. There is a case to be made for all of those players, and at least three, maybe four and possibly five of those players will get in over time. Sundin, Roenick and Lindros seem to be in the likely group, although Lindros has been passed over before
And Shanahan received gushy praise from some usual suspects on Monday evening, via ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun...
Brendan Shanahan, who was a rival of Sakic’s in those delicious Detroit-Colorado games of the mid- to late-1990s, should almost surely join Burnaby Joe as a Hall of Fame selection Tuesday, his 656 goals ranking 13th all-time. But he was so much more than just a goal-scorer, of course.
“He was one of the premier power forwards of his era,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said Monday. “He also was one of the premier scoring wingers: big, strong, hard and a big one-timer. He could also drop his gloves with the toughest fighters in the game. He gave our team a lot of things, a lot of respect, a lot of toughness, a lot of skill, a lot of size.”
The Wings traded for Shanahan early in the 1996-97 season and Holland feels he was key ingredient in Detroit finally getting over the hump and winning Cups in 1997, ’98 and 2002.
“As I reflect back, the three people that Scotty Bowman got—Brendan Shanahan, Slava Fetisov and Igor Larionov—they really put us over the top,” Holland said. “Shanny brought us skill and toughness. I remember when we played Colorado in those playoff series, he dropped this gloves with Adam Foote. Shanny was one of the final missing pieces for us to be able to become a championship team.”
And the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa:
When Shanahan retired, former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman called him “A big part of our team.”
“We were always a skilled team and he was the big power forward that we needed,” Bowman said. “He had great physical strength. He could score, he could fight and he could check.”
Shanahan arrived two games into the 1996-97 in a trade with Hartford. Given the financial instability of the Whalers, Shanahan requested the trade. Keith Primeau, around whom the Red Wings hoped to build, had refused to sign a new contract. Primeau, Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey and a first-round pick went to the Whalers for Shanahan and Brian Glynn. It proved a catalyst for what would immediately follow.
“That deal, along with the addition of Igor Larionov the year before, were the big trades that got our team going,” Bowman said.
Because of his goal-scoring prowess — a sniper, if there ever was one — Shanahan is not known as an enforcer. But he was.
“He got a lot of respect; he could shoot and he had a temper,” Bowman said. “Tough guys weren’t going to try him because they’d have to fight him. He was perfect, because we were always a team that wasn’t tough. He didn’t get in many scraps while he was here because no one would fight him.”
Shanahan also played with the Blues and Whalers before the Red Wings, and the Rangers and the Devils when he left. He has said publicly he would enter the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Red Wings player “if I get the chance.”
Krupa does go on, as he tends to do, and his gabba is worth your time.
One more Wings alum made the news on Monday: Gordie Howe earned one of the inaugural “Order of Hockey Canada” awards from, of all places, Hockey Canada, as did Wayne Gretzky, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Jean Beliveau and a few others, and while TSN’s clip of the induction ceremonies is very short, Howe apparently made a short speech.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie had this to say about Mr. Hockey’s words…
Gordie Howe just spoke at Hockey Canada gala in Toronto. I have to tell it was one of most eloquent, moving moments in my 40 yrs in hockey.
And ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun offered similar remarks:
One of the most moving things I’ve ever witnessed to hear Gordie Howe speak after his Order of Hockey Canada award tonight.
You won’t hear much from Howe in the TSN clip, but he says that he wishes he had another 40 years, but it’s getting a little tough, and the hands are getting a little slow, and hearing that pique a statement of sincere thanks for the kindness shown to him and his family…
That makes me teary-eyed.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
• As noted in yesterday’s overnight report, the second annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride took place in Windsor on Sunday, and OurWindsor.ca’s Sanja Frkovic (not sure if she’s related to Martin Frk) reports that the second go-round raised over $100,000 for Windsor’s Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital;
• Also in news related to Detroit’s southern neighbor, the Amhertsburg Echo’s Ron Giofu reports that Los Angeles Kings enforcer Brett Westgarth will bring the Stanley Cup to the Windsor suburb later this summer;
• Shifting focus back to free agents, there isn’t a definitive list out yet, but Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien notes that more than a few restricted free agents didn’t receive qualifying offers on Monday, making them UFA’s on July 1st, including Blake Comeau, Peter Mueller, Cam Barker, Wojtek Wolski and Francois Bouillon;
• If you want to get twitchy, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers says that, should the Blackhawks be able to trade Niklas Hjalmarsson, they’ll do everything in their power to land Ryan Suter, and the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper offers the following:
Suter update: Nothing new to report on this front. According to Poile, Suter was meeting with his representatives today. Poile hoped to maintain contact with Suter leading up to July 1 to sign him before unrestricted free agency. Suter is highly likely to test UFA status.
“I would hope to hear from his representative or Ryan later in the week … to see if there’s any change or if we can do anything before July 1,” Poile said.
• If it matters, in the same song, different year category, Aftonbladet’s Johannes Hagglund reports that the Frolunda Indians have received assurances that, this tie around, Dick Axelsson will get his butt in gear and straighten up and fly right, which he was unable or unwilling to do as a member of Modo Ornskoldsvik (there’s nothing new regarding Logan Pyett possibly signing with Rogle BK as of the time I’m writing this);
• And in much less exciting news, after the free agent un-fun of the past week and the draft this past weekend, I am way overdone and feel myself getting right to the border of being exhausted and plain old getting sick.
I did my best to lay low on Monday, but as the buying into the fake Alex Semin Twitter account gaffe suggests (and the same can be said for making unintentional grammatical errors), I am way past overdone and don’t feel well at all (aches, pains, feeling sore and stiff all over, fever, runny nose not due to allergies, mental and physical fatigue, inability to concentrate, the usual exhaustion-turns-to-bug symptoms). I’ve let Paul know that I’m going to take today particularly slowly, and may do the same on Wednesday, but it is entirely possible that I may need to take the day off, even given Shanahan’s all but guaranteed naming as a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee today…
Or I’m gonna be really, really ill for the balance of the week, and I can’t afford that going into July 1st and preparing for prospect camp. I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta take things down a notch and go slow, if not take a day off, so that I don’t miss more time.
So here’s the button. I’m trying to raise funds to defer the cost of staying in a hotel in Traverse City, during the Cherry Festival, while I attend the Wings’ summer prospect camp from July 7-14. If you can lend a hand, I’d be grateful, and if not, that’s okay, too:
You’ll have to use my personal email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, and if you want to aid the cause by some other manner or means, fire me an email at that address or at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
This took way too long to write and is anything but pretty. I need to go curl up for a bit now. Sorry.
Update: While I’m a bit confused, can anyone explain to me what exactly is in the background of Dagbladet’s picture of Sebastien Erixon? The Canucks prospect’s heading back to Sweden after failing to latch on with the organization, but the picture in the article seems to show some sort of weird, uh, thing hanging off a power line, and the closeup seems to show Swedish flag-colored ribbons hanging off of it.
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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.