The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/04/12 at 07:03 AM ET
After an incredibly busy and emotional week and weekend for Red Wings fans, punctuated by the recently-retired Nicklas Lidstrom being feted by the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Friday night and then taking out a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press’s Sunday edition, we spent some time talking about the Wings brass’s organizational meetings, the team’s draft strategy, and, mostly, remembering Lidstrom while preparing for life without him.
As I’ve said over the past couple weeks, however, barring the probable announcement of Tomas Holmstrom’s retirement, the time between now and the Entry Dra…I mean the Draft on June 22nd and 23rd is going to result in a sort of “feast or famine” news cycle, and I’m in the latter category this morning.
I’m certain that later today and tomorrow, we’re going to hear Ken Holland, Jim Nill and other Wings officials (around this time of year, Jimmy Devellano almost inevitably appears on Roger Lajoie’s late night show on The Fan 590, dropping hints about the team’s plans) to discuss the conclusions they’ve made at their organizational powwow, at least in general terms—aside from perhaps Holmstrom’s status and the team’s final decisions regarding Jiri Hudler, Brad Stuart, Joey MacDonald and perhaps the shape of their negotiations with restricted free agents Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Kyle Quincey—we’re definitely going to hear some of the players who have remained in the Metro Detroit area chat with the press before they head to their off-season locales, and I get the feeling that Lidstrom won’t exactly be allowed to sneak home to Sweden…
But today’s biggest news involves the fact that the Free Press’s Helene St. James will get into the sort of player name specifics the Wings’ brass can’t regarding the team’s free agency plans, and will probably share some Lidstrom stories during a live chat this morning at 11 AM EDT (the link goes to said chat)...
And I suppose we should be less than stunned that, as Ken Holland attempts to convince Lidstrom to take some sort of job as a player ambassador and perhaps both a mentor and part-time scout, Aftonbladet’s Oskar Magnusson reports that the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation plans on recruiting Lidstrom to help the Tre Kronor (I never translate that, so, for the record, it means Three Crowns) lobby players to play for Sweden’s national team:
Federation: We will contact “Lidas”
Job opportunities for the World Championship at home: “We need our stars”
Ice Hockey Sweden will give Nicklas Lidstrom a call about taking a role at home
It might become reality for the World Championship next year.
“We’ll contact Nicklas,” says Hockey Federation chairman Christer Englund.
Last Thursday, Nicklas Lidstrom, 42, ended a 24-year-long elite career which made him one of Swedish hockey’s most accomplished NHL players.
There have been calls to give the Red Wings legend a role with Swedish Hockey. Among other things, Sportbladet columnist Calle Johansson of the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation said that they should provide a spot for “Lidas.”
Now it seems that Johansson will be heard.
“It means a lot”
Sportbladet can reveal that the Federation wants to involve Lidstrom in its efforts regarding next year’s World Championship on home soil.
The World Championships will spend their second consecutive year being played in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm next year, but there will be one difference which places tremendous pressure upon the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation to deliver more than a Quarterfinal loss: this time around, the Semifinals and medal rounds will be held in Stockholm instead of Helsinki.
“Players of Nicklas’ caliber mean a lot for Swedish hockey, not just on the ice, but also through their personality. Obviously, we’re interested in meeting with Nicklas, given his experience and the leadership skills he has,” says Christer Englund.
Final in Stockholm
Before the World Ice Hockey Championships earlier this spring, both Mats Sundin, 41, and Peter Forsberg, 38, were ambassadors for the tournament in Sweden and Finland.
Christer Englund would be more than happy to see Nicklas Lidstrom take a similar role with next year’s World Championship finals being settled in Stockholm.
“We want to engage Nicklas in Swedish hockey, and will contact him to [join us]. He will be permitted to land and take a breather before making any decisions, but over the years we’ve had incredibly positive responses from players who’ve finished their careers.
“They really want to help out and we’re grateful for it. We need our stars”
Otherwise, the Free Press’s sports staff chose to recount Lidstrom’s weekend itinerary…
On Friday night, Lidstrom was on the field before the Tigers-Yankees game at Comerica Park and received a standing ovation in the second inning when the scoreboard showed him in the Ilitches’ suite. He waved to fans.
Later in the evening, he dropped by the Chili Peppers concert at Joe Louis Arena. Drummer Chad Smith, a hockey fan from his days growing up in Bloomfield Hills, had a Wings logo on the back of his red, sleeveless shirt and used plenty of salty language to introduce Lidstrom, who came on stage to a thunderous ovation. Lidstrom told the fans that despite his great memories at The Joe, standing on stage with the Chili Peppers “might top it all.”
On Saturday, during Fox’s Tigers telecast, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver referenced a Helene St. James story in the Free Press in which Chris Chelios tried to persuade Lidstrom to keep playing. Their banter about Lidstrom’s prowess on the ice showed that the baseball guys (and a football guy, too, in Buck’s case) also knew their hockey.
On Sunday, Lidstrom and his wife, Annika, delivered this message, in part, through a Wings advertisement in the Free Press: “Before we leave, we wanted to express our gratitude to the wonderful people of metro Detroit for adopting us and making us feel at home for the past 21 years. ... Detroiters—hockey fans or not—are downright decent and respectable people. ... We will always cherish our time spent here and are proud to claim that we are also from Detroit.”
And as you know, I’m not one for self-promotion, but Bryan Yates and the gents on NHL On the Ice invited me to take part in their talk show, and I spent over an hour gabbing and blabbing like an idiot.
They were very kind and allowed me to reflect on Lidstrom’s career and impact, the Wings’ post-Lidstrom plans, their free agency strategies, the aforementioned contract negotiations with Helm, Abdelkader and Quincey, the players who will take leadership roles, the standard to which the Wings will hold their organization and players going forward…
And I also weighed in on the Wings’ better prospects, the Winter Classic (and the HBO 24/7 phenomenon) and, quite frankly, the concept that any controversy about alcohol being served at the Big House kind of ignores the fact that it’s not like students and alumni attending Michigan football games do so sober—and I’ve got six years’ worth of experience living less than a mile from the stadium, so I can tell you that the “youngsters” are usually on their third or fourth buzz of the weekend by noon on Saturday, but it’s actually the alums who are worse.
You can listen to the interview on their Flash player here, and if you’re willing to fast forward to the 30-minute mark, you get to listen to about seventy minutes of me rambling and going on for far too long, just like I do here
I can’t help the self-disparaging stuff. I’m very confident in my writing abilities thanks to six years of professional experience, really 13 years of spending all my free time following the Wings and an English degree whose vast majority of credits were earned through writing classes, and I’m proud of the work I do here, but having an ego and having an ego about yourself are two different things, and I really don’t see myself as anything other than another Wings fan who happens to get paid to pretend to be a professional.
Shifting gears back to more substantive multimedia content, WXYZ’s Tom Leyden and Mike Stone talked about Lidstrom at length during “Sunday’s With Stoney” on the Sunday Sports Update, and RedWingsFeed offered a link to their conversation in a handy-dandy YouTube format:
In a similar vein, again from RWF, We All Bleed Red on YouTube offers three snippets of Kris Draper’s interview on The Fan 590…
The Fan’s audio archive did post full interview if you’re interested in audio as opposed to video:
This clip, I haven’t seen before: We All Bleed Red also posted a one-minute clip of Sportsnet analyst and former Wing Brad May talking about Lidstrom…
TSN’s Ray Ferraro gabbed about Nick, too…
And I haven’t seen this interview Nick gave to TSN’s “That’s Hockey” yet…
What’s he looking forward to the most in terms of life after hockey, and maybe some personal indulgences? Being with his kids more and giving back to his wife for doing the grunt work in raising their four boys. Surprise!
If we’re going to talk about media types with an ego, one Barry Melrose played for both the Red Wings and Maple Leafs before coaching the Adirondack Red Wings (to a Calder Cup championship on a team whose ranks included Sheldon Kennedy, Keith Primeau, Brent Fedyk, Martin Lapointe, Bob Boughner, Mike Sillinger, Johan Garpenlov and even some old-timer named Bruce Boudreau), so DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford talked to Melrose as part of the team’s “Dual Citizenship” lead-up to the Winter Classic:
Playing parts of two seasons with Detroit gave Melrose the opportunity to play against many of his old Leafs’ teammates. While the on-ice reunions were typically good-natured, Melrose remembers one such encounter with his old team that led to one of the most memorable bench-clearing brawls in the history of the Wings-Leafs rivalry. To make the inter-connectedness between the two teams all the more complicated, it was a collision between Melrose and his cousin, Leafs forward Wendel Clark that prompted the game’s aggression.
“One of the great brawls in Toronto-Detroit history, I was a part of,” Melrose said. “We were playing Toronto in Toronto and me and Wendel Clark met behind the net. There was a big collision, and after that all hell broke loose. And I’ll always remember that because Wendel and I started it.”
The game was played in Toronto on January 13, 1986, but the implications extended beyond the game as both Bob Probert and Park received suspensions in the days following the mayhem.
“That’s the night that Bob Probert knocked out Bob McGill,” Melrose said. “Eddie Mio pounded (Miroslav) Ihnacak. Brad Park got suspended 10 games. That was one of the great brawls of that year.”
Despite being part of such a moment, Melrose didn’t get to have many other similar moments in Motor City, as his trade to Detroit came late in his career. He played only 35 games – the last he play in the NHL – with the Wings over the course of two seasons. Just as his career was winding down, the Wings’ organization was in flux, slowly improving their status under new management and a new leader, Steve Yzerman.
“My last year, I played when Stevie came in,” Melrose said. “So I got to play with Stevie a little bit, but you could see them turning the corner. We made the playoffs my last year there.”
Because of the time he spent with the Wings’ farm club in Adirondack, Melrose was able to easily transition from sitting on the bench to standing behind it.
“Detroit gave me the opportunity to start coaching because when I was down in Adirondack, I got to be an assistant coach there,” he said.
Shifting focus to Red Wings prospects, prospects with Red Wings ties and likely future members of the organization, Dick Axelsson and the Tre Kronor will take on Slovenia in the Inline Hockey World Championship quarterfinals on Tuesday, but his trademark inconsistency reared its ugly head on Sunday—after a hat trick and seven-point performance against Great Britain on Saturday, he was held off the scoresheet and perhaps predictably took a ten-minute misconduct for arguing with referees (something he does all too regularly) in a 7-4 loss to the Czech Republic;
• The aforementioned Jim Nill’s son, Trevor, spent two or three summer prospect camps skating with the Wings, but Nill refused to draft Trevor on principle, and after four years spent playing for Michigan State University, the Free Press’s George Sipple reports that Trevor will try out with his NHL rights-holder (as he hasn’t graduated yet), the St. Louis Blues, this fall:
Jim Nill, Trevor’s father, said his son plans to attend training camp with the St. Louis Blues. Jim Nill broke into the NHL with the Blues in 1981 and played for five NHL teams, including the Red Wings. He is now the assistant general manager of the Wings. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Trevor Nill was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) by the Blues in the 2007 NHL draft. Nill had six goals and 15 assists in 128 games over four seasons at MSU.
“I’m just happy with the way he’s grown as a man,” Jim Nill said of his son.
Nill earned the Amo Bessone Award for the third straight season at the team banquet. The award recognizes the Spartan who best embodies hockey and academic achievement in addition to community outreach. Trevor Nill served as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for the second straight year and also served as the vice president of MSU’s chapter of Athletes in Action.
He told his father he wanted to give hockey a chance, in part because he didn’t want to have any regrets.
“He’s got it all planned out,” Jim Nill said. “We talked, and he said, ‘I don’t want to look back when I’m 35 and say I wish I would have given it a try.’ He’s going to give it a shot.”
• And in terms of potential—if not probable—future prospects, Yahoo Sports’ Kelly Friesen asked The Goalie Guild’s Justin Goldman to weigh in on this year’s crop of draft-eligible goaltenders in Malcolm Subban, Andrei Vasilevski, Oscar Dansk, Brandon Whitney and Matt Murray (links go to their NHL.com draft profiles).
Given that the Wings may part ways with Joey MacDonald and probably won’t bring Jordan Pearce back, and that the goaltending pipeline after that consists of someone facing a make-or-break year in Thomas McCollum and the promising Petr Mrazek, you and I ought to familiarize ourselves with NHL.com’s rankings of the best North American and European goalies, because there is no doubt in my mind that the Wings will draft at least one and probably two goalies before signing a veteran back-up and veteran AHL’er this summer.
I’m not the type to have a rooting interest in draft picks as that almost always yields disappointment (see: Detroit picking Igor Grigorenko instead of Mike Cammalleri) but if I were to guess who might be around and might be interested with that 49th overall draft pick, Murray, despite his 18th North American goalie’s ranking, is the one that intrigues me.
And if I’m going to engage in some sensible rumor-mongering, I do think that it’s sensible to suggest that, should the Wings strike out on one or more of Ryan Suter, Dennis Wideman, Matt Carle or Jason Garrison, the Wings may, and I emphasize may here, attempt to make some sort of trade to bolster their defensive corps.
The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren gave me pause when he suggested that Sergei Gonchar and his $5.5 million cap hit might be available for nothing more than a draft pick, and while the 38-year-old’s fallen off offensively and defensively, he did post 37 points last season, and is two years removed from a 50-point year.
Warren did a nice job assessing the UFA marketplace as well:
The shortlist of defencemen who could fill a top-four spot includes Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators, Brad Stuart of the Detroit Red Wings, Dennis Wideman of the Washington Capitals, Barret Jackman of the St.Louis Blues, Jason Garrison of the Florida Panthers, Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers, Milan Jurcina of the New York Islanders and Shane O’Brien of the Colorado Avalanche.
Suter is the jewel of the class, scoring seven goals and 39 assists with the Predators last season and teaming up with Shea Weber to deliver the top 1-2 defence punch in the NHL. If Nashville is unsuccessful in re-signing him, all signs point to him going to Detroit as a replacement for the retired Nicklas Lidstrom. Beyond that, there are few guarantees. Speculation is that the well-rounded Stuart wants to play in California.
Once a player hits the open market, it only takes two teams to drive up his value and add years to a new contract. Carle, for instance, could secure $5 million per season on a long-term deal.
Potential unrestricted free-agent defencemen
Name Team Age GP G A Pts +/- Avg. Ice Time
Ryan Suter Nas 27 79 7 39 46 +15 26:30
Brad Stuart Det 32 81 6 15 21 +16 21:03
Dennis Wideman Was 82 11 35 46 -8 23:54
Barret Jackman StL 31 81 1 12 13 +20 20:40
Jason Garrison Fla 27 77 16 17 33 +6 23:41
Matt Carle Phi 27 82 4 34 38 +4 23:01
Milan Jurcina NYI 28 65 3 8 11 -34 18:46
Shane O’Brien Col 28 76 3 17 20 +2 19:13
I don’t buy the suggestions that the Wings might go after Jackman—they’ve already got Quincey and need to replace Lidstrom and at least make an attempt to more meaningfully address the loss of Brian Rafalski’s production as Ian White had his ups and downs. As I said on the radio, I do think that we’re gonna see Brendan Smith in the lineup (especially if Jakub Kindl is forced out), but he’ll probably be a part-timer to start…
Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s John Boruk also tends to engage in plain old silly speculation, but he tosses off a solid list of puck-moving defensemen who are in the last year of their contracts while wondering how the Flyers might replace Chris Pronger should they not land Suter:
Mark Streit (NYI) – $4.1 million cap hit. After missing the entire 2010-11 season, the 34-year-old Streit struggled through the first half of this past season before finding his game in the final few months. He’s a very good power-play point man, an area in which the Flyers desperately need help. Streit scored 16 goals for the Islanders in 2008-09, including 10 on the PP. However, it would be difficult to see Garth Snow trade Streit within the division unless it comes at the deadline.
Ryan Whitney (EDM) – $5 million cap hit. This guy clearly needs out of Edmonton, but more importantly, he needs to prove he’s healthy. Whitney has played in only 105 games over the past three seasons dealing with knee and ankle issues. He’s still just 29 and has the ability to run an effective power play as he displayed in Pittsburgh when he scored 26 goals in back-to-back seasons.
Lubomir Visnovsky (ANA) – $5.6 million cap hit. He’ll be 36 when the upcoming season begins, but he’s just a year removed from an 18-goal season in which he provided 31 PP points with the Ducks. He’s not as big as Whitney, but moves very well with the puck. With the emergence of Cam Fowler, I can see Visnovsky being expendable at this point in his career.
Alexander Edler (VAN) – $3.25 milion cap hit. This one could be intriguing. Edler completely underwhelmed in Vancouver’s first-round loss to the Kings, which included some bad turnovers. The 26-year-old Swede is still young, inexpensive and coming off his first trip to the All-Star Game. Edler finished with 11 goals and 49 points (sixth best among NHL defensemen). Edler has the tools to become an elite defenseman, but will this past season set him back?
I don’t see the Ducks trading their best defenseman in Visnovsky or the Canucks asking for anything other than a price that’s too high to pay for the Wings in Edler—who is, of course, the player the Wings wanted to pick ahead of Johan Franzen—but Whitney’s definitely available.
And finally, I hate to do this, but the Red Wings’ summer prospect camp takes place from July 7-14 in Traverse City, and as it takes place during the Cherry Festival, even the prices of an eight or nine-day stay at the old, reliable Howard Johnson are scary as hell. I’m definitely going to need help if I am to attend any part of the camp, and that means asking for donations.
My health’s pretty damn good right now, so I don’t anticipate any complications, but if something does happen, I’ll simply refund your money.
Here’s the inevitable Paypal button:
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, I can always start a Kickstarter account (which would allow you to track my progress and pay via Amazon.com accounts), and I don’t mind sharing the mailing address of my secret blogging lair via my other email address, georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
If I end up having to humiliate myself on YouTube or sell t-shirts or something, I can do that, too.
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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.