The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/04/11 at 06:42 AM ET
Almost a month after the Red Wings’ held a summer development camp for their new and returning prospects in Traverse City, MI, I believe I’ve found the answer as to why the Wings’ amateur scouts and front office, with the exception of capologist Ryan Martin, rotated in and out of the camp, and it doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the flurry of free-agent signings or retirements which took place immediately before and shortly afterward:
Put simply, if the Wings’ scouts wanted a month off, July was it, and this month, they get back to work with a nearly impossibly heavy workload.
Starting on August 6th the scene shifts to Lake Placid, NY, where Team USA, Team Sweden (including Wings draft pick Mattias Backman) and Team Finland (including Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen) engage in de-facto “evaluation” camps of their own in Lake Placid, NY;
Almost concurrently, from August 9th-13th, USA Today’s Kevin Allen says that the Under-17 Five Nations Cup will take place in Ann Arbor, MI, and other scouts will head to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which starts on August 8th;
And then at least a few Wings scouts will gather to watch another group of top prospects for the 2011 draft take part in the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation camp in Etobicoke, ON on August 17th and 18th, which will test some or all of the following potential rule tweaks, per the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby:
REFEREES WITH HEAD-SETS: Would be useful for staying in touch during hectic action as it moves up ice. Ideally, both refs would make sure to be in the best possible position to judge goals or call penalties, as the official who is the furthest away often makes what can be a controversial minor call. They could also relay the linesmen’s comments or stay in touch when one ref is with the timekeeper and the other at the team benches.
NO LINE CHANGES AFTER AN OFFSIDE: Currently in effect only for a team that ices the puck, this would have the dual effect of discouraging offsides and trapping tired players, leading to scoring chances.
ONLY ON-THE-FLY LINE CHANGES PERMITTED: Coaches won’t like their matchups being messed with, but this would restrict stop-time changes only when goals are scored or manpower situations arise.
FACEOFF CHANGES: In the continuing effort to stamp out delays caused by encroaching centres and wingers, misbehaving centres will have to move back a foot, while another variation will allow the other team to pick the next man to take the draw. Faceoffs will be restricted to the five circles, erasing the neutral zone dots. One linesman will be designated for almost all faceoffs to create consistency.
HAND PASSES PERMITTED: North Americans who played baseball will have an advantage here. Just don’t close your hand on the puck.
TRAPEZOID OUT, CENTRE RED LINE IN: Two “roll-back” experiments. Goalies can once again roam to their heart’s content to play the puck, but be warned, they will be penalized for freezing a puck without at least one skate in the crease. They will likely be considered fair game for forecheckers if they get too adventurous when stick-handling.
With the red line active again, two-line passes will be restricted in the hope more players get touches in the neutral zone.
BEARHUG RULE: A Brian Burke initiative, this allows players to wrap up an opponent going into the boards to lessen impact and avoid a holding call.
Only three-and-a-half weeks later, the Wings will bring their prospects to Detroit prior to the start of their annual prospect tournament in Traverse City, which begins on September 10th (time to dig out the Paypal button already?), and then the amateur scouts can count on a steady workload until June of 2012.
Yeah, that might explain why the Wings’ resident talent-evaluators worked in shifts…
Shifting focus to the Wings’ NHL roster, the Free Press’s Helene St. James began her evaluation of potentially pivotal figures in terms of the Wings’ overall performance during the 2011-2012 season with a blunt assessment of Jiri Hudler’s “short leash” status, and this morning, St. James suggests that Brian Rafalski’s retirement yields an almost by-default promotion for 30-year-old defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who’s now the Wings’ #2 defenseman:
Kronwall, 30, produced 37 points during 77 games in 2010-11. He was supposed to start the season partnered with uber-defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, but instead played opposite Doug Janik during the opening month after an injury to Brian Rafalski forced the team to reshuffle on the back end. Kronwall ended up spending most of the season with Ruslan Salei, a stay-at-home type who enabled Kronwall to get involved offensively.
Kronwall reached a career-high 11 goals and played with a confidence that had taken a hit as he recovered from a knee injury in ‘09-10. He followed up with six points in 11 playoff games.
Kronwall is one of the Wings’ cornerstones. He has great skill with the puck, be it from the blue line on power plays or jumping up in rushes, and has a knack for delivering bone-crunching open-ice hits.
Up until last season, Kronwall had a great partnership going with Brad Stuart. The two could well be reunited this season, and be the top go-to pairing. Kronwall could also be a good fit with newcomer Ian White, who, like Stuart, is used to playing the right side.
Kronwall is in what’s considered an NHL defenseman’s prime. He’s capable of and ready to take on an even larger role. The more he can play prime minutes against opposing top forwards, the more wear-and-tear saved on Lidstrom, at least through the regular season.
Rafalski’s retirement robbed the Wings of a big part of their offense, but Kronwall has the skills to help offset the loss. A Kronwall who’s dangerous with the puck, a little more physical and just a little more consistent would make the Wings all the more competitive.
I find it a little hard to believe that Nicklas Lidstrom would be “demoted” to second pair status, but I do believe that Babcock will attempt to rotate all three defensive pairs for about 20 minutes a night if at all possible, and I think that it’s all but assured that Kronwall and Lidstrom will be the team’s go-to defensemen on the power play (and Kronwall will probably earn more time on the PK), with White and probably Stuart complimenting the #5 and #55 as necessary. The two might not play together unless the Wings are pressing for a goal or have a 5-on-3, but this year is definitely Kronwall’s time to assert himself as the team’s other best defenseman
Also of Red Wings-related note: According to TSN’s Scott Cullen, Nicklas Lidstrom did in fact register the 205th-most hits per 60 minutes among NHL defensemen (his list goes up to 222), registering about 1.79 hits per game;
• Kukla’s Korner’s goalie expert, Laurie, weighed in on Chris Osgood’s Hockey Hall of Fame candidacy on Wednesday evening;
• As a reminder, per the Saginaw News’s Adam Bouton, if you’re interested in catching Thursday night’s Great Lakes Loons game in Midland, MI, they’re giving away 1,000 Gordie Howe bobbleheads;
• I guess I ought to weigh in the whole Weber affair as it seems like every other Wings fan is convinced that Ken Holland will somehow snag Weber just as many Wings fans still believe that it’s Ryan Miller and not Jimmy Howard that’s the Wings’ Cup-winning answer in goal:
After learning that Shea Weber would remain Nashville property after next season, I’m starting to think that the Predators were very smart in agreeing to accept an arbitrator’s one-year, $7.5 million contract award to Weber as they’ll both retain his rights without having to actually be on the hook for a gigantic contract in the event that the NHL chooses to impose another cap reduction and/or salary rollback, and be able to spend the year selling him on remaining in Nashville.
I don’t think that he’s going to go anywhere unless somebody sells the Predators a treasure trove of prospects and roster players should Weber’s agent’s negotiations with the Predators not go well over the course of the upcoming season, and given Ken Holland’s preference for working the unrestricted free agent market, I don’t see a way in hell that Weber would end up in Detroit.
• And finally, I’m going to be helping substitute for Paul over the next three days, but after that I am going to go as quietly as I possibly can for the next two or three weeks. My batteries are about 70% recharged after a superb vacation, but I’m hoping that a few more relatively quiet weeks will have me completely ready to go for the Wings’ prospect tournament and training camp as the Wings’ “summer” news cycle didn’t really begin until after Kris Draper retired last Tuesday.
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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.