Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: No vacation for the Wings’ scouts and Niklas Kronwall, #2 defenseman

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.

According to the Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall and the Canadian Press, Wings coach Mike Babcock spent Wednesday watching Team Canada’s World Junior evaluation camp;

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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Comments

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

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

They didn’t have a choice.  When a team elects arbitration, they are bound by the decision. The Predators could not have walked away from any number the arbitrator decided.

The Preds may not have lost Weber this year, but there were plenty of rumblings about how he would commit to them if they would commit to him, Suter, and Rinne.  I’m not just unconvinced that they’ll actually do this, but I’m extremely doubtful.  Unless Suter and Rinne are signed to good deals beforehand, the trade deadline is very likely to see Nashville moving at least one of those three.

It’s a harsh prospect to face for Preds fans who have been waiting for them to hit just the right time in player development cycles so they could take a shot at going over their self-imposed cap to make a run.  Unfortunately for the fans, the organization blinked and it’s going to cost them at least one and possibly two key components they’ll need to have a shot at being a strong contender for the cup.  They’ll likely still be able to contend for the playoffs, but what was the point of selling off assets to get the picks/prospects to get where they are now if they’re not going to take the next step?

Then again, I’m not writing the checks in Nashville…

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/04/11 at 09:44 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

I don’t see a way in hell that Weber would end up in Detroit.

I’d say there’s a 1/30 chance, Nashville lost any advantage it might’ve had.

Anyway, let’s get Suter.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 08/04/11 at 10:22 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

Hey, Preds have Lebda now. What more do they need?

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 08/04/11 at 11:30 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I too would rather have Suter.  I do believe the Preds will try to keep all three - Weber, Suter and Rinne.

Part of the reason I’ve never been interested in Weber or Doan was something Pav said in that interview about concussions and the fact that players need to learn to keep their emotions in check, because they might be depriving another player of his career (and someone’s family their breadwinner).  There are certain guys who are just not able to do that and I’m not interested in them. 

Suter was just great with Rafalski in the Olympics, and I’ve been wishing ever since that we could somehow get Suter.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 08/04/11 at 12:18 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

Been a while since I’ve wanted to comment on something (and so many at once). Thanks for the interesting overnight report, George!

Starting with the rule testing:

REFEREES WITH HEAD-SETS: I think this might be distracting to be able to talk throughout. However, what I would like to see is some technology added to the headsets and whistle. Don Cherry has promoted a radio whistle hook-hookup where blowing the whistle stops the clocks as soon as it’s blown. This would not solve the “intent to blow” issue, which needs to be properly addressed, but it would put the clock in direct control of the first whistle blower and eliminate the delay and non technical related errors that will happen with any system. As for being able to radio the other refs, they should have a button on the whistle hand where the thumb can press it to activate the radio. As the ref raises one hand above his head and the other to his mouth, as soon as he sees something to call he could push the button and tell the other refs what he’s going to call. After the whistle, the radio would then allow for a quick four-way conference among the officials to confirm the right call was made. This would also eliminate the need to skate to the time keeper’s box as he would also have access to the radio, and the ref would no longer need to get the phone for a goal review. The committee is close, but not close enough. I hope they get this right by next camp, or at least actually tryout the current idea during the exhibition season. Of course mine is better, but I’m biased.  tongue wink

NO LINE CHANGES AFTER AN OFFSIDE: This would speed up the game, but is it best for the players? I would say maybe the offending team should be punished for trapping or “intentionally” going offside, but if the former was done without violating any rules that is good defense. The latter would eliminate the idiocy of sending a team back to its own zone for a face-off for “intentionally” going offside when that rarely happens (mostly on tag-up mistakes, also rarely “intentional” as players scramble to tag-up) and is extremely subjective (i.e. mostly gotten wrong). I’d like to see this rule change tested in the AHL next season, but I’m torn.

ONLY ON-THE-FLY LINE CHANGES PERMITTED: If line changes are removed for offside calls, then this rule would also eliminate line changes for the non offending team on an icing call that has led to more goals in a positive way. While I’d like to see the previous offside related line change rule tested, this one would take a step back to the “Dead Puck Era.” What are they thinking?  hmmm

FACEOFF CHANGES: I don’t care for the first half of this rule change idea. They did test choosing the opponent last summer, but I’d prefer they focus on changing how the officials drop the pucks, as in DROP THE DANG PUCK! It seems the only face-offs that don’t see a player from one or both teams tossed are the ones at center ice by one of the referees. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: One whistle to announce the puck will be dropped in three seconds followed by the official literally saying “Ready, Set, GO!” and then immediately dropping the puck. I love the second half of this rule change as I don’t understand the point of the four blue line center ice dots. Any center ice face-off should be taken at center ice. That would include opening draws, goals, offside, and mistakenly blown whistles (usually non calls). The offensive/defensive zone dots should also be moved to the midpoint between the goal line and the blue line, with existing rules determining which side the face-off takes place on. At least the are getting closer. I never understood the three dots down the middle of the ice they tried last summer. Talk about creating cheap goals in the offensive zone. It took them too long to move all face-offs to dots only, so like with some other rule ideas this summer, the committee is getting closer to the right changes (instead of change for change’s sake).

HAND PASSES PERMITTED: Why change the rule to include center ice and offensive zone players? This is hockey, not basketball. The only hand rule that needs changing is if the puck hits the hand while holding the stick. The hand should be considered part of the stick, and therefore not a hand pass or a goal off the glove (as long as the hand is actually holding the stick, which we can all see even if we don’t have an HDTV). I understand wanting to speed the game and eliminate whistles, but this is not the way to do that.

TRAPEZOID OUT, CENTRE RED LINE IN: This is right back to “Dead Puck Era” hockey. Yes to the first, no to the second. I’d like to the red line of the crease extended (without blue paint) back to the full semicircle, with lines then further extending perpendicular to the end boards to create a safe zone for the goalie to roam. Outside of this zone, if the goalie does anything while handling the puck (like placing his untouchable body between the puck and the offensive player) he should receive and interference call just like any other player interfering with the play. But goalies cannot be fair game, even when handling the puck.

BEARHUG RULE: I’m not sure how this works, but I understand the concept that it changes how a player takes his opponent into the boards in a sticky situation so that instead of a hard shoulder hit (or potential head shot, both of which could result in concussion) the hitter can wrap himself into his target and take some of the momentum away. This would save players going after icing. Of course the simpler solution would be no-touch icing instead of this clearly “gray area” rule. It needs to be tested, but returning to foam upper body pads and changing to no-touch icing would do the job without the inevitable controversy the bear-hug would bring.

All in all, quite a few ideas here make sense, some are simply being tested to show the morons why things like the red line was removed in the first place (also returning the red line would increase center ice hits and suicide passes, i.e. concussions would rise unnecessarily), and some are true attempts at solving problems that should not exist.

Moving on to defense:

I think St. James is pretty accurate in her assessment. Stuart hates playing the left side, and was actually a disaster in his short stint with Rafalski at the beginning of last season. He played well with Lidstrom, but Lidstrom has always played best opposite a right hand shot, so White actually does make the most sense for the same reason Dandenault played with Lidstrom until Murphy was acquired, and why the Wings brought in Olauson for the ‘02 run (that pair did not work until the playoffs when Olauson stepped up his game) and replaced Schneider with Rafalski.

I think Babcock split Kronwall and Stuart because he wanted physical defensemen on all pairs, and Rafalski was already slowing down too much to avoid the hits like he did his first three seasons paired with Lidstrom. White can skate and is physical, as well as a right hand shot, so he might fit perfectly with Lidstrom allowing Kronwall and Stuart to reunite full time again and cause the havoc every team hated (they looked so good in short stints last season and playoffs). Both players often saw more ice time than Lidstrom last season, so calling them the first pair is not a mistake. Lidstrom will still see between 20-25 minutes depending on the game, and more in the playoffs. I don’t know that the third pair will see more than 10-15, but the #5 defensemen should see about 15 regularly.

I think individual minute breakdowns could look something like this: Kronwall and Stuart @ 25+, Lidstrom @ 20-25, White @ 20, #5 defenseman @ 15, and #6 defenseman @10-15. It all depends on how well each unit and player is performing and what team the Wings are facing to dictate match-ups throughout the game. I do agree with George that Babcock is looking for as close to three evenly split pairs as he can get, but I just don’t see that being a reality most nights.

Finally, Nashville:

Weber will still be restricted next summer, but Suter and Rinne will be free. If Nashville is serious about keeping those three, I expect them to figure it out before the end of January. The have to answer the question of how they want the future of their team to look. Keeping Weber and Suter follows the old St. Louis model when they built the defense and team around Pronger and MacInnis, their ability to play all situations and run the transition that for a while only Detroit could crush every playoff encounter. Rinne gives them the top goalie, and the three give them the foundation for great defensive hockey that can transition offensively with a goalie that can steal games as needed. Since they won’t spend money on offense, they need to spend it on defense and net, and if they tick off these three players they will end up back in rebuild and continued mediocrity, killing the franchise.

I don’t think the Wings have any chance at trading for Weber, but if the key three choose to leave, Suter becomes a prime free agent target next summer, and then the big question on him is does he want as much money as he can make or does he want to take a little less than market value to join a perennial contender like Detroit? Whatever happens in Nashville I don’t have any hopes of Suter signing here as he will be able to get more from another contender (even if the window will be shorter because he signs for too much). Also, remember how good Redden looked in Ottawa before he signed his long term top pair contract in NYR? I’m not saying Suter looks better than he is because of Weber, but that’s an unknown that must be close to answered before any thought of throwing 6-8 million dollars at him (likely closer to 8) next summer, more than Holland would want to spend on a single player.

OK, that was a lot to comment about. Feel free to tear me up and spit me out. Good day all!  cheese

Posted by Bradley97 on 08/04/11 at 12:35 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

Suter was just great with Rafalski in the Olympics, and I’ve been wishing ever since that we could somehow get Suter.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Florida, wishin’ I was back in the Mitten on 08/04/11 at 11:18 AM ET

I agree Suter played amazingly well with Rafalski (who was the team’s best defenseman), but the Johnson’s (Jack and Eric) also dominated as the #2 pair, and they still have growing room and consistency issues (maybe if they played on the same NHL team they wouldn’t). That’s why I commented above that I’m still not sure if Suter is that good or if his play is more a result of pairing with Weber. I hope he is that good, and I hope Nashville does not bungle their future by not locking down their three core players (Weber, Suter, and Rinne) before the playoffs next season (assuming no cap issues, and I don’t think there will be with Nashville).

Posted by Bradley97 on 08/04/11 at 12:52 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

NO LINE CHANGES AFTER AN OFFSIDE

If this goes into effect, the Wings will be glad Drapes retired. He had a really bad habit of trying to get into the zone too quickly. But they’ll still have to rein in Cleary. He’s the Wings’ second-biggest offender in this area.

ONLY ON-THE-FLY LINE CHANGES PERMITTED

Coaches will go ballistic if this is implemented. It takes away a major advantage the home team’s coach has. This is a truly dumb rule.

I like the “bearhug” rule because it could save some players from major injuries. And I can see good things and bad things about all of the others. My guess is that the bearhug rule is the only one that gets approved.

As for Kronwall, I’m guessing he starts the year with Stuart because it’ll give him greater freedom to jump into the play. They need more offense from him with Rafalski gone.

And, while White may end up playing with TPH before the season’s over, I have to believe Babcock will give Big E some playing time with the master. They need him to earn his $3.25M and he’s not going to do that playing in the third pairing with Kindl or Commodore.

Whatever the pairing are, I’m really looking forward to seeing how all seven defensemen are used. Babs has a full “toolbox” to draw from this year. Let’s hope they all stay relatively healthy and force him to make some tough decisions about who gets ice time.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 08/04/11 at 01:02 PM ET

AndrewFromAnnArbor's avatar

Aaaaaand…Welcome back to your old ways, Nashville Predators.

Seriously, there’s no team in the League like them with such a great knack for developing good young talent, and an equally great knack for letting them get away far too easily.  Again, I feel really sorry for the fans, and if I were one, I think I might be a teensy bit sick of Poile sh*tting on me every season.  It’s getting to the point where you can’t even buy a numbered sweater.

Posted by AndrewFromAnnArbor from Fortress Europe on 08/04/11 at 01:08 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I’d rather see them take the hand pass out of the game entirely than see them allow it anywhere on the ice.

Only on-the-fly changes is what I would guess is the least likely rule change to be adopted.  That may just be because it’s my least-favorite one (aside from re-introducing the two-line pass that is).

I don’t care if the Refs want to wear sumo diapers and night-vision goggles as long as they get calls right more often. If headsets will help that, then go for it.  That said, I’m also not looking forward to anything resembling a delay in the pace of the game because a ref can’t get his headset to work.  That shouldn’t be a problem, but lots of things shouldn’t be problems that are (like bears).

Bearhug Rule? Guys are going to learn how to take advantage of that rule to bring back clutch-and-grab. But if it will help prevent concussions, then I could learn to live with it.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/04/11 at 01:09 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

I’m not saying Suter looks better than he is because of Weber

I see it the other way around. Weber is good, but Suter makes him better.

If this goes into effect, the Wings will be glad Drapes retired. He had a really bad habit of trying to get into the zone too quickly. But they’ll still have to rein in Cleary. He’s the Wings’ second-biggest offender in this area.

I blame many of the offside infractions from Cleary on Hudler, Tuzzi, Helm, and sometimes Fil dangling at the blue line. I think Bert may have been the worst at unprovoked early entry. But in all, I think penalizing an offside is a terrible idea.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 08/04/11 at 01:34 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Headsets: great idea, and while they’re at it, one of the off-ice officials should be in the loop as well.

Offside Line Changes: I’m unclear here; the team that commits the offside can’t change? Great idea fewer stopages in play is always a good thing.

Only On The Fly Changes: Horrible idea. As noted above, it annihilates home ice advantage. Coaches would still try to get their matchups (see any Babs-coached playoff game @ Anaheim), but the results would be choppy.

Faceoff Changes: Love, especially that the opposing team gets to pick the replacement. Only thing that gives me pause is that the Linesmen started acting like MLB umps this season, tossing way too many centers out of the circle instead of just dropping the damn puck.

Hand Passes: I HATE THIS! This is hockey. All players except the goalie should be barred from touching the puck with their hands, period. This would be an easy, objective rule to enforce. A player touches a puck with his hand, the whistle blows and there is a face off in that players defensive zone.

Trapezoid Out: Good, all players should be rewarded for developing their skills. Red Line In: Bad. Getting rid of the red line allows stretch passes and more breakaways.

Bearhug: Awful. Burke’s lame attempt to undo the post-lockout rules changes.

Changes I Would Make:

Ban seam-less glass. Get rid of the immovable seam-less glass in rinks like the Dive’s. Standarize glass composition, size, thickness and support for player safety.

Play continues when a puck comes off the netting. The nets are there to keep the puck on the ice. The glass is there to keep the puck on the ice. Play doesn’t stop when the puck hits the glass, so why should it stop when it hits the nets?

Shrink the size of goalie equipment even futher. Or enlarge the goal by examining photos of goalies in action in the 70’s, 80’s and post-lockout to survey the average amount of open space around the goalie. Then, enlarge the goal to give the same amount of open space around current goalies as was present in the 70’s and 80’s.

Make Diving a Suspendable Offense. It is rarely called during a game because it is difficult for a ref to see it a game speed without replay. The league should review game film after the fact,  and teams should turn over film to the league for review. A player gets one warning from the league, then suspended a game on the next offense.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 08/04/11 at 02:27 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Q.  WHAT’S   BROWN AND STICKY ??

A.  A STICK.

Posted by RWBill from Brush Street cruising with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 08/04/11 at 02:35 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Make Diving a Suspendable Offense. It is rarely called during a game because it is difficult for a ref to see it a game speed without replay. The league should review game film after the fact,  and teams should turn over film to the league for review. A player gets one warning from the league, then suspended a game on the next offense.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from Warm and sunny SoCal on 08/04/11 at 01:27 PM ET

+19

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/04/11 at 03:08 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I’m with you guys on the diving.

Bradley97 - I liked your comments about the Wings defense pairings.  I thought also that Stuie and Kronner were split up to give both Lidstrom and Rafalski more physical partners.  If White can provide that for Nick, I would love to see Stuie and Kronner together again.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 08/04/11 at 03:15 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

ONLY ON-THE-FLY LINE CHANGES PERMITTED

Coaches will go ballistic if this is implemented. It takes away a major advantage the home team’s coach has. This is a truly dumb rule.

As for Kronwall, I’m guessing he starts the year with Stuart because it’ll give him greater freedom to jump into the play. They need more offense from him with Rafalski gone.

And, while White may end up playing with TPH before the season’s over, I have to believe Babcock will give Big E some playing time with the master. They need him to earn his $3.25M and he’s not going to do that playing in the third pairing with Kindl or Commodore.

Whatever the pairing are, I’m really looking forward to seeing how all seven defensemen are used. Babs has a full “toolbox” to draw from this year. Let’s hope they all stay relatively healthy and force him to make some tough decisions about who gets ice time.

Posted by OlderThanChelios on 08/04/11 at 12:02 PM ET

Great points, especially the first one!

I see it the other way around. Weber is good, but Suter makes him better.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 08/04/11 at 12:34 PM ET

Interesting perspective. I see them as Pronger and MacInnis. Sometimes Pronger made MacInnis better, sometimes MacInnis made Pronger better. It was one of those perfect pairings, like Kronwall and Stuart. Nashville cannot give up on Suter and Weber and still be considered a serious franchise.

Changes I Would Make:

Ban seam-less glass. Get rid of the immovable seam-less glass in rinks like the Dive’s. Standarize glass composition, size, thickness and support for player safety.

Play continues when a puck comes off the netting. The nets are there to keep the puck on the ice. The glass is there to keep the puck on the ice. Play doesn’t stop when the puck hits the glass, so why should it stop when it hits the nets?

Shrink the size of goalie equipment even futher. Or enlarge the goal by examining photos of goalies in action in the 70’s, 80’s and post-lockout to survey the average amount of open space around the goalie. Then, enlarge the goal to give the same amount of open space around current goalies as was present in the 70’s and 80’s.

Make Diving a Suspendable Offense. It is rarely called during a game because it is difficult for a ref to see it a game speed without replay. The league should review game film after the fact,  and teams should turn over film to the league for review. A player gets one warning from the league, then suspended a game on the next offense.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from Warm and sunny SoCal on 08/04/11 at 01:27 PM ET

Re: the glass, I think the league is eliminating seamless glass this summer as part of the concussion research conclusions.

Re: continue play off the net like the glass, the argument that if the puck bounces back in it should be fair play is strong. I’m torn on this.

Re: shrink goalie equipment or enlarge net based on old measurements, yes to finding ways to continue shrinking goalie equipment, no to enlarging the net.

Re: make diving suspendable, big time duh here. It seems the league tries to crack down but always goes about it the wrong way, calling players for diving based on lists instead of what actually is happening on the ice. I like relegating it to a warning followed by suspensions as it eliminates ref bias (Homer’s butt in the crease, anyone?). However, getting all officials on radio with each other should get the calls right, as one may see a penalty that two others confirm is a dive, and vice versa.

Bradley97 - I liked your comments about the Wings defense pairings.  I thought also that Stuie and Kronner were split up to give both Lidstrom and Rafalski more physical partners.  If White can provide that for Nick, I would love to see Stuie and Kronner together again.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Florida, wishin’ I was back in the Mitten on 08/04/11 at 02:15 PM ET

Thanks! I think we will. It makes too much sense. Like Messey to Coffier! (or was that the other way around?)

Posted by Bradley97 on 08/04/11 at 04:53 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

It was one of those perfect pairings, like Kronwall and Stuart.

Kronwall-Stuart was a perfect pair? Both are always looking for a hit, and I saw too many breakaways/two(or three)-on-ones to say they’re perfect together. I rather see them with a stay-at-home guy.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 08/04/11 at 06:46 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

Kronwall-Stuart was a perfect pair? Both are always looking for a hit, and I saw too many breakaways/two(or three)-on-ones to say they’re perfect together. I rather see them with a stay-at-home guy.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 08/04/11 at 05:46 PM ET

Stuart is the stay-at-home guy of the pair, he loves playing the right side, and Kronwall, like Lidstrom, is better on the left. Yes, at times they have been caught making poor hit choices, but both have learned to pick their spots better since they first paired up for the ‘08 Cup run win. I don’t remember who said this, but to paraphrase a very good player after the ‘08 win, if the top line did not have to face Lidstrom and Rafalski with their masterful positioning that mentally wore down opponents then they had to face Krownall and Stuart, the former keeping heads up for his open-ice hits and the latter the same for his nastiness along the boards to wear their opponents down physically. It was the ultimate one-two punch.

I believe their own defense slipped up a bit due to the team’s overall defensive play sliding over the last three seasons. However, Stuart broke out as a minute eating go-to defensive defenseman during the injury depleted ‘09-‘10 season, and Kronwall had a true breakout as an all-around defenseman and successor (as best as anyone could be) to Lidstrom last season. Plus, in limited time together both during the season and more noticeably in the playoffs, Kronwall and Stuart looked like a number one pair for the first time. The Wings found success when Babcock put them back together for stints against the Sharks. Unfortunately he did not stick with the pair, and the time they did play together was more about match-ups and minutes and just shaking things up a bit (like playing Pav, Z, and Mule together as a power line when a goal is absolutely needed, but not all the time because of need the to spread depth across two scoring lines).

I’m not worried about either player taking himself out of position for the hit (at least not all the time) because they don’t do that very often anymore. And the new coaches should help ensure that does not occur, not only with them but with other physical players on the team. Remember, Helm came in as a full speed skater who would throw five hits in a single shift. Over time he learned he can’t do that and still have energy to play key minutes (like on the PK), so now he picks his spots, as does Abdelkader, Eaves, and Miller. Kronwall and Stuart have matured to the point I think they are ready to be the top pair full time now, while Lidstrom is still here to make a lesser player (White and Ericsson) better as his own partner. That’s why I broke the minutes down above a bit differently from what even George seemed to expect when he wrote the article.

Posted by Bradley97 on 08/05/11 at 05:45 AM 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.