The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/08/11 at 08:37 AM ET
Updated with 2 more stories at 8:36 AM: July is never a “slow” month for the Red Wings, and today we should learn quite a bit about the team’s future as the Wings reveal the identities of the assistant coaches who will flank Mike Babcock’s shoulders. At the present moment, it sounds like Babcock will go with “younger legs,” as noted by both the Free Press’s George Sipple...
[Red Wings GM Ken] Holland wouldn’t discuss any potential candidates but did say they were looking “some people with some different ideas. We’ll see.”
He said Wings coach Mike Babcock talked to many people in the industry, from college and junior coaches to assistant coaches to former NHL head coaches.
“We got down to a small, workable number the last few days,” Holland said Thursday. “Tomorrow we’ll announce our staff.”
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan all but confirmed that Babcock’s assistants won’t be household names:
“The guys we’ll announce will bring energy and some new ideas,” Holland said. “You want guys with communication skills, some ideas on speciailty teams.”
Holland feels it’s important to find two coaches who players will be comfortable with as a buffer between the players and Babcock.
“Somebody to go to and talk to,” Holland said. “At times they want to be heard.”
The Wings are likely to hire two coaches from the junior or college levels, coaches who’ve run their own programs but with minimal pro experience.
Over the weekend and/or the beginning of next week, an equally crucial set of conversations will take place as Holland will speak to Chris Osgood and Kris Draper about their futures with the organization:
Holland said he’ll speak to Osgood and Draper after both return from golfing trips this weekend. Holland said he won’t make a goaltending move until talking to Osgood first.
As for Draper, who is celebrating his 40th birthday on this trip, it’s likely his long Wings career might have come to an end after the Wings re-signed Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves last week.
The Wings appear split as to whether they wish to bring Osgood back or whether they will sign Ty Conklin instead, and all indications point to Draper doing something he told the media he wasn’t keen on attempting while practicing with the Lions a few weeks ago—heading to camp on a try-out, attempting to beat Cory Emmerton or Jan Mursak for a spot on the roster—if he wishes to continue his hockey career.
As for the newest Wing, Holland’s expectations for free agent forward Chris Conner are realistic, as he told the Free Press’s Sipple...
Wings general manager Ken Holland said Conner (5-8, 180) will add depth in case of injury for the Wings and a skilled forward at Grand Rapids (AHL).
“He’s got speed. He’s got skill,” Holland said. “We want some depth. We’ve missed the playoffs in Grand Rapids the last three years. We want to get that team back into a playoff spot. Conner’s played in the NHL and over the course of 82 games you’re going to get injuries. You need your depth to help you win some games.”
Conner is a Westland native who starred at Michigan Tech in 2002-06. He set career-highs with seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 60 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.
Regarding the other “big news” in terms of the Wings’ NHL roster, defenseman Mike Commodore, who is open to embodying a bit of a cliche by wearing “64,” had this to say to Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski overnight, via Twitter and RedWingsFeed:
Heard from Mike Commodore. Said pressure’s now on to wear No. 64, but will wait until camp (and talking w/Wings) to decide. Great dude.
And in terms of the Wings’ prospect development camp, I offered my take on the first day’s proceedings last night, and this morning, the Detroit News posted a 12-image photo gallery, the 9&10 News posted a video interview with Ken Holland…
• The Free Press’s Sipple spoke to both Ken Holland and Brendan Smith about the young defenseman’s attempts to earn a spot on the team’s roster even after the Wings signed Ian White and Commodore to bolster their blueline…
“Brendan Smith——he’s going to play lots of exhibition games,” Holland said Thursday. “We want him to play games for the Detroit Red Wings next year. Obviously the signing of Commodore, the signing of White and (with) Jakub Kindl there, it’s a stiff competition. Smith has gotta come in and beat some people out. We think he’s got that type of potential.”
The Wings already have seven defensemen signed, but Holland reiterated Thursday that he plans to give Smith every opportunity to win a job this year, rather than spend a second season in the American Hockey League with Grand Rapids.
“I see it as a win-win,” Smith said. “But obviously I want to play with the big boys.”
Smith said he wasn’t discouraged to see the Wings sign veterans Mike Commodore and Ian White in free agency.
“It’s more of a challenge,” Smith said. “If things are given to you too easy, it’s not fun. I think it’s more of an excitement and challenge. Hopefully I can prove myself. I’ll know where I’m at with these guys added. I’ll see if I’m ready, too.”
• The Detroit News’s Kulfan offers two tidbits from the first day of camp…
This is a big upcoming season for Grand Rapids goalie Thomas McCollum (1st round 2008), who has yet to show consistency.
“It’s the last year of my contract, and since I’ve turned pro I haven’t really had a good season yet,” McCollum said. “Time is getting short. It’s time to get down to business.”
… Calle Jarnkrok , a promising Swedish forward, is not at the camp. He’s recovering from a shoulder injury.
• And both Kulfan and Sipple spoke to 2011 first-round draft pick Tomas Jurco, who admitted to Sipple that he’s not exactly a fan of his YouTube fame…
The Wings selected Jurco, a native of Kosice, Slovakia, with the 35th overall pick in the recent NHL Entry Draft, after he scored 31 goals and 25 assists for 56 points in 60 games for Saint John in the QMJHL this past season. Jurco was coached by former Wing Gerard Gallant.
Right now he’s probably better known for a few YouTube videos that show him goofing around with a puck and hockey stick. One clip pegs him as a magician.
“When I made that video I was 14,” Jurco said after completing his first day Thusrday at the Wings’ development camp in Traverse City. “I just put it on a Slovakian Web site and someone took it and put it on YouTube. I never thought that video is going to become so famous.
“On the one hand, I’m happy for it. But on the other hand, I don’t like to be called YouTube sensation. I’m trying to be good hockey player.”
And Kulfan spoke to Jurco about his near-shocked status about becoming a member of the Red Wings’ organization…
“Detroit’s hockey team has such great history,” Jurco said. “For me it was an unbelievable feeling (to be picked by the Wings). Ever since I was little, it was my dream to be drafted one day. To be picked by Detroit, it was a dream come true.”
Most scouts compare Jurco’s stickhandling skills to those of Pavel Datsyuk. That, too, awes Jurco.
“He’s unbelievable what he does on the ice,” Jurco said. “I just try to do the same stuff he does but there’s only one Pavel Datsyuk. I don’t really have a favorite player but he’s one player I’ve always watched because of his stickhandling.”
As well as the learning curve Jurco faces this summer and over the next year or two with Gerard Gallant’s Saint John Sea Dogs:
Some scouts felt Jurco disappeared at times, going long stretches without making an impact. He also needs to gain strength. Jurco admits he needs to learn to go to the net, something that’s so important in North American hockey, and not to play on the outside as much.
Holland sees no difference between Jurco and any other Wings prospect.
“He has to get stronger like all young kids,” Holland said. “He has to play with more consistency, he’s in and out. He has flashes. But that’s the maturity of learning to go to the gym and competing every day. We have to go about being patient and educating him.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: Take this with a 50-lb bag of rock salt, but the Sporting News and Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon noted that Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold mused about a potential divisional realignment that would place the Wings in an Eastern Conference spot;
• For the sake of “giggles,” the CBC’s Chris Iofrida offers a cursory glance at the free agent class of 2012;
• Cue the “no surprise” category, via new Dallas Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray and the Dallas Morning News:
I’m out in California training with Chris Chelios, who’s been an idol of mine since I was kid - the way he played and his commitment to the game and just the fierce competitor he’s always been. So I see him at 48-years-olds waking me up every morning at 7 o’clock to go on a two-hour bike ride and he’s still talking about playing. He has such a determination in getting out there and playing.
• In the plain old, “Interesting reading” category, the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran spoke to Maple Leafs nutritionist Ashley James about the team’s attempts to get their prospects on the right track when it comes to the copious amounts of calories they shove into their bodies on a daily basis. The Leafs happened to re-sign Brian Lashoff’s brother, Matt, to a new contract on Thursday evening.
• And as I’m headed out the door right now, take a gander at the Delaware County Times’ Jack McCaffery’s interviews with Mark and Gordie Howe regarding Mark’s induction into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
“Brendan Smith, he continues to get better and better,” ]Griffins coach Curt] Fraser said. “He’s stronger now. He’s more confident. Not that he wasn’t before, but you can tell that he’s itching to have a chance at that Detroit lineup this year. He had a great year last year, and hopefully he learned enough that he can go to Detroit and really stand out. With the lineup that Detroit has up there, they’re trying to win the Stanley Cup. It’s not like you’re trying to make one of the lowend teams; you’re trying to make the best team in hockey. That’s a big jump from the American Hockey League. But if anybody has the tools, the skill and desire to do that, it’s Smitty.”
That’s why Holland and the Red Wings promoted Smith to the big club for last year’s playoff run. Although he didn’t suit up for any games, Smith says the experience was invaluable.
“Being with the Red Wings for the playoffs, I saw how they hold themselves and how they’re professional,” Smith said. It’s so cool to see how (Nicklas) Lidstrom holds himself in the locker room and guy that’s I’ve looked up to my whole life like (Pavel) Datsyuk. I think he’s the best player in the world. Just what he does after practices and workouts and what he demands out of his body, you see it out on the ice. He’s unbelievable. He’s in the gym a half hour to an hour after practice. So I watch this, and that’s what I’ve got to do to become a pro.”
“That is a great learning experience,” Holland said. “Just seeing how the NHL players prepare, how strong they are, just to be around and be comfortable with them. He’s going to play for us; it’s a matter of when and how big of a role.”
Smith was charged with disorderly conduct after a fight outside his home in May 2010 while playing at Wisconsin. Prior to that, an off-ice incident led to a suspension by the Badgers, and on other occasions he was a healthy scratch for “undisclosed reasons.”
“There are no problems with this kid,” Fraser said. “None whatsoever. It was a bad situation he got into by mistake. And he took the blame for everything. He’s matured. He’s the kind of kid that when the game’s on the line, you’re going to notice him. He makes a difference.”
As well as Tomas Jurco...
“He’s obviously got good skills,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “Originally, we had the 24th pick. He was one of the guys we had (rated) in that range. As we got nearer to our pick, we traded back, hoping that someone would slide ... and fortunately for us, Jurco slid. He’s got highend skills.”
Holland sees the great hands and speed of Jurco, but also a 6-foot-2, 193-pound frame that needs to fill out.
“The process starts now with getting physically stronger and learning to be a pro — the consistency night after night after night,” Holland said. “Junior and college players, there’s some swings in their game and he’s the same. He’s got flashes, but he’s a kid. We like his potential.”
“I’ve got to work to get bigger, stronger,” Jurco said. “I want to play hockey at the highest level, so it’s the thing that young guys have to do. I’m trying not to be nervous and just have fun and get better,” Jurco said. “I think it’s going to work.”
He has two years of North American playing experience, as he also registered 51 points in 64 games for the Sea Dogs in 2009-10.
“I’m trying to get used to the American style,” Jurco said. “There is not that much stick handling. I’m trying to be more — how do I say? — go more to the net.”
“Jurco has obviously got great skills and is just flying out here,” Fraser said. “This was a great first day for our camp. (We) wanted to improve it, make it a little quicker and get more skill out here and Detroit has really done that.”
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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.