The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/11/11 at 07:33 AM ET
The first player to wear #18 for the Red Wings since Kirk Maltby hung up his skates is the sixth subject of the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ off-season spotlights (with Jiri Hudler, Niklas Kronwall, Danny Cleary, Jonathan Ericsson and Johan Franzen as players previously profiled), and as St. James notes, the well-traveled White settled for a slightly below-market value salary for the sake of planting some roots in Detroit, where the Wings hope that he can grow into a top-four role while at least partially offsetting Brian Rafalski’s loss in terms of point production:
White, who finished the season with the Sharks, signed for two years and $5.75 million. Those are good financial terms for the Wings, as it’ll allow them the flexibility to retain both Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart, who are both in the last years of their contracts. It’s a good deal for White, too, as he gets a chance to make a name for himself and aim for a bigger contract when he’d still only be 29.
White could be a nice fit among the top four, helping to offset some of the offense lost with the retirement of Brian Rafalski. Rafalski was in a class of his own when it came to making passes, but he was so hampered by injuries last season that he wasn’t very effective. White will add a fresh look to the back end. He’s a thicker, bigger and younger body than Rafalski.
White shoots right, a rarity on the team (Patrick Eaves, Jan Mursak and Mike Commodore are the only others), which will help especially on the power play. He has got a physical edge to him, along with a solid set of skills. Picture a top four that’s divided up into pairs of Lidstrom-White and Kronwall-Stuart, and the Wings would have offense and physicality on each set.
Jonathan Ericsson should challenge White to be in the top four, which can only help the Wings.
White is going to need some time to adjust, but ultimately, he has got the potential to give the defense the boost it needs—especially in light of the upgrade his last team, the Sharks, made at the trade deadline, when they acquired 6-foot-5 defenseman Brent Burns from Minnesota.
White’s really something of an “x-factor” given that the Wings are counting on Niklas Kronwall to step into the #2 defenseman’s role and expect more in terms of offensive production from both Ericsson and Brad Stuart.
If White can add some pop to a power play that never seemed to be able to score when it was required to serve as a detriment to physical liberties being taken with the Wings’ players (coach Mike Babcock’s often stated that the power play is the team’s real enforcer, but the power play didn’t connect on a regular enough basis when opponents roughed the Wings up), offer a little more grit than Rafalski and produce 35 points while finding his own niche and truly establishing himself as a puck-mover who can overcome the ever-present digs about his lack of size (the Sports Forecaster’s profile of White is preoccupied with his 5’10” status, but that’s an inch taller than Rafalski in real life) and prove to be just as much of a pain in opponents’ asses as he was in the Wings’ last spring…
Well, the Wings would be very, very happy with their signing. Ian White doesn’t have to be anybody other than himself to find a long-term home in Detroit, and as St. James suggests, his affordable contract helps the Wings in terms of ensuring that spots two to five on their defense will be filled by Kronwall, Stuart, Ericsson and White for the foreseeable future.
Shifting gears and lowering flaps and slats, if you missed it on Wednesday, Red Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime officially confirmed that the Red Wings have will fly out West in Red Bird III, an MD-81L under the registration code N812ME (and the Free Press did what it does in quoting Duhaime’s Tweets word for word).
According to Flightaware,com, the aircraft’s been sitting at Oakland County International Airport since April 28th, so I’d imagine that its interior and exterior are receiving the requisite renovations (see: paint job, and at this point, some sort of wireless connection as well as spiffying up the interior trim) as the Detroit Tigers continue to fly Red Bird II (a.k.a. N682RW, a DC-9-50).
The obvious comments hit the web on Wednesday, especially on Twitter—will this plane be able to silence the Mike Modano-style grumbles about the Wings having to refuel in Lincoln, NE? ...But as I’m no commercial aviation expert, all I can do is lean on Flightaware and tell you that Red Bird II was a 1977 DC-9-50 that could seat up to 139 passengers, while Red Bird III’s a 1981 MD-81L that’s listed as carrying up to 115 passengers, and that it’s got a pair of Pratt and Whitney JT8’s.
According to Airfleets.net, this aircraft was originally purchased by Swissair and then transferred to the
Scandinavian airline SAS before Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines bought it in 2000, and placed into storage in 2008 as Midwest Airlines began to fold, and this year, Olympia Aviation, Olympia Entertainment’s aviation company, just leased it. You can check out some photos of the aircraft on Airliners.net (ditto for Red Bird II).
In other words, there’s more than enough information available for those of you who are well-versed enough in the specs of an aircraft to tell us whether this aircraft shares Red Bird II’s “short legs,” and I’ve more than outed myself as an aviation nerd here.
Most of our other news comes from overseas, but if you happen to find yourself in Tonawanda, NY today, the Tonawanda News’s Brandon Koch reports that one Gordie Howe will be signing autographs at Dave and Adam’s Card World starting at 6 PM…
• Peter Forsberg’s Icebreakers charity team is in action with Niklas Kronwall (who’s holding a charity hockey game of his own in the Stockholm suburb of Jarfalla on Friday), Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson in tow. They’re going to play Ericsson’s old team, Vita Hasten, tonight in Norrkoping and Marie Hallman reported that Kronwall, Ericsson and his brother Jimmie will play for Vita Hasten tonight. Folkbladet reports that the Himmelstunden is sold out…
• If you’re in or around Pictou, Nova Scotia on Sautrday, the New Glasgow News’s Adam MacInnis reports that Joey MacDonald will take part in a charity game to benefit Pictou County, NS;
And I have no idea how to deal with this promotional news, so here’s the press release, per The Open Press‘s Tanner Friedman—let’s just assume that the Wings will be involved in an in-person basis, so I’d prefer to stray toward downright daffy for the sake of advanced notice:
Metro Detroiters to Make History August 20 with World Record-Breaking Dodgeball Game in Detroit
The sponsors and founders of “Dodgeball in the D” invite Metro Detroiters of all ages, ethnicities and zip codes to come together to positively showcase Detroit by participating in a world record-breaking dodgeball game. Presented by the Dodge brand, organizers expect “Dodgeball in the D” and surrounding family festival activities to draw more than 5,000 people to historic Belle Isle Park in Detroit on Saturday, August 20, 2011.
The dodgeball game begins at 1 p.m. on Belle Isle with other family-friendly activities running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission to all “Dodgeball in the D” events is free and includes giveaways and food samples from sponsors, while supplies last. Those wishing to participate in the world record-breaking game itself must register in advance at http://www.DodgeballintheD.com. Additional volunteers and sponsors are still needed. Information on these opportunities also is available at http://www.DodgeballintheD.com.
“‘Dodgeball in the D’ is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of history and do something great for Detroit,” said Justin Jacobs, 28, who created “Dodgeball in the D” with fellow Detroiter Marlowe Stoudamire, 34. “‘Locally, we know Detroit is a great place to live, work, and play, but across the country, not enough people are aware of the opportunities Detroit has to offer, socially and professionally.”
In addition to the game, “Dodgeball in the D” will feature free food, entertainment, information and more for Metro Detroiters of all ages. Activities are divided into five “Xperience” zones: After-School Programs, Non-Profit, Health & Wellness, Family Fun and Sports. Joining the Dodge brand in sponsoring the event are regional business anchors Henry Ford Health System, Crain’s Detroit Business, Health Alliance Plan (HAP) and the Detroit Red Wings.
“‘Dodgeball in the D’ will show the world the very best of Detroit, not just that we know how to have fun, but that we can work together to achieve great things, regardless of age, ethnicity or religion,” Stoudamire said. “We want to smash the current record and bring some positive attention to Detroit. To do it, we need more sponsors, more volunteers and more players. From local barbershops to executive boardrooms, we’re asking all Metro Detroiters to step up and help us make it happen.”
“Dodgeball in the D” is a collaborative effort of several Detroit nonprofit and community organizations led by Detroit Harmonie, ComePlayDetroit, The Youth Connection and Unlimited Xperiences Detroit. Stoudamire is founder of Unlimited Xperiences Detroit. Jacobs is founder of ComePlayDetroit. The event will be held in conjunction with the Youth Connection’s 10th Annual After-School Fair.
All activities are free and include: Detroit Red Wings interactive fan experience, Henry Ford Health System career experience, appearance by NHRA Funny Car Racer and Detroit native Brian Olatunji, inflatables, Detroit Fire Department fire truck, caricatures, video games, face painting, health screenings, live DJ, youth sports clinics and demonstrations, singing and dancing demonstrations and more.
The dodgeball game will feature two teams constructed of players of all ages, with younger children facing opponents of similar ages to avoid injuries. In case of an emergency, medical services will be available on site. Organizers will document the game according to the standards of Guinness World Records and submit the attempt to Guinness auditors for world-record consideration.
Follow “Dodgeball in the D” on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/DodgeballintheD.
Okay, let’s get down to foreign-language business. I hate trying to translate Czech and Slovak as they’re so damn nuanced that one is all but bound to lose something big in translation, but here’s a very rough take on Tomas Tatar’s interview with Hokej.sk’s Martin Galajda (and as I tend to take these rather seriously I did at least compare a pair of translations to improve context and minimize guessing):
Tatar wouldn’t trade being in Detroit for anything
Tomas Tatar made his NHL debut and scored a goal in his first game in the prestigious league. But his journey to the Detroit Red Wings team is still long and difficult. But the 20-year-old Slovak hockey player Tomas Tatar recognizes this. “I knew I could keep up, but Detroit is a specific team. They want to educate their young players and wait for them to mature. During an interview with coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland, we agreed that it’s best for me to wait until I’m ready,” said the Dubinc hockey alumnus prior to a summertime training session.
After his second season wearing the jersey of the farm team in Grand Rapids, Tatar received a specific job for the summer. “I need to gain muscle mass and strength so that I can battle players like Zdeno (Chara). I’ve still got to improve in this respect,” said the 20-year-old. A year ago it took longer than some expected for him to make the Red Wings after training camp. “I knew that I’d be going to the farm team. But the coach wanted to see how much I’d improve and whether I can keep up. I proved that I could keep up even in the AHL, and I was one of the best scorers on the team.”
Tatar doesn’t blink before discussing this year’s expectations. “I still have a two-way contract. Detroit can send me to the farm team at any time. There’s always an opportunity. It’s tough competition but I’m wiser going into camp this time and I can draw on the experiences I’ve had. I’ve had a taste of the NHL and I know how it works there.”
Attitude didn’t change about the World Championship
Things didn’t go well for the young offensive forward before this spring’s World Championship in Slovakia. Slovak team general manager Peter Bondra claimed that Tatar didn’t fit into the team’s system, which was reacted to negatively by both parties through the media. “There was a disagreement,” said Tatar. “After the end of the season in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings asked me to join them [as a Black Ace]. They knew that the World Championships were in Slovakia, and that I played in the World Championships during the previous year. They waited for my response and wanted to know what my situation was. So I contacted Peter Bondra. He said that I didn’t fit into their concept. After my discussions with him during the season I was surprised, but nothing happened. I knew [the Slovaks] had a strong team. The fact remains that I was very willing to play for them. But if you try to get onto the Red Wings, it’s not so easy. I don’t think they’ve missed the playoffs in 20 years.”
Today he’s happy that he’s in Detroit
Two years ago Tomas Tatar was picked by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the entry draft. For the talented forward’s chances of having a great career, it’s a great opportunity, but on the other hand, it might be his most difficult path possible to the NHL. “I wouldn’t change the situation I’m in today. Maybe before the draft I thought differently. But I got a chance and I believe I can take it. I don’t care if it will take me another year or three years. After the Worlds I spoke to the general manager, who calmed me down. He said that on any other team I would have played there. But if I can earn a spot on the Red Wings, it will break my career wide open. It’s hard to guess how much effort it will take to get there, but I believe that I’ll play there again.”
This year he would have awarded two Norris Trophies
This year’s Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman, went to Tatar’s teammate, Nicklas Lidstrom, for the seventh time in his career. One of the other finalists was Tatar’s friend, Zdeno Chara. How would have Tatar picked? “Both deserved it. I would’ve given a trophy to both of them. But the jury has to pick only one.”
Somewhat ironically, Tomas Holmstrom spoke to Pitea’s Tidningen’s Mikael Lindgren recently, and this article is much easier to translate than the Slovak one (but I don’t think that Homer’s all that difficult to understand once you get used to his “Swenglish,” and the fact that I grew up between people for whom English was a second and limited language might help in that regard, as did my freshman year roommate’s status as the same, and there’s no guessing in this one as I looked up the parts which required clarification both on a word-by-word basis and checked ‘em with the Lexin/former Swedish Institute of Language and Folklore’s dictionary). Here’s again, a rough translation of his interview with Lindgren:
Tomas will enjoy his last years in the NHL
Pitea. On Monday Tomas Holmstrom will return to the U.S. to start his 15th season in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings.
“My hockey career’s almost over, so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible before it runs out,” he says.
14 years and 1,127 games in Detroit’s jersey have left their marks on Tomas Holmstrom. His body’s worn, has been operated on several times and needs injections some days. He often feels pain in his back, hips and knees.
“I can count the days I feel completely healthy on one hand,” he says. “My knees will be replaced eventually. I know that already.”
But he still loves hockey.
“Sure, it’s really fun,” he says. “Otherwise I already would have stopped.”
He was close in 2008.
“When I was tremendously ill from hernias in my groin and had multiple surgeries because of it. But when I got healthy again my desire returned.”
Not back to the Eliteserien
Games are one thing, and training is another.
“It’s easy to get motivated before a game, you still want to win everything, every battle. But you don’t feel any emotions about training. But I try to fool myself…And then it’s pretty fun to show the young kids what I can do.”
When a cocky newcomer first shows up in a brand new sports car to a practice, it “grows horns” on the foreheads of Holmstrom and the older players.
“Isn’t it fun to put young people on their place on the ice?” he says with a smile.
He’s going over to play his final season in Detroit—or it might be one of his last ones.
“We’ll see how my body holds up. It’s not impossible that I could play for another year. But then that’ll be enough.”
Can you imagine playing your final season in the Eliteserien?
“No, not unless they make the rinks smaller in Sweden, my style of play doesn’t work on the big rink. It’s a cruel difference, when we practice on the large rinks and it feels like I’m on the ocean,” he says, laughing.
U.S. or Sweden?
Tomas sees the finish line coming for a very successful career which included a Swedish Eliteserien championship, Olympic gold and four Stanley Cups. And he’s starting to think about his life after hockey.
Although his body’s been beaten up by his devotion to his style of play, he’s not afraid of new injuries.
“No, no. But sometimes I wish I was 20 again, but with the brains of a 38-year-old,” he says, smiling.
What happens after hockey?
“We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet. Either we move home to Pitea for a year to decide and keep the house in Detroit. Or we stay where we are [in Detroit] for another year and decide then.”
It’s not a simple decision.
“We know more people in Detroit than in Pitea, and the kids have more friends there. But Pitea’s still home…We’ll see, there’s no rush.”
Hunting, fishing and snowmobiling
He doesn’t believe there will be a problem to find something to do after his career is over.
“I can imagine becoming a coach, but I think it’d want to take a break and distance myself from hockey for a year first.”
He owns apartments and properties in Hortlax [Sweden] and is the co-owner of Team Sportia.
“It could be that I do something in those parts.”
He has plenty of interests in terms of leisure.
“I’d really like to get a hunting license, for fishing and snowmobiling. I don’t have one.”
Sometimes he finds the time to go snowmobiling in the U.S.
“Yes, actually. We usually go to Northern Michigan and drive the snowmobile when we have short breaks in the hockey schedule.”
Only he and Lidas are left
Tomas Holmstrom’s career began in Pitea. Then he went to Boden and Lulea before he was drafted by Detroit, which he joined in 1996.
“It’s only me and Lidas (Nicklas Lidstrom) who are left from the team when I first got there. That’s pretty cool.”
Tomas Holmstrom’s hockey school is an annual event at the LF Arena. This year, Tomas will bring his sons, Max and Isaac.
“Of course it’s great that the guys like hockey, I can imagine coaching them when I stop playing.”
• 130 children born from 1996 to 2011 will take part in the ice hockey school which began on Monday and ends on Saturday. There are two on-ice sessions, a training session and other activities on the daily schedule.
Facts: Tomas Holmstrom
Born: January 23, 1973
Family: Wife Anneli, two sons and a daughter.
Statistics in the NHL: 1,127 games, 277 goals, 324 assists, 601 points.
Achievements: Swedish Eliteserien in 1996, Olympic gold in 2007, Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008.
• If you didn’t know so already, the Everett Herald’s Nick Patterson suggests that it’s highly likely that Landon Ferraro won’t return to the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, and will instead turn pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins this year;
• Sticking with developmental hockey but in a different vein, the Battle Creek Enquirer’s Will Kowalski says that the Junior-A Battle Creek Revolution’s coach, Richard Keyes, cites Mike Babcock as one of his biggest influences on an in-person basis…
“Two of the best coaches I’ve ever had have been Ron Mason at Michigan State and (current Detroit Red Wings head coach) Mike Babcock, who coached me in Cincinnati in the AHL. I’ve learned from the best, I’ve taken a lot of what I learned from them and others to develop my own overall coaching style,” said Keyes.
• And this doesn’t have a thing to do with the Red Wings, but I dug it, from the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin:
Great Gretz: And yes, the week marks the 23rd anniversary of the Gretzky to Los Angeles Kings trade. Perhaps as memorable as the trade itself was the effect on the Canadian hockey media, who lost their naiveté that day in 1988. Till then, the souls who suggested hockey was a business were regularly scoffed at by the old hands of the press box.
But Gretzky’s deal begat the salary spiral in the NHL, the expulsion by players of house-union boss Alan Eagleson at the NHLPA and the four work stoppages we’ve seen since 1991. Today, the lonely few who cling to the 1988 fiction of the NHL owners as gentlemen sportsmen are the outsiders, replaced by CapGeek.com, sports business columns like this one and a host of interesting bloggers. And for that we should be thankful.
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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.