The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/22/11 at 07:08 AM ET
While I’ve displayed my professional level of foot-in-mouth-planting abilities over the past few days, both Red Wings fans and NHL fans in general seem to be a little…jittery…as we wait for our teams to finally sign their unrestricted free agents-to-be, draft players this weekend in Minneapolis and get down to business on the unrestricted free agent market. The past three weeks, Stanley Cup Final aside, have involved all talk and bluster and no action, and it’s got us all a bit…itchy.
For Wings fans, while we’ve breathed huge sighs of relief when Nicklas Lidstrom revealed that he’d return, we’re more than a little bit peeved at the way Jaromir Jagr’s agent has started to wax poetic about Jagr reuniting with the Pittsburgh Penguins while claiming that “mystery teams” are also in the running for Jagr’s services, and between finding out that he had a bit of a gambling problem in the Burgh and wondering whether a 39-year-old who hasn’t played on a 200’x85’ rink or had to deal with the physical or mental demands of an 82-game NHL schedule, we’re almost viewing his potential acquisition as more Allen Iverson than Mike Modano, so Lyle “Spector” Richardson places the latest rumors about Jagr’s dalliances with the Penguins in letter-perfect perspective:
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hey, if they wanna bring him back, have his pro playing career come full circle, aren’t expecting much out of him (I find the notion of a 39-year-old Jagr playing an entire, grinding 82-game schedule on the Crosby line to be laughable) and won’t spend much to sign him, then why not give it a shot as long as expectations are realistic. The cynic in me still considers this dance to be a ploy by the Jagr camp to try to wrangle more money out of a KHL team. And spare me the bullshit about how he’d be a “force” playing for the Penguins or Red Wings. Yeah, he’ll have his moments, but folks who believe he’ll be a game-breaking star must wake up and smell the fresh ground aroma.
Yep, he said bull***, and he’s right. Jagr can make more money, almost tax-free, from Avangard Omsk (and, as Gazeta.ru notes, SKA St. Petersburg has a standing offer of $4.5 million on the table) than he could from Detroit or Pittsburgh, and he’d be closer to the team he’s now the de-facto general manager and majority owner of in HC Kladno of the Czech Extraliga. If the Red Wings do end up signing him, I’ll accept it, but it’s just not realistic to assume that he’s going to dominate, and he does still have a Sergei Fedorov-sized Rock Star Hockey Player mentality.
Thankfully, we’ve got something else to talk about and occupy us tonight in the NHL Awards, which will air at 7 PM EDT on Versus—the NHL Network will air pre-and-post-awards show coverage as well—and on tape delay, at 8 PM EDT, on the CBC (though the CBC’s sports website will stream it live).
Two Red Wings are up for individual awards in Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, with Lidstrom in the running for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman and the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player, and Datsyuk up for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.
Between his -2 plus-minus ranking and the fact that voters seem inclined to turn the page, it doesn’t look like Lidstrom will earn his seventh Norris Trophy, nor will Datsyuk win the Selke, as suggested by Sports Illustrated’s Stu Hackel...
Frank J. Selke Trophy (outstanding defensive forward): Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Ryan Kesler (Canucks), and Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks). This is one of those awards where many people suspect the voters just look at the stats (in this case, plus-minus combined with offensive production) and go from there. Again, each of the three nominees are very deserving. As we stated during the season, Datsyuk really has no peer in this game for his all-around play, but the main reason we’d take Kesler, who had a breakout campaign, is that he did it for a full 82-game season while Pav missed substantial time with an injury.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (outstanding all-around defenseman): Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings), and Shea Weber (Predators). If this included the playoffs, Chara might be our choice, but Lidstrom and Weber were even better during the regular season. Lidstrom had a truly remarkable campaign, forgetting the fact that he was 40-years-old, but he didn’t finish strongly. Weber, on the other hand, is the cornerstone of one of the NHL’s best (and most unheralded) defense corps and he played a truly impressive all-around game on the blueline. He’s our winner.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct: Loui Eriksson (Stars), Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings), and Martin St. Louis (Lightning). Defensemen are almost never among the vote-getters for this award. In fact, no d-man has won it since 1954 (Red Kelly, Red Wings) and it’s only been captured by blueliners four times since 1925 (Kelly three times and Red Wing Bill Quackenbush once) because it’s nearly impossible to play defense in a gentlemanly manner. You’re going to plow into guys, they’re going to plow into you, and unsportsmanlike conduct is almost a necessary result. So the fact that Lidstrom just gets consideration is itself amazing. And that’s why, as clean a game as both St. Louis and Eriksson play (and St. Louis’s clean game is especially remarkable for such a small guy), we’d pick Lidstrom for this one. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a true gentleman off the ice, but it’s impossible to imagine this difficult position being played with a better combination of dignity and excellence.
USA Today’s Mike Brehm...
Norris Trophy (defenseman): Chara, Boston; Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit; Shea Weber, Nashville. Probable winner: Chara. Lidstrom seemed to be a sentimental favorite for much of the season because he was putting up stellar numbers at age 40. But he finished with a minus 2 rating, hurt by his team’s injuries and inconsistent goaltending. Chara finished at plus 33.
Selke Trophy (defensive forward):Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit; Ryan Kesler, Vancouver; Jonathan Toews, Chicago. Probable winner: Kesler. He was runner-up to Datsyuk the past two seasons and Datsyuk’s injuries likely cost him this year. Kesler’s numbers were impressive: He ranked fourth among forwards in blocked shots (80), won 57.4% of his faceoffs and recorded 124 hits, 65 takeaways, three short-handed goals and a plus-24 rating. He also scored 41 goals.
Lady Byng Trophy (gentlemanly play):Loui Eriksson, Dallas; Lidstrom; St. Louis: Probable winner: St. Louis. He finished second in the league with 99 points and had only 12 penalty minutes.
The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran...
Top defenceman, chosen by hockey writers
ZDENO CHARA Bruins
NICKLAS LIDSTROM Wings
SHEA WEBER Predators
Some serious candidates didn’t even make the final three — Lubomir Visnovsky and last year’s winner Duncan Keith. Hard to argue with these three, though. Six-time winner Lidstrom is the sentimental favourite after 62 points at age 40. His plus-minus took a beating, though. Chara, who won in 2009, was a horse ranking sixth in ice time (26:26) and was +33 with 44 points. Weber’s the up-and-comer here, a shutdown defenceman who scores.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Chara
WHO WILL WIN: Lidstrom
LADY BYNG TROPHY
Most gentlemanly player, chosen by hockey writers
LOUI ERIKSSON Stars
NICKLAS LIDSTROM Wings
MARTIN ST. LOUIS Lightning
Often this comes down to fewest penalty minutes by a big-minute player. Ericksson had eight, fewest amog the league’s top 50 scorers. St. Louis had 12 and Lidstrom 20. In the playoffs, St. Louis (last year’s winner) went out of his way to apologize to a reporter after a gruff answer.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Lidstrom
WHO WILL WIN: Eriksson
Top defensive forward, chosen by hockey writers
PAVEL DATSYUK Wings
RYAN KESLER Canucks
JONATHAN TOEWS Blackhawks
They might want to rename this the Datsyuk award if the Wings centre wins it again. That would be four in a row, tying Montreal legend Bob Gainey. Datsyuk hasn’t been winning it by a very wide margin lately, though, edging Kesler last year after Mike Richards before that. Great at faceoffs and takeaways, Datsyuk is an easy choice. But Kesler’s team, remember, had the lowest goals-against average in the regular season (2.20) and he was a big part of it. He led all forwards in blocked shots (80), dished out hits (124) and won a career-high 57.4 per cent of faceoffs. Toews’ body of work in his own end — 28 blocked shots — is weak by comparison.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Kesler
WHO WILL WIN: Kesler
And the Sporting News’s Craig Custance, who only handicaps the Norris…
Norris Trophy (top defenseman)
The nominees: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins; Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings; Shea Weber, Nashville Predators.
The favorite: Weber. He was a force, scoring 16 goals while averaging 25:10 per game in ice time. His huge shot along with a physical edge made him a popular pick among voters.
Our vote went to: Lidstrom. This wasn’t a sentimental pick for a great career. Lidstrom effectively played against the toughest competition in the league and still flourished offensively. His 62 points trailed only Lubomir Visnovsky among defensemen.
If the playoffs were considered: Chara. He led the playoffs with a plus-16 and logged 27:39 per game over the course of 24 grueling postseason games. Credit Chara and Dennis Seidenberg for the Sedin twins’ disappearing act in the finals.
Lidstrom’s plain old having fun at the NHL Awards. He took a family vacation in California to decide his future, met with Ken Holland in Las Vegas on Monday to announce that he’s returning for at least one more season with Detroit, and according to the Canadian Press’s Andy Samuelson reports that Lidstrom continued to enjoy his time with Annika, Samuel, Kevin, Adam and Lucas:
On the opposite side of the spectum from [Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff] Skinner is the 41-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom, who is nominated for both the Norris Trophy, for the league’s best defenceman, and the Lady Byng, for outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.
“Being nominated is always such an honour, but this summer this kind of gives me a motivational and confidence boost,” said Lidstrom, who on Monday announced he would return for his 20th season with the Red Wings when he signed a one-year deal worth US$6.2 million.
The Swedish standout — who scored 62 points last year to become the first 40-year-old defenceman in the NHL to get 60 points in a season — said the decision to return to the Red Wings was a difficult one.
“It wasn’t easy I wanted to make sure for myself that I was still motivated to play and had the drive in me need to play at such a high level,” Lidstrom said. “Recently I reached that conclusion and am happy to be coming back for one more.”
If Lidstrom — who has been nominated for six Lady Byng awards, but never won — captures the Norris award, it would be his seventh trophy in 11 nominations. He would tie Doug Harvey’s total and trail Orr’s record by only one. But the biggest highlight of his current Las Vegas vacation was when he toured the Grand Canyon by helicopter with his wife, Annika, and four children.
“We took a ride over the Grand Canyon, stopped and had a picnic, then toured the Vegas skyline. It was amazing,” he said.
Via RedWingsFeed, here’s Lidstrom speaking at his media availability session, via the NHL Network:
And he addressed his return, obviously, as noted by ESPNs Scott Burnside:
There are three new finalists for the Norris Trophy this season. Well, sort of.
Last year, Chicago’s Duncan Keith was the runaway winner, capturing his first Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman over Washington’s Mike Green and Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty. This season, there are some familiar faces as former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara (2009) returns to the final ballot along with Nashville’s Weber, who is nominated for the first time, and, oh yeah, a guy named Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Swedish defenseman is a Norris finalist for the 11th time in the past 13 years. Mind-boggling, really, given that only Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr have won more Norris Trophies than Lidstrom’s six. What makes this awards event even more compelling is the news that Lidstrom will return for a 20th NHL season in 2011-12. Good news for the Detroit Red Wings, bad news for NHL defensemen hoping to get in on the Norris racket.
“Once I started talking with Kenny [GM Ken Holland] everything went pretty quick and pretty smooth. I wanted to get over the loss in the playoffs and start working out and making sure I had the drive within me to go through the taxing offseason, and go through all the hard work you have to go through to be ready for a long season. That’s when I had the feeling I wanted to play again,” Lidstrom said Tuesday.
On a related note, Lidstrom is also nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. It is Lidstrom’s sixth nomination for the award and his first in eight years. He has never won.
According to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, Pavel Datsyuk is attending the awards show after all, as is Ken Holland, and Holland engaged in a little “tire-pumping” regarding his players’ award candidacies…
“One of the elite defensemen in the game,” said general manager Ken Holland of Lidstrom, both of whom will attend tonight’s show, along with Pavel Datsyuk.
A finalist for the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward), Datsyuk has won the award the last three seasons.
Lidstrom, though, will attract much of the attention because of the opportunity to get that much closer to Orr. Another Norris Trophy would further cement Lidstrom’s position among the game’s all-time greats. “He just does it right,” coach Mike Babcock said, on and off the ice. “He does it the right way, the way he carries himself.”
At age 41, Lidstrom had one of his best seasons. He had 62 points (16 goals, 46 assists) while playing in all 82 games and proved to himself he was capable of yet another Norris-caliber season.
“Coming off last season I thought I could have played better,” he said. “Going into the season we just finished, I wanted to prove to myself I could still play at a high level, still be an impact player on this team. Proving to myself I can still be that top player was important.”
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to Lidstrom about his vacation and Norris/Lady Byng candidacies...
“The helicopter tour was great,” Lidstrom said Tuesday. “The pilot was pointing out wild mustangs to us. We had a nice picnic, and then flew in over Las Vegas in the afternoon. It was really special.”
Lidstrom could have a grand night tonight, too, if he wins what would be his seventh Norris, one shy of Bobby Orr’s record. He’s up against Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Nashville’s Shea Weber. Lidstrom, with 62 points, leads the pack. But his minus-two rating might have turned voters in favor of Chara, who led the NHL at plus-33. Win or lose, his legacy as one of hockey’s greats is secured.
“I’ve been around the league 44 years,” senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said, “and the two best defensemen I ever saw were Bobby Orr and Nicklas Lidstrom. I can’t pay much bigger tribute than that.”
Lidstrom will wrap up the week Friday by flying home to his native Sweden, where he’ll prepare for a 20th NHL season. Fellow players see no reason why he might not come back with another Norris-worthy performance.
“He doesn’t seem to ever slow down,” Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis said. “His knowledge of the game allows him to do things not many players can do.”
And Lidstrom talked up Datsyuk while speaking to St. James as well:
“It’s amazing that he can still be a Selke nominee,” Nicklas Lidstrom said Tuesday. “But I see him every day in practice and know how good he is, and it’s great to see him get the recognition.”
Datsyuk had 59 points and was plus-11 in 56 games. Kesler, of Livonia, had 73 points and was plus-24 in 82 games, while Jonathan Toews had 76 points and was plus-25 in 80 games for the Blackhawks. Toews led the group with 93 takeaways, but Datsyuk is second with 71. Kesler has 65.
Datsyuk, 32, has taken home the Selke three years running. As much as he dazzles once he has the puck, he’s equally deft when robbing it from opposing forwards.
“He’s nominated again this year, and he missed a chunk of the season,” general manager Ken Holland said. “That tells you what his stock is around the league. For Pav, he played 25 games less than everybody else, but he’s recognized around the league that he is one of the best in the world. And he is so good that he missed some games but he continues to get the respect of the voters for the award.”
St. James also posted a really cool retrospective chronicling five key moments of the “Lidstrom Era.” Ken Holland offers an obvious preface…
“You just look at his longevity,” general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s a finalist for the Norris at 41. He does things nobody else does. He’s won six Norris trophies. That’s his legacy. Nick’s done it day after day, game after game, year after year. He plays at a level as high or higher than anybody in the league.”
And we’ll go with a moment that stands out to me, because I finally gave into my hockey genes and started following the Wings back in the 1991-92 season, so Nick and I were “rookies” at the same time:
1992: Lidstrom finished as runner-up for the Calder Trophy, losing out on the top rookie award to Pavel Bure. “Nick was 21 years of age when he came over,” Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said. “We’d heard some real good things about him. We’d drafted him in ‘89, in the third round. I knew at that time that he needed to stay in Sweden get a little bit stronger, develop his game more. When he arrived, he was a pretty good player almost right off the bat. He really made our team better, real quickly.”
Otherwise, the Wings did make a decision regarding their roster on Tuesday, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan...
Holland said he has informed the agent for Ruslan Salei that the veteran defenseman won’t be offered a contract prior to July 1. Holland didn’t rule out the possibility of signing Salei later in the summer if the club hasn’t filled his spot and he’s still available.
“We want to be positioned so we can be involved in the marketplace, we don’t want to tie up a roster spot,’’ Holland said. “Salei did a good job, did very well in the playoffs.’‘
Holland also told the agent for goaltender Joey MacDonald that he won’t be offered a contract. The Red Wings would have signed MacDonald to a two-way deal, with the purpose of sending him to the Grand Rapids Griffins as the organization’s No. 3 goalie. But MacDonald will seek a one-way deal from an NHL club on July 1 and has no interest in returning to the AHL, where he would make only $105,000.
He has an offer to play in Russia for $1 million.
MacDonald’s the one who initiated the break there. As you probably know by now, the Wings won’t offer Chris Osgood or Kris Draper contracts until after they’ve explored the free agent marketplace, either.
And after the NHL Awards, the Red Wings’ brass will head to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the NHL Entry Draft. The first round takes place on Friday night and will air on Versus and TSN starting at 7 PM EDT, and the second through seventh rounds begin at 11 AM EDT and will air on the NHL Network in the U.S. and Canada (usually simulcast on NHL.com).
The Red Wings have eight picks as they have a fifth-rounder which they received from the Flyers in the Ville Leino trade, and Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill, who has the final say during the draft, told the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell that the Wings have a pretty good feeling about being able to find a solid player with both the 24th overall pick and their subsequent picks...
“There’s real good depth to this one,” Nill said. “After the top 12 to 15 players, there’s another group of 30 players that all teams will like. They all have some weaknesses, but they also have a high upside. Last year’s draft wasn’t as deep, but this year there aren’t the Taylor Halls and Tyler Seguins. There are still a lot of good players though.”
“There’s a number of good defenceman, but there’s more forwards,” Nill said. “It’s not a good year for goalies. They (forwards) cover the whole cross-section. There are potential power forwards, some small, high-skill guys and guys that can score but don’t necessarily skate great.”
As for the Wings drafting needs, Nill said they won’t be looking at any particular position. It may sound like a boring cliche to claim you’ll take the best player available, but he said there’s a reason for that in the salary-cap era.
“The NHL has almost become like junior,” Nill said. “Because free agency comes sooner for players, you have about a four-year window and then you have to start to rebuild again. You don’t focus really on one position when you’re drafting where we are because you’re constantly replenishing. You can’t stockpile talent like you used to. “Given that, you can never have enough defencemen. Unless we move up, we’ll take the best player available. We have a list of about 30 guys we like that we’ll work off.”
But the Red Wings also remain committed to replacing Brian Rafalski, first and foremost, and Nill, like Ken Holland, suggests that the Wings will consider making a draft-day trade if they can find someone who’ll help address Rafalski’s departure:
“We’ll probably focus on that (defence),” Nill said of the trade possibilities for the Wings. “You just don’t replace Brian that easily. He was good for 50 points, was an all-star defenceman. We like our top six to nine forwards. We feel we’re as good as anyone there.”
The Sporting News’s Craig Custance captured a fantastic quip from Holland regarding said trade possibilities...
The Detroit Red Wings have money to spend and a hole to fill on defense because of Brian Rafalski’s retirement. It’s not a great free-agent market for defensemen, so Red Wings GM Ken Holland is entertaining the idea of making a trade at the draft.
“There’s a lot of rumors—we’re going to explore ways (to improve) on the trade front,” Holland said. “We want to be active, we do want to make moves to our team, some additions to our team. We’re open-minded going in.” The challenge is finding a seller looking to shed salary on defense during a time in which most teams are looking to bolster their defense.
Also of very significant note: the Red Wings don’t usually advertise positions, but if you’ve ever wanted to apply to be the team’s website manager or apply for other jobs at Olympia Entertainment and the Joe, their Facebook page posted the link to their JLA jobs page;
And the Fake Zetterberg guys are back: If you recall the gents at Munrovia Pictures, who posted a set of hilarious videos about a fake Henrik Zetterberg who has a real-world job, they now have an Official Website and Facebook Page, and they are asking for donations as they want to make 10 more episodes at a cost of $500 per episode, but are, um…Broke.
As you know I can relate regarding the budgetary videos, all the links are above, and here’s their video requesting donations and, moreover, explaining the background regarding their Fake Henrik Zetterberg series:
Okay, also of Red Wings-related note: Speaking of multimedia, the NHLPA’s website (the PA also happened to raise $200,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation via their Beardathon) posted a video explaining the history of the Ted Lindsay Award…
And some guy named Nicklas Lidstrom talked about the player-voted MVP award:
• Also in the multimedia vein, but in a very different variety thereof, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose and Red Wings TV explain that the Wings and the Detroit Sports Broadcasters are sponsoring the Sorcery yacht during the Detroit-to-Mackinac yacht race:
• One more multimedia tidbit before we move on: the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa’s in the anti-Jagr camp, and while his comments are a little hit-or-miss (he thinks the Wings will sign Ken Hitchcock on as an assistant coach, and Hitchcock’s turned the Wings down), he spoke to WBBL’s Bakita and Bentley on Tuesday, and here’s his interview:
• If you missed it, part 1: The Detroit Free Press notes that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are the only Wings in the Top 20 in terms of personalized NHL jerseys sold;
• If you missed it, part 2: As noted by the Bangor Daily News, Jimmy Howard will join the University of Maine’s Sports Hall of Fame on September 30;
• In the alumni department: the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap reports that former Wings goalie Glen Hanlon will join the WHL’s Vancouver Giants as an assistant coach;
• In the, “Why he won’t become an assistant coach” department, the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman summarizes why Gerard Gallant has no need to leave the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs to win and win big:
Gerard Gallant will have some options for an NHL assistant’s job, but he’ll also have a great shot at repeating as Memorial Cup champion with the Saint John Sea Dogs, even if Jonathan Huberdeau is in the NHL. A third straight .700 season and a second Cup makes for an unbelievable resume.
• It’s nearly impossible to guess who the Wings will draft with their 24th overall pick—in fact, I get the feeling that the Wings will trade down for two high second-round picks as this is indeed a deep draft—but both the Hockey News and TSN offer Mock Drafts;
• Don’t forget that the Wings are giving away signed Lidstrom and Datsyuk pictures to two participants in their, “Who will win the NHL Awards?” survey;
• And while I’m not going to translate everything from the Swedish media members attending the NHL Awards, Lidstrom told Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that he does not gamble in Las Vegas, and Lidstrom spoke about both his motivation and his main concern regarding the Wings’ summer to-do list while speaking to Hockeysverige.se’s Uffe Bodin:
“[Our team] looks great, that’s definitely clear. On the back end, they’re surely going to do something to replace Rafalski. It’s not easy to replace a player who was so important to our team, but I know that Kenny (Holland) will do his job and try to find a defenseman to help our team.”
Update: The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness is reporting the same old same old about Jagr.
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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.