The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/18/11 at 07:51 AM ET
Updated at 10:47 AM: So as we received confirmination from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, in English, that Jaromir Jagr is indeed interested in joining the Red Wings, Canadiens or Capitals (and, like Mike Modano last summer, possibly a “mystery team”), I wondered why the timing was so forced aside from the obvious—as Jagr told LeBrun, KHL teams’ training camps essentially start in July.
Well as it turns out, in addition to the fact that the Czech news agency CTK reports that Jagr closed the deal on purchasing a 70% stake in his childhood team (and object of his attention as well as affection) in HC Kladno on Thursday, and CTK also reports that today’s when the “Golden Stick Award” winner is revealed at the Czechs’ annual end-of-the-season hockey awards banquet in Karlovy Vary…
So determining his place of employment, whether that’s in the KHL (Avangard Omsk is bidding for his services, and Atlant Mytischi is still interested, but not until July 1st and thereafter) or the NHL (again, Jagr’s most “romantically-inclined” conversations with the media have involved playing for the Canadiens), would be both expedient and well-timed from a media standpoint.
ESPN posted a set of poll questions regarding whether Jagr could make an impact at 39 years of age and as someone who hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2007-2008 season, and while we all know that if Jagr comes here, he’ll have to take less than he can earn in the KHL, but my sense from the past few days’ worth of comments is that Wings fans are still smarting from the failed Modano experiment (it’s not that Modano wasn’t a good teammate or professional or Red Wing in the end—it’s that his injury basically eliminated his ability to find his spot on the team), and that all of you seem as worried about Jagr’s mercurial, artistically-inclined personality and Sergei Fedorov-sized ego as I am.
Add in the fact that Jiri Hudler’s post-KHL season was a spectacular failure, or nearly so, and we all feel like this could be a very, very, very bad idea if Jagr’s not 100% committed to being a good worker bee in Mike Babcock’s system by checking his ego at the locker room door.
We’re mostly worried about Nicklas Lidstrom’s decision, which will apparently come on Monday or Tuesday, and from what I can tell, we’re more concerned about whether the Wings will bring back Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller, whether the team really will cut ties with Chris Osgood and Kris Draper and who exactly the Wings will bring in to replace Brian Rafalski.
If you didn’t already catch it, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the Predators filed for arbitration with Shea Weber, so even if Ken Holland felt like spending all his money and resources on a restricted free agent offer sheet, that can’t happen, and given that Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff seem inclined to return to Vancouver if at all possible, there are two certainties in terms of players who will come to the marketplace in James Wisniewski and Joni Pitkanen (between the red flags that are consecutive ACL reconstructions that “didn’t take” and the fact that the Habs plan on bringing Andrei Markov back, I don’t think he’s an option), so I would imagine that the Wings are targeting those two at present, though quite a bit can change in twelve days.
The concept of the Wings bidding on a top-six forward before mid-July and/or possibly move salary in order to accommodate one (Jiri Hudler?) isn’t first in our minds right now, so all this Jagr talk seems…
Kind of bass ackwards, if not a bit forced. Certainly, the Wings aren’t going to say “no” if someone with Jagr’s resume is interested, but it’s not like he’s just a year removed from a 100-point NHL performance or something, and it’s not as if the Wings are his only suitor, so I get the feeling that more than a few of you wouldn’t give a rat’s butt if he went somewhere else.
For the record, two former teammates of Jagr’s in Doug Brown and Larry Murphy told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that Jagr would be a “good fit”:
“There are few players who are just absolute forces at the NHL level,” said Brown, the former Red Wings forward who played with Jagr with the Penguins in 1993. “There are a few players who would have the puck like (Steve) Yzerman, (Peter) Forsberg, (Mario) Lemieux, (Paul) Kariya, and you couldn’t take it away from them, and you knew they would do something unbelievable with it. Jagr’s in the same class.”
At 39, Jagr isn’t the player Brown and Murphy played with. Plus, he hasn’t played in the NHL for three seasons — he’s been playing in Russia’s Kontinental League. For that reason, and Jagr’s age, some of the enthusiasm has to be tempered.
“He’d have to reacclimate himself to the NHL,” said Murphy, an analyst for FSD and the NHL Network. “There would be a period of adjustment. The pace and speed of the game here is much different. And he’s an older player. There obviously would be some risk. But as long as it’s not an issue (in terms of the salary cap), I don’t think it’s a major risk. He seems hungry.”
“He always had those big, strong, powerful legs,” said Brown, co-owner with former Red Wings teammate Igor Larionov of Torspo and Christian Brothers, a hockey equipment company. “You just couldn’t take the puck away from him. Plus, that skill. There aren’t many guys who had the skill this guy has.”
Friday, Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, said Jagr is familiar with the chemistry of the Red Wings and the fact older players have had success in the organization.
“(Jagr) knows the Red Wings are playing for the championship every year and with the players like (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg, and (Nicklas) Lidstrom,” Svoboda said.
I feel absolutely dreadful this morning, and it takes a good hour to hour and a half to grind a transcription out, so I’ll suggest that you re-listen to Ken Holland’s interview, via MsRedWinger, with Gord Stellick and the NHL on XM Radio’s “Breakaway” show. Holland suggests that the Wings have “some interest” in Jagr, he admits to being a little nervous about Nicklas Lidstrom taking such a long time to make up his mind, and he seems to be genuinely torn about cutting ties with Kris Draper and Chris Osgood:
I’ll try to cobble a transcript together later today or this evening, hockey weather permitting (i.e. if nothing huge breaks), and I don’t want to poke the fire-breathing bear that I did the first time around, but it’s interesting to hear Holland say that Rafalski, “He’s become very religious.”
No foolin’ (sorry, I went to Catholic school for seven years and nearly married a de-facto Church lady, so I don’t know how to talk about religion or politics without dark humor and a nice side of guilt).
The other big news on Friday came from something that I’ll repeat for emphasis’s sake—DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose actually posted a report peeling back the curtain, if only ever-so-slightly, on the Red Wings’ organizational meetings this past Tuesday and Wednesday, including an 11-image photo gallery of the Wings’ amateur and pro scouts, Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Mike Babcock and the rest discussing names that are too hard to read on lists and looking at conveniently obscured laptop screens (probably to hide the LOLcats) to pore over their draft and free agency rankings. somehow, I feel a little cheated, but I think that’s the point here:
there was plenty of philosophical discussion about right-handed shooting defensemen likely to be available in free agency, and whether the Wings need to target any of them. With Rafalski’s retirement, the Wings no longer have a right-hander to compliment Lidstrom’s left-handed shot. When conversation in the suite shifted from philosophical directions to actually ranking players that might look good in a Wings’ uniform, there were a few tense moments as guys spoke persuasively.But in typical Ken Holland fashion, the Wings’ general manager was able to lighten the mood with his own brand of levity.
“My mom knows superstars,” he said. “I don’t need you guys to find us superstars. I’ll hire my mom who can do that at half of your guys’ cost.”
Quickly, the room erupted in laughter when Glenn Merkosky retorted, “She’s not doing it for half of my salary.”
As the laughter settled, Holland continued, “The bottom line is we need to find and develop players.”
Reading from a list, Holland rattled off the name of nearly every free agent defensemen – only stopping to add names to the large yellow board propped on an easel in front of the room when someone voiced their support. When that process ended and Holland had the names of several defensemen on the board, team officials debated the perceived worth and fit of each guy.
Later in the afternoon, as Day 1 of the scouting meetings wound down, Holland told staffers that he has fielded calls already from other GMs. Before adjourning, the 12 men discussed whether or not the Wings should pursue trade options.
Wednesday’s Day 2 was spent similarly as Day 1 as staffers discussed free agent forwards. Whatever personnel decisions come out of Room 1511, the Wings’ plans will be chiseled from a comprehensive philosophy built on 154 years of accumulative front office experience.
This article was published on June 12th, so I’m not sure how my search engine monkeys missed it, but in any case, Shea states that neither the Ilitches nor the City of Detroit seem too inclined to get down to the legal business of hammering out an agreement when ambiguity might better serve both parties:
Olympia [Entertainment] announced the non-renewal of the Joe Louis lease on June 26, 2009, and it expired June 30, 2010. Otherwise, the lease would have automatically renewed for 20 years. By not renewing the master lease, the Ilitches gave up a cap on property taxes at Joe Louis, which were limited to $252,000 annually. Without the cap, the taxes could be about $1 million.
While the city owns Joe Louis, the lease called for the Ilitches to pay the property taxes—something that could continue under a new lease, or be changed. Detroit got a cut of tickets, concessions, corporate and suite sales at Joe Louis. New surcharges could be negotiated under a new lease, and at a new arena.
The original lease also covered Olympia’s management of nearby Cobo Arena. The city needed Olympia to renegotiate the master lease because it included language that gave Olympia say over any project that would significantly impact Cobo Arena, which the city wants to turn into exhibition space. Not renewing basically turned Cobo Arena back over to the city, paving the way for the long-debated control and expansion of Cobo Center—something needed to prevent the loss of the annual North American International Auto Show.
It’s believed the Ilitches want a shorter deal at Joe Louis that would allow the team an easy exit so it can move to a new, modern arena that could be built on Ilitch-owned land in one of three speculated locations: the Foxtown area, between Grand River and Cass avenues south of I-75, or west of Woodward Avenue north of I-75.
A new hockey venue is estimated to cost $300 million to $400 million. The family has discussed potential public financing with the city and with Wayne County. The Ilitches are expected to seek public and private financing for a new arena, much as they did for Comerica Park. The venue, along with Ford Field, are owned by the Detroit-Wayne County Stadium Authority and subleased to the teams.
According to Shea and University of Michigan sports business professor Rodney Fort, the Wings could earn a good $5 million more in hockey revenues in a newer barn (via tickets, concessions and especially suite revenues), and that doesn’t begin to account for the up-tick in concert and entertainment business that a more viable competitor to the Palace could generate for Olympia Entertainment.
Oh dear Gord, I’m about to praise Evil Drew Sharp: Evil Drew penned a column in the Detroit Free Press that puts Rainn Wilson and those who have associated Detroit with sports rioting since 1984 in, um…actually really good perspective? This is kinda scarily rooted in reality land, a place which Sharp tends to fear to tread:
Rainn Wilson, star of television’s “The Office,” tweeted following Vancouver’s rioting after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals that “Vancouver became the Detroit of Canada”—a reference to that embarrassing national spectacle 27 years ago when the idiotic toasted the Tigers’ 1984 World Series championship by toasting a taxi cab before television cameras.
He could have said Vancouver became the Los Angeles of Canada and it would have been more accurate, but instead Wilson went for the easy hit because easy sells. Don’t make people think. Just have them react.
I was in Los Angeles covering the 2000 NBA Finals when the Lakers closed out Indiana in Game 6 and all hell broke loose outside Staples Center. The media was barred from leaving the arena for nearly 3 hours after the final buzzer because the police deemed it unsafe. When we finally could leave, the lingering waft of tear gas stung my eyes. A charred police car still smoldered. Broken glass was strewn through the streets.
That evening was far more harrowing than anything that happened outside Tiger Stadium. But because it was L.A., it was quickly forgotten.
Jerks everywhere have used championship victory or dismay as an excuse for destruction. But bashing Detroit doesn’t do anything but make light of what these hooligans do. Instead of making insults about what happened here almost 30 years ago, perhaps it’s time to start demanding harsher legal consequences for morons who destroy property and put others in danger. Maybe it’s time to look at why this violence happens in the aftermath of sporting events.
But that requires perspective. And why waste people’s time with that?
All I will say is this: when people ask me why hockey fans from Detroit are so touchy, I’ll say, “We’re from Detroit!”
Most of Southeastern Michigan lives outside of the city limits, but we almost all tend to agree that the city of Detroit itself is the heart of our community, and it still represents (justifiably so) economic blight and crime, and in some cases, inferior products (not so justifiably so these days) from an industry that put bread on the table of the vast majority of our ancestors and many of our family members and friends today, and on top of it all, the Lions have been awful forever and the Tigers and Pistons have had their ups and downs, so when slings and arrows are tossed at our one sports citadel, the Red Wings, because we’re from Detroit, too…
That tends to piss us off and make us seem thinner-skinned than most because we get pissed off when slings and arrows are fired upon the one bigger-than-us entity that tends to deflect the, “They’ve grown too old, too slow, are too small and are clearly on the precipice of a steep decline” cannonball like it’s made out of rubber, and we’d like to believe that the Wings will continue to remain a dominant team indefinitely.
Anyway, aside from noting that the Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen tossed off the inevitable Detroit versus Boston sports town comparison, the Wings’ future will be determined in short order, and next weekend, the Wings’ amateur scouts will defer to Jim Nill as the team hopes to draft one or two NHL players out of its seven picks at the Entry Draft in Minneapolis.
In that vein, the Free Press’s George Sipple noted that seven of the past ten 24th overall picks have made a dent at the NHL level, and NHL.com’s John Kreiser tossed off some “best evers” at every first-round position. This pick will be making decisions for another team next Friday and Saturday…
No. 4: Steve Yzerman (Detroit, 1983)—Had Detroit GM Jim Devellano had his way, Yzerman never would have been a Red Wing. Not that Devellano wasn’t impressed with Yzerman; he hoped to get Pat LaFontaine with the fourth pick in 1983 because LaFontaine had played locally and might help the struggling franchise sell tickets. Instead, the New York Islanders took LaFontaine at No. 3 and the Wings had to “settle” for Yzerman, who came into the NHL as a high scorer but later showed he was willing to trade individual points for team success. The result was a run of three Stanley Cups in six seasons, all of them with Yzerman as captain.
And finally, it’s somewhat ironic that the Sault Star’s Dan Montague asked Barrie Colts goaltending coach and former Vancouver Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier how Roberto Luongo might rebound from losing in Game 7 because of Cloutier’s familiarity with bad bounces:
Update: ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun says, via his Twitter page (just bookmark it), that Svoboda has negotiated with the Wings and others, and via Spector, as in Lyle Richardson, the New York Daily News’s Jesse Spector believes that Jagr will end up in Montreal:
One thing that the Rangers do not figure to do is bring back Jaromir Jagr, who is weighing a return to the NHL.
A source told The News Friday that Jagr’s talks with NHL teams are more than just a ploy to get more money out of the Russian team Avangard Omsk, where he has played three seasons. The source said Jagr likely will wind up with the Canadiens.
With restricted free agent Ryan Callahan likely to take over for Drury as captain, and high hopes for Marian Gaborik, the Rangers do not have room at right wing for their 39-year-old former captain, who had 19 goals in 49 games for his Siberian team this season, and scored 25 in his last NHL campaign in 2007-08.
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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.