The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/26/11 at 03:22 AM ET
A while after the cell phone email to Paul post (I can at least feel proud about that) and after just about every Red Wings columnist’s “source” confirmed it, the Red Wings posted the following press release:
The Red Wings have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday, July 26 beginning at 11:00 a.m. EDT in the C.C. Olympia Club at Joe Louis Arena. Participants at tomorrow’s press conference will include Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and Red Wings center Kris Draper.
The press conference will be streamed live on DetroitRedWings.com.
We all know by now that Kris Draper will retire this morning, and that he’ll join the Wings’ hockey operations department, possibly, if not probably, as the team’s first strength and conditioning coach, completing a rather remarkable slate of summertime changes both in the locker room and behind the bench.
A Red Wings team which expected to possibly say goodbye to Chris Osgood or Kris Draper will in fact say goodbye to both, and the team dealt with an “as-unexpected-as-can-be-by-Red Wings-standards” retirement in Brian Rafalski, as well as two assistant coaches in Brad McCrimmon and Paul MacLean.
Draper’s departure wasn’t front-page news in the U.S. because the NFL lockout officially ended on Monday—and because Draper will speak and speak at length to the press over the next week or three about his decision to retire and his legacy as the last member of the Grind Line and the group of Wings who graduated from Adirondack to Detroit in the 1993-94 season to say goodbye to hockey after his press conference—but both TSN and Sportsnet (not viewable in the U.S.) posted video reports about Draper’s imminent retirement and the Free Press and Fox Sports Detroit have posted the obligatory, “Draper remembered/best of Draper” photo galleries, the AP’s at least stating that the team’s refusing to comment about the press conference…
And as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness suggests, we know what’s happening and why—Draper, like Osgood a week ago, is putting his family first and choosing to end his hockey career with gas left in the tank because he doesn’t want to play anywhere else, and in Draper’s case, he’s doing so because he’s refusing to come to training camp on a try-out contract in the hopes of unseating Jan Mursak or Cory Emmerton:
“I don’t want to go to camp on a tryout,” Draper said last week. “I’ve played through many scenarios. I’m going to do what’s best for my family. I’m just going to listen to Kenny and then I’ll talk to my family and go from there.”
Last season, Kirk Maltby was in the same situation. The Wings offered him a one-year, two-way contract, which really meant he was fighting to just make the team at training camp. Maltby did not make and wound up retiring on Oct. 12.
“He’s a Detroit Red Wing and he wants to stay a Detroit Red Wing,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said last week. “He he loves Detroit, but we have 13 or 14 forwards.”
As Pleiness notes, both Draper and Osgood suffered sports hernias last season, with Draper’s coming on the first day of training camp, and had their groins repaired by the same surgeon in Philadelphia, and in both cases, injuries played into the fact that neither player will suit up for the Wings again.
Between the fact that Drew Miller hopped off the bench and registered 10 goals, earning a 2-year contract extension at $837,500 per season, and that Patrick Eaves became such an integral part of the team’s penalty-kill alongside Darren Helm while registering 13 goals of his own that he received a 3-year contract extension at $1.2 million per season…
And the fact that the Wings simply can’t afford to keep bleeding young players off to keep their veterans (see: Kyle Quincey, Mattias Ritola) and have both Jan Mursak (a speedy forechecker who showed 20-goal, 50-point potential as a junior-aged forward) and Cory Emmerton (a strong two-way center) facing make the team-or-face waivers propositions, well…There isn’t a spot for Draper:
“We have cap space, but it’s really about a roster spot,” Holland said. “If he plays another year his role will be diminishing. We need young players to push for ice time and eventually take over older player’s jobs,” Holland added. “If that’s not happening, we’re not doing our job.”
“We need to continue to work more young people onto the team,” Holland said. “You have to draft, develop and stick to the plan. Our plan is to slowly move more and more young people onto the team. I always hear about the old Red Wings and how we have older players. We’re not the old Red Wings. There will always be change,” Holland added. “It’s necessary. It’s good. We want an older element to our team. If you want to contend for the Stanley Cup, there has to be an older element.”
The change is just coming much faster than we’d hoped, and this summer, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, that “older element” is giving over to the team’s youth movement in a gigantic way.
As the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan suggests, the change is also dramatic:
No Chris Osgood. No Kris Draper. Kirk Maltby wasn’t around anymore last season. Times are changing around the Red Wings locker room. So many familiar faces retiring, not going to be around as much anymore.
Draper will make it official tomorrow. Osgood, of course, announced his retirement last week.
Osgood, Draper and Maltby were basically youngsters when I began covering this team the start of the 1998-99 season. So long ago, yet it has gone by in a blur.
Darren Helm and Justin Abelkader and Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericsson. Get used to those names, now, for many years.
But it’ll be different without Draper and Osgood. Few Wings cared about the crest more than they did. They were proud to be part of this organization, and it showed. Hopefully the younger players watched and learned these past few seasons.
To some extent, the Wings are placing a hopeful, “Mission accomplished?” banner up and are hoping that Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Eaves and Miller, who Draper and Maltby mentored (you can add Danny Cleary to the mix if you wish), Howard, who Osgood mentored, and Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart, who are essentially the core of the post-Lidstrom blueline (and while I’d love to just say, “That which must not be spoken about,” Nicklas Lidstrom’s eventual retirement is only a year or hopefully two or three away), all step up and prove that they’re ready to be the glue that holds the team together, bridging the gap between the superstars and ever-present waves of up-and-coming prospects who represent the “next next” generation in a sport where roster turnover is the norm…
Perhaps everywhere but Detroit, where we’re hoping that in another ten to fifteen years, and hopefully closer to the latter than the former, we’re talking about Helm and Abdelkader at least in the same way that we talk about two players whose will and determination far outstripped their talent, and whose on and off-ice work ethics led to staying power of an immense order as they became blue collar legends in a blue collar town.
We are a town whose fans stand up and cheer epic penalty-killing performances and now see the jerseys bearing #43 and #8 in the crowd at Joe Louis Arena, and scattered among the #40, #13 and #5 jerseys, there remain a healthy number of #18, #25, #30 and #33 ones, because our team invests in its grinders and believes in rewarding their hard work in the gym, in the locker room and on the ice with loyalty to spare as “company men” of the old Big Three sense.
Darren McCarty might be from Leamington, all of forty minutes southeast of Joe Louis Arena, but Maltby, Draper and Osgood aren’t exactly from “around here,” but over the years they’ve become Michiganders, Metro Detroiters, and they are almost as beloved because of the fact that they’ve adopted our city as their home town as much as anything else. It’s something that the Helms, Eaveses and Howards might want to take note of, too…
But the bottom line is stark:
The Grind Line era is over as of 11 AM today, as is the era of Osgood as the people’s goalie, and we can only hope that Helm, Abdelkader, Howard, Eaves, Miller, Mursak, Emmerton, Ericsson, Kronwall and Stuart help fill the void.
And with McCrimmon and MacLean gone, the Wings are bringing back an old face in goal in Ty Conklin, two new faces in Mursak and Emmerton up front, they’ve added Ian White to replace Rafalski and Mike Commodore to push Jakub Kindl and provide some brawn, and in perhaps the strangest twist, Mike Babcock’s gone with the relatively unknown (by NHL standards) Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters as his assistants.
We’re talking about Draper’s retirement punctuating the departure of three very important players, two of near-legendary status among the citizens of Hockeytown and/or Red Wings nation, two of Babcock’s lieutenants, and adding five players and two new assistant coaches to a team that was supposed to engage in nothing more than a “tweak” after back-to-back second-round losses to the San Jose Sharks, with promises of more moves to come down the line as around $5.8 million in cap space starts burning a hole in Ken Holland’s wallet as the trade deadline approaches next spring.
By Red Wings standards, that’s a remarkable turnover, and in Draper and Osgood’s cases, it really is the end of an era. Perhaps we can only hope that, as Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and for the foreseeable future, anyway, Lidstrom lead this team toward its next chapter of championship contention, its grinders and goalies can attempt to live up to their fore-bearers’ legacies by carving out some Cup wins of their own.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James summarizes Draper’s legacy wonderfully…
Draper came to Detroit in June 1993, acquired by then-assistant general manager Doug MacLean for $1 from the Winnipeg Jets. After starting his stint in Adirondack, Draper was brought to Detroit and soon became a valuable third-line player.
In the late ’90s, he formed the Grind Line with Kirk Maltby (who retired last fall) and Joe Kocur. Draper helped the Wings win the Stanley Cup in ’97 and ’98, and again in 2002. He enjoyed his finest personal season in ’03-04, when he spent time on a line with Sergei Fedorov and scored 24 goals and 40 points. Coupled with his usual dependable defensive play, Draper was awarded the 2004 Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward.
His off-ice leadership was recognized in ’06-07, when he was named an alternate captain. He also enjoyed recognition on the international level around that time, as he was selected to represent Canada during the 2006 Winter Olympics.
The past few seasons, Draper’s ice time has diminished. He was a healthy scratch on and off in ’10-11, playing 47 games. He remained a tremendous presence in the locker room, where he’s served as mentor especially to Darren Helm—like Draper, a speedy center who excels in the defensive end.
In 1,157 NHL games — all but 20 of them with the Wings —– Draper scored 161 goals among 364 points. He ranks fifth all-time in Wings history with 1,137 games played, trailing only Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Alex Delvecchio and Nicklas Lidstrom. Draper’s 222 playoff games for the Wings rank second only to Lidstrom.
As does MLive’s Ansar Khan, who notes that Draper’s face bears the scars which may have started the most vicious rivalry in hockey over the past 20 years (and you will see the titanium plates holding Kris Draper’s right orbital bone together when he speaks to the press this morning; they’ve become more and more visible as he’s aged):
Draper scored some big playoff goals, but many will instead remember an infamous incident during Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference finals at Colorado. That’s when Draper sustained numerous facial injuries after being checked from behind into the dasher boards by Claude Lemieux, who was ejected from the game and suspended for two games of the Cup finals.
The Avalanche went on to win the Stanley Cup. But the incident ignited what became the league’s fiercest and bloodiest rivalry. The Red Wings got their revenge the following season, when McCarty pummeled Lemieux during a massive brawl at Joe Louis Arena. The brawl was widely credited for helping the Red Wings bond and paving the way to back-to-back championships.
Draper represented Canada in many international events. He won the gold medal in the World Junior Championships (1990, 1991), World Championships (2003) and World Cup of Hockey (2004). He also played for Canada’s 2006 Olympic team, which did not medal.
Draper missed the first two months of 2010-11 following surgery for a sports hernia. He played in 47 games, picking up six goals and five assists. He appeared in 8-of-11 playoff games.
Draper hoped to play another season, but the club does not have an available roster spot. It has 23 players under contract, including rookie forward Cory Emmerton, who must clear waivers to return to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Draper was not interested in signing a two-way deal or coming to training camp on a tryout.
Following goaltender Chris Osgood’s retirement one week ago, only Lidstrom and Holmstrom remain active with the Red Wings from their 1997 Cup-winning club.
And between Osgood (3 Stanley Cups with Detroit), Draper (4 Stanley Cups with Detroit) and Rafalski (3 Stanley Cups, one with Detroit), we’re talking about a full ten Cups’ worth of playoff experience exiting the weight room, locker room and bench over the course of the summer.
Now it’s just players that even the media, never mind partisan Wings fans like me, call “Nick” and “Homer” that remain from the days when “Ozzie,” “Drapes,” “Malts” and Mac were the heart and soul of the Wings’ roster and Cups came fast and furious in Hockeytown.
In Osgood and Draper’s cases especially, the numbers stick out—and, via Kulfan’s list thereof...
Draper had no interest going to training camp without a contract and “trying out” for a spot. Draper likely will accept a job with the Red Wings — with a hearty resume:
Four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings;
Winner of the Selke Trophy (defensive forward) in 2004;
Played in 1,157 games, 1,137 with the Red Wings (fifth in the Wings career list);
Played in 222 postseason games (second behind Nicklas Lidstrom);
Scored 161 goals; and compiled 203 assists.
While in Draper’s case, there’s not going to be an argument as to whether he possesses Hockey Hall of Fame credentials, his departure and the fact that neither Holmstrom or Lidstrom will play forever (though, knowing Holmstrom, he’ll be the last to go, complaining about knees that have become a “freakshow”)...
Both lead credence to the suggestions that the Wings need to establish a Ring of Honor, team-specific Hall of Fame or in some other way pay tribute to the players who contributed the most to the team’s 4 Stanley Cups…
And this is the big question: because Draper played for so long with the Wings, and played so hard, do he or Holmstrom deserve to have their numbers retired?
As nobody’s talking about this or any other topic from the Wings’ side of things, it’s now-Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean who will lead off the slate of Draper tributes, via the Ottawa Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan (I think that it’s very, very safe to assume that we’ll hear from some of Draper’s teammates who remained in town during the off-season today, as well as a pretty solid slate of radio interviews over the next week or so)...
“He was a great NHL player, but a better NHL man,” said MacLean, who worked closely with Draper as an assistant coach with the Red Wings for the past six seasons. “He had a big influence in the community, on a lot of kids in Detroit. He works hard on the charitable side of the game.”
Before beginning his NHL career, Draper was a star for the Ottawa 67’s during the 1990-91 season, scoring 19 goals and 42 assists in 39 games. Draper added another eight goals and 11 assists in 17 playoff games. He also represented Canada at the world junior tournament and his ability to shut down Russian star Pavel Bure helped Canada win gold.
Originally drafted by the Winnipeg Jets, he was shuffled between Manitoba and the American Hockey League’s Moncton Hawks for two seasons before being traded for the princely sum of $1. It ended up being perhaps the most lopsided trade in NHL history.
All told, Draper finished his career with 161 goals and 203 assists in 1,157 regular-season games, much of that time spent as a third- and fourth-line centre, responsible for shutting down opponents while allowing Detroit’s star forwards to take care of the scoring load. Draper also played in an astounding 222 playoff games, all but two of them with Detroit, scoring 24 goals and 22 assists. The statistics only tell part of the story. A huge part of Draper’s success stemmed from his penalty killing.
“Four Stanley Cups, a Selke Trophy and he provided so much leadership in Detroit over his years,” said MacLean, who, as the coach responsible for penalty killing in Detroit for several seasons, worked closely with Draper. “He was certainly a big part of the success they had.”
In addition to his success with Detroit, Draper had an intriguing and extensive international career. He played on Canada’s national team at the tender age of 17, before joining the Ottawa 67’s. He also played on Canada’s Olympic team in 2006, the World Cup squad in 2004 and represented the country at four world championship tournaments.
“He’s a great guy and great family man, too,” said MacLean, who laughed when reminded about Draper being traded for a loonie. “Most of us get traded during our careers, for various amounts. He was traded for a dollar. He certainly had a very good career for that.”
And the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan offers the first out-of-towner’s take on Draper’s career:
It’s too bad the NHL couldn’t ensure long ago that the Detroit Red Wings played in the Eastern Conference, and therefore, clashed with the Maple Leafs more than once or twice a year (including the pre-season). One player who fully understood the rivalry that could have grown further between the clubs, Red Wings forward Kris Draper, is on the verge of retirement from the NHL at the age of 40. A Toronto native, Draper always got a bit of an extra gleam in his eye for games between his Wings and the Leafs, and often wondered aloud why they could not happen more often.
“It does not matter what time of year it is, or whoever is playing well or who isn’t — whenever it is Toronto and Detroit, it is special,” Draper told us in March prior to a game between the Leafs and Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
It’s a line of thinking Draper, who played minor hockey for the Don Mills Flyers, held through much of his NHL career.
With Draper done — the Wings have called a news conference for Tuesday morning — the NHL will be losing a player who defined hard work and integrity. The 5-foot-10 and 188-pound Draper won’t be remembered for his points production (he has 161 goals and 203 assists in 1,157 games) but his defensive work (which brought the Selke Trophy in 2004) and contributions to four Stanley Cups in Motown.
Draper will become the third veteran Wing to retire this off-season, following defenceman Brian Rafalski and goaltender Chris Osgood.
The Wings could well move into the Eastern Conference in a year or two, once re-alignment is done. It’s unfortunate that Draper won’t be around to enjoy it.
I guess there is some good news—Maltby, Osgood and now Draper will be around to enjoy it, as will Chris Chelios, as the Wings understand that the players who have established the “Red Wings way,” both on and off the ice, can’t be replaced…So they’ve brought them into the organization.
Maltby’s currently a pro scout. Osgood’s about to become a full-time goalie mentor and an amateur scout specializing in spotting up-and-coming goalies. Draper will probably have a very lasting legacy in the gym and in terms of the players’ off-season training, and Chelios not only mentors the teams’ defensive prospects in Grand Rapids, but…
Between the 48-year-old Chelios, 40-year-old Draper and a man who will turn 86 on Friday in Ted Lindsay grinding their butts off in the Wings’ gym, the Wings’ players will receive daily reminders about the fact that being a Red Wing means constantly pushing oneself to improve in terms of physical fitness, skill development, tenacity, work ethic and leadership, on and off the ice, and to challenge oneself to get “better and better” every day.
That’s the Red Wings’ way, and just because Kris Draper’s joining Osgood, Maltby and McCarty in retirement doesn’t mean that the Grind Line’s presence will no longer exist in a very tangible sense and every-day basis around the team’s next generation. If Abdelkader, Helm, Mursak, Emmerton, or down the line, Tatar, Callahan, Lashoff, McCollum, etc. ever let up, they’ll hear about it, and they’ll likely hear about it from a Grind Liner.
Also of Red Wings-related note early on Tuesday morning:
• As Paul already posted, boy howdy, did Western Michigan University pick a helluva “teaching coach” to succeed Jeff Blashill: the Kalamazoo Gazette’s David Drew reports that former NHL coach Andy Murray, whose resume includes stints with the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, and assistant coaching jobs with Minnesota, Winnipeg and Philadelphia, will replace Blashill;
• Also in the coaching department, but in the alumni vein, the San Jose Mercury News’s David Pollak reports that former Wings video coordinator Jay Woodcroft will essentially replace departing Sharks assistant coach Trent Yawney as a full-time behind-the-bench coach;
• Yahoo Sports’ Puck Daddy blog mentioned the Wings once in depth and twice in a kind-of-sort-of way: the latter part involves the fact that, as Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski suggests, Brendan Shanahan’s signing by the St. Louis Blues as a restricted free agent really opened the floodgates in terms of player movement in the early 90’s, and Sam McCaig’s rankings of the top 25 centers in the NHL heading into the 2011-2012 season includes two Wings:
14. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings: Underrated two-way player who delivers in crunch time.
2. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: You know, he just might be the best all-around player in the game today.
I think he is, but I’m biased…
• If you’re interested, the Heritage Newspapers’ Sean Dalton offers one more take on Justin Abdelkader’s ride with Lieutenant Commander Dave Tickle and the Blue Angels last week;
• For the record, part 1: Per the Sporting News and the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, Evgeni Nabokov can be traded by the Islanders without having to clear waivers now that July 1st has passed (just as Jaromir Jagr couldn’t sign with a team until July 1st without clearing waivers because he’d played in a professional game in Europe during the 2010-2011 season, Nabokov had to be waived when he was signed by the Wings, thus the kerfuffle, but European pro-playing players’ waiver requirements end on July 1st);
• For the record, part 2: Jets jerseys are going for $299.99 (pro) or $129.99 (replica) via pre-orders though they won’t be shipped till October 1st;
• And I simply can’t make many promises regarding my coverage of the Draper announcement today. I’m going to try to be around at or shortly after his press conference, but between the fact that wireless internet access is limited to an “activity room” (where it’s not particularly fast—very frankly, I’m going to either bum somebody’s wireless modem off them or purchase my own next summer) at the place I’m staying and the fact that I am technically on vacation…I’ve informed the mom that I’m on watch today, but while my professional instincts are telling me to set up shop here in the “activity room” for the next week and worry about relaxing later, the mom, the fam and the boss are all telling me to actually go on vacation and try to enjoy myself up here. I’m just not necessarily going to be updating regularly, even on a day like today, if there are complications related to the fact that I’m far away from home and technically off, and I’m sorry about that. Paul should be able to give you the main details regarding Draper, I’ll pop in around noontime as I’m able, and will return again in the late afternoon/evening and do a full “overnight report,” but in between those times I may not be available and it might be by choice.
I’m sorry about the inconveniences and/or interruptions in coverage that these issues incur, but I do have to take a step back from my OCD blogging and admit that I cannot and will not do what I did in Traverse City in spending a week-and-a-half in a gorgeous city either on my laptop, conducting interviews or sleeping. I hate blathering on about myself but I do have to admit that my coverage will be like the internet service—somewhat intermittent—due to the fact that I’m on my first vacation in two years. I hope you’ll put up with the inconvenience for the week and again, I’m sorry if it’s rude but I’ve kinda gotta enjoy this vacation sometime along the way.
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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.