The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/23/12 at 06:15 AM ET
Whether it’s on this side of the Atlantic or over in Europe, the vast majority of the Red Wings’ players have started to skate for the first time since either the Wings’ playoff loss to Nashville or, in slightly under half the team’s case, the World Championships.
At this point, as the many Wings fans who took part in that Pure Michigan commercial on Tuesday will tell you, the ice hasn’t been placed on Joe Louis Arena’s concrete concert floor yet, so those without NHLPA and cupcake-related responsibilities (Henrik Zetterberg) or kids to move back to Metro Detroit and/or enroll in school (see: half the roster) are taking part in “pro camps,” either where they make their offseason homes or, well, whichever locale served as their hockey-playing alma mater.
RedWingsTV is following Michigan State University alums Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller and honorary Spartan Jakub Kindl at Michigan State University’s pro camp, and as the Lansing State Journal’s Brian Calloway notes, Michigan State has quite the shindig going on:
Justin Abdelkader has many good memories from his hockey career at Michigan State. Among the most memorable was when he was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 2007 Frozen Four after scoring the game-winning goal to lead MSU past Boston College in the national championship game.
That moment and many other from MSU will always stick with Abdelkader. And now that he’s in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, he enjoys returning to Munn Ice Arena to reminisce about those moments at MSU with former teammates and other Spartan hockey alums. Abdelkader gets that chance every August when he and many former MSU players that are playing professional hockey convene at Munn for the annual week-long Spartan Pro Camp.
“It’s a good to get back here to Michigan State, to Munn Ice Arena and to skate,” Abdelkader said. “Obviously we’re all getting ready for our respective camps, but at the same time it’s a lot of fun to be here and to be skating with the guys and to feel like we’re back here at Michigan State again. It’s just great catching up with the guys and reminiscing old times. A lot of good memories here so it’s always good to talk about them and rehash the good times here.”
Drew Miller (Red Wings), Corey Potter (Edmonton Oilers), Torey Krug (Boston Bruins), Chris Mueller (Nashville Predators), Jim Slater (Winnipeg Jets) and Mike Weaver (Florida Panthers) were among the 20 former MSU players attending the camp, which concludes Friday. The players participate in practices under the direction of MSU assistant Tom Newton and former Spartan goaltender Jason Muzzatti.
They spend the first hour in drills and the second hour scrimmaging. It’s an experience they know they can’t get while working out at other places. Players often use it to get an edge on others heading in to training camp.
“Finding ice in the summer time is always hard and getting things organized and getting a good pace going is kind of tough in the summer,” Potter said. “To get a bunch of quality players together to be put through some drills that you’re going to do during the season and some high intensity scrimmages definitely helps.”
In Sweden, Niklas Kronwall’s skating with pals from Djurgarden and Huddinge hockey, as Marie Hallman told us yesterday (I’ll get to the translating today, I was indisposed on Wednesday), and in Colorado, where Kyle Quincey still makes his offseason home, the recently re-signed defenseman’s taking part in Denver University’s pro camp. He spoke to the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers about his desire to press the reset button after an up-and-down return to Detroit last February…
“I’m so excited to finally get a real training camp with Detroit and starting fresh, learning their systems inside and out,” said Quincey, who was drafted by Detroit and spent three years in the organization. “Great organization. So much history, and I’m going back to the place I was drafted in, so it’s kind of a second chance. And with Nicklas Lidstrom retiring and losing Brad Stuart (traded to San Jose), there’s a chance to step up. I’m looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity, and just can’t wait to get back to work.”
But it should come as no surprise that Quincey, who took part in several of the NHLPA’s CBA negotiating sessions, is also wondering whether he’s going to be playing at all this fall, and he spoke to Chambers about that sticky wicket as well:
“We’re all planning on starting on time, but if it doesn’t happen, we’re all prepared,” Quincey said. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15, and commissioner Gary Bettman has said the owners aren’t prepared to begin the season without a new CBA. Thus, just as training camp is scheduled to begin, the owners might lock out the players for the second NHL work stoppage in eight years.
Quincey, whom Colorado traded Feb. 21 in the three-team deal that brought forward Steve Downie to Denver, attended last week’s negotiation sessions between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association at the union’s office in Toronto. Quincey maintains a Denver-area home.
“We came up with a great proposal. I’ve never been through this before, but I feel so unified with the guys,” Quincey said at Magness Arena. “It’s pretty amazing how intelligent and knowledgeable all the guys are. They understand the proposal, the money we are giving back and the overall give-and-take that we proposed. I honestly feel that the proposal we made last Tuesday was a very good one.”
The NHLPA’s proposal was a counter from the owner’s original plan to increase ownership revenue and stabilize other economic aspects of the game. The players introduced a revenue-sharing plan that would help struggling teams, but Bettman slammed the counterproposal by calling it incomplete and said the sides are far apart.
Bettman and NHLPA executive Donald Fehr are scheduled to meet Thursday morning in Toronto.
“We’re kind of at a standstill,” Quincey said.
Sort of. For the record, former Wing Mike Commodore spoke to The Fan 960’s Kelly Kirch and Andrew Walker about CBA negotiations, and he at least sounded Quincey’s tones regarding solidarity with his fellow players while endorsing Donald Fehr’s leadership:
If the Wings do play hockey this fall, well… Sigh. This was somewhat inevitable, and I don’t expect it to be pretty, but with an immovable salary in terms of both money and remaining years on the deal, especially under any potentially new CBA rules, Johan Franzen represents both an immovable object, a subject of derision among Red Wings fans after his poor playoff performance, and despite earning his playoff goat horns, a very important part of the Wings’ offensive machine given that the team didn’t sign a top-six, goal-scoring forward. The Free Press’s Helene St. James offers the following take on Franzen’s perhaps still-untapped potential:
Looking at numbers: 29 goals, 27 assists, 56 points, plus-23 in 77 games in 2011-12.
Looking at money: Salary for 2012-13 is $5.25 million; 11-year, $43.5-million deal runs through 2019-20 at average cap hit of $3.9 million.
Looking back: Franzen got mad in training camp when reporters asked about his need to improve after a slow finish to the previous season. He had seven points in the first five games—then went quiet for six, a snapshot of the inconsistency that marked another season. He had one point, a goal, in five playoff games, and that was because the puck went in off his skate.
Looking ahead: When he wants, Franzen can be unstoppable—he’s a 6-foot-3, 220-pound bulldozer with a sweet finishing touch. He had 34 goals in 71 games in ‘08-09, prompting the lifetime contract, which looked even better when he followed up with a playoff performance that garnered Conn Smythe talk.
Franzen lost most of the following season to a knee injury, but stormed back in the spring and delivered 18 points in 12 playoff games in 2010. Since then, he has been noticeable for his capriciousness—so dominant some nights, so disinterested others. Henrik Zetterberg has noted that Franzen plays better angry. Coach Mike Babcock has said that when Franzen is on top of his game, he is as good as anyone in hockey. He usually plays wing, but he’s at ease in the middle, and the Wings like using him there against big opposing centers like Joe Thornton.
Babcock also has admitted he challenges Franzen to be an elite player, to be harder around the net. Franzen should have been a 40-goal scorer last season after spending most of it playing with Pavel Datsyuk and averaging nearly 3 minutes a game on the power play.
Franzen, 32, isn’t the only enigma in the NHL, and his salary-cap hit is very reasonable, which gives him high value in a potential trade for the top-four defenseman the Wings so badly need. At the same time, if Franzen can play with a touch more consistency in the regular season and return to his old assertive ways in the playoffs, he’d be a great bargain.
So yeah, discuss.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
• As noted in the evening report, Hockey’s Future offers a new top 20 Wings prospects list, one of those prospects, Ryan Sproul, spoke to the Sault Star’s Peter Ruicci about his upcoming OHL season with the Soo Greyhounds, and Kris Draper talked hockey with the Saginaw News’s Erica Perdue after throwing out the first pitch at Wednesday’s Great Lakes Loons game;
• Despite AnnArbor.com’s Pete Cunningham’s suggestions to the contrary, Paul had me track down the paper trail confirming that NBC will be paying at least $150 million to the NHL regardless of whether a season or Winter Classic are played, so there is no real Winter Classic “pressure point” in terms of CBA negotiations, and, as noted by RedWingsFeed, the Detroit Free Press reports that University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon knows it:
During his speech to the Economic Club, Brandon talked about the NHL labor situation. He hopes Michigan Stadium will host the Winter Classic this year and that any lockout is over by then. But if it’s canceled, he hopes the NHL considers U-M again for next season.
He said U-M will not have the rink if the Jan. 1 Classic is canceled because it involves too much prep for them to host their own game there.
“Michigan Stadium has been dark and cold and barren every New Year’s Day for the last 80 years, so we’re kind of used to that,” he said. “If something happens and they can’t play the game, it’ll be the way it’s always been.”
I’d assume that it’ll roll over to the next season as the Wings-Leafs rivalry means $$$, now or later…
• Somewhat ironically, Sports Illustrated posted a photo gallery of second lockout images, including one of the two charity games a good chunk of the Red Wings’ players participated in to raise money for the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital by playing against no-names like Phil Kessel, Jack Johnson and Patrick Kane;
• In the “very important artist” category, the latest edition of Stevie Roxelle’s Biscuit Fox is out
• And while most European teams aren’t actively hoping for a lockout given that their rosters (and payrolls) are full of players and usually quota-limited imports, they’re engaged in preseason play and many don’t want to employ players for a couple of months and then lose their services if there’s a half-season “work stoppage,” Sport-Express’s Vladimir Yurin points out that Vyacheslav Kozlov and Alexei Kovalev are among a slate of KHL and NHL veterans (including Oleg Petrov, Sandis Ozolinsh, Sergei Brylin and Maxim Sushinsky) who have yet to find gainful employment in Russia while certain KHL teams cross their fingers that Malkins and Yakupovs will be available a month from now.
All I know is that I’m supposed to keep a level head about this stuff, and I have no f***ing clue what will happen, folks. We’re at the cross-your-fingers and pray point.
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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.