The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/24/11 at 09:18 AM ET
You may or may not buy into the concept that the way a player tapes his or her stick reveals secrets about that player’s personality, but the tendencies and care with which players and goaltenders alike prepare their sticks for action is nothing less than remarkable at the amateur as well as pro and NHL levels.
You might not wonder why I like to tape my player and goal sticks’ blades with big “X” shapes or be interested in finding out what complications having double-jointed thumbs make in my equipment-picking decisions, but the Free Press’s Jo-Ann Barnas managed to lift the veil from atop the Red Wings’ stick rack, and to the gear-oriented, anyway, what she reveals about the Wings players’ stick-taping habits and use of stick and shin guard tape in general is nothing less than fascinating:
“If you look down our stick rack, it really is artwork,” said Paul Boyer, the Red Wings’ longtime equipment manager. “Some guys, they throw the tape on and go and play. Other guys, it takes them a good amount of time and effort to make a stick. The stick is an extension of their hands, and it has to feel good when they’re holding it.”
And passing and shooting and scoring with it, not to mention defending with it, too. Niklas Kronwall uses a lot of tape—he even likes to wrap his shaft candy-cane style, three-quarters of the way up, with narrow black tape.
“It gives me extra grip,” he says.
Johan Franzen? He admires the scuff marks that a puck leaves on his blade when he plays, so he favors white tape. Pavel Datsyuk won’t talk about his tape job, only to say he prefers his blade black.
“For me, you want it the same all the time,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “You want that personal feel to it.”
Barnas not only continues in great detail, Datsyuk’s sticks aside, revealing several tricks of the taping trade regarding Jiri Hudler, Tomas Holmstrom, Drew Miller, Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg’s sticks, in no small part due to a conversation with Scapa North America customer service representative Theresa Benoit (they make Renfrew tape, which is what almost everybody uses)...
But the Free Press’s Julian H. Gonzalez also produced a video in which Kris Draper tapes his stick while talking about what he’s doing:
I asked Pavel Datsyuk about his stick-taping tendencies, and all I can tell you for sure is that he will admit that he uses hockey tape, not pine tar or any other sort of sticky residue, to put grip texture and stickiness on the shaft of his stick (many stick-makers now provide sticks with a sprayed-on or stamped-in adhesive or pattern to increase “grip”), but I get the feeling that his use of Gordie Howe tape—which is the two-sided, all-sticky stuff that does wonders for grabbing sticks but wrecks the fancy less-than-a-tenth-of-a-millimeter-thick performance palms in players’ $250-300 custom gloves (and they tend to rotate two to four pairs in and out per game) as much as it can affect the performance of players’ $150 bulk-discount-priced sticks…
But I can tell you this much. I have a pretty strong inkling that Datsyuk manages to craft his particular grip by doing something that players learned not to do the hard way when taping carbon composite sticks, because it turns them into charcoal—he uses an acetylene torch.
I’m home for Easter Weekend hanging with the fam. Last night we went to an Italian restaurant. Someone taps on my dad’s shoulder. It’s Pavel Datsyuk. He says hi to the family & then this conversation happens:
My Mom - Pasha, you’re looking thing. Hope you got some pasta!
Pavel - I’m on a diet.
My Dad - Pasha, hope you got a nice wine to accompany your meal.
Pavel - It’s too expensive.
I wish he could be this funny in English (he’s getting much better but just isn’t the same). He’s a great hockey personality.
I think it’s all in how you wrap context around someone’s speech. The average observer might not think that Tomas Holmstrom’s rants are anything but grumpy, but when you know that the man who insists his kids are a “freakshow” is generally the taped butt-end of his own jokes, and is trying to explain himself as only Holmstrom does, you start snickering.
The same’s true for Datsyuk, whose dry humor and spare use of language tend to make Death Valley seem like a wet and tree-crowded rainforest. For me, anyway, it’s hard to listen to Datsyuk speak to the press without assuming that he’s trying to sneak a deadpanned pun, gently sarcastic double-entendre or smart remark into the equation.
• For example, the Boston Globe’s generally acerbic Kevin Dupont posted a very genuinely flattering comment about the Wings week’s worth of playoff work in his Sunday notebook, but I’m not sure whether his inclusion of a Datsyuk quote was intended to suggest anything other than the fact that Datysuk’s English is still in progress:
The Red Wings made easy work of the Coyotes, dismissing them in four straight. Detroit now has a 52-33 record over the last five-plus postseasons. And for all that, one Cup, illustrating once more just how difficult it is to go home the winner. In the previous five seasons, which included that 2008 Cup, the Wings swept only two rounds — a second-round matchup with Colorado in ’08 and an opener with Columbus in ’09. Lots to like about the Winged Wheels come playoff time, especially the heavy lifting around the cage by the likes of Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom, who define “net-front presence’’ each and every spring. They combined for 4-3—7 in the Phoenix sweep. Franzen, a.k.a. “The Mule,’’ needed 23 stitches in Game 2 when a Shane Doan check dumped him facefirst into the boards. All stitched up, Franzen returned that night with neither a half-shield nor cage. “Big leadership,’’ teammate Pavel Datsyuk noted to USA Today. “Pretty big help when he came back.’’
In Datsyuk’s case, there’s no point in using more words than necessary to do the job (and kudos to Dupont for actually referencing a source for quote).
• Also in the tip-in variety of news, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson spent most of his various Hockey World offerings trying to figure out, with the help of Kelly Hrudey, what went wrong for Ilya Bryzgalov, assuming that most of the softer goals he gave up were because of Bryzgalov’s mistakes as opposed to the Wings’ shooters learning how to pick him apart via video and then capitalizing on their opportunities (a little of Column A and a little of Column B, methinks), and his short shifts, talk with College Hockey Inc’s Paul Kelly and most of his comments don’t necessarily apply to the Wings, but this quip from his “More Hockey World” column does…
- If you polled NHL defenceman on which player gives them fits with his speed as they’re heading back for a puck, they’d all say Detroit Red Wings centre Darren Helm. Not only is he maybe the fastest guy in the league, he also likes to hit. A snapshot of his ability came in Game 3 when he hounded Phoenix Coyotes blue-liner Ed Jovanovski, knocked Jovo off the puck with a wallop, then sent it to Ruslan Salei for a goal. He’s the best fourth-line player in the league.
As does this from his main Hockey World column:
The Lady Byng is often called the NHL’s Miss Congeniality Award because it tends to go to good players who generally don’t win scoring titles — Wayne Gretzky is an exception — or the MVP award. Gretzky, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Joe Sakic, however, won both.
It always goes to a forward, but this year might be different. Maybe Detroit Red Wings captain Nick Lidstrom can end the 57-year drought for defencemen.
The last defender to win it was Red Kelly in 1953-54 with the Red Wings. He won it 1961 as well, but he was a centre with the Toronto Maple Leafs that year. The only other blue-liner to win it in the 85 years the award has been handed out was Bill Quackenbush — one of the great names in hockey — in 1949.
It’s time to give it to Lidstrom. He’s only had 486 penalty minutes in 20 NHL seasons. Hockeyfights.com says he’s had one fighting major (against Brad Miller) in his first NHL season —1991-92. But some say it’s a mistake. It was actually teammate Marc Potvin.
“Nick has played the game with respect. Hopefully he gets it,” said Wings general manager Ken Holland.
I started following the league the year that Nick came into it, in 1991, and the closest I can recall him getting into a fight involved a Wings-Bruins game in early 1992 when there was an actual, honest-to-goodness bench-clearing brawl. Everybody grabbed somebody on the other team, Lidstrom included.
• Heading back to the “secrets revealed” theme for a moment, the Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to more than a few Wings players about the contributions of Drew Miller, who will probably continue to be a player who rotates in and out of an NHL team’s lineup for the rest of his career.
The Wings don’t discount the importance of Miller’s contributions or aptitude…
“He skates really well and works hard and makes really good decisions with the puck,” [Valtteri] Filppula said. “He’s definitely a guy who’s really good to play with. His speed, especially in forechecking situations, is a huge help. He gets there the same time as the D, and a lot of times before the D. Always good to have a guy like that on your line.”
“He knows how to play,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s not the biggest guy. I don’t think talent’s the issue, I think the knock on him has been size and weight, but he’s been very effective for us and he continues to do good things all the time.”
And Miller, who played in 67 of the 82 games the Wings played this season, says that he’s learning and improving whether he’s in the lineup or having to deal with spending the game riding a bike:
“Through it all, you learn a lot about yourself and a lot about just the process of being on the team,” Miller said. “We have good depth and great players. I think that’s a big positive. Personally, it’s just every day working hard and trying to bring something to the table every game, whether it’s penalty kill or blocking shots or just being solid defensively and five-on-five. You do what you have to do to stay in the lineup.”
“Guys like that, every team that wins has them,” Brad Stuart said. “It’s important for them to have a good mind-set of ‘I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win’ and not complaining about it, and he’s been doing that all year. He’s been in and out of the lineup, up and down with the lines, and never says anything negative about it. He just does what he has to do.”
And as for the 27-year-old’s gray hair? Filppula, who still looks like he’s all of twenty at the same age, offers a few jabs, as does the ever-youthful Chris Osgood, but I think this one’s the most appropriate:
[Niklas] Kronwall is mum, though, because, “I’m going gray, too, so I can’t say too much about it.”
• Finishing up with some bullet-pointed stuff: As it turns out, one Red Wings prospect was still playing playoff hockey, and it was USHL All-Rookie Team nominee and Omaha Lancers defenseman Ben Marshall, who Omaha, NE’s WOWT TV reports scored a goal as his Lancers lost 5-1 to Sioux City and were thus swept out of the playoffs in a three-game series.
Marshall only registered a goal in his 3 playoff games, but his 33 points in 56 games played were the reason the still-tiny defenseman, who’s liberally listed at 5’9” and 170 lbs, will head to the University of Minnesota this fall with the kind of skating and stick skills that make him a boom-or-bust prospect who could, in theory, anyway, turn into a Brian Rafalski-style puck mover.
• I had to laugh when reading the Ottawa Citizen’s Allen Panzeri list Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean and Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser as short list candidates to replace Cory Clouston behind the Ottawa Senators’ bench…
Because Panzeri’s list, which declares Fraser to be the perfect Senators coach in waiting, includes 25 names.
• The Free Press’s Steve Schrader posted two Wings-related tidbits. One isn’t a big deal, pondering whether Steve Yzerman, one of the finalists for the NHL’s GM of the year, might return to Detroit one day (???), and the other is one of those things that makes sense when you divide $59.4 million between 23 players and know that the Wings tend to reward their players very well for solid performances, but it’s not as big a deal as Schrader makes it out to be in the big picture:
You get what you pay for, eh? The Red Wings are the best-paying team in the NHL, according to ESPN the Magazine’s list of the 100 best-paying teams in the world in its new “All About the Money Issue.” The average Wing makes $2,927,719 a year, the list says. But although the Wings are the first hockey team on the list, they’re just 67th overall—and third among Detroit teams.
The Pistons are 31st, with an average salary of $4,394,521 (11th among NBA teams), the Tigers are 47th at $3,914,823 (10th in baseball), and the Lions are 97th at $2,476,803 (ninth in the NFL).
Two soccer teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid, lead the list at $7 million-plus, and the Yankees are third at $6,756,301.
As Ken Holland might say, the Wings have devoted most of their cap space to their top four defensemen and top six forwards and have tried to fill in the rest as cheaply as possible, and, more importantly, as the NHL’s salary cap is determined by the player’s average salary over the life of the contract as opposed to what he’s making during a given season, this makes sense very specifically because, via Capgeek.com, Henrik Zetterberg’s $6.08 million cap hit belies $7.75 million in wages this season, and Johan Franzen’s $3.94 million cap hit belies $5 million in salary this year, thus bumping the Wings up the charts.
I have yet to find anyone willing to make a “Stress Train” commercial in exchange for promises of half the prizes (I don’t think there are any) and The Malik Report’s official souvenir, an autographed can of pork and beans.
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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.