The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/17/12 at 07:18 AM ET
Updated with a take on the Wings’ prospect tournament cancellation from Traverse City at 5:50 AM: The Detroit Red Wings’ decision to cancel their prospect tournament amidst fears of a lockout from both Detroit and the seven other teams taking part (Buffalo, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, the New York Rangers and Carolina) is incredibly disappointing all the way around, for fans, for Centre Ice Arena, and from the perspective of someone who’s sent up to Traverse City by his readers to cover the tournament, very, very bad for both the players who were set to participate in the tournament, as well as the Red Wings as an organization.
The prospect tournament provides a tremendous opportunity for players to gain experience playing against NHL or at least AHL-level talent, earn favor in terms of call-ups, earn spots on the training camp roster, the Grand Rapids Griffins or Toledo Walleye’s roster and contracts with the team. The Wings have five current prospects who’ve signed as free agents—Brian Lashoff, Jordan Pearce, Francis Pare, Trevor Parkes and Willie Coetzee, with only Lashoff and Pearce having been signed prior to the prospect tournament—and a significant chunk of the Wings’ draft picks who’ve inked entry-level deals have done enough to impress during the prospect tournament that they’ve been signed shortly afterward (think Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet, for example)...
So it’s very, very evident that, in terms of player development, the Red Wings’ coaches, amateur and pro scouts and their management do indeed base contracts and playing opportunities upon the observations they make regarding drafted players and free agent try-outs playing in actual game situations. “We like him, but we’ll see how he does at the prospect tournament in the fall” has become something of a refrain I hear over and over again whenever I ask about players who’ve caught my eye at the summer development camp, and especially in the cases of players deciding whether to pursue one developmental route, like Mike McKee, who may or may not head back to the USHL or enter Western Michigan University, as well as European players who’ve never played in a truly competitive situation in North America, like Teemu Pulkkinen and someone who stayed in Europe to very specifically bulk up for the bumping and grinding of the tournament in Calle Jarnkrok, this is a missed opportunity given that they won’t be released to take part in the Wings’ main camp by their rights-holders.
And for this summer’s try-outs, like Robert Rooba, Travis Novak and former Wings prospect Julien Cayer, as well as the team’s prospects signed to AHL-only deals in Luke Glendening and Chad Billins, the cancellation of the tournament could change the course of their professional careers because they’ll never have the opportunity to prove their worth to the parent club while playing full-contact games against players their own age.
Even players who don’t make the Wings’ cut, like Vancouver Canucks prospect Darren Archibald, have impressed the other CHL, AHL and NHL teams’ scouts and earned jobs elsewhere, so for each and every one of the players who were to participate for the eight teams involved in the tournament, the cancellation thereof will cost people jobs and opportunities to play somewhere. The fact that the tournament’s been televised, at least in part, and that so many members of the media congregate in Traverse City hurts the players’ ability to “sell” their personalities, work ethic or other intangibles, too.
Overall, and from a very subjective Wings fan’s perspective—as the OCD blogger—the Red Wings’ prospects, scouts and management are literally losing terabytes of data here. This sets the Wings’ developmental model back, and given what players who take part in the tournament have told me, it’s going to set them back, too.
This is terrible all the way around, and it portends cancellation of exhibition and regular-season games that will further harm the Wings prospects’ hopes of setting themselves up for call-ups or at least consideration thereof down the line, and if exhibition games are canceled, the real damage begins in terms of ushers, concessions workers, security personnel, ticket-takers, game-night broadcasters and all sorts of game-night employees who get by on those 42 regular-season games and 4 exhibition games’ worth of paychecks the way Centre Ice Arena subsidizes the vast majority of its hockey operations costs through proceeds from and payments earned by hosting the tournament.
Real people are already being hurt by the looming spectre of a lockout, and that’s…It’s disgusting, frankly, it’s disgusting.
We’ll get back to this cheery lockout business in a bit, but for the moment, there was good news on Thursday, and it involved the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony. As Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji notes, former Red Wings defenseman Marcel Pronovost was one of many athletes who received recognition from the MSHOF on a very delayed basis:
The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday inducted perhaps its most unique class. At Detroit’s Gem Theatre, around the corner from Ford Field, a record class of 24 entered the Hall of Fame in the 56th induction event.
“There were a large number of athletes from decades ago that, for whatever reason, were never inducted into Michigan’s Hall of Fame,” MSHOF executive director Jim Stark said. “We addressed that issue by having a task force that was chaired by Jerry Green and Bob Becker. This class is a result of their work. It’s doing the right thing. They’ve been due their honors a long time and it’s a great class.”
The inductees were divided into decades, with those from the 1930s and ‘40s going in first. University of Michigan football standouts Chuck Bernard and Bob Chappuis, U-M track star Bill Watson and Detroit Lions center/linebacker Alex Wojciechowicz were in that group.
From the 1950s, Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, a Detroit Miller High School football star and star NFL player for the Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers; Barbara Marchetti-DeSchepper, a champion speedster from the Upper Peninsula; Miller High and Wayne State basketball star Charlie Primas; and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Marcel Pronovost entered the Hall. Pronovost, who lives in Windsor, Ontario, said of his induction, “It was a long time coming.”
A highly physical player, Pronovost was known as “the Most Injured Man in the NHL,” and said, “It was better when we played because there was more payback.”
Pronovost was truly delighted to be inducted, as he told the Detroit Free Press’s Anthony Fenech...
“I was raised by the Red Wings,” he said. “It’s heavy recognition, and it means the world to me.”
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“A long time coming,” said Pronovost, 82, the former Detroit Red Wings great, one of 24 inductees honored Thursday at The Gem Theatre as part of the 56th class of the state sports hall of fame.
Pronovost was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978 and said Thursday’s event brought back memories.
“A lot of fanfare,” Pronovost said.
In the present tense in terms of Red Wings defensemen, both NHL.com’s “30 in 30” Wings profile and the Free Press’s Helene St. James believe that Ian White needs to step up his game for the Wings to survive Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement and Brad Stuart’s departure, and the Red Wings’ website provides us some “numbers” to go by in highlighting some stats from White’s 2011-2012 season with Detroit:
+23: Along with Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi, he led the team with a plus-23 rating, which is his single season career-high.
32: Number of points the defenseman accumulated this [past] season (seven goals, 25 assists), which marks the fourth consecutive season that he has finished with 25 or more points.
10: Number of power play assists he had this [plast] season, the fourth highest on the team and the most he has ever had in a single season.
46 Games: His most productive time period this [past] season was before the All-Star break when in 46 games he tallied 24 of his 32 total points, 62 of his 92 total blocked shots and 136 of his 196 total shots on goal.
And perhaps heading back to the inevitable:
• The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox is already rolling his eyes regarding a potential lockout;
• Sports Illustrated’s Stu Hackel offered a “temperature-taking” article noting that Donald Fehr’s tone in terms of his comments made as the NHLPA’s executive director represent almost a 180 from his rhetoric during his time with the MLBPA;
• Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy makes a wise point in noting that owner infighting and true villains like Boston Bruins owner/creep
, I mean Jeremy Jacobs and Philadelphia Flyers owner
, I mean Ed Snider are among 30 members of the Board of Governors who seem all too likely to lock the players out, but to suggest that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is unfairly perceived and is the “fall guy” for the owners’ agenda conveniently ignores the fact that Bettman has often shaped that agenda, and that, should a group of individuals hire a contract killer, that killer is not innocent if he commits a criminal offense to complete his contract—repeatedly in the master hostage-taking, beat-down bullying and siege-holding Bettman’s case…
• The Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston both summarized the worrisome situation hockey and NHL hockey fans find themselves in, and he spoke to a member of the NHLPA’s negotiating committee who’s looking for work to get the players’ take on the ramifications of Bettman’s rhetoric:
“The industry’s grown a billion dollars since (the lockout) and basically they just want more money,” Chris Campoli, a member of the NHLPA’s negotiating committee, said Thursday. “I thought in our proposal we made a step and considerable concessions to them,” he added. “Frankly, it was a little disappointing to see the response yesterday and the view they have on it.”
Campoli was one of three NHL players who took part in Thursday’s sub-committee meetings, which covered secondary issues not related to the economic ones that have divided the sides. An unrestricted free agent who spent last season in Montreal, Campoli has emerged as one of the strongest voices among the players. The veteran defenceman has attended six bargaining sessions this summer and was hopeful that Tuesday’s NHLPA proposal might kickstart negotiations.
The players offered to keep a hard salary cap and put a drag on their salaries in exchange for an expanded revenue-sharing system — but Bettman and the owners weren’t in favour of it. Campoli said he thought it was a much more reasonable offer than the one put forward by the NHL last month, which called for a 24 per cent reduction in salaries and included new contract restrictions.
“I just think they took such an aggressive stance with their first proposal,” said Campoli. “We could have taken an aggressive stance the other way and we didn’t. You know, we want to fix the systematic issues they have with the way things are run and I think we’re being more than fair.”
The CBA topic was also raised in Philadelphia, where forward Wayne Simmonds signed a six-year contract extension worth slightly less than $24 million. He’s anxious to see the situation get resolved.
“This is my first time going through this and I’m really not too familiar with the process,” said Simmonds. “But from all the players’ accounts, we want to play. We’re ready to start.”
It’s unclear when they’ll get the chance. With a Sept. 15 deadline looming for a lockout and the sides still far apart, the league appears to be headed for its second work stoppage in as many negotiations.
“It would be incredible how much it would hurt,” said Campoli. “We don’t want that as players and I think our proposal shows that. We want to get something done, we’re working towards it. The fact that we continually have to talk about this speaks to the issues we really have and the system we’re in and it’s got to change.”
• The NHLPA posted a clip of Campoli’s comments…
• And the NHL’s website posted a video of deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s take on Thursday’s discussions…
As well as a summary of Thursday’s “guts of the CBA” meeting from NHL.com’s Dan Rosen:
Among the hockey issues discussed in subcommittee sessions were regulations on training camp, discipline, ice conditions, and travel. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly also said the lawyers for both sides met to discuss ongoing information requests and they held a brief meeting on legal issues involved with a new CBA.
“We’ve been making progress on those issues from the start,” Daly said. “I don’t think that’s where this CBA is going to get cut or not. We have a lot of common ground in those areas and we’ve been talking about that for a while now.”
Unrestricted free agent defenseman Chris Campoli, who spoke on behalf of the Union, said the negotiating session was cordial and included a good discussion.
“There is so much to cover and there are different subcommittees to hit every area if you will,” Campoli said. “So, this is a different area. They’re all important equally. Every issue is important to the players and we’re involved in them all. As you can see, we’re here today working with them again and things went well.”
The negotiations on the core economic issues are expected to resume in Toronto next Wednesday, when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr return to the bargaining table. Neither was present Thursday as Fehr traveled to Chicago for regional player meetings and Commissioner Bettman returned to New York.
The Union made its initial economic proposal Tuesday, approximately a month after the NHL owners made their initial economic proposal. Bettman said Wednesday that after analyzing the Union’s proposal it is clear that a wide gap still remains on where the two sides stand on the economic issues, which include hockey-related revenue, revenue sharing, and rules governing player contracts. The current CBA expires Sept. 15. Bettman has stated that the owners are not prepared to operate another season under the terms of the current CBA.
“I don’t think anybody is looking forward to a work stoppage and we want to do everything we can to avoid it,” Daly said. “I think we’re committed to doing everything we can and working hard to avoid it. That’s where we are.”
• As duly noted by the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan, the fact that a full or half-season lockout isn’t so cut and dried this time means that, despite the protestations of dreamy-eyed European-based hockey reporters to the contrary, it’s unlikely that we’ll witness a European exodus this time around:
The idea that players will pack their bags and head for Europe in the event of a lockout is not so cut and dried. The respective European leagues haven’t issued notice that they will loosen their import restrictions and, overall, they might not have an appetite to do so should NHL players come knocking.
Some North American-born players crossed the Atlantic Ocean to play when the 2004-05 season was erased from the calendar after the NHL owners locked the players out. But now, if there is so much as a hint that a lockout could end during the season, European clubs wouldn’t be amenable to the idea that players up and leave when a potential NHL work stoppage ends. And it’s hard to see players departing for Europe when there is a possibility they could be back in North America before the end of the winter to resume their NHL careers.
“I don’t think it is ever too early to look into it, but the unknown is how each of the leagues is going to react to the potential for a lockout,” player agent Anton Thun said on Thursday. “Some of the leagues might be reluctant.”
Depending on the league, teams are allowed to have as few as two imports or as many as seven. And most of the import spots have been taken for next season.
It’s possible that the Kontinental Hockey League could throw open its doors to North American players, but the Swedish Elite League, for example, probably would not.
The Eliteserien’s talked about it, but as I keep saying, most European leagues are already engaging in month-long slates of exhibition games and preseason tournaments, so those teams’ rosters are more or less full and full in terms of non-native players who are eligible to play for said teams, with veterans, prospects and the European equivalent of minor leaguers battling for the final available roster spots.
Teams may make exemptions for a superstar or two, but in the vast majority of circumstances, teams whose training camps took place in late July or early August and whose playoff runs begin at the end of February or early March probably won’t be too keen to dump a quarter or a third of their roster for players who may be around for a month or two.
We’re not going to see the Ak Bars Kazan spend what was reportedly something like $75 million to lure Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Danny Briere, Nikolai Khabibulin, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Slava Kozlov, Alexei Zhitnik, Alexei Kovalev, Ruslan Salei, Fred Brathwaite and eventually Mikael Nylander to play for them during the 2004-2005 season.
The feeling is more than a few European teams were left wanting more when there was an influx of NHL players eight years ago. Agent Joe Resnick denied on Thursday that his star client, Rick Nash, has agreed to play for Davos in Switzerland if and when players are locked out by the owners.
• For the record, on the AHL front, and somewhat intriguingly, Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager reports that the NHL’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League has expired, which may or may not mean that players from the OHL, QMJHL and WHL might be recruited to play in the ECHL or AHL even if they are 18 or 19, but as Sager says, it’s “too early to tell what will happen”;
But I’m not sure whether you’d also like me to go to Grand Rapids on a semi-regular basis or attend Toledo Walleye games, regardless of whether there’s a lockout, or whether part of the “fundraising” efforts should involve heading to Toronto or New York to engage in a little insurgency of the positive and noisy kind if there is a lockout.
I need you to let me know what you think is appropriate, because the Wings will have a training camp at some point, barring a full-season lockout—we just won’t know whether it will be held in Traverse City or here in Metro Detroit—and the Griffins and Walleye will be playing no matter what as each and every one of the Red Wings’ prospects signed to entry-level deals and players signed to two-way contracts are members of the Professional Hockey Players Association, which has no issues with the AHL or ECHL at this time.
Otherwise, I’ve got one good thing, one weird thing and one observation to close this particularly “offbeat” entry with:
• Stevie Roxelle’s latest installment of Biscuit Fox is out;
• For some reason, I’m not surprised that former NHLPA executive director and former College Hockey Inc. director Paul Kelly is, per the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin, now tasked with representing the Paterno family;
• And Thursday’s rather venomous evening entry’s tone?
That was the equivalent to this video, a static test of “demilitarized” Sukhoi SU-27’s engines, with one spooled up to full power and then afterburner, then spooled down and turned off before the other engine goes through the same process. A static test and one afterburner lit for a very short period of time.
A lockout might make me angry enough to light both engines, crank them up to “military power” and light the afterburners. Then things might get interesting.
Thursday was aggravated annoyance and being pissed off due to too many close friends and family being ill and/or having to attend doctor’s appointments, as well as being a little tired of the epithets thrown at my fellow fans and readers to whom I am responsible. As an openly biased and emotional fan, this week has sucked, and as a human being, this week has been incredibly stressful, so I vented a little. I’ll be more focused, articulate and definitely more creatively venomous should the CBA shit hit the fan.
Update: This isn’t out yet, but it will be around 8 or 9: Centre Ice Arena director Ann Reeves spoke to the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s Dennis Chase about the cancellation of the prospect tournament:
“My emotions run the gamut,” Ann Reeves, the tournament director at Centre ICE, said. “On one hand I’m sad because we have so many volunteers, and a community that really backs this event. So to have it canceled hurts. But it’s also wonderful to know the commitment is there for 2013 from all (eight) teams. This is just a hiccup.”
Reeves said with the tournament just a month out the Wings felt it was important to make a decision now, especially for the local hotels that were going to house the teams.
“They (Wings) were asking me about the hotels, how long they could hold out,” Reeves said. “The Wings have a real strong commitment to our community. That’s a proven fact. This is a loss for the hotels, but now they’ll be able to hopefully turn those rooms around, especially with a big soccer tournament that will be in town (Sept. 15-16). Now they can open those rooms up for something that is certain.”
Reeves said it will be “interesting to see what the economic downfall” is from this development. She said each team books between 30 to 35 rooms. “You times that by eight and that’s significant,” she said. “Plus, they’re eating, watching movies, supporting our local community.” In addition to personnel from the eight teams, the tournament also attracts scouts from other NHL teams.
“We’ve all worked very hard to create a venue that we think is the premier scouting venue in North America, certainly in September,” Reeves said. “To not have that, when we had 26 of the 30 NHL clubs in Traverse City assessing all that young talent, is huge.”
The Red Wings training camp is slated to start Sept. 20.
“I talked to (assistant GM) Jim Nill and he said they’re prepared to have training camp,” Reeves said.
Provided, of course, there’s a new collective bargaining agreement in place.
Add a Comment
Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.
Most Recent Blog Posts
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.