The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/29/11 at 06:00 AM ET
If there ever was a reason to spend the entire day away from the laptop, only checking in on Red Wings-related news via one’s smart phone, it involves the fact that Lake Superior makes up for its permanently below-75-degree-temperature status by being remarkably clear. On a glass-calm Thursday in Grand Marais, being in 25 feet of water allowed me to watch my shadow and the ripples in the water as my hands kept me afloat. No current, no wind, no one within fifteen hundred feet, just me in the lake, assuming that after witnessing two integral parts of the Red Wings’ roster choose to retire and a slew of personnel changes at the NHL and AHL levels over the first four weeks of July, nothing else was left to happen that could bring me out of the water, racing back to my laptop.
The Wings-related news over the past 24 hours presents a scattershot pattern to someone who’s not used to being away from the web, so let’s take care of the important stuff first and get to the event-planning and promotional news later:
First and perhaps foremost, it’s worth mentioning that Mike Commodore’s decision to wear #22 instead of #64 was not without at least some good news for the Puck Daddy crowd: according to Yahoo Sports’ Sean Leahy, Commodore will have to match at least $7,288.95 in charitable donations, which is really impressive.
I think that if the modern rights-holder of the Commodore 64 brand hadn’t gotten involved and started talking about profiting from Commodore’s choice, we might have seen a #64 on his back this season, but once a charitable drive becomes, to quote Barry Altman’s conversation with the National Post’s Sean Fitz-Gerald, “Commodore giveaways, Commodore nights, Commodore T-Shirts,” etc., well…Then it’s time to match the charitable donations and stick with #22.
The next two stories look at the Wings’ present and future, and the first…has me gritting my teeth. I am not allowed to comment as to what Yahoo Sports’ Sam McCaig has to say about Lidstrom’s “intimidation factor,” nor his ranking among McCaig’s 25 best defensemen heading into the 2011-2012 season:
[T]here’s nothing quite like a bona fide No. 1 defenseman, a Chris-Pronger-in-his-prime type who can do it all in any zone at any time of game under any circumstances. There probably isn’t a blue liner in the NHL today that matches up with Pronger at his best, circa 1999-2000, but Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber certainly come close. Nicklas Lidstrom, of course, could play on the all-time all-world team, but he’s never had Pronger’s fear factor. And Duncan Keith also rates a mention; he’s Pronger-esque in spirit, if not in body.
McCaig gave Niklas Kronwall an “honorable mention” but did not include #55 in the top-25 list, and Lidstrom…ranked behind Keith, Weber and Chara, in ascending order:
4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings: At 41, he’s still the gold standard for defensmen. Needs one more Norris Trophy to tie the immortal Bobby Orr with eight.
I’d like to think that there’s something to be said for the intimidation factor that is knowing that no matter how hard you try, your fanciest moves and most desperate attempts to score will fail because someone can pick you apart with nothing more than the “simplest” and most efficient play in the book, but that’s just me, and I’m biased as all hell get out when it comes to Nicklas Lidstrom.
As for the status of the Red Wings as a whole heading into the 11-12 season, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen offers this “off-season assessment” of the Wings as it applies to their status as reigning Central Division champions:
DETROIT RED WINGS
Last season: 47-25-10, 104 points (1st place Central, 3rd place Western Conference)
Additions: Ian White, D; Mike Commodore, D; Ty Conklin, G; Chris Conner, RW
Subtractions: Brian Rafalski, D; Kris Draper, C; Chris Osgood, G, Mike Modano, C; Ruslan Salei, D
Up-and-comers: Brendan Smith, D; Thomas McCollum, G; Cory Emmerton, C; Jan Mursak, LW; Tomas Tatar, C
The Red Wings have bid farewell to three players with a combined 10 Stanley Cup rings as Rafalski, Osgood and Draper all decided to retire. Rafalski’s decision was surprising, considering he left with one year and $6 million remaining on his contract. Osgood and Draper were free agents and both accepted jobs within the organization.
The good news is that Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom agreed to return for another season, so the Wings aren’t going into complete shock. That said, replacing Rafalski is no easy task, but it likely falls on the shoulders of White, who signed a two-year contract with the Wings on July 1.
Commodore was brought in to replace Salei, but there’s a chance that Smith and Jakub Kindl, who played 48 games last season, could compete to crack the Wings’ top six, which already includes Lidstrom, White, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Brad Stuart.
Despite losing Draper and letting Modano walk to either another team or into retirement (still undecided), the Red Wings remain intact up front. Detroit has 14 forwards under contract, and that doesn’t include Conner, who is on a two-way deal. Mursak and Emmerton could push for more time in the NHL this coming season.
In other words, as we already know, replacing Rafalski’s offense will involve a by-committee approach, with Niklas Kronwall and even Brad Stuart and Jonathan Ericsson being expected to take larger roles and produce more offense, and the same can be said of Danny Cleary, Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm and Drew Miller stepping up to replace Kris Draper’s contributions to the penalty-kill and as a stabilizing force at even strength (whatever line Draper played on tended to find its way onto the ice when Babcock felt that the Wings were losing control of a game and/or needed a little ship-steadying), and that Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald will have to do their best to ensure that a healthy Chris Osgood’s standard ability to win two thirds of his starts in relief of Jimmy Howard is not missed.
In terms of veteran leadership and savvy, however, the entire team has to challenge itself to make up for Rafalski, Draper and Osgood’s on and off-ice presences, with players stepping up via assertive play, locker room pep talks and/or paint-peeling, exemplary effort in the weight room and plain old moxie as Draper and Osgood were able to talk the talk and then back it up…
And in theory, anyway, if the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau is to be believed and not every “insider” is predicting labor Armageddon in September of 2012, Ken Holland will be right in suggesting that the next few seasons will tell the tale as to whether the Wings’ younger players can bring enough leadership to the table on their own, or whether Holland might have to import some veteran savvy to Detroit from elsewhere to ease the process along.
Along those lines, we move to the multimedia portion of this entry via an interview that one WJR’s Mitch Albom conducted with Kris Draper on Wednesday. WJR doesn’t post Albom’s interviews until two days after the broadcast of his radio show, so this falls into the, “It’s new to you and me” category:
And the Wings’ website is rekindling some fond memories by posting clips of Draper’s days spent with the Stanley Cup in 2008…
As well as a lighter-hearted moment in which Draper and Kirk Maltby played, “Who knows whom best?” with Red Wings TV:
In a very different and promotional vein, the Red Wings have produced a video to introduce fans to their “Operation Bobblehead” campaign, which encourages fans to vote either via the Wings’ website or on Facebook as to the identities of three bobbleheads which the Wings will give away on November 3rd, December 8th, January 12th and February 23rd.
The voting period for the November 3rd game began on Thursday and ends on August 3rd; the second voting period will begin on August 4th and go till the 9th; the third will go from the 9th-16th and the fourth and final bobblehead’s identity will be determined between August 16th and August 22nd.
Confused? Well, Red Wings TV provides a handy-dandy explanation of the process in video form:
I get to be a little rude regarding the fact that, per DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, Cherry Hill, New Jersey high-schooler Joel Greenspan won a Sport Illustrated for Kids sweepstakes by submitting a superb drawing of Jimmy Howard, and what did he win?
For his efforts, Greenspan won a copy of the NHL’s new graphic novel “The Guardian Project” produced by famed comic originator Stan Lee, and a hockey jersey of his choosing.
“My thinking was that the magazine would have received a lot of drawings from kids of players that most people have heard of,” Greenspan said. “But when you think of a star on the Red Wings, you think of Nick Lidstrom, Pavel (Datsyuk), Hank Zetterberg. I liked the idea of drawing all of the goalie equipment and the mask, so I decided to draw Jimmy Howard. Plus it was close to the playoffs and he was doing really well, and he’s a good, young player. I like him a lot.”
Congrats and I hope you enjoy the jersey, but the Guardian Project…erm…yeah. That’s almost literally a throw-in.
Also in promotional news, the Great Lakes Loons baseball team will host Darren McCarty on Thursday night…
The Great Lakes Loons welcome the media to Dow Diamond today (July 28), where Red Wings great Darren McCarty will be making his Loons debut. The 15-year professional hockey player will be joining the team for batting practice, where he will shag fly balls, work on his infielding, and of course swing as hard as he can in an effort to knock one out of the park.
The Loons will begin batting practice around 3:40 p.m. on Thursday, weather permitting.
McCarty is visiting Dow Diamond as a part of the Red Wings Legends Series, presented by MidMichigan Health. He is one of three player appearance in the series and will remain at Dow Diamond during the Loons game. After throwing out the first pitch, McCarty will mingle with fans and sign autographs on the concourse.
And McCarty spoke to the Saginaw News’s Kyle Austin about the fact that he recently took part in a charity golf tournament in Saginaw, and that, had his baseball skills matched his hockey chops, McCarty might have been involved in a different kind of bench-clearing brawl:
“I love baseball more than hockey,” McCarty said. “I’ve been to about 15 Tigers games already this year.”
McCarty played for the Red Wings for parts of 13 seasons, retiring in 2009 having played in more than 900 NHL games. He recorded 337 points and amassed more than 1,700 penalty minutes.
His connection to Saginaw started early in his career, when he met Bordeaux at a hockey school in 1994. The two were reunited in 2008 when Bordeaux, the chairman and chief operating officer of Caravan Knight Facilities Management in Saginaw Township, was a part-owner of the Flint Generals. McCarty started his hockey comeback with the Generals, playing in 11 games with the team, before eventually moving on to Detroit and winning the Stanley Cup later that year.
While McCarty retired a year and a half ago, he’s recently been joined by a pair of his closest friends from the Red Wings. Chris Osgood announced his retirement July 19, and Kris Draper announced his Tuesday. McCarty said he’s heard the debate on whether or not Osgood is a hall of famer, and there’s no doubt on where he stands.
“He’s a hall of famer,” McCarty said. “It’s a decision he had to make, I think he’s glad to stay in the organization. He’s also happy to move on and do other things.”
The Detroit Free Press reports that the Loons are the single A affiliate of the LA Dodgers, and offers this:
Darren McCarty put on a different uniform Thursday as he made an appearance at a Great Lakes Loons baseball game in Midland.
The former Red Wing was a Loon for the day, wearing the uniform, and he signed autographs during the game. The Loons are the Class A affiliate of the Dodgers and play at the Dow Diamond.
McCarty, 39, was visiting the park as part of the team’s continuing Red Wings Legends Series, presented by MidMichigan Health. The events include Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk and Dino Ciccarelli bobblehead nights. ESPN’s Barry Melrose, who played parts of two seasons in Detroit, is scheduled to make an appearance Aug. 25.
The Midland Daily News doesn’t publish its stories till the middle of the morning, so I can only suggest that you follow their teaser regarding an interview with McCarty that should hit the internet somewhere between 10 AM and noon today…
The Red Wings’ Twitter account also took note of the fact that Wings alum and Grind Line vet Joey Kocur will be holding a charity softball game in Highland, Michigan on Saturday, August 6th. You can purchase tickets for the event here or at the addresses of the Red Wings Alumni team’s opponents (and this game’s roster is usually pretty star-studded, Ted Lindsay’s appearance at the game included)—the Milford, White Lake, or Highland Township Police or Fire departments.
On the Friday preceding the softball game, per the Romeo Observer, the Wings’ alums will be taking to the golf course:
Detroit Red Wings’ Alumni Association’s 2nd Annual Golf Outing (four-man scramble with a celebrity tournament), 10:30 a.m. registration, noon tee-off, Friday, Aug. 5; The Orchards Golf Club, Washington Township. (586) 263-2968.
The event will raise funds for the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute.
Otherwise, this morning’s Red Wings-related tidbits range from cool to strange to…well, the kind of thing I’d expect to see on the evening news from Marquette.
• Via RedWingsFeed, Yahoo Sports’ Dmitry Chesnokov posted a Twitter update stating that he was going to meet with Pavel Datsyuk next week in Moscow, which means that an epic Datsyuk interview is in the works;
• Again, via RedWingsFeed, there was some confusion as Hockey Canada announced the roster of its National Junior Team development camp (essentially its summertime try-outs for the World Junior Championship team), and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Scott Harrington is bafflingly listed as a Wings prospect, which probably offends someone (or should?);
“I think I’m like everybody else. You hunted everything all your life and then when I got to the income tax league, I could afford to do a little bit more, I have been to Africa three different times and those are world-class hunts but some of my best hunts are here in North America. I was above the Arctic Circle last year hunting Dall sheep and I ended up with a great Arctic grizzly, a caribou and a Dall sheep, the scenery and having everything on your back was great. I have had some adrenaline packed hunts, I love doing it, I don’t think about hockey when I’m hunting or business, I just enjoy hunting and one of the things I’m very thankful for is the fact that I hunted with my father and now I [do it with] my kids when I get a chance.”
I don’t know where to start with this one as it depends on your views about hunting and/or the kind of “big game” stuff that Babcock engages in as quite a bit of the money he pays to go on guided hunts tends to go toward, oddly enough, animal conservation.
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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.