The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/28/12 at 05:35 AM ET
On Sunday, the Free Press’s Helene St. James more or less sketched out the Red Wings brass’s plans after their amateur scouts attend this week’s draft combine in Toronto, with an organizational powwow more or less determining the team’s approaches to re-signing their restricted free agents, decision-making processes regarding unrestricted free agents-to-be Tomas Holmstrom, Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler, either retaining the services of Joey MacDonald or augmenting the back-up goaltender’s position, and obviously deciding which unrestricted free agents to prioritize going into July 1st.
In terms of the organization’s immediate future plans, they involve signing two players who will remain in Europe in Calle Jarnkrok* and Teemu Pulkkinen and one player who will “turn pro” with the Grand Rapids Griffins in Tomas Jurco, and the Free Press’s George Sipple spoke to Wings assistant GM and draft guru Jim Nill about the upside of Jurco, who’s wrapped up his junior career with strong showings during the regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup as a member of the Saint John Sea Dogs:
“He played well [at the Memorial Cup],” said Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill. “Even toward the end he had a couple good chances. He was dangerous all night. Good for him.”
In 48 regular-season games playing for former Red Wing Gerard Gallant, Jurco had 30 goals and 38 assists for 68 points. Jurco was even more productive in the playoffs, with 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 20 games. That’s 45 goals, 55 assists and 100 points in 68 games this season.
“They had a very good team and he was a big part of it,” Nill said of Jurco. “His point totals went up this year. He played good at both ends of the ice. He had a good world juniors for Slovakia. Overall he had a very good season.”
Jurco (6-3, 193) helped the Sea Dogs win the Memorial Cup in 2009-10. He totaled 26-25—51 in 64 games in the regular season and 7-10—17 in the 21 playoff games. Jurco was the fourth overall pick in the Canadian Hockey League’s Import Draft in 2009 and the Wings selected him in the second round, 35th overall, last June in the NHL draft.
“His skill level is very good,” Nill said. “He’s a strong skater, very good stick skills, very good hockey sense. He’s got all the tools. Now it’s just him developing strength-wise and learning to compete every night and win puck battles.”
Despite the fact that Jurco’s array of puck-handling skills come in no small part due to Pavel Datsyuk’s status as his idol, and despite the fact that Jurco looks as if he’s come off the same Slovak Power Forward Assembly Line that’s built Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa, from his bowlegged skating style, strong play along the boards, heavy shot down to the toe curve on his Easton stick, the Wings tend to believe that they’ve got a rich man’s Tomas Kopecky on their hands instead of a Gaborik or Hossa, but if Jurco bulks up a bit and keeps on developing his skills, you never know.
If you happen to find yourself up at 5 AM EDT this morning, and if you happen to speak Slovak, you might be able to engage in CAS.sk’s chat with a very different kind of Slovakian-born phenom in Wings prospect and Danny Cleary/Tomas Holmstrom hybrid Tomas Tatar…
And while he’s not likely to return, this surprised me: a certain native of the other Slavic nation involved in the “Velvet Divorce” can boast having a very successful father: According to Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager and Taking Note’s Greg Drinnan, Jiri Hudler’s dad has made a remarkable recovery after having a liver transplant half a decade ago, and he now works for an agency that’s recruited another “junior,” former New York Islanders forward David Volek’s son, David Jr., to join Swedish club Farjestad BK’s junior team:
Volek’s agent is his uncle, Ales, whose agency is called Alvo Sports Management. According to the agency website, Ales was a scout for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators from 1999-2002. Jiri Hudler Sr. is the head of player development for the agency.
That’s not all Jiri Sr. does, per Sager:
The Volek-to-Sweden story talk is notable because his adviser works for an agency headed by Jiri Hudler Sr., father of Jiri Hudler, the
ex-Detroit Red Wings
defenceman who’s now a scout and was a Czech world junior team assistant coach.
Both Jiri Sr. and former Wing Fredrik Olausson have had to have liver transplants, and Jiri Sr.‘s an agent and World Junior assistant coach, and Olausson is an assistant coach for HV71 in Sweden. That’s pretty frickin’ remarkable stuff.
In the alumni department, DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford spoke to former Red Wing and Maple Leaf Paul Henderson about his “dual citizenship,” and Henderson had a pretty solid career for both the Wings and Leafs (sorry about all the “second clause tells the story” sentences lately. I’m not sure why they’ve become a habit!):
Henderson’s performance in the Summit Series has understandably overshadowed the rest of his career, but his time in the NHL was by no means lackluster. Making his NHL debut during the 1962-63 season on a Wings’ team packed with talent, he quickly learned how to play with the best, including Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Marcel Pronovost, Bill Gadsby, Alex Delvecchio and Norm Ullman.
“They were obviously classy guys, there’s no question about it,” Henderson said. “You get seven hall of famers all on one team, I’m not sure there’s ever been seven hall of famers on another team, maybe Montreal. It was a good experience for a young guy.”
During his first full season with the team, Henderson experienced one of the most iconic moments in the Detroit-Toronto rivalry when the two teams faced off in the 1964 Stanley Cup finals. In a moment comparable to Henderson’s summit goal, the Leafs’ Bob Baun played through a broken ankle to score the winning-goal in overtime of Game 6.
“We should’ve won, honest to God, we should’ve won,” Henderson said. “Bobby Baun scored in overtime. We should’ve won it in Detroit. We were ahead in that game, and then (Billy) Harris tied it up and then Baun went off Bill Gadsby’s stick in the bloody net, probably the worst shot in the league. It’s history now.”
Baun’s goal forced Game 7 in Toronto, which the Leafs won to secure the Stanley Cup.
“We go ahead 3-2 and the sixth game is in Detroit and I felt that we outplayed them in that series,” Henderson said. “I felt we outplayed them that game, too. But then we went back to Toronto and lost 4-0. I can remember that like yesterday and I haven’t got over it yet.”
• This is even more surprising: Gordie Howe spent Sunday signing autographs at a Keller-Williams Reality location in Kitchener, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Record’s Ryan McCracken earned a rare opportunity these days in actually being able to speak to Gordie (Mark, Marty and Murray tend to prefer that their dad doesn’t give interviews during his autograph-signings). Howe mostly recounts a story from his playing days, but it’s Gordie Howe talking about being able to play left-handed or right-handed, and I’ll take it:
“I found it amazing that he was ambidextrous,” said Kent Lindner, a Kitchener resident who attended both fundraisers on the weekend, and brought his young, hockey-loving son Jordan, 9, to the autograph signing. “(The weekend) was the experience of a lifetime.”
Howe was able to shoot the puck left and right-handed because of the flat blade on his stick. While players began curving their sticks in the 1960s, Howe kept his blade straight right up until his retirement 1980.
“Sometimes they’d say just stick to your own hand, but I won a lot of things. They never really mention that in the Stanley Cup I got a goal from the left side when I shot it left-handed,” said Howe, a natural righty. “The goal went in and I came to the bench and Sid Abel said, ‘how did you do that?’”
Howe says his ability to shoot both ways protected him on the ice and allowed him to make room to attack the net.
“I thought being on the backhand down on the left side wasn’t the best world. You can get hurt that way too. I liked to be on the right hand side when I shot (from the right), that was my protection,” Howe said. “I found out that changing hands, for me, was a lot easier … Some (defencemen) led you in and they moved away from the boards so you were forced down the far right, so I changed hands and that changed their habits, and it worked.”
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning: The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Foster penned a story about Slovenia’s most successful hockey export, Anze Kopitar, and Kopitar did mention Slovenia’s other NHL alumnus in Wings forward Jan Mursak…
The path from Slovenia to the NHL is not a straight line. Kopitar played two seasons in Sweden before being drafted 11th overall in 2006. Even with his succès, NHL scouts have not flocked to his country.
“You have to have a little luck,” Kopitar said. “Someone to see you. You can’t just show up and say, ‘Look, I’m ready to play.’ “
Mursak played junior hockey in the Czech Republic before being drafted by the Red Wings in 2006. He and Kopitar faced each other twice this season.
“We had a couple dinners in Detroit and a couple out here when we played them,” Kopitar said. “It was nice to be around someone from home.”
• I can only direct you to a “paywall” as I don’t have a subscription to Crain’s Detroit Business, but this url—http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20120527/SUB01/305279966/no-goal-a-lockout-may-halt-wings-arena-push—represents a story from Crain’s Detroit Business’s Bill Shea about the Wings’ continued attempts to find some sort of partial public funding to build Joe Louis Arena’s follow-on facility. This is all we can read from the article without me dropping $36 for maybe ten Wings articles a year:
The Ilitch family’s ongoing behind-the-scenes efforts to gather support for taxpayer dollars to aid construction of a new Detroit Red Wings arena faces a possible stumbling block—a lockout.
• And finally, in perhaps equally frustrating news, the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti recalled the New Jersey Devils’ Stanley Cup Final appearances, and I don’t know about you, but after this little ditty, I didn’t need to wait until he smashed in Kris Draper’s face to learn to hate Claude Lemieux:
1995 vs. Detroit Red Wings: The Devils entered their first Stanley Cup Finals as heavy underdogs to the Red Wings, who had rolled through the first three rounds with a 12-2 record, including 8-0 at home. The upstart Devils were not intimidated, though, and won, 2-1, in Game 1 at Joe Louis Arena with eventual Conn Smythe winner Claude Lemieux scoring the go-ahead goal 3:17 into the third. The Devils’ 4-2 win in Game 2 is best remembered for Devils captain Scott Stevens flattening Slava Kozlov with a bone-jarring hit and Scott Niedermayer’s end-to-end rush rebound goal that tied the game in the third. After a 5-2 win in Game 3 at the Meadowlands, the Devils answered a 2-1 deficit in Game 4 with four consecutive goals in another 5-2 victory that completed the sweep to wrap up their first Cup.
Fantastic playoff performer? Yep. Hall-of-Famer? Probably. Clutch goal-scorer and understandably on Graf hockey’s advisory team as they’ve finally launched a line of composite sticks equal in quality to their skates? Yep. Completely self-absorbed egotist and all-round weasel? Yep.
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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.