The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/06/11 at 06:17 AM ET
Updated 3x at 12:03 PM: Today’s largest Red Wings-related news story won’t take place until 11 AM, when Joey Kocur’s celebrity softball game gets underway in Highland Township, Michigan, indicating that we’ve reached perhaps the second or third “pause” in the summer news cycle.
These pauses haven’t lasted for extended periods of time as of yet, and as Alanah and I are pulling double duty of sorts, I’d prefer to not push too particularly hard against the fact that today brings little in the way of talking about key players who must step up for the Wings to remain a playoff contender or the futures of Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, or, via the Hockey News’s Lyle Richardson, one Jiri Hudler...
A year ago the Detroit Red Wings were looking forward to Jiri Hudler’s return from the Kontinental League, where he spent the 2009-10 season because of a contract dispute.
Hudler was expected to exceed the 23-goal, 57-point performance of his previous NHL season, but he instead struggled throughout 2010-11, managing only 37 points in 82 regular season games and three points in 10 post-season contests.
He will face heightened expectations this coming season to regain his scoring touch. But as recently noted in the Detroit Free Press, the Wings could explore trade options if he fails to prove himself as a reliable top-six forward.
Hudler is also in the final year of his current contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2012, which should provide additional motivation to step up his game.
And I realize that even mentioning Hudler’s status is a reiteration of a reiteration, but especially given the content on my least-favorite hockey-related site of late, it bears repeating: the Red Wings’ current roster is, barring any injuries or surprise promotions, pretty much what you can expect to see the team ice until sometime around the midpoint of the season, at which time the team’s management might start considering bolstering its ranks based upon needs which might emerge.
If we are to talk about possible “surprise promotions” of the earned variety, we’ll do so to my admitted chagrin. Tomas Tatar spoke to Pravda.sk’s Michal Malsany on Friday, and as I’ve tended to rail against the concept that Czech or Slovak can be interpreted on a word-by-word basis via Google translations, I’ve tried to wait for a Slovak-speaking pal to show up, but in the absence thereof, here is a very rough translation of Tatar’s interview:
Tatar: I’ll be the first call-up from the farm team
His third season overseas might be his breakthrough [year]. Last year he first tried to play in the prestigious NHL, and now he’s eager to play more games for Detroit.
“After last year finished I felt I was ready to earn bigger opportunity,” says 20-goal-scorer Tomas Tatar.
Did watch the Red Wings’ moves over the summer?
Occasionally I’d read something. I know some players have retired. I exchanged some messages, but I want to [wait for training camp].
Where will you start the new season?
After last year, I left feeling that I was ready to earn bigger opportunities. I want to be the first player called up from the farm team if there’s an injury to one of my NHL teammates. I don’t think I’m going to be able to make the roster from the start, but my goal is to play as many games in the NHL [as I can]. Detroit [already] has enough players under contract, but I hope to make my way onto the team [when there’s a call-up].
Are you going to play in the prospect tournament or the main camp?
Probably only in the main camp. They told me that when I played my second year in the AHL, I couldn’t go to the prospect tournament anymore.
What did you do to prepare for the new season?
I came back from vacation, where I got a good rest in, on Tuesday. Now I’m beginning to prepare to add a new dynamic to my training and slowly get onto the ice. I’ve only skated once before leaving on vacation, when I was training with Ivan Baranka and Stefan Ruzicka. They’re already playing with Spartak, and I want to go to their game in Trencin.
Where’d you go for your holiday?
I went to Bulgaria for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised. Everybody there wanted to have a good time, which was cool. Besides resting and recuperating, I had some fun, too. And it’s [affordable] there compared to where I spent last year’s [summer] holiday.
How was the weather?
Excellent. We traveled at the best time. In Slovakia, it was ugly, but at “Sunny Beach,” we didn’t even have a cloudy day. It was a little [polluted], but I didn’t mind. I’d rather stay at the beach or by the pool.
On your right arm, you’ve got a big new tattoo. What did you get?
I had a smaller one there before, and now I decided to get a large tiger. It’s my favorite animal.
Over the past few years, you’ve added lots of muscle. Are you working on it specifically?
I’m trying to become stronger each year. It’s necessary for American style hockey, but it’s not easy. I’m young, though, and my body has a high metabolism, so I can only add muscle gradually. I think I’d like to gain five more pounds, but not all at the same time. In Detroit, the [training staff] already suggested what I should eat during the summer and what supplements I should be taking.
Were you satisfied with last season?
It was successful and the coaches were satisfied. I even out-scored some teammates on one-way contracts. But I had fun.
The Red Wings drafted two Slovaks in this year’s entry draft in Marek Tvrdon and Tomas Jurco. Did you notice that?
Yes, I’m happy about it. I don’t know them personally, but the more, the better. Slovaks understand Europeans better than Americans and Canadians. If they want me to, I can tell them how things work on the team and help with what they need.
The World Championships were played in Bratislava and Kostice [Slovakia], but you weren’t included. How did you see [their] misunderstanding about Detroit releasing you [to play]?
It wasn’t pleasant. I respect their decision, and I’m not angry at anybody. I kept my fingers crossed that it could happen. It’s a pity that it didn’t work out as I’d wished.
On Saturday in Bratislava, the Zlaty Puk [Golden Puck] 2011 poll results will be released. Who do you think will win?
I think Zdeno Chara was the best [Slovak] player. And Lubomir Visnovsky also had a perfect season, but it’s about winning the Stanley Cup.
Who would you give the prize for the best player under 20 years of age? You’ve won it in the past?
Maybe I’d give it to [my friend] Richard Panik. I wonder if he can win it twice. And Tomas Jurco could also win it, he was the highest NHL-drafted Slovak, and won the Memorial Cup.
That’s the best I can do via a very, very rough translation using a couple of comparables…I’ll see whether I can find anybody who can set the record a little straighter. In any case, the bottom line’s the same message Tatar delivered last year—he wants to play for the Wings, but understands that he’s got to put his time in as a Grand Rapids Griffin and work his way up the depth chart by earning the status of the go-to call-up in case of injuries, and that’s a very realistic goal for him to set for himself.
Also of Red Wings-related note: In the “interactive” category, ESPN is asking fans to pick the Eastern and Western Conference’s regular season champions;
• In the multimedia vein, Red Wings TV caught up with former Wing Manny Legace, who’s taking part in today’s charity baseball game…
• In charitable news, the Winnipeg Free Press’s Ashley Priest reports that a charity hockey game called the SuperStar Summer Showdown will take place in Winnipeg, MB on August 7th to raise funds for the Believe in the Goal foundation, and Darren Helm, Ian White and former Wing Derek Meech will take part in the game, as will Jonathan Toews, Jordin Tootoo, Mike Richards and Travis Zajac (read: half the NHL’ers who are from Manitoba or Northwestern Ontario will be there);
• And this is just an in-passing note, but the Peterborough Examiner’s Mike Davies noted that the Petes made a trade to acquire center Andrew Yogan to round out their offense and add some offensive punch to a forward lineup whose other top center is some Wings draft pick named Alan Quine.
Update: Red Wings Grinder’s Alexey Kovalevich posted a collection of photos and videos from Pavel Datsyuk’s trip to Moscow to pick up the Kharlamov Trophy on Tuesday.
The votes have been cast for the conference winners. In the East, the clear favorites were the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Can you imagine the excitement of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin facing off in the conference finals?
In the West, it wasn’t quite as clear-cut. The San Jose Sharks came out on top with the Detroit Red Wings in second place, but the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks were not far behind.
So now it is time to decide who will take home the biggest prize at the end of the 2011-12 season.
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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.