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Red Wings overnight report: Sunday columnist quips and prospect talk

If all goes well, after a weekend’s worth of covering a Stanley Cup Final in which both teams seem to have a hard time swallowing the concept that when you get to be the last two teams standing, more people will probably dislike you than like you, maybe this morning’s crop of Red Wings-related news and notes will provoke a little more head-nodding (or shaking) and some plain old enjoyment of the fact that the skate’s not on the Wings’ foot today.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson provides the head-nodding part via comments about the Wings’ possible retirees and a probable former assistant coach…

Kris Draper must be feeling like his good Grind Line buddy Kirk Maltby felt last summer, knowing he didn’t want to play anywhere else if the Red Wings didn’t have room for him. While GM Ken Holland is extremely loyal, there was no room for Maltby as a player and there really isn’t for Draper, either, not if they want to bring back Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves. Draper will retire and get a management job, just as Maltby did.
Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who won his 400th game last year, has been a great mentor for Jimmy Howard in Detroit and still has some stops left in him, but I’m not so sure they won’t go younger with a backup next season and there are countless free agents out there, like Brian Boucher, Ray Emery, J.S. Giguere, Mathieu Garon, Alex Auld and Jeff Deslauriers).
Is it possible that the Winnipeg squad might also have Detroit assistant Paul MacLean in their sights to coach (MacLean has interviewed in Ottawa)? MacLean was a hugely popular player for the NHL Jets once upon a time.

As well as the head coaching candidate who we all know is a close pal of Mike Babcock’s:

Here’s one outside-of-the-box theory if Ken Hitchcock doesn’t get one of the vacant head coaching jobs: what if he talks to Mike Babcock about an associate post with the Detroit Red Wings, with Brad McCrimmon gone to Russia and Paul MacLean possibly getting the Ottawa Senators post? They are very good friends and worked together on the 2010 Olympic team. I think it would be the perfect situation for Hitchcock, who has long said he’s a career coach (NHL, minors, junior, whatever).

The head-shaking will come in the form of news about some free agents and buy-outs. I’m not going to suggest that the Wings are certain to have any interest in these players, but given the Wings’ tendencies to take a good gander at the buy-outs, veterans who are “let go” who might fill support roles and other over-30 types whose frustrations over the past year or two yield motivation to head to a contender, even at a discounted price…

But I will suggest that you keep some of these names in your back pocket, just in case the Wings do end up considering acquiring the players’ services for nothing more than the price of their contract.

I have to think that while he’s had some injury issues and seems to possess a Jason Williams-like level of consistency, as well as some concussion issues, the free agent market is so thin up front that most teams looking for a bargain will at least consider taking a look at 6’3,” 225-lb center Wojtek Wolski:

The New York Rangers are buying out the last year of captain Chris Drury’s contract, but won’t follow suit with underachieving wingers Wojtek Wolski and Sean Avery. Wolski, who has tons of talent but doesn’t have a huge work ethic (35 points), has one year left at $3.5 million. Avery, who is only effective when he’s creating a disturbance, was benched by coach John Tortorella at times last season. He had 24 points, playing 11 minutes a night. The Rangers will use Drury’s money to give raises to Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.

I can’t imagine the Wings having any interest in Drury as he’s just so unbelievably banged-up so regularly, and Avery? Pfft. A bad attitude got him booted out in 2003. He’s hasn’t exactly matured.

Matheson also reports that the Oilers may finally buy out Sheldon Souray, who at least has talent and a big shot despite being injury prone and having a Todd Bertuzzi-like reputation when it comes to taking obstruction penalties, or whether the Wings would have any interest in a player the Columbus Blue Jackets are buying out, per the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline, in soon-to-be-37-year-old Craig Rivet...

But if Jonathan Ericsson walks and/or Nicklas Lidstrom does that thing we all don’t believe he will, Ken Holland’s been known to get creative in his bargain-hunting, and while it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Wings might be interested in someone like James Wisniewski (someone as brilliant as one of the singing Simpson sisters, who I’ll not credit out of courtesy to the boss,* suggests as much in a “scoop”—and everything I’m reading from Montreal to Moscow suggests that Andrei Markov will remain a Canadien, for the record), sometimes it does take a divining rod to figure out who the team’s going to target in the middle-to-end of July to fill in some holes while providing a little leadership or at least some contract offer-spurned motivation.

Anyway, it’s also the Columbus Dispatch’s Portzline that steers us toward prospect talk via a summary of some of the main points (green flags, if you will) which prompt the Wings’ amateur scouts, who will be pow-wowing with the pro scouts, Holland, Jim Nill, Babcock, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer and the rest of the front office at Joe Louis Arena on the 15th and 16th, to draft players who have otherwise red-flagged their way off other teams’ draft lists, especially in the later rounds:

The Detroit Red Wings have long approached the draft with a philosophy that might be surprising. Red Wings scouts are implored to evaluate prospects with three criteria in mind:

• Competitive spirit: How hard does the player play? Is winning hockey games the most important thing to him?

• Hockey sense: Does he make smart plays with the puck before line changes, read situations wisely?

• Skill: Can he skate, dangle and shoot?

The Wings’ drafting success has been remarkable, considering they haven’t picked higher than 21st in the first round since 1991. Yet, they’ve landed Pavel Datsyuk in the sixth round (1998), Henrik Zetterberg in the seventh (1999) and Johan Franzen in the third (2004), to mention a few.

There are a couple other attributes that the Wings love, including the kind of work ethic that helps smaller players get bigger and stronger by committing to on and off-ice fitness, their willingness to self-improve (see: Pavel Datsyuk in practice) and of course the glimmers of maturity that the Wings hope will intersect with the players’ physical attributes and hockey gods-given talent five-to-seven years down the line.

In that sense, we’ve already read assessments of the Red Wings’ prospects from Hockey’s Future’s John Henkelman and RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest, and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan takes a look at several of the players who the Wings hope will turn out to be aces in the hole in a year or three:

Jan Mursak , left wing: Mursak, 23, played 19 games with the Wings this past season and is likely to secure a regular role next season. He only scored one goal, but that won’t be his role. Mursak is a grinder, and showed an ability to be a first-rate checker.

The thing about Mursak that puzzles me is that he displayed a tremendous amount of scoring potential as a junior-aged player and some of that as a pro. Is he going to be able to bring some of that offensive awareness to his Rick Nash-wide skating stride? I’m not sure, but he does have hands that are much more natural than Darren Helm’s (no offense, Darren!). Down the line, I would imagine that the Wings are hoping that Mursak can flash more of his scoring potential.

Kulfan also mentions Cory Emmerton (who has to clear waivers as well) and Brendan Smith (who will probably spend at least half of next season in Grand Rapids), but it’s his final three candidates who might be the most intriguing in terms of their possible punch up front:

Calle Jarnkrok, center: Keep this name in the back of your mind. Jarnkrok is only 19 and he won’t be in Detroit for at least a couple more years. But once he fills out physically (5-11, 165 pounds), this second-round pick could be a steal. Scouts view him as Henrik Zetterberg clone, a strong two-way player.

Gustav Nyquist, center: A former Hobey Baker Award finalist (college hockey’s Hesiman Trophy) at Maine, Nyquist had four points (one goal) in eight games with Grand Rapids to finish the season. He’s not big (5-11, 170 pounds) but awfully fast and creative, and he works hard defensively.

Riley Sheahan, center: As a freshman at Notre Dame, Sheahan had 17 points (six goals) in 37 games, one of the few freshman to play regularly in the CCHA. Sheahan has good size (6-2, 200 pounds) and the Wings project him as a powerful two-way center down the line.

I’m going to be very interested to see Jarnkrok (165 pounds was an overstatement last summer…by twenty pounds), Nyquist (who didn’t exactly wow me the year before he was a Hobey Baker finalist for the first time, so everybody gets it wrong from time to time, me more than some others) and Sheahan in Traverse City this July. I’m going to tally up the bucks and let you know where I stand today or tomorrow.

Between now and July 7th, the first day of the Wings’ first open-to-the-public prospect summer camp since 2004, the Detroit Free Press’s Mark W. Smith notes that those of you who are social media-inclined may want to attend another freely-provided event held by the Wings and their business partners:

Social Media Day hits the Motor City on June 30, giving the plugged-in community here a chance to mingle a bit offline. And, in the true spirit of social media, it’s all free.

Popular tech blog Mashable started the event last year and encouraged cities across the world to host their own Social Media Day parties.

This year, the Detroit party is hosted by MotorCity Casino Hotel and Ferndale-based Livio Radio. It starts at 7 p.m. June 30 at the casino’s Sound Board entertainment space. At midnight, the party moves to the casino’s Amnesia nightclub.
The event will offer an opportunity for Livio and other brands including the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Fathead (all sponsors) to mingle with the social media movers and shakers here—a new brand of influencers oft-courted by brands to spread their messages online.

And, given the plugged-in nature of this crew, WiFi will of course be available for all the tweeting, blogging and photo-posting the group can muster.

Tickets to the event are free, but required. You can get yours at http://smdaydet2011.eventbrite.com/.

Before then, as the New York Post’s Larry Brooks points out this morning (and I’ll leave the grumble-reading to you), the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its Selection Class of 2011 on June 28th, so it’ll be interesting to find out whether a Wing joins Mickey Redmond. As Brooks suggests, someone with both a Red Wings past and a hand in the team’s free agency plans in pro scouting director Mark Howe has at least a halfway decent chance of getting in…

Way down the line, as the Free Press’s George Sipple notes, the Grind Line may take a bow at Kris Draper’s annual summer hockey camp in Troy, MI:

For the past couple of off-seasons, Draper has been involved in a hockey camp through Core Sports Fitness, which he co-owns. This year, he’s bringing Maltby and [Darren] McCarty on board for the Grind Line Fundamental Hockey School for players ages 6-13, Aug. 22-25 at the Troy Sports Center.

Draper said he started talking to Maltby about the camp during a round of golf.

“He wanted to do it, and then we wanted to include Mac as well, sent him a text and he was on board right away,” Draper said. “We talked about how much fun the three of us have had playing for the Red Wings and the friendship we’ve created, and thought it’d be pretty neat to put a hockey school together.”

The trio helped the Wings win four Stanley Cups (1997-98, 2002, 2008). Draper has played for the Wings since 1993 and hopes to continue playing next season. Maltby retired in 2010 and is a pro scout for the team. McCarty played for the Wings in 1993-2004, and made a successful comeback in 2008 before retiring in 2009.

The campers will work on skating, passing, puckhandling and shooting. Draper said Wings head athletic trainer Piet Van Zant will participate and discuss nutrition and show some of the off-ice training routines used by the Wings.

“They’re going to do the treadmill, agility, a lot of foot-speed drills,” Draper said, “that we even do at the NHL level in our off-season training as well.”

And as I like to pick on him for his anti-NHLPA commentary (Draper, of course, visited the locked-out Detroit Lions in part to show a little union solidarity), I’ll give the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont a heartfelt pat on the back for this labor-related request, last clause aside:

Hockey sure was sizzling when the Broadway Blueshirts won in ’94, wasn’t it? But then came the lockout (first in a series) only some 90 days later, and then suddenly, uh, the game wasn’t so hot. For a long time. The widespread implementation of “trap’’ hockey only made matters worse (take a bow, Jacques Lemaire, along with all your trappist wonks). The current collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15, 2012. Let’s hope the shakers, movers, and thinkers on both sides of the bargaining table keep the spring-summer-fall of 1994 in mind when they get around to their Greed Games.

*Paul mentioned to me that Dennik Sport’s Zdenek Janda suggested that the Red Wings might have a passing interest in Jaromir Jagr. I’m going to say “no” on this one for a good reason—KHL creator Vladimir Putin’s favorite club, SKA St. Petersburg, wants to make its annual summertime splash, and Jagr’s in their sights. Avangard Omsk, Jagr’s previous employer, and Atlant Mytischi are also in the running, and there is a possibility that Jagr could end up back in New York or Pittsburgh, but Gazprom Export’s petro-dollars will probably fuel a final season or two for Jagr with SKA. The Wings can’t offer Jagr anything close to what he could make in Russia.

And on that front, we’ll end with a note that’s not Wings-related: the government of the Ural Mountain province of Bashkortostan chose to not back out as the main sponsor of Salavat Yulaev in Ufa, so while Matheson suggests, in the article first referenced, that the Nashville Predators might hope to bring Alexander Radulov back from the KHL, it’s my understanding that he’s going to fulfill his contract to Salavat instead of making the Predators harder to play against.

I know that isn’t wrapping up this morning’s missive in a neat and tidy little bow, but on a day filled with tidbits more than anything else, I might as well conclude the proceedings by providing a tidbit of my own.

Update: Via Aftonbladet’s Daniel Grefve, former Wing Andreas Lilja’s agent, Bo Falkman, told Hockeyligan.se’s Peter Kalberg that the big defenseman’s going to look for NHL employment for the time being, but may eventually consider an offer from an Eliteserien club.

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Although uncle Mike gets along with Ken Hitchcock, and we all know that Ken was a pretty decent coach, I would not want a coach (any coach) that becomes my assistant. First, the players might “mutiny” against the coach and only listen to Ken. Ken has a pretty big influence on players and I would be afraid in the long run, that the two “coaches” might clash…Although Babs has 3 more years to his contract (I think) if things go down the drain, we all know who usually gets the axe..the coach..and who might get the job? I don’t want to make it sound like a conspiracy, but I just would feel uneasy about hiring Ken

Posted by meg on 06/12/11 at 12:31 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Geez, can you imagine being a kid and going to a hockey camp coached by McCarty, Maltby and Draper?  Makes me wish I had a kid (almost).  smile

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 06/12/11 at 12:37 PM ET


MsRedWinger: I agree!!!!!!!!!!!! smile

Posted by meg on 06/12/11 at 12:51 PM ET


Lots of things to take in George!  I keep thinking of this though and wondered among other Wings fans if they think it’s a pipe dream.  How about going after Scott Hartnell?  Philly needs to dump some cap space to sign Bryz and the only obstacle would be Hartnells no trade clause.  Can’t see why he wouldn’t want a chance to play with the Wings though.  Big body up front who can play the PP!  Has a bit of a mean streak also.  Makes $4 mill a year so we might have to get rid of Hudler (waivers perhaps?).    I think he might be a good fit on this team.  Lmk what fellow Wings fans think..

Posted by wingnut888 on 06/12/11 at 05:55 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

I wondered if Hitch would come and nail down the defense, but his D came from a complete style.  I don’t know if it would complement Babs philosophy or not.

Posted by RWBill on 06/12/11 at 07:04 PM ET


Great blog as always, George.

One quick correction:

The Wings’ drafting success has been remarkable, considering they haven’t picked higher than 21st in the first round since 1991.

Not strictly true. Kindl was taken 19th overall in 2005, the year when every team got a shot at the No. 1. But the point still holds.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 06/12/11 at 08:08 PM ET

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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.