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Red Wings overnight report: the benefit of Ken Holland’s post-July 1st doubt

With the exception of a couple of “slow days” before the NHL Awards and Nicklas Lidstrom’s announcement that he’d return for at least one more season, Red Wings fans haven’t had any sort of, “Okay, our team’s roster is set and our management’s heading to their summer homes, now we wait!” off-season. The Wings’ coaching and playing rosters have remained in flux, and that’s still the case as we head into a “slow” weekend because Wings GM Ken Holland has chosen not to announce any decisions as to Chris Osgood or Kris Draper’s futures with the organization until Monday at the earliest.

In the interim, there’s something to keep in mind, and it was something that rattled around in my brain during prospect camp but never managed to find its way out: regardless of whether you want to see Osgood and Draper continue to play or hang ‘em up, the fact that the players and Wings’ management made a mutual decision to wait until after July 1st to determine their respective courses of action is nothing less than extraordinary.

If you think about Holland’s track record over his entire 14-year tenure as the Red Wings’ GM, the biggest constant regarding free agents-to-be has remained the same, with only three previous exceptions: if you’re not a part of the team’s plans and/or are signed by July 1st, the team will move on without you, and if you choose to postpone deciding whether you want to return to the team until after July 1st, your roster spot will likely be filled by and your salary will find its way to be committed to someone else.

That’s the rule. Sign by July 1st or the Wings explore other options, regardless of whether you’re Dominik Hasek and you’re not sure whether you’ve still got the desire to play or you’re Andreas Lilja and you want to “test the market” and see what other teams might offer you before returning to Detroit for a counter-proposal, and regardless of whether we’re talking about the era where the Wings could toss Mike Ilitch’s money around like it was made of pizza boxes or the post-lockout CBA, the team moves on and finds a suitable replacement, 99.9% of the time. Even Nicklas Lidstrom’s not exempt from the rule (because, at 41, he’s still Nicklas Lidstrom), and over Holland’s tenure, only three players have received the benefit of the team’s doubt, usually to its peril—which is why the Wings tend to stick to the rule to begin with:

1. Sergei Fedorov didn’t sign with the Anaheim Ducks until July 19, 2003, and what happened between July 1st and 19th remain so contentious that both Fedorov and the Wings’ management still aren’t on speaking terms;

2. Steve Yzerman chose to retire on July 3rd, 2006, breaking the deadline rule by three days because he was, well, Steve Yzerman;

3. And Brendan Shanahan was allowed to avail himself of his options before leaving the Red Wings scrambling for a replacement when he signed with the New York Rangers on July 9, 2006 (despite rumors to the contrary, Shanahan, Mathieu Schneider and Robert Lang are the only Wings who explicitly or chose to leave Detroit because they didn’t take to Mike Babcock’s style of coaching).

There are players that don’t quite fit the bill in defections like Jiri Hudler, who sighed with Dynamo Moscow after filing for salary arbitration with the Wings on July 8th, 2009, but by and large, the Wings dictate the terms and July 1st the drop-dead date.

That’s why Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller’s agents found a way to get the pair signed before 12 PM EDT, and it’s way, prior to this CBA, if you weren’t a Wing by midnight on July 1st, you were, to put it politely, S-O-L.

In Chris Osgood and Kris Draper’s cases, Holland did choose to not offer either player a contract and test the market himself for possible alternatives, but it’s very clear that the team has chosen to make no free agent moves or trades in goal or up front until determining the fates of two long-serving veterans who’ve given their hearts and souls to the Wings.

That’s a pretty damn exclusive club to join given the number of players who’ve come and gone from Detroit via free agency or retirement since the summer of 1997, and regardless of the outcome of Osgood and Draper’s discussions with the Wings’ management, it’s important to remember how important the Wings feel #30 and #33 are, to the point that they’ve become the fourth and fifth players who’ve been given the benefit of Ken Holland’s post-July 1st signing and spending clout.

Otherwise, it is indeed a quiet morning: as reported on Friday morning (via the Red Wings’ Twitter account of all places) Justin Abdelkader will indeed attempt to keep his lunch and his wits about him while flying with the Blue Angels on Wednesday, and he spoke to the Free Press’s George Sipple about the opportunity to turn and burn:

“It’s always something I dreamed of doing, go up in a fighter jet like that, especially the Blue Angels,” Abdelkader said today.

Abdelkader is scheduled to fly for about 45 minutes with Blue Angel No.7, Lt. David Tickle, in an F/A-18 Hornet. The special demonstration by the Navy’s elite jet team is not open to the public. The Blue Angels will be in town to headline the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show on July 23-24.

“Ever since I was about 3 or 4 years old, we had an air show in Muskegon, and I was always fascinated by the jets and the planes,” Abdelkader said. “I was able to get pilot lessons when I was younger and would someday like to try to obtain a pilot’s license.”

Abdelkader said he has gone up with a flight instructor — and with his mother and sister — and “got to take control and fly around a little bit.”

It has been a busy summer for Abdelkader, who went to a wedding in June for former Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg and has two more weddings to attend in the next couple of weeks. He said he also has done some off-ice training in metro Detroit with Wings forwards Kris Draper and Dan Cleary and defenseman Jakub Kindl. He also works out twice a week with a private trainer.

• Speaking of which, per RedWingsFeed, I’m not sure whether Wings prospect Mitchell Callahan is either insanely dedicated or just plain insane (probably both) for stating that he’s going to go to Toronto to train with Grand Rapids Griffins strength and conditioning coach Aaron Donwey—Downey scared the hell out of some of the Wings’ prospects by engaging them in circuit training that involved something like 30 seconds on a station and then 10 off before moving to the next one. If Callahan doesn’t take out his two front teeth before he trains with Downey next month, he might sweat his partials off;

Callahan and most of the Red Wings’ prospect camp participants took in Friday’s Tigers-White Sox game from Mike Ilitch’s suite, but Brooks Macek and more than a few Western Canadians headed home early for the Calgary Stampede. Travis Ehrhardt was very excited to take it in;

• Also out West, and in the “celebrity appearance” category, the Associated Press reports that Mike Modano and Brett Hull are taking part in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada;

• In the “celebrity appearance that you can actually take in” category, and including a “cowboy” of sorts (Abdelkader’s flight won’t exactly be a publicly viewable affair), the Saginaw News’s Adam Bouton reports that former Wing Darren McCarty will appear at next Thursday’s Great Lakes Loons baseball game;

• Also of “easy” note, the Free Press’s Kirkland Crawford re-posted the “The Business Journals” study which claims that the Red Wings are the easiest NHL team to support;

• Ditto in the re-posting department, via, um, me: I had not seen this previously, but Sports Illustrated offers a slate of would-be NHL player product endorsements which begins with…“CheliOs” (hey, it’s better than “Osgood n Plenty,” Paul Coffey Coffee, Bob Beers Beer or Bourque and Beans);

• And all I have to say about this is this: thank you, but seriously, if there is anyone who’s not a big deal, it’s the typing monkey.


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Rdwings28's avatar

Good Morning, George.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 07/16/11 at 09:22 AM ET

Norskirama's avatar

When the Shannahan,Schneider, and Lang leavings occurred I was not aware of the friction of these three with Babcock’s coaching style.  Could you elaborate on your comment above about this?

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 07/16/11 at 10:55 AM ET


I don’t know about the writer not being important George. You’re pretty much the only reason I started reading kk in the first place.
There’s nobody else out there that creates as much wings specific content in a readable format as what you do.
And while I will say that the readers of wings-related items on mlive seemed a decidedly different population segment from the general population, I’m still glad to see you launch your articles from a hockey dedicated platform instead of one by and for trolls.

Posted by teldar on 07/16/11 at 12:12 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

Atta boy, George.

Great work!

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 07/16/11 at 01:01 PM ET


I always thought Schneider’s departure was more about money then a conflict with Babcock.

Posted by Steve on 07/16/11 at 01:37 PM ET


George, now you have to change your bio: I can boast being the first blogger to be granted access to the past three Wings’ “summer strength and conditioning camp.”

Great reporting, and have fun in Grand Marais…I’ve spent a bit of time there and love it! Get some well earned rest up there on Lake Superior.

Posted by wingsluver4ever from TC on 07/16/11 at 03:18 PM ET

Number9Loyalist's avatar

I only discovered your blog this summer.  J.J. and the gang over at WIIM not only link your pieces but speaks so highly of you I come and check K/K out.

The posters here and MLive and WIIM seem more informed, certainly more civilized (I almost never post on Freep any longer) and contribute more with their links.

Gotta say, it’s my first stop now and thanks for all of your hard work.  Can’t wait to see your content when the season begins.  Have a great vacation!

Thanks George,

#9, a new Malik reader

Posted by Number9Loyalist on 07/16/11 at 03:43 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, didn’t the Blue Angels make an appearance in Traverse City during the Cherry Festival?  They usually do…

And nice that Nick Barnowski mentioned you in his piece.  It’s good for people to know how hard you work, though most of us who read you faithfully have figured that out already.

Number9Loyalist - I think you may be a buddy of mine from freep.  I used to post over there also, but under another screen name, which the folks over there abbreviated as “Ailie”...

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 07/16/11 at 03:54 PM ET

Rumbear's avatar

Good stuf G.  Appreciate the efforts from the TC trip. Travel safe!

Posted by Rumbear from Top O the Hasek, Czech out my recliner..... on 07/16/11 at 04:10 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I got to Traverse City halfway through the Cherry Festival, so I didn’t get to see the Blue Angels. Heard more than a few Coast Guard choppers and fixed-wing propeller planes coming back and forth from the Air Station, though. The Traverse City Air Station is pretty much responsible for all of Northern Michigan, so my hotel might as well be in front of a police station during shift changes…

When the Shannahan,Schneider, and Lang leavings occurred I was not aware of the friction of these three with Babcock’s coaching style.  Could you elaborate on your comment above about this?

That was Babcock who stated that three players had left the team due to friction with him. Shanahan and Babcock didn’t get along, and Schneider’s issues were partially money-related and partially due to friction with Babcock.

Otherwise, it’s one thing to be confident in yourself and your abilities, and it’s another to think that you’re a “big deal,” and I’m all for the former but not for the latter.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/16/11 at 06:18 PM ET

Number9Loyalist's avatar

Ailie - Hey!  Of course I remember you - I always enjoyed your comments and love your female perspective.  :D

Posted by Number9Loyalist on 07/16/11 at 09:07 PM ET

Norskirama's avatar

Thanks George.  I guess it just surprised me with Shanahan because I thought if you could get into the Scotty Bowman method, how could Babcock be friction producing—maybe because Babcock was younger and not as established as Scotty?  Well thanks for adding this info to my “Red Wings Cerebral Databank”

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 07/17/11 at 12:24 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Babcock’s first year was…hard. He tried to come in and be a serious hard-ass and pushed the players instead of letting the veterans run the room. He didn’t realize that the Wings’ leaders don’t need to be constantly questioned and ground down because, well, people like Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom and Kris Draper had already taught Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk how to conduct themselves and self-correct as of Babcock’s first season.

Now he trusts the veterans a lot more, he lets the players run the room and he understands that his players are, for lack of a better term, both de-facto coaches and are simply on the same “team.”

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/17/11 at 12:42 AM ET


I’m glad you’re getting a break, albeit temporary. So, Mountain Dew is your drink of choice? This may explain your ability/problem staying up so many hours. I empathize (more accurate than sympathize). Thanks again for your writing.

Posted by Bugsy on 07/17/11 at 12:58 AM ET


Fascinating blog entry.  I’m not sure I would have ever made the connection between re-signing success and the July 1st deadline.  Good research and in a way a fitting tribute to Kris Draper and Chris Osgood, two players who gave everything they had for this team over the years, and two who best personify what we want a Red Wing to be.

Posted by Victor on 07/17/11 at 01:07 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I can’t drink coffee—I’ve never been able to learn how to deal with its taste—so I drink my fair share of pop. Usually it’s Coke Zero or Pepsi Max (I learned in college that one deals with whatver’s on sale, and my aunt who used to work for Coke works for Pepsi now), but toward the end of the camp, I broke down and started drinking Diet Mountain Dew.

When you’re at the rink from 8 AM till 5 PM for ten days and are running on a shoestring budget, it just makes more sense to look like an idiot bringing a 2-liter to work instead of spending $2 every time you want a 20-ounce pop from the vending machine or the concession area. For the first few days I’d buy a very light lunch as well, but eventually the people at the rink figured that I wasn’t going anywhere and was respectful of what they were doing (please-and-thank-you’s and opening doors for people go a long way!), so I was allowed to steal bagels, yogurt and the occasional Gatorade from the players’ table of goodies…

The thing you’d never think would happen at the rink happened all the time for me previously—with nothing to drink, I’d come home from the Joe very dehydrated—so I’ve learned to keep drinking some sort of fluids even if I don’t feel like it, especially given that I wasn’t eating very much. I’d go back to the hotel and have some sandwiches and granola bars and yogurt, or buy these nice mini-subs from the Oleson’s market so I could shove some calories into myself after the day was over. I’d usually have a Powerade Zero or something when I got back as well, but I used to feel like a potato chip when the day was done, so bringing a 2-liter worked.

Admittedly I know it’s not as healthy as drinking water or something but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do when you’re rolling out of bed at 6 in the morning and are working till 11 at night.

I did my best to at least stay away from fast food (I had a pizza one day) and mostly went with lower-fat stuff myself.

One day I even tried a Gatorade pre-meal shake, but it was really horrible (the ingredient list was just junky, too). During the first couple of days of the camp, the players were grabbing those Gatorade pre and post-workout shakes left and right, but by the end of the camp, I think Piet Van Zant had banned them because all the players were using either their pre-approved protein shakes (hockey players go through those gigantic two-pound jars of that stuff) or this pink mix that I think Van Zant had made up for the players.

They were given the same lunches that the rink made for the campers—trays of pasta, salad and “grinders.” It always amazed me to watch the concessions crew wheel these gigantic trays of food across the mezzanine section to where the players were eating and come back ten minutes later with empty trays.

I think the biggest surprise of the camp in terms of what people were doing in between the morning workouts that ended at 11:30 and the stuff that started up at 2:30 was that the players were generally driven back to their hotel and would take a nap even though they probably didn’t get back till 12:15 and left by 1:45. Mitchell Callahan at least said that he couldn’t sleep on command like the rest of his teammates, so he fiddled around on his computer, but most of ‘em…

They’re machines when it comes to playing, working out, shoving calories into their bodies and sleeping. For them, it’s just routine, even in July.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/17/11 at 01:33 AM ET


I didn’t intend on bringing out the details of the players (and your) eating habits to that detail, but I’m fascinated now after reading this. Personally, I have to put 3 cups of sugar before I can drink coffee. I personally go for sugar-free tea myself, when needed (the newer drinks, including the energy drinks, look scary). I am not having pleasant thoughts imagining what’s in those Gatorade shakes. Seriously, good that the staff is looking out for you with the food, and that you’re looking out for yourself with the food.

I also heard about those stories of how other professional athletes can pack away a ton (and hence why they gain so much weight when they retire: eating athletes’ portions when they aren’t athletes), but considering how hard they skated/worked, I’m surprised they didn’t wear out sooner. I’d probably be one of those people fiddling with the computer rather than napping though like I should (e.g., why I’m writing at this hour). Thanks, George.

Posted by Bugsy on 07/17/11 at 05:04 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I didn’t mean to blather here, either, but while hockey players can eat like college kids, they get in trouble if they’re shoveling sub-standard calories into their machines. A “tweeter” whose identity I would prefer to keep quiet revealed that he was eating a pizza and said, “Don’t tell” while admitting as much.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/17/11 at 05:20 AM 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.