The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/10/11 at 07:45 AM ET
In hockey terms, when Jim Rome asked Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom whether he’d made a decision as to whether he’ll continue his playing career on Thursday, Rome made the mistake of attempting to skate around the back of the net to beat Lidstrom to the left goalpost, and Lidstrom made a patented move, sliding his left leg against the goalpost while jabbing the puck off Rome’s stick while he was still behind the net.
In other words, he stated that he hadn’t made his decision, that he has until July 1st to do so (though it’s assumed that he’ll inform Ken Holland prior to Lidstrom’s trip to the NHL Awards on June 22nd), and he offered a few comments that further exasperated* Wings fans like me, who are worried to no end about the captain’s decision, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“I’m going to take my time and really consider what I want to do,” said Lidstrom, 41, a finalist for the Norris Trophy (best defenseman), Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship) and Mark Messier Leadership Award.
Wings general manager Ken Holland told Lidstrom he needs a decision by July 1, which marks the start of unrestricted free agency. Motivation is a key issue for Lidstrom.
“It’s more motivation, committing to the offseason training,” Lidstrom said. “It’s very hard to get ready for a long year, and then you have the long season in itself.”
Lidstrom said as athletes get older, dedication to an offseason training program becomes more difficult.
“It is a little bit harder as you get older,” Lidstrom said. “You have to train even harder to stay at that level where you want to be. For myself, I have to train even harder to reach where I want to be able play at.”
*I looked up exasperated via Merriam-Webster’s thesaurus as a substitute for a curse word. Between the mounting uncertainty as to the Wings’ roster and bench—the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan is pretty much spot-on in suggesting that Paul MacLean’s headed to Ottawa, leaving the Wings searching for two assistant coaches, a #2/3 defenseman, that mysterious top-six forward Mike Babcock requested, hoping to re-sign Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller, and praying to the hockey gods, like the rest of us, for good news from Lidstrom as the team prepares to evaluate whether it wishes to bring back Chris Osgood and/or Kris Draper during its organizational meetings on June 15th and 16th.
I don’t know about you, but this waiting business has made me, okay, I’ll say it—pissy. As I said yesterday, the Red Wings don’t make these kinds of changes on a regular basis, and it’s nothing less than innervating (another excellent dictionary word) to know that even the Wings themselves don’t have much control over the shape their team will take until Lidstrom decides what he wants to do—and at the same time, I almost feel guilty for being annoyed by the fact that the last man to wear #5 in red and white wants to wait till his kids are out of school for the summer (this week, I believe) and he can have a sit-down discussion with Mrs. Lidstrom and the family about what both he and they want to do.
Of course, MLive’s Phillip Zaroo reiterated the fact that Kris Draper laid his sales pitch out for everyone to hear on Wednesday, adding a new wrinkle by noting that Draper is deep into his off-season training (shh: Lidstrom probably is, too)...
“I’ve played out a lot of different scenarios in my mind,” he said. “To be honest with you, for me to go and play hockey somewhere else for a year would be pretty selfish on my part. I know my wife and my family would support anything I do – I know (if) you ask my 9-year-old son, there’s no way he thinks his dad’s finished playing hockey. It’ll be a tough decision, no doubt. I love this organization. I wanna play here; I told Kenny Holland that. I’ve been here so long. You never say ‘never’ in professional sports, but I couldn’t see myself playing for another team and wearing another team’s colors. To me, it just wouldn’t be right.”
For the first time since the 1994-95 season, Draper played in fewer than 50 games (47), scoring just six goals to go along with five assists. Age aside, he believes he can still contribute to the Red Wings next season. Yet only Holland will make that determination.
“I just turned 40 a couple of weeks ago,” Draper said. “I felt great this year, I really did. I think that’s why I feel that I can still play. That’s why I’ve been training the way I’ve been training right now – to make sure that I am ready to go. I did what I always do when the season ends – take about a week off and then get back to working out.
“I feel real good right now working out, coming to the gym. I love it. This has been fun today. I want to play. I think I can play, but I have to have Kenny Holland believing in me, that I can still play hockey. If that’s the case, I’ll do anything I can for this hockey club, like I always have. And if it’s not, then (I’ll) sit down with my family and talk about it, sit down with Kenny, and see what the future would be within this organization.”
And this morning, the Free Press’s Helene St. James reiterates the obvious about Chris Osgood, via Ken Holland and Osgood’s agent, Rollie Thompson:
“His agent has told me Chris does have interest in playing next year,” general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press this week.
That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll return to the Wings. They are in the market for a backup for Jimmy Howard, and while Osgood has great chemistry with Howard and has served the organization well for many years, re-signing Osgood comes with risks.
Osgood will be 39 in November. He is coming off major surgery for sports hernia and groin-area issues, which limited him to 11 games last season. Repeated attempts to return following the January operation failed due to recurrent pain. Osgood didn’t have a very strong season in 2009-10, either, finishing 7-9-4 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
“He’s been injured, there are lots of unknowns—all that has to factor into the decision,” Holland said. “Right now, we’re not really leaning one way or another.”
Chris Osgood got the kind of news I once did after waking up an hour and-a-half later than expected from corrective sinus surgery: when Dr. William Meyers finished up with Osgood’s sports hernia surgery, he probably woke his patient up with the same wide-eyed glee that my ENT’s displayed, saying, “You won’t believe what we found in there!”
In Osgood’s case, ligaments shorn off bone and tears to his groin as well as his abdominal wall, the kind of stuff that Dominik Hasek had to deal with, and we all know how hard it was for him to recover from his various surgeries.
Given all his setbacks, Holland’s right—the Wings won’t know if Osgood’s groin can withstand the wear and tear of playing until he gets through training camp and an exhibition season’s worth of play, and that’s plain old scary. At the same time, as Holland made sure to tell St. James, the decision is as personal as it is clinical:
“I’ve known him since he was 18 years of age,” Holland said. “I joke he’s like my fifth child to a degree. Whatever decision we make, it’s going to be very, very difficult. We have to look at the goalies that are out there and then try to figure out how we can be the best team that we can be.”
Therein lies the crux of the decision, as St. James notes—about the only place where the 2001 Unrestricted Free Agent class is deep is in goal, so while the Wings can’t replace Osgood’s 400-win resume and ability to mentor Jimmy Howard as only someone who interned under Mike Vernon and shared the net with Hasek can, they can effectively swap Osgood out for a free agent at a salary around or slightly under a million bucks…
Some of the lower-tier goaltenders eligible to become unrestricted free agents include Alex Auld (Montreal), Brian Boucher (Philadelphia), Peter Budaj (Colorado), former Wing Ty Conklin (St. Louis), Ray Emery (Anaheim), Mathieu Garon (Columbus), Johan Hedberg (New Jersey), Curtis McElhinney (Ottawa), Jose Theodore (Minnesota) and Marty Turco (Chicago).
And there is the more Red Wing-like option, which the Grand Rapids Griffins’ architects, Jim Nill and Bob McNamara would have to sign off on: the Wings could simply bring Joey MacDonald back as Howard’s back-up and decide to let Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum (who have one more year of waiver-exempt status) sink or swim as the Griffins’ go-to netminders.
The other sticky wicket in this situation involves the obvious—the degree to which the Wings will replace players via free agency also will be determined by their negotiations with Ericsson, Miller and Eaves, and we won’t know their futures to nearer to July 1st than around the end of next week.
For now…We get to wait. I’ll be the one twitching in the corner…
I don’t usually give promotional news lots of time, but while getting ready to remind you that that Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux will be taking part in a charity dinner at Detroit’s Rub BBQ restaurant tonight, and will then sign autographs together at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor on Saturday, I looked at Gibraltar Trade’s list of autograph-signers for Saturday, and my jaw dropped.
McCarty and Lemieux from 2-4 PM, preceded by…
Legendary Wings defenseman and New Jersey Devils scout Marcel Pronovost, former New York Rangers great Harry Howell, Maple Leafs greats Johnny Bower and Bobby Baun (boo), and a man who may have to be escorted out of the building before Lemieux arrives in one Dino Ciccarelli.
In the words of Borat and Chumlee, Wow wow wee wow.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Also in the promotional vein: Per the Winnipeg Sun’s Jim Bender, if you find yourself in Winnipeg next weekend, you might be able to golf with Gordie Howe:
Mr. Hockey is coming to a golf course near you soon. Gordie Howe — Wayne Gretzky’s idol — will be at the Rainbow Society’s “Tournament of Dreams” golf tournament at the Niakwa Country Club on June 20th.
Each golfer will get their photo with Howe and an autographed picture as a registration gift. Golfers will also get a power cart, lunch, dinner and the chance to win some great prizes. The entry fee is $279.
“We are thrilled to have a living hockey legend like Gordie Howe at our tournament this year,” Grace Thomson, Rainbow Society executive director, said in a release. “We have a lot of hockey fans already attending, and interest is through the roof since the announcement of the NHL’s return to Winnipeg.”
For more info, call the Rainbow Society at 204-989-4010.
• If you find yourself in Norrkoping, Sweden on July 19, Folkbladet’s Kenneth Thapper reports that Detroit Pistons forward and friend-of-the-Red Wings Jonas Jerebko will be holding his annual summer basketball camp;
• Via Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager, there is a player with Red Wings ties who the Wings could draft in the 1st or 2nd round—London Knights forward Vladislav Namestnikov son of former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Evgeni “John” Namestnikov and, according to the London Free Press’s Ryan Pyette, Slava Kozlov’s sister;
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose also profiled another potential Wings pick in Oshawa Generals forward and Danish prospect Niklas Jensen (no relation to Nick Jensen, Wings prospect and St. Cloud State University defenseman);
• One of the reasons the Red Wings chose to take their prospect camp to Traverse City (I’m gonna tally up the donations this weekend and let you know where we’re at) on July 7-14 reared its ugly head on Thursday as Downtown Detroit was plunged into darkness as Detroit Water and Power’s transmission lines literally fried.
This occurred during the Wings’ prospect camp last summer, melting the ice at Joe Louis Arena and forcing the Wings to consolidate their morning and afternoon sessions into one big group of prospects at Detroit’s City Sports Arena;
• I don’t know what the hockey term is for “Monday Morning quarterbacking,” but the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan offered this take as to how the Red Wings may have performed in the Western Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final had they beaten the San Jose Sharks:
The Wings split four games against Vancouver, and beat Boston twice. Actually, those two victories against Boston, during a back-to-back series in February, the Wings pretty much dominated the Bruins. The Wings’ speed and skill looked far superior to anything Boston could offer.
I really believe the Wings would have faired well aganst Boston, although Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (Flint) is always a scary figure.
As for Vancouver, a Final Four series the Wings were so close to reaching, I really think the comeback against San Jose would have drained the Wings heading into playing the Canucks. Vancouver was well rested and pretty much had its way against the Sharks.
It probably, ultimately, would have found a way to defeat the Wings, too.
• And while we’re all jittery about hockey, in reality land, the Winnipeg Sun’s Kirk Penton reports that one of Mike Babcock’s friends gave the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers a lesson in handling adversity while speaking in Babcockian terms:
Earl Cook, a 23-year-old Winnipegger who has been battling cancer for four years, put on shoulder pads and a helmet and took part in the team’s second practice at Canada Inns Stadium. Despite having only one leg because cancer took the other one, Cook did some placekicking and long snapping with the specialists. He also gave a pair of speeches to the team.
“He was awesome,” head coach Paul LaPolice said. “The guys loved it.”
Cook, whose remarkable story was featured in the Sun in March 2010, said his messages to the team were simple.
“The wisdom today was perseverance and what it takes to win,” said Cook, who has become good friends with Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “If you want to win a football game you just gotta keep on battling and never quit.
“You’re going to have games where things don’t go your way, but the bottom line is it’s sports. Not everything goes your way in sports, and that’s with life. You just wake up the next morning and move on and try to figure out ways to fix it.”
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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.