The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/27/12 at 06:59 AM ET
As the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek suggests, the dearth of substantiated trade talk around this year’s trade deadline, which will hit at 3 PM EST today, may very well suggest that in this year of supercharged “parity” in the standings and uncertainty regarding the CBA to come, we’re more likely to actually witness 20-30 deals go down which could change the fortunes of AHL teams dramatically instead of significantly altering the faces of NHL franchises.
For the Red Wings, who’ve already made a significant move in adding Kyle Quincey last week, the team’s desire for a forward probably won’t be met, but it won’t be for a lack of trying on the parts of Red Wings GM Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill and capologist Ryan Martin.
As Mike Babcock and the still Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Ericsson-less Wings try to rebound from “unacceptable” performances against Colorado, Vancouver and Chicago—offensively, defensively and otherwise—before heading to Columbus on Tuesday, the Wings’ management will be watching TSN and Sportsnet via that mysterious satellite dish on the south side of Joe Louis Arena which receives Canadian cable TV (methinks it’s registered to a P.O. box in Winnipeg), and they’ll be working their blackberries and computers to do what the Wings always do:
Holland, Nill, Martin, and maybe even some pro scouts and assistants like Kris Draper and Chris Chelios will be all but literally kicking every tire, calling both GM’s and player agents to gauge the asking prices for and perhaps future intentions of any and every available player out there, regardless of whether he’s on the want list the Wings’ management cobbled together back in January in Las Vegas, and when they do hit on a target, they’ll do their damnedest to find a way to add reinforcements without sacrificing the team’s short or long-term future in the process.
On Sunday afternoon, Holland told MLive’s Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that he’s looking for a bottom-six forward with size and strength, choosing to allow Jakub Kindl and Mike Commodore to vie for the sixth defenseman’s spot while Jonathan Ericsson recovers from a broken left wrist instead of overcompensating for Big E’s more-significant-than-you-might-assume absence, and Holland reiterated his comments to Khan on Sunday evening…
“I’ve talked to a few managers today, but nothing’s really cooking,’’ Holland said. “There’s not a lot of players (available). Maybe things change in the next 18 or 24 hours. We’ll see. So many teams are in the playoff hunt.’‘
Holland said he is not seeking a depth defensemen despite the injury to Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) that will idle him for a month. And Joey MacDonald’s stellar play has eliminated the need to acquire a backup goaltender. But they will try to add some size and strength for their fourth line.
“You’d love size,’’ Holland said. “You’d love a center that can win draws.’‘
Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad is that type of player, and might be available since the Sabres are virtually out of the playoff picture and haven’t been able to re-sign the 6-foot-5, 212-pound center. The Red Wings also are interested in big, gritty winger Travis Moen of Montreal (6-2, 215).
The going rate for these types of rental players (impending free agents) is at least a second-round pick. The Red Wings’ problem is that their pick in any given round will be lower than that of most teams. So the cost might be too high for them.
Checking-line center Samuel Pahlsson of Columbus also is expected to be traded. Dallas agitator Steve Ott might be available, but he has two more years on his contract at $2.9 million per season, so it will cost more to pry him away from the Stars. Some reports indicate former Red Wings Mike Knuble of Washington and Mikael Samuelsson of Florida are available. Colorado forwards David Jones, Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi are rumored to be available, but the Avalanche are making a playoff push and might be reluctant to move any of them, particularly to Detroit.
“I’m not aware of a whole bunch of players on the market,’’ Holland said. “That could change.’‘
And Holland also spoke to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about his plans as well:
“I’m not going to trade away assets for an eighth, ninth, or 10th defenseman,” Holland said. “We have depth there.”
But finding another forward, maybe a player with some size and grit — experience is always a bonus if it can be found — that is another matter. Holland would like to add that piece, if possible.
“If something is there,” said Holland, but if not, “we like what we have.”
What’s causing the stalemate for the Wings, and many other Stanley Cup contenders, is the fact that the bottom of the playoff picture is so muddled. Only two teams in the Western Conference (Edmonton, Columbus) are clearly out of the playoff picture. The East is more muddled. Teams on the border between playoff contention have to decide before 3 p.m. whether they’ll trade away assets or keep them and make a run at the playoffs.
“You have a lot of teams still in the hunt,” Holland said. “That’s having a huge impact.”
There surely will be players available to the highest bidder. Columbus center Samuel Pahlsson is a fine checker who used to frustrate the Wings when he was in Anaheim. Montreal’s Travis Moen is a textbook grinder who is nursing an upper-body injury, but that’s not going to scare away playoff contenders. Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad would be a good fit as a rugged fourth-line center, but there will be plenty of competition for the big center (6-foot-5, 220 pounds). Former Red Wings Mikael Samuelsson (Florida) and Mike Knuble (Washington) could be available. Samuelsson’s name has popped up in recent days. It seems unlikely the Panthers — in the smack of a playoff race — would unload one of their assets, but the Panthers did get younger over the weekend acquiring Wojtek Wolski, a winger like Samuelsson, who could make Samuelsson expendable. Knuble has been a healthy scratch in recent games.
I want to reiterate, however, what Holland told the Macomb Dailys Pleiness about his plans given Ericsson’s injury and his belief that Datsyuk is a week or two out…
“We’ve (Jakub) Kind, we’ve got (Mike) Commodore and we’ve got Brendan Smith,” Holland said. “Kindl’s going in. If he doesn’t do it we’ve got Commodore and if he doesn’t do it then we’ll go Smith. We also have (Doug) Janik. If they all don’t do it we don’t have enough. That’s sports.”
Holland doesn’t think Ericsson will need surgery.
“Once it’s healed partially and there’s no pain, he can play,” Holland said. “Hoping late March, early April we’ll have him back.
“We like our team,” Holland added. “We’re second in the West. We would like to get deeper, but a player has to be available that we think will help and at a price we’re prepared to pay. We paid a first-round draft pick for a 26-year-old defenseman. Ty Conklin has given up four goals in three games in Grand Rapids. He’s playing closer to the form that we thought he could when we signed him. Joey MacDonald has done a good job. We feel good about our goaltending. We feel we’re deep on defense. We’d like to get deeper up front but that might not be there.”
And as for Datsyuk and, and perhaps moreover, the way the Wings have been playing of late?
“From date of surgery you’ve got to give him three weeks until he’ll begin playing,” Holland estimated. “We haven’t played that good this past week. We haven’t been nearly as good defensively as we have been all year. We gave up about four or five breakaways in Chicago. We gave up 43 shots against Vancouver and gave up a lot of D-zone goals (Saturday) night on bad coverage. We need to get back to playing the type of hockey we’ve been playing up till last week. We’ve got the players. We’ve seen them do it. We know they can do it.”
“It takes you awhile to get back ramped up and playing,” Holland said. “You can’t fluke second in the West. We’ve played at a high level. We’ve played really good at home. We’d like to be better on the road, but in the Western Conference, other than Vancouver that has a tremendous road record, there are two or three teams over .500. It’s hard in our conference to win on the road.”
That’s what the Wings have to worry about regardless of whether they add a player or add absolutely nothing. As MLive’s Khan reminds us, the Wings may only play two games this week—they tangle with the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, host the Wild on Friday, and will have one and then two days off between the Hawks and Flyers tilts next Sunday and Tuesday and the back-to-backs against LA and Nashville on Friday the 10th and Saturday the 11th—so the Wings will have four practice days this week, and boy howdy, do they need ‘em.
The Wings’ special teams performances haven’t been great and their even-strength play has been worse. The Wings haven’t “gotten started on time,” their defense has either stood with mouths gaping as opposing teams have pounced upon loose pucks or they’ve chased puck carriers like chickens with their heads cut off, and in both cases, they’ve left Jimmy Howard to his own devices despite three strong performances from Howard, and until Babcock reunited the Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler line on Saturday, the team’s offense was stuck in reverse.
In other words, the Wings’ coaches and players some, to quote Sifl n Olly, “serious-ass problems” to address in terms of reestablishing a consistent, fast and spirited puck possession style of play built upon a rock-solid defensive foundation, and they told Khan as much:
“We know we didn’t play well at all defensively,” Lidstrom said after the game. “You want to correct it, especially how we’re playing in our own zone. I thought we had some defensive-zone breakdowns that they capitalized on. We were out of position, and we weren’t covering the man we were supposed to. We know we haven’t played well in the last couple of games and we have to bounce back as a team, and that starts in our own zone and how you play defensively.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, back from a broken right index finger, gave the team a chance to beat the Blackhawks and Canucks.
“Over the course of the season, you’re going to hit these little bumps in the road like this,” Howard said. “It’s that old saying, you never get too high, or too low when things aren’t going well for you.”
Babcock dismissed the notion that his team had a letdown Saturday, after having its NHL-record 23-game home winning streak snapped on Thursday.
“You have high points throughout the year and sometimes you’re not as energized, I understand that,” Babcock said after the Colorado loss. “But you don’t accept that, you got to be mentally tough and push through it, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Jiri Hudler, who scored twice against the Avalanche to reach the 20-goal mark, said, “We had a good stretch going on, obviously we’re disappointed tonight. We didn’t play well in the first two periods. I’m sure we’re going to have some meetings about it.”
Whatever happens between the time I’m writing this (the middle of the night) and 3 PM EST today won’t change the responsibilities of the Red Wings’ coaches and players to self-correct and get back on track, and by Tuesday?
They’ll probably be tied with the Blues for first in the Central Division standings given that St. Louis plays in Calgary on Monday. Given the Wings’ light schedule this week, we’ll probably see the Wings drop to third or fourth in the standings as the Canucks and Blues do their thing, too, so the rest of the NHL’s press will insist that the mighty Wings have fallen on hard times yet again, and that the balance of power in the West has changed, blah blah blah, while Detroit actually gets back to the work of reclaiming their elite status.
The prime example thereof comes from our first set of power rankings this week. NHL.com’s Dave Lozo gives us our first slate of power rankings for the week, and where are they?
6 Detroit (41-19-3) [last week] 1: Travel for Detroit is always rough as an Eastern Time Zone team playing in the Western Conference, but the Wings play outside their time zone just four times in their final 19 games.
Technically, there are five games left on the Wings’ schedule that aren’t EST or EDT starts: the first is on Saturday, when the Wings play in Nashville; three more come on the 13th, 14th and 17th, when the Wings engage in their last West Coast trip of the year, swinging through Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose; the fifth is on April 4th, when the Wings will play the Blues in St. Louis.
And finally, as I know that Paul Gaustad probably tops most of your lists in terms of players you’d like to see the Wings acquire, but the Niagara Gazette’s Bill Hoppe says that the Sabres’ 8-3-and-3 run of late has them reconsidering selling off assets:
The Sabres have upcoming unrestricted free agents they could trade, most notably gritty veteran Paul Gaustad, who might be playing the best hockey of his seven-year career. The 30-year-old’s one of the league’s premier faceoff men, can play center or the wing and is a top checker and penalty killer. In a seller’s market, he should bring at least a second-round pick. Someone could want him just to take draws.
But the Sabres appear to be trying to re-sign him. [Sabres GM Darcy] Regier said Friday he had spoken to Gaustad’s representatives and they would talk again “no later than Sunday.” Gaustad has played his entire career with the Sabres and said last week he would like to stay.
Struggling forward Brad Boyes and concussed center Jochen Hecht are the Sabres’ unrestricted players. At a prorated $4 million, someone could take a flier on Boyes, a former elite scorer with three goals in 47 games, for a low draft pick. The 29-year-old’s supreme shootout prowess – he has five scores in eight attempts – could be worth a win or two.
The 34-year-old Hecht, a strong two-way player at his best, is recovering from his third concussion in 10 months. A healthy Hecht might be worth a second-round pick.
Regier, however, told Buffalo’s WGR 550 that he’s not inclined to sell off assets:
“The focus for us has to be on … how even in its finest form this team can be better moving forward, and if it means we have to take a little bit of a step back in the short term, then I would argue it’s worth it,” Regier told the radio station.
“People will come up to me and say, ‘Why don’t you play so and so for so and so?’ And I think, ‘My God, wouldn’t that be wonderful if we could do that?’” Regier said when asked a general question about acquiring top talent. “And (they ask), ‘Why don’t you get … top players in the league?’ The reality is they’re not available and you’re not going to get them.”
And, given that the Wings are willing to part with nothing more than mid-round picks and middling prospects, I wonder whether Holland, Nill and Martin are going to be able to do anything other than say that they tried the best they could to add someone by the end of today.
As it looks like right now, anyway, adding Kyle Quincey and maybe bolstering the Grand Rapids Griffins’ roster by sending Ty Conklin to help them (the Griffins are 3-and-0 with Conklin tending their net) are the only things the Wings’ management will have been able to do to improve both their NHL and AHL rosters.
Part II: In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye played without coach Nick Vitucci, who was suspended after being ejected from Saturday night’s game, but the Walleye did just fine without him. They completed a 3-games-in-3-nights slate with a win, building up a 5-1 lead before withstanding a hard push from the Cincinnati Cyclones, winning 5-4:
Wings prospects Bryan Rufenach and Gleason Fournier registered assists and Andrej Nestrasil registered 2 during the game, and Jordan Pearce stopped 30 shots. The Walleye’s website and the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe provide recaps.
Part III: Also of Red Wings-related note: If you find yourself in Los Angeles on March 13th, the Detroit Red Wings will be hosting a a viewing party at the Coney Dog restaurant in LA (which is partially owned by Kris Draper, and includes authentic Detroit Coneys and even Faygo pop);
• In the land of the slightly loony, part 1: the Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd is wondering why the Montreal Canadiens can’t take a page out of the Wings’ book and build a consistent winner…
How far we’ve come from that 28-game undefeated streak – straight downhill, for the most part. Of course, the popular wisdom is that such domination is impossible in today’s NHL. But the Detroit Red Wings 23-game home winning streak (which the Canucks put the boot to last week) argues that it is still possible to build (or rebuild) a dynasty.
In the past two decades, the Red Wings have had only one full season (1996-97) with fewer than 40 wins – and they won the Stanley Cup that season, one of four championships during this stretch. The Wings have won at least 50 games six times in that stretch and 62 once, in 1995-96.
That is the goal: Consistent excellence, year after year. Just as teams once aspired to be like the Habs, now it’s time for the Canadiens to aspire to be like the Red Wings. What happens between now and the June 22 entry draft in Pittsburgh will shape the next decade and go a long way to determine whether the dynasty is rebuilt – or allowed to unravel for another 20 years.
• In the land of the slightly loony, part 2: our friend “Open Ice Hitter,” who seems bound and determined to insist that the NHLPA is the reason behind all the league’s ills, also believes that the Red Wings need to find themselves a starting goaltender today:
Very curious to see what Ken Holland does …. He is always the man to watch as far as moves, or anything to do with hockey …. Holland has been loyal to a fault over the years ( sticking with the likes of Chris Osgood and Kris Draper well past their prime ), so can he admit to himself that he needs a goalie ? Aside from a tender, Holland could add anything from depth players to the likes of Rick Nash…
Um, no. Nash is not on the Wings’ radar screen. There is no way in hell that Scott Howson would trade the face of his team to the Blue Jackets’ self-declared biggest and most hated rival without asking for even more in the reported compensation he’s asking other teams to provide him with (something to the tune of at least what the Bruins got for Joe Thornton in three useful NHL players if not at least one star forward in return, and a stellar prospect, and a high draft pick) for the premium of Nash going to Detroit, and as it stands this morning, it’s sounding less and less like Nash will be traded at all.
Never mind the fact that the Wings prefer to wait until July 1st to add star players who can be had for only the price of their contracts.
• And in the land of the very, very crazy, my Wings coverage will be a little spotty today as I’ll be lending the boss a hand with deadline coverage. The Wings come first, but if there are any fireworks (and it’s unlikely that there will be fireworks), I’ll be assisting in that department as well.
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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.