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The Malik Report

Red Wings’ players, coach know that Brad Stuart’s skates are out the door

Amidst the biggest “storylines” from the Red Wings’ locker room clean-out day, in terms of cringe-worthiness, anyway, Danny Cleary’s knee issues (the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan adds to the conversation in a blog entry this afternoon) earned some serious sympathy pains…

But the Red Wings’ player who seemed to be suffering the most discomfort, however, was and is defenseman Brad Stuart, who very clearly wants to remain a Red Wing, but, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness notes, is all but guaranteed to sign with a West Coast team after spending the past four-and-a-half years away from his San Jose-based family, two young sons and high school-aged stepdaughter due to Mrs. Stuart’s custody issues:

“I love it here,” Stuart said. “If it was a purely hockey decision, I would stay. But I’ve got other things to consider and other factors other than just hockey. Those are things I guess I’ll have to figure out in the next month and a half.”

Stuart just finished his four-year deal with the Wings that paid him $3.75 million a season and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He was dealt from the Los Angeles Kings to Detroit on Feb. 26, 2008.His wife and three children continued to live in Los Angeles while he played hockey in Detroit.

“I’ve been living here and my family’s been in California,” Stuart said. “I’ve got a stepdaughter that needs to finish high school so that’s how it is. There’s really no way to get around that. I guess it’ll be up to me to kind of decide what needs to be done. As much fun and as great as it’s been to play here, it’s been equally as tough not having my family by my side. Those are things I’d like to consider, at least try to fix. It’s not as easy as just picking and choosing where you want to go,” Stuart added. “I guess the decision I’ll have to make is am I going to go to free agency, see what happens, or not. I haven’t talked to Kenny (Holland) yet so I guess I’ll have to talk to him a little bit about it. I’m sure there will be a point where he wants to know one way or the other. I don’t really know that yet. It’ll be within a month, probably, I guess, month and a half.”

Holland, the Wings general manager, did approach Stuart during the regular season about an extension which led to speculation that the defenseman’s time in Detroit had lapsed. And Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn’t sound like he is counting on having Stuart around next season.

“I know his family’s still living out West, so that’s probably going to happen,” Babcock said.

Stuart spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about the attempts he’s made to attempt to spend as much time with his family as possible…

There were times if we had a Sunday off and didn’t play again until Wednesday, they’d let me take Sunday and Monday off so I’d go home Sunday, come back Monday night, miss a practice,” Stuart said. “Now flying in for a day is some times worse than not coming at all because they get all emotional. I made it through the last few years. It’ll be a decision we have to make whether we can do it again.”

Stuart’s defensive partner, Niklas Kronwall, is resigned to his friend’s departure…

“Family comes first. That’s just the way it has to be,” Kronwall said. “He’ll talk it over with his family, see how they feel. Everyone knows his family has been in California for a few years and it’s got to be tough on him. His kids are growing up, and as much as I hate to see him leave, he needs to do what’s right for him and his family.”

The wounds of missing his family wound re-open every time his teammates brought their kids to The Joe to skate before and after practices. Stuart is as low-key of a person that you’ll ever meet, but whenever asked about his family you could see the hurt in his face and hear the tremble in his voice. Stuart’s step-daughter has one more year of high school, and while his sons are only four and five years old hockey has kept their dad away for half of their young lives.

“Those are all factors I have to consider,” Stuart said. “My boys are getting older now. … It’s getting harder to be away from them. I don’t enjoy being away from my kids or my wife.”

And no dad wants to see crocodile tears.

“Yeah, if it was a purely hockey decision, I would stay,” Stuart said. “But I’ve got other things to consider and other factors other than just hockey. Those are things I guess I’ll have to figure out in the next month and a half.”

As the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted this morning, Stuart will be missed:

Jonathan Ericsson related how, during his rookie season, coach Mike Babcock would urge that “you have to be like Stuie. He’s like a guy on a mission on his every shift.”

The team’s goaltenders loved Stuart, often calling him “a second goalie” for the way he blocks shots. The one player who’ll feel his loss the most is Niklas Kronwall, who has been Stuart’s partner.

“Stuie is just a big tank out there,” Kronwall said. “He goes out every night, and he does it all for us. His physical play and just his commitment to playing, his attitude, can’t say enough good things about him. He’s a really good character guy. Guys like that don’t come around too often.”

Stuart’s leadership was indelible. He was always available to reporters, even after tough losses. While in Sweden to open the ‘09-10 season, I was interviewing a younger player on the team, who in the course of an answer used questionable language. Very quietly, very unobtrusively, Stuart told the player, “Watch your language.”

Teammates are loathe to lose him, but understanding.

“Brad is the one of the best guys out there,” Ericsson said. “He’s just so humble and just genuinely nice. I got to know his family a little bit this year, too, and he’s telling me about his kids. He’s really a family guy. So that’s something that he really kind of reflects to everyone else—that some things are really more important than others.”

Kronwall described Stuart as someone who “you know him inside out, and you go to dinners with him every time you’re on the road. You spend a lot of time together. He’s a friend of yours. If he would leave, we all know that’s part of the business, but at the same time, it’s sad. But he’s got to do what’s best for him and his situation.”

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Comments

MOWingsfan19's avatar

While I don’t like it, I can fully understand where he’s at.
I used to travel for work and lived 75% or more a year out of a suitcase and a hotel, that lifestyle sucks & I don’t miss it one iota.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 04/25/12 at 06:23 PM ET

Avatar

i know that detroit is a dump… but why the hell would he not just bring them with him?  Am i missing something?  Is it just because of the step-daughter high school thing?  I moved three times in high school… who cares?

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/25/12 at 06:38 PM ET

DocF's avatar

i know that detroit is a dump… but why the hell would he not just bring them with him?  Am i missing something?  Is it just because of the step-daughter high school thing?  I moved three times in high school… who cares?

so sayeth gretzky to lemieux

There is an issue with his step-daughter, custody, high school, etc.  This makes it virtually impossible for the family to reside in Novi, Northville, or the Grosse Pointes.

Coc

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 04/25/12 at 06:41 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/25/12 at 05:38 PM ET

The bottom line is that it’s a custody situation involving an ex-spouse who will not allow her to just move out of state.

*#$%@&.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/25/12 at 06:43 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

i know that detroit is a dump… but why the hell would he not just bring them with him?  Am i missing something?  Is it just because of the step-daughter high school thing?  I moved three times in high school… who cares?

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/25/12 at 05:38 PM ET

I know you’re still seething angry over the fact that Sid came back, and your team collapsed…but do try to follow along here:

1) Stuart’s wife cannot take her children (from a former marriage) out of California due to a custody ruling

2) Brad Stuart lives in Michigan

3) Michigan and California are far, far, far away from each other

4) Brad loves his wife and step-kids as much as Mario loves having Sid live in his basement

Clear?

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 04/25/12 at 06:44 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Custody issue with his wife’s ex-husband. The step-daughter can’t leave CA until she graduates, IIRC.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 04/25/12 at 06:51 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

I know its hard to believe but none of these guys actually live in Detroit so the fact that it is a dump has no bearing.  Believe it or not there are some communities in the Detroit area that are pretty nice.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 04/25/12 at 07:51 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

no comment

Good. Leave.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 04/25/12 at 08:06 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

The greater Detroit area is something like 9th wealthiest in the US. But don’t let census data skew your perception.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/25/12 at 08:49 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Best of luck Stuie, many times you blocked shots, limped off in pain only to return the next shift, and pulled countless pucks from behind your goalie before they crossed the goal.  Best of luck except when you play the Wings.

Posted by RWBill from Brush Street cruising with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 04/25/12 at 09:47 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Depending on where you draw the boundary lines, Metropolitan Detroit and the cities which surround it contain somewhere between 4 and 5.5 million of the 9-and-change million people that live in Michigan, and it is an incredibly diverse, culturally rich and, in the case of some counties, like the one I live in (Oakland), well-off area.

Mrs. Stuart can’t move Ciera away from California or she loses custody of her daughter, plain and simple, and the Stuarts don’t want to move her for her last year of high school anyway. Stuart’s sons were toddlers when he signed with Detroit, and now they’re school-aged, so it’s understandable that he feels like he’s missed a huge chunk of their lives and should be more than an absentee dad.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/25/12 at 10:40 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

Like JJ said.
@&*$!

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 04/25/12 at 11:00 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I totally understand if Stu leaves.  His family has to come first.  But it will hurt - bad - to see him playing for another team.  Next to The Perfect Human, Stu has been my favorite defenseman on the team since he came to Detroit. 

I do wish him all the best.  But d@mn, I hate to see him go.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 04/26/12 at 09:53 AM ET

Avatar

Stuart needs to do what’s best for his family. He’s a family oriented man and it’s tearing him up inside being away from them. I know exactly how he feels, having been deployed at various times for lengths of time approaching 12 months at a time. it’s not an easy lifestyle he chooses but I wish him all the best if he decides not to stay in Detroit. it will definitely be tough to replace him on the blue line since he did so many different tasks for the Wings. wonder how many games he saved by being the “second” goalie? this coming offseason is gonna be a different one for Wings fans to endure for sure.

Posted by WJR from Chicagoland Area on 04/26/12 at 10:16 AM ET

Avatar

It’s not a big loss at all. quite frankly Stuart played awful down the stretch and was the primary defender to miss a play on the Majority of Nashville’s goals.
a. He doesn’t have a big shot. 
b. He doesn’t lay people out
c. He’s not fast and is routinely either lunging or chasing the attacker

It’s actually a great move for the wings if they can sign a more credible replacement. Umm
Paging Brendan Smith to the wings locker room.

Posted by chris from michigan on 04/26/12 at 11:51 AM ET

calquake's avatar

It’s not a big loss at all. quite frankly Stuart played awful down the stretch and was the primary defender to miss a play on the Majority of Nashville’s goals.
a. He doesn’t have a big shot.
b. He doesn’t lay people out
c. He’s not fast and is routinely either lunging or chasing the attacker

It’s actually a great move for the wings if they can sign a more credible replacement. Umm
Paging Brendan Smith to the wings locker room.

Posted by chris from michigan on 04/26/12 at 10:51 AM ET

Everyone’s welcome to their opinion… even when it’s wrong.  Yes, let’s base our rating of Stu on the Pred series because anything he did in the past is irrelevant.  This is an excellent D-man who gives his all every shift, never bitches and is a man of character.  But hey, you didn’t win the Cup so you blow.  Incredibly ignorant people we have visit here from time to time.

Posted by calquake on 04/26/12 at 12:50 PM ET

Avatar

It appears there also some apparently arrogant bloggers who spend quite a bit of time in here. Stuart has blown plays all season and calling him strong all the way around is an overstatement. I’m not questioning his character in anyway but I yet to ever see character produce results. I would step back from your euphoria about a player it clouds true performance.

Posted by chris on 04/26/12 at 01:09 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Stu has been a damn fine Red Wing, and his play has been, for the most part, well above his salary range.

I’ll be sad to see him go. 

But the choice, for him, is a no-brainer - - missing huge chunks of your kids lives, well that is irreplaceable. 

Go home Disco Stu, and thank you.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 04/26/12 at 01:18 PM ET

calquake's avatar

Stuart has blown plays all season and calling him strong all the way around is an overstatement.

You’re right… just like your statements are overstatements.  Read what Kronwall and other teammates had to say about Stu… you know the people who play with him everyday… they don’t know anything like you do.

I’m not questioning his character in anyway but I yet to ever see character produce results.

Wow… I will always choose character over just talent.  And if that’s arrogant… so be it.

Posted by calquake on 04/26/12 at 03:38 PM ET

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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.