The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/16/11 at 02:57 PM ET
Bad timing: the “Red Wings overnight report” fell victim to Ye Olde, “You’ve got to click ‘open’ on the entry options tab for the damn thing to post” boo boo, and I’m about to head out the door for an afternoon’s worth of errand-running, so I’m going to be only to address the following Wings-related stories ever-so-briefly before revisiting them later today.
First and foremost, MLive’s Ansar Khan posted a series of player grades whose preface might be just as revealing as Khan’s assessments in terms of the Wings’ course corrections going forward:
“We thought the team that won that series was going to have a legitimate opportunity,” [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said. “The bitter disappointment also is a driving force. We’ve had it before and followed it up with a good year the following year, and that’s our goal and our focus.”
The Red Wings had plenty of offense (second in the NHL) and so much depth that forwards who would have played every day for many teams were healthy scratches on several nights. Their main issues were goals against (23rd in NHL) and penalty killing (17th in league).
“I think we’re going see some changes, no question,” Babcock said. “I think it’s very important we ask our players to train all summer and get 1 or 2 percent better, and as coaches and management, we do the same thing. We got to improve our team. The bottom line is the final four is going on and this is our second year in a row we’re not involved.”
Players believe they have the nucleus of a good team and will return as Stanley Cup contenders next season.
“We had a good season, it was a good series. It was close,” forward Danny Cleary said. “We look forward to next year and we’ll be a better team.”
Their best players — Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Lidstrom — were their best players, in the regular season and in the playoffs. And goaltender Jimmy Howard took a significant step in the postseason.
• This news comes as no surprise given Fox Sports Detroit’s excellent sports coverage: FSD won ten Emmy Awards from the Michigan Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Saturday night, including two for Wingspan, FSD’s weekly half-hour program spotlighting Wings-related issues—and Wingspan absolutely delivered Datsyuk-picks-the-top-shelf content this past season:
—Sports – Regularly Scheduled Daily or Weekly Program: WINGSPAN (Lesley Clegg, Denny Iott, Mike Isenberg)
An EMMY-winning compilation of segments from the network’s show about the Detroit Red Wings.
—On-Camera Talent – Program Host/Moderator: WINGSPAN – “TREV TAKES ON” (Trevor Thompson)
Interactive features pitting the FOX Sports Detroit reporter against members of the Detroit Red Wings in a series of hockey-related challenges.
• In the radio interview department, I’ll try to give you some partial transcriptions later today, but Wings Gm Ken Holland offered a “big picture” take on the Wings’ performance and changes going forward (he’s not likely to say goodbye to veterans like Kris Draper and Chris Osgood without serious consideration regarding the examples they set for the team’s younger players), saying that the team will determine its potential courses of action over the next few weeks’ worth of exit interviews with players and the coaching staff (and Nicklas Lidstrom will decide upon his future prior to July 1st) in an interview with The Fan 590’s Greg Brady and Jim Lang:
Draper also happened to speak to The Fan 590’s Jeff Blair this morning, stating that he’s going to engage in off-season training as if he’s going to continue to play, and both Holland and Draper pointed out that the Wings have gone with veteran players to help mentor and bring along the team’s prospects since 1995, when Scotty Bowman brought in Igor Larionov and Slava Fetisov. That blueprint isn’t going to change anytime soon:
• WBBL’s Bill Simonson offered this assessment of the Wings’ rally against the San Jose Sharks…
This unexpected six days of people believing in their team in America’s greatest hockey state was as good as it gets. San Jose is the new Colorado — we can’t stand those Sharks. The Red Wings had a bad first period in Game 7 that cost them a chance to continue to contend for the Cup. I think everything from this point forward will be a letdown because the Red Wings-Sharks series was the best hockey I have seen in almost a decade.
The Red Wings will regroup in the offseason. They will find some big bodies to sit in front of the net and help protect Jimmy Howard.
Their mix of star power, veterans, young talent, Howard in goal and some salary cap space should make them a better team next year. With strong ownership and a front office that is the best in the business, the Red Wings will hoist another Stanley Cup in the not-too-distant future.
• And this is a “quick and dirty” translation for now, but Wings prospect Dick Axelsson told Aftonbladet’s Emil Karlsson that he is in fact leaving Farjestads BK, that he’s not necessarily keen on playing for Skelleftea despite their willingness to give Axelsson a $12-and-a-half-thousand-dollar raise on a month-by-month basis, and that at present, he’s waiting to hear back from the Red Wings regarding a possible contract proposal, noting that even if he doesn’t accept the Wings’ qualifying offer and chases petro-dollars in the KHL, the Wings will retain his rights:
“I’ve had a little bit of contact with Hakan Andersson (Detroit’s director of European scouting), but not much more. I’m waiting to hear from them. If Detroit doesn’t offer me a contract, I could play for any NHL team, but if they do offer me a contract, they’d retain my rights, even if I say no [to the proposal].”
Axelsson essentially issued a Dennis Lemieux’s worth of, “Trade me right ****ing now!” bit of spit when he was underwhelmed by the Wings’ first contract offer, so he keeps on hinting that the team may let him walk, but every indication from the Red Wings over the past year suggests that the Wings will retain Axelsson’s rights and hope that, at some point, he grows up, learns to keep his massive ego in check and decides to commit to competing on a night-by-night basis instead of showing flashes of first-line potential and then slinking back into the shadows that Jiri Hudler tends to occupy on the perimeter for four or five games.
Update: The Hockey News’s Lyle Richardson evaluated this past weekend’s off-season Wings trade and free agent suggestions before stating the obvious:
Holland has done a fine job over the years keeping the Wings competitive despite losing star talents such as Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov to retirement or free agency, so it would be foolish to bet against the GM’s ability to continue that trend.
Still, the next couple of years will present Holland with his biggest challenge yet.
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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.