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Red Wings roundup: Brad McCrimmon’s scooting; Chelios, Boughner won’t replace him +TC prospect stuff

When fellow Red Wings fans ask me about Brad McCrimmon and why I’ve been somewhat defensive regarding the Wings’ now-departing assistant coach, I’ve never really explained my reasoning, but I’ll admit two reasons now that the Red Wings and McCrimmon have mutually agreed to part ways so McCrimmon may pursue other opportunities:

1. First and foremost, McCrimmon was set up to fail in fans’ eyes. Unless the Red Wings brought in someone who could adequately replace both Todd McLellan’s coaching chops and Jay Woodcroft’s acumen as the team’s video coordinator, he was consigned to Alain Johannes/Jason Newsted bassist territory—how exactly do you replace someone with truly unique musical, vocal and charismatic chops while garnering adequate fan support? You don’t, and McCrimmon become something of a scapegoat almost immediately. In terms of fans’ perspective, the Wings were replacing Mike Babcock’s right-hand man with someone possessing Niklas Kronwall-sized shoes (size 6). He never had a chance, even if the Wings’ penalty-kill roared along at 99% throughout his tenure.

2. He was Nicklas Lidstrom’s first partner on defense, along with Brad Marsh. Lidstrom turned pro back in 1991, and that was the first year I followed the Wings (I was a late-bloomer), so I’ve got warm fuzzies for the McCrimmons, Burrs, Ysebaerts and Cheveldaes of the hockey world.

McCrimmon clearly decided to take his much-improved resume as Mike Babcock’s assistant and pursue a head coaching job, as he told TSN’s Darren Dreger...

I had a brief conversation with Brad McCrimmon this morning about his coaching future. McCrimmon sounds excited about the possibilities he hopes will surface with five teams still in the hunt for NHL head coaches.

The Red Wings describe the decision to not renew McCrimmon’s contract as “mutual” and have nothing but good things to say about McCrimmon and the three years he spent assisting Mike Babcock.

Dallas, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ottawa, and Florida continue to patiently consider their options believed to include, Kirk Muller, Craig MacTavish, Peter DeBoer, Ken Hitchcock, Guy Carbonneau, Mike Haviland, Mike Keenan, Michel Therrien, Cory Clouston, Kevin Dineen (Portland-AHL), Kurt Kleinendorst (Binghamton-AHL), and now Brad McCrimmon among them.

Failing a head coaching opportunity, It’s hard to imagine McCrimmon won’t be sought after for one of the various assistant coaching jobs that are available as well.

As well as the Sporting News’s Craig Custance...

“I’ve been here for three years. The Ilitch family, Kenny Holland, the whole organization has been great – great players, good staff,” McCrimmon told Sporting News. “It’s been very enjoyable but there are things out there right now that I have interest in.”

In a recent poll of NHL players, McCrimmon was named as one of the assistant coaches players believe should get a shot at a head coaching job. There are five openings in the league right now – the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. The well-respected McCrimmon should get consideration for openings in those cities.

And the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple...

“There’s different opportunities out there that I’m interested in,” McCrimmon said in a phone interview today. “Obviously, being able to come back and work for the Ilitches and Ken Holland was a great privilege. Having the ability to be associated with the great players that are here and staff and the pursuit of the Stanley Cup every year, which is the goal here. Glad to have that opportunity.”

McCrimmon, 52, could be a candidate for an NHL head coaching job. There are openings in Atlanta, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey and Ottawa. McCrimmon’s contract expired at the end of the 2010-11 season.

“I’d like to thank Brad for his dedication and tremendous work in serving as an assistant coach for the Red Wings,” general manager Ken Holland said in a released statement. “We wish Brad and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”

McCrimmon spent 18 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL, including 1990-93 with the Wings. In addition to his three seasons as an assistant coach with the Wings, he was an assistant with Atlanta (2003-07), Calgary (2000-03) and the New York Islanders (1997-98).

“I was here for three years, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was the start of the 20-year playoff run,” he said of his playing days in Detroit.

Who posted a video from YouTube user JDrager which summarizes how McCrimmon played the game:

You may not have liked him very much as a coach, but he was a wonderfully subtly nasty player. He played a Brad Stuart-like game, and while he was a few steps slower than Stuart when he came to Detroit, he did help Nick along.

Going forward, however, I’ll put it bluntly: while Mike Babcock is essentially going to be the Red Wings’ coach until he no longer wants to coach the Red Wings, just as Ken Holland’s the team’s general manager for as long as he wants to do the job, the bench got a little stale this past season. I think that it’s going to be good for the team to bring in a different voice and a new perspective.

That new voice, if you believe the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell, might be former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Bob Boughner, but this is where things get a little complicated.

Waddell found that Holland—who spelled out his off-season game plan during an interview with WDFN’s Sean Baligian, Tom “Killer Kowalski” and Ryan Terpstra on Thursday—was happy to stir the rumor mill:

“Bob Boughner is a young coach that would likely have to be a candidate,” Wings general manage Ken Holland said. “Obviously, he’s accomplished a lot as a junior coach. I think he’d have to be a name on our list.”

Boughner told the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline, however, that only a head coaching job would give him pause in terms of swaying from his plan to get back to work with the Windsor Spitfires and spend more time with his family. The eponymous Herm pointed out this ditty from Portzline on Twitter:

Boughner, good friends w Detroit coach Mike Babcock, told The Dispatch on Wednesday he has no interest in another assistant’s job.

Okay, so back to Waddell, who says that the Blue Jackets have confirmed that Boughner does not have a non-competition clause in his contract, and can pursue any coaching opportunity he wishes to pursue:

“Mike (Babcock) has to put a list of names together first,” said Holland of whether he had started to contact any candidates. “Once Mike knows in his own mind what he wants and nails it down to three or four people we’ll get going. I think that’ll probably be next week.”

Holland said the team doesn’t have any timetable to fill the position, but he said he’d prefer to leave the NHL draft June 24-25 with his coaching staff complete. Holland said McCrimmon’s departure was a decision made with mutual consent.

“He wanted to pursue other opportunities, have a bigger role, bigger impact,” Holland said. “Mike wanted to make changes with the coaching staff.”

That’s good to hear.

Holland noted that the Wings’ job is an A-plus opportunity, so the Wings plan on taking their time and recruiting former head coaches as well (dark horse candidate #1? Ken Hitchcock, who’s also a Babcock pal)...

“A lot of the people that’ll be likely be on our list are also going to be on the list to be head coaches,” Holland said. “We’ve got see who is available and that’ll take a bit.”
“This job is a good opportunity,” Holland said. “It’s a chance for a guy to work with a good head coach who’s had a lot of success the past 20 years. I think we’ll have a lot of potential candidates.”

And Holland says that the team may or may not choose a former defenseman, noting that he and Babcock will mutually choose McCrimmon’s successor:

“I don’t think we have any make-up in mind for the staff,” Holland said. “Brad McCrimmon was a defenceman, but that doesn’t mean we’ll add another guy that was a defenceman. When Todd McLellan was here, we didn’t have any defencemen on our staff. We just want the best fit for our staff.”

MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that Holland’s “special advisor,” Chris Chelios, doesn’t plan on shifting his role from that of a player mentor to an assistant coach’s position:

Former Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios said he is not interested in the position. His role as Detroit’s advisor to hockey operations is expanding. He will be working with Aaron Downey in helping the team’s prospects with the Grand Rapids Griffins develop their strength and conditioning.

“I’m happy with what I’m doing,” Chelios said. “I haven’t closed the door on anything (in the future). I enjoyed working with Grand Rapids, being on the ice, helping run practices with (Griffins assistant coach) Jim Paek during the playoffs (for the Black Aces). I like being directly involved with the players.”

Khan added an interesting Chelios tidbit to the equation…

Chelios used his wide-ranging influence to help the Fox Theatre attract Eddie Vedder for a June 26 concert.

“I asked him if he could cancel a Philadelphia show to fit this into his schedule,” Chelios said. “I’m looking forward to that.

Before noting that two Wings who may or may not be competing for jobs against much younger players during training camp haven’t made firm decisions about their futures:

Holland continues to conduct exit interviews with players this week. He has talked with longtime Red Wings Kris Draper and Chris Osgood but said no decision on their future likely will come for at least a month. Draper told Holland he wants to continue playing. Osgood has not decided whether he wants to play next season or retire.

As I mentioned yesterday, Ilari Filppula, Valtteri’s older brother, chose to sign a four-year contract with Jokerit Helsinki of the Finnish SM-Liiga, essentially ending his NHL dream for the present moment (though the 29-year-old wants to give the NHL another shot down the line). Filppula was absolutely eloquent in saying that he harbored no ill will toward the Wings, nor did he feel that he’d wasted a year learning about the North American game in Grand Rapids, and he also stated that he understood completely that the Wings were more vested in their younger players.

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan notes that iFil, if you will, had a fantastic season for Grand Rapids…

Ilari Filppula, 29, played with Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids last season but was never called up to the Wings. He led the Griffins with 64 points, including 20 goals, in 76 games in 2010-11.

Jokerit is usually a contender, and they snagged Jarmo Kekalainen from the St. Louis Blues to helm their team, but they bowed out in the first round of the SM-Liiga playoffs against their arch-rival and the team that ultimately won the SM-Liiga title in HIFK Helsinki. The team also signed Riku Hahl on Thursday.

Don’t forget that Teemu Pulkkinen plays for Jokerit, and the Wings’ Finnish scout, Ari Vouri, works in Jokerit’s player personnel department, so the Wings will keep a close eye on Ilari, who’s probably going to make much, much more than the Wings could have ever offered him with Jokerit, and if you’re interested in “further reading,” Jokerit’s website posted a five-minute interview with Ilari.

In Finnish.  Good luck.

This is new: I know I’m doing a lot of repetition today, but Aftonbladet’s PeO Larsson, IF Brynas’s website and Arbetarbladet confirm that Wings prospect Calle Jarnkrok has signed a two-year contract extension with Brynas IF. This is probably completely fine for the Wings: they have to decide whether to sign Jarnkrok by next spring, but he remains rake-thin and a bit raw, so leaving him in Europe for another two years is the prudent option for the Wings at this point.

This is not new, but it’s important: Wings assistant GM Jim Nill spoke to MLive’s Ansar Khan about Ilari…

“He had a good year, put up good points,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He wanted to come over and play in North America. We knew it was a one-year shot.”
“We discussed it a few times. He was in the mix (for a call-up),” Nill said. “But (Jan) Mursak played well. (Tomas) Tatar played well. (Cory) Emmerton played well. Mike (coach Babcock) felt comfortable with those three.”

Nill also told Khan that the team will at least make a pitch to retain Griffins captain Jamie Tardif, who may want to leave the team to find a better opportunity to make an NHL team’s roster, Sergei Kolosov, who may head back to Belarus to play in the KHL, and even Derek Meech, who’s probably going to leave the team…

“We’ll talk to all of those players,” Nill said. “For some of them, it’ll be their first chance to be unrestricted free agents. They may want to test the waters.”

The Red Wings expect to make qualifying offers to all or most of the Griffins’ restricted free agents: forwards Dick Axelsson, Jordan Owens and Francis Pare, defenseman Logan Pyett and goaltender Jordan Pearce. Nill said Axelsson will remain in Europe next season.

Khan also notes that the Wings have to decide whether to sign forward Andrej Nestrasil and defenseman Adam Almqvist to entry-level contacts before June 1st…

And now it looks like Axelsson will sign with AIK Skelleftea or MoDo Ornskoldsvik. Today, Axelsson tells Allehanda’s David Jiglund that he’s going to decide between the two teams this weekend:

Axelsson’s of two minds

Dick Axelsson will play for either MoDo or Skelleftea next season.

“There have been quite a few clubs who I’ve heard from since this past season ended,” says the 24-year-old forward, and he continues: “But now there are only two teams that I’m choosing between.”

MoDo and Skelleftea?

“That’s right. Great guess.”

Is it true that you’ve been to and visited with both teams?

“Yes. I wanted to build an opinion about the clubs to guarantee that I’ll make the right decision.”

What were your impressions of MoDo?

“Everything was positive. [General manager] Markus Naslund and the other gents seem to have something exciting going on so MoDo is an interesting alternative. But I’m still keeping things completely open, because I had a good impression from Skelleftea, too.”

What are the factors that will determine your choice?

“I want to become a better player, and will come to the team that I believe will give me the best chance to develop.”

When will you make an announcement?

“It’s not an easy decision [to make]. I’m going to Athens for a four-day weekend vacation to think unhurriedly and I’ll decide sometime early next week.”

Axelsson also told Marie Hallman that he has no interest in playing for Djurgardens IF or AIK Stockholm.

Regarding realignment: As you probably know by now, it appears that the Atlanta Thrashers are closer to heading to Winnipeg than not, though denials are the order of the day. The Hockey News’s Ken Campbell believes that the Thrashers’ owner, Bruce Levenson, and the league are squabbling about money, with the NHL wanting to pocket the entire $60 million relocation fee to cover their asses regarding Phoenix’s $15 million losses and plain old make a nice cash grab that they don’t have to share with the players—not a penny of a relocation or an expansion fee is subject to the 56-and-change percent of revenue chunk that the NHLPA’s supposed to take out of every buck the NHL makes—but whether you read Portzline’s take or anyone else’s, there’s a bottom line here:

1. The Winnipeg team would remain in the Eastern Conference for the 2011-2012 season;

2. Based upon all the rumors and scuttlebutt regarding Gary Bettman’s broken promise to Mike Ilitch and Jimmy Devellano, it appears that the Red Wings, Blue Jackets and Predators would have an equal chance of moving to the Eastern Conference for the 2012-2013 season, depending on the lobbying that each team’s ownership engages in with the NHL…

3. And it is incredibly important to remember that both Gary Bettman and the NHL’s Board of Governors, made up of 30 teams’ owners or their designated representatives, have the final say. That means that the politicking of, say, the Red Wings leaving the Western Conference and leaving the Blackhawks as the only Original Six team with a following that sells out buildings in Phoenix, Anaheim and Dallas, for example, would likely yield a good 13 or 14 governors not being particularly happy about the Wings moving to the East, and the Maple Leafs might not be too keen on the Wings competing for tickets with their “territorial” fans for 41 home games, either.

The Wings probably have the biggest uphill climb in terms of moving to the East, with the Predators making a little more sense in the “natural regional rivalry” sense as they’re closer to the Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning (though Predators GM David Poile told the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper that the team’s happy with its current rivalries, especially with Detroit), and the Blue Jackets represent the least threatening new rival to the Sabres and Penguins in terms of competing for cross-market dollars.

And this is where George says, “Oh shiiiiiiiii…”: As Khan reported on Thursday, the Wings have decided to shift their summer “strength and conditioning” prospect camp to Traverse City, MI, between July 7th and 14th, and as the Free Press’s George Sipple notes, it will be open to the public:

The Wings will hold their annual summer prospects camp July 7-14 at Centre ICE in Traverse City, and it will be open to the public. The camp was previously held at Joe Louis Arena and not open to the public.

Khan says that the usual suspects will attend:

[Tomas] Tatar, [Cory] Emmerton, Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Landon Ferraro and Riley Sheahan are among the top prospects who will attend. Nill said 2010 draft picks Calle Jarnkrok (51st overall) and Teemu Pulkkinen (111th) might be there as well.

This is a big problem for me on several fronts. First and foremost, bloggers don’t exactly have lots of discretionary income, and it’s short notice, so I’m not sure how I’d be able to afford to go there, and, perhaps moreover, wingsluver4ever says that Traverse City’s Cherry Festival takes place between July 2nd and July 9th, so hotels will be charging training camp rates.

As I was already going to ask to crank up ye olde training camp fund for the second year, I feel kind of guilty asking for a handout, but I may have to do so…

And in the interim, I’ll ask if anyone knows somebody who has a spare couch for me to crash on, or whether there’s someone who wants to split costs and share a hotel room. I don’t snore as throat surgery removed my uvula, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t party, don’t have a criminal record (save some speeding tickets), I’m quiet and I pretty much lived off pizza and sandwiches made from the Spartan store affiliate right next to Centre Ice Arena during training camp, so I’m a cheap date. I would have no problems sharing a room with a female and I could provide letters of reference if that’s necessary.

So that’s that.

Also of Red Wings-related note: I won’t re-post it, but if you haven’t read the transcript of Ken Holland’s interview with WDFN’s Sean, Terp and Killer, give it a gander.

I went through the interview three or four times at half speed and another three at full speed to make sure that I got every word correct, save removing a few “uh’s” as Holland tends to go into airline pilot mode at times.

• According to Sovetsky Sport, former Red Wing Slava Kozlov, who finished last season with Salavat Yulaev, has signed a one-year contract with Dynamo OHK. Kozlov turned down a contract offer from CSKA Moscow to sign with Dynamo;

• Also from the KHL, Sport-Express’s Mikhail Zilsis reports that the KHL will hold its draft today, and it’s highly likely that some team will “draft” Jarnkrok and Pulkkinen. It’s not a big deal right now, but I get the feeling that, one day, anyway, the KHL will start telling Finnish, Swedish, German, Czech, Slovak, Swiss, Austrian and even American and Canadian players that the KHL “owns” their rights over their respective home countries’ junior and professional leagues. It’s just what they tend to do;

• In the “random Wings-related comment” vein, in a story the National Post’s Bruce Arthur wrote about Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin, fellow Bruin Brad Marchand offered this remark regarding playing against Pavel Datsyuk:

“We were playing against Detroit and I saw [Pavel] Datsyuk make a move — and I just couldn’t believe it,” the 23-year-old Boston Bruins forward said. “I was just like, ‘You can’t teach that. That’s unbelievable.’ He like toe-dragged it, pulled it back through a guy’s stick, went back through his legs, and dragged it back around. It was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen. I just hit the guy next to me and said, ‘Did you see that?’ And I started laughing. I was like, ‘I can’t even play against this guy.’”

• Justin Bourne, writing for Yahoo Sports, also had this to say about Mike Babcock while comparing the Wings’ coach to Guy Boucher, who either can’t or won’t allow the Tampa Bay Lightning to stray from their 1-3-1 system of defensive play despite the fact that it’s simply not working against the Bruins:

The other type of coach is more Detroit Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock-esque, who requires his teams to be able to play whichever way the game or series is unfolding. A great coach can’t make a bad team good, but when the teams are fairly even, he can make the necessary corrections to put his team over the top; or at the very least, help them avoid getting swept in the Western Conference semifinal after being on the verge.


• The Red Wings’ website notes that former Wing Gerard Gallant’s Saint John Sea Dogs are participating in the Memorial Cup;

• And Detroit Red Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime is working on “Top 11” list of the best Wings games of the regular and post-season, with the Wings’ sweep of Phoenix ranking as the 11th-best game:

Here at DRW Social Media, we are breaking down the ‘Top 11 games of the 2010-11 season.’ This list features many of your favorites, like Game 6, the Franzen Five and the captain’s first hat trick.

April 20, 2011
Red Wings 6, Coyotes 3

In an instant, it was over.

Tomas Holmstrom and Patrick Eaves had the Red Wings up 2-0 after 20 minutes of play. And after Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi scored two minutes apart in the second period, the Red Wings had all but sealed Game 4 and a sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Even without Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings were able to use a balanced attack and solid goaltending from Jimmy Howard to dismantle Phoenix, whose future was uncertain in Arizona as the series progressed.

Update: FIDDLESTICKS! Ken Holland also spoke to WBBL’s Bakita and Bentley on Thursday:

Download file

He does state that the team wants to “get a little grittier,” but he’s not sure whether that’s a good idea as the Wings have rolled four lines and have emphasized skill over the past few seasons, and, perhaps moreover, he’s not sure if the player they’re looking for is on the market, and he says that Chris Osgood’s status depends on both Osgood’s motivation to play and whether the Wings’ coaches and scouts believe that there’s a better alternative out there.

He does not believe that the Wings should make changes for the sake of change; he believes that the Wings’ leadership group, Osgood and Kris Draper included, have been tremendously helpful to Jimmy Howard and the Wings’ younger players in general, so it’s a “fine line” as to whether the Wings should move on or keep the pair.

I’m sorry, but I found this at almost 6 AM and sometimes it’s even too late for me to transcribe something with some household responsibilities on the line and a nasty head cold to boot.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


AndrewFromAnnArbor's avatar

The talk coming from Boughner sounds a lot like what Yzerman was saying about the Bolts…before he actually left.  I’d love to have Bob on board, he was a great player (and not subtly nasty, just straight-out mean).  I think he could really make the PK fearsome again.

Posted by AndrewFromAnnArbor from Fortress Europe on 05/20/11 at 08:54 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

If I recall, Paul MacLean was in charge of the defense/PK when McLellan was is Detroit, and switched to offense/PP when Fire McCrimmon came in.

George, any idea if MacLean asked for this change, if he’s more comfortable working with the offense? If not, maybe he goes back to the PK and the new assistant takes his spot.

Just sayin’...

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 05/20/11 at 09:36 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

“It would be very tough to say ‘no’ to a head job” - Bob Boughner

I see what you did, Bob.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 05/20/11 at 09:38 AM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Great info George, thanks.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 05/20/11 at 10:50 AM ET

Andy from FightNight's avatar

While I do despise McCrimmon, I feel that there is a big oversight here. While Jason Newsted had bigger shoes to fill than anyone else in rock history he was also guilty of being a fairly bad bass player, playing with a pick and being an all-around miserable bastard who was never in the same mindset as the rest of the band, so I think comparing McCrimmon to that bastard is unfair to McCrimmon.

Posted by Andy from FightNight on 05/20/11 at 01:05 PM ET

Wings_in_NYC's avatar

“It would be very tough to say ‘no’ to a head job” - Bob Boughner

Out of context, that’s exactly what I think.

Posted by Wings_in_NYC on 05/20/11 at 01:25 PM ET

Wings_Fan_In_KC's avatar

Boughner was a snarky bastrd and I hated when the Wings played against him.  Would be nice to get some of the nastiness back if even behind the bench.

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City... on 05/20/11 at 09:32 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.