The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/24/12 at 08:06 PM ET
The locker room clean-out day post is so chock-full of videos and comments from Red Wings players (there’s about 90 minutes’ worth of player, coach and general manager comment video in there) that I’ve ran out of room, so this is a continuation thereof.
The AP’s Larry Lage penned a story about Nicklas Lidstrom’s possible departure which notes that Henrik Zetterberg and his teammates are now willing to admit that they’re pressuring Lidstrom to return:
“Like we’ve been doing the last two three years, we’re trying,’’ Zetterberg said. “I think everyone is, but once again, it will come down to a decision with his family.’‘
Lidstrom has put retirement on hold in each of the previous two years by signing one-year contracts. He turns 42 on Saturday and is coming off a season in which he had 34 points and a plus-21 rating that ranked among NHL league leaders.
“How can you quit when you’re that good?’’ Kronwall said. “Maybe that’s selfish thinking on my part because I want our team to be as good as it can be next year.’‘
Gritty forward Tomas Holmstrom insisted he’s not leaning toward calling it a career after 15 seasons. There’s a chance the Red Wings won’t welcome the four-time champion back for another year because his production has declined. Standout defenseman Brad Stuart is expected to leave as a free agent to be closer to his family in Northern California. Forward Jiri Hudler may re-sign after scoring a career-high 25 goals.
The Red Wings were handed a first-round exit by the Predators after back-to-back seasons of failing to get past the second round to the San Jose Sharks. Lidstrom, though, doesn’t think the team needs an overhaul to restore its place as an elite team as it was in 2009, when it was a win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions.“Just a couple tweaks,’’ he said.
The Red Wings are hoping to make a splash this summer in free agency. Kronwall hopes they accomplish the goal by using some of their ample cap space to bring in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise if they chose not to re-sign with their teams.
“The last three years haven’t been great for us, so changes are going to come,’’ Kronwall said. “Two guys like that are elite players. Suter is one of the best D-men in the league. Praise is one of the best forwards in the league and one of the hardest-working guys, so it would be great to add them.’‘
Michigan Hockey New posted an early version of an article the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell will probably rework for his primary employer. Changes in the roster? The Wings expect to witness at least a few personnel shifts…
“I think so, there needs to be,” said Pavel Datsyuk about the possibility of significant change. “It might not be something really, really big, but there has to be some change for sure. It’s a good thing we make the playoffs, but the last few years we don’t go too far. The second round is not good. We need to improve ourselves for sure. We need to take at least two steps (to conference finals).”
While some change is inevitable with the fluidity brought on by the salary cap, Henrik Zetterberg said the Wings need to go beyond cosmetic line-up changes. The team simply isn’t good enough to win the ultimate prize in its current form.
“You need to make changes,” Zetterberg said. “You add people and you lose people. Some of them are tougher than others. We haven’t been good enough in here lately and I think everyone in here is prepared to make those sacrifices to do what needs to be done.”
However, Zetterberg said the changes that are needed aren’t necessarily a rip down and rebuild. He feels the Wings’ problems are fixable and can be done fast.
“I think it can be fixed (in one summer),” Zetterberg said. “We have a good team here. We have to do some changes. If we do the right changes, they will be some tough changes, but if we do that we’ll be right back next year.”
“We still have a solid core group of players that’s been part of this team for a while that are still contributing to this team,” Lidstrom said. “I don’t see the team slipping. There’s a lot of parity in this league and if you don’t play as good as you have to, you’re going to lose and that’s what happened to our team. I haven’t my meeting with Kenny (Holland) yet, but I doubt he’s thinking about rebuilding. I think they’re going to do whatever they can to get the best players and put out the best product.”
“We’re in a position where we can get into the market,” Babcock said. “We feel we have some room to add and we’ll do the very best we can. We feel we have lots of good pieces. We feel we have a ton of guys in their prime, but we’ve been disappointed now a few years in a row. There are people out there and we’re going to do our best.”
The Wings have two glaring needs entering the free agent market, which opens July 1. Detroit has to find a goal scorer and someone to help feel the vacuum left by Lidstrom’s eventual departure.
“We need to score more,” Datsyuk said. “We have a few with injuries, but we need more score. When the playoffs start, we have not many goal scorers.”
And Fox Sports Tennessee’s John Manasso engages in some sand-kicking by suggesting that the Wings need to get grittier in a hurry if they are to “catch” the Predators next season:
These days, a somewhat typical Detroit player is speedy wing Valtteri Filppula. The Finn had 23 goals in the regular season and 66 points – more than any member of the Preds—but he did not score during the playoffs and had only two assists. That’s because during the playoffs, it gets harder to score and as Babcock emphasized during the series, goals were going to come from the inside, not the outside where Filppula mostly plays.
Another shortcoming showed itself at the end of regulation after Game 1, when the Preds’ Shea Weber shoved the head of the Red Wings Henrik Zetterberg into the glass, a move for which Weber was fined. As Babcock pointed out prior to Game 2, the Red Wings are not built in a way to respond to an incident like that and so it fell to 37-year-old Todd Bertuzzi – a player who might not be on the team next year—to fight Weber in Game 2, an act that was commended not only by Babcock but by Lidstrom, the captain, who has not received a fighting major in 20 years.
In essence, after losing to a Predators’ team that has grit up and down its lineup, the Red Wings might need a dose of the same. After all, the Red Wings’ last Stanley Cup team in 2008 had plenty of it: defenseman Chris Chelios and forwards Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty, the latter three forming the famous “Grind” line, whose game was synonymous with its style. Those players were all at the ends of their respective careers and were not replaced with others of their ilk. As a result, as Babcock has pointed out, the team has reached a point of diminishing returns in the postseason the last few years.
The Red Wings met with media on Tuesday as part of the ritual of “break-up day,” a last session with reporters before they depart for the offseason. A few key players noted the need for change, including Zetterberg and Lidstrom. So did center Pavel Datsyuk.
“There needs to be [change],” Datsyuk told reporters in Detroit. “It might not be something really big, but there has to be some change for sure.”
Babcock expressed confidence that the Red Wings would make the right changes. They have made the playoffs 21 straight seasons and won the Stanley Cup more than any other franchise in that span. General manager Ken Holland is considered arguably the league’s best.
Yet, paradoxically, the changes the Red Wings could make might have them looking more like the team that spent its first 13 seasons chasing and trying to catch up with them – the Predators.
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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.