The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/31/11 at 04:04 PM ET
Updated 8x with Draper at 7:42 PM: Sometimes a video’s worth a blog entry in itself, and that’s certainly the case as the first bit of Red Wings news after Detroit’s 10-3 loss to St. Louis comes from the Wings’ website, which posted coach Mike Babcock’s Thursday presser. Babcock’s first solution to the Wings’ troubles, especially at home? WORK and competing much harder after a game in which Babcock readily admits that the coaches and players didn’t do their jobs:
Babcock says that Jimmy Howard is “ready to go,” but the Wings won’t determine Pavel Datsyuk’s status until Saturday’s morning skate; Mike Modano apparently had the day off and may or may not play this weekend; he’s rather obviously not happy with the Wings earning 4 of 10 points and going 1-2-and-2 on their 5-game home stand, and he does believe that the Wings need to rectify their home record; he expects the Wings to do the usual regarding non-structural elements in competing from the start to the end of the game, and he feels that, as a group, the Wings would feel better if all 20 players were competing harder, being better without the puck, being harder at the opposition net…He feels that the Wings can do all the structural things in the world right, stand in the right place all the time, etc., and that’s wonderful, but if you don’t compete and win battles, you’re not going to win.
First update: The first crop of news comes in “tidbit” form, but some of the tidbits are big ones:
• As Paul reported, Red Wings legend Igor Larionov was added to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee today. After reading a pair of interviews from Sport-Express and Sovetsky Sport (speaking of which, if you’re interested, Sport Haze Russia’s Roman Piontkovsky translated Evgeni Nabokov’s interview with Igor Larin), and reading Slava Fetisov cow-tow to KHL president Alexander Medvedev’s blather about a lower salary cap for the KHL’s teams, bumping up the age for unrestricted free agency in Russia to 29, and the KHL’s hopes to add teams in Slovakia, Germany, and Italy to the league…
Larionov remains both a free spirit and free thinker, having both resigned from his posts with SKA St. Petersburg and the KHL’s board of directors, as well as turning down Russia’s invite to GM its 2014 Olympic team, because he believes that the old-guard politicos who were in charge of Soviet hockey when he left for North America aren’t helping the game; he went to California to immerse himself in what is now a very successful wine business, but he’s moved back to Metro Detroit so that his son, Igor II, can play for Detroit Honeybaked; and of course Larionov is now a player agent with Ian Pulver’s firm, finding clients partially from his annual hockey school in Voskresensk and generally making sure that young Russian players who aspire to play in the NHL and/or are willing to play Major Junior hockey to advance their NHL prospects aren’t taken advantage of by agents who don’t understand the cultural contexts involved or know the players’ parents. Larionov does things his own way, still, and it’s awesome that the Hockey Hall of Fame’s adding someone who’s never had a “box” to think outside of to the mix.
• Paul also posted Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside’s panic-mongering regarding the Wings’ 10-3 loss and its implications going forward, but I’ll leave the hand-wringing, gnashing of teeth and predictions of Detroit’s doom to discretionary reading and sports talk radio, because, believe me, that’s what they’re talking about on WDFN and WXYT today, even though it’s opening day for the Tigers. For a moment, let’s actually talk baseball, via ESPN Page 2’s Jim Caple, for a Tigers-related laugh...
[Opening day tradition in] Detroit: The Tigers invite longtime Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom to throw out the first octopus at the home opener.
• Before getting into some ugly stats, via WXYT:
–Wednesday’s 10-3 loss to St. Louis marked the most goals the Wings have allowed since a 10-3 defeat at Los Angeles on Oct. 9, 1993. It was the first time they have given up eight goals through two periods since March 14, 1986, in a 12-3 loss to Edmonton.
–The Wings wrapped up a five-game homestand with a 1-2-2 record. They are 10-12-4 in their last 26 home games.
• In the personnel department, aside from the Howard/Datsyuk/Modano news listed above, the ECHL’s 465th NHL graduate, Thomas McCollum, was assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins after giving up 3 goals on 8 shots in his NHL debut, and the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema reports that McCollum will indeed join the Griffins for their playoff push despite being left off their 22-man Clear Day playoff roster (I’m guessing that there’s an exception involved here):
McCollum has had an up-and-down season. He is 6-11-2 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .881 save percentage in 20 games with the Griffins.
He also is 11-9-2 with a 2.76 GAA and .909 save percentage in 23 games with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
He will join Jordan Pearce with the Griffins, who released backup David Brown from his professional tryout Monday.
As Zuidema points out, the Griffins are in tough to make the playoffs:
The Griffins are in a precarious position if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for the third time in the past four years. They are fifth in the North Division with six games remaining in the regular season. Only the top three teams in the division are guaranteed a postseason berth, since the fifth-place team in the West will cross-over if it finishes with more points than the fourth-place team in the North. Coach Curt Fraser figures the Griffins need to close the season with a 5-0-1 record to give themselves a chance at making the playoffs.
“Do we have to win all of them? Absolutely,” Fraser said. “But in saying that, why not? Losing is difficult, winning is fun, so hopefully we’ll have a lot fun in these last six games.”
Three of the Griffins’ final six games come against division rival Abbotsford, which gives each team a chance to squash its opponent’s playoff hopes while simultaneously boosting its own. Even if they score a pair of wins, the Griffins eventually will need teams in front of them to lose to keep that postseason shot alive.
“The one good thing is we have Abbotsford three times and we can control our destiny there,” defenseman Greg Amadio said. “We can’t really control what other teams do, but as long as we win that’s all we can take care of.”
• Sticking with prospects for a moment, RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau, writing in her Left Wing Lock blog, duly notes that while the Wings did sign Emmerton to a 3-year extension with a $533,000 NHL cap hit and 2 final years of an NHL-only contract, the Wings did leave open the option of waiving and then sending Emmerton down to the AHL via the first year of the contract, which is a two-way deal, and it’s not a given that Emmerton will make the Wings’ roster:
The 6-foot, 188 pound forward is out of AHL options next season, meaning that he will have to clear waivers in order to be sent to Grand Rapids. The Red Wings have had high hopes for Emmerton because of his playmaking ability and puck skills. Unfortunately he’s never had the type of production expected of an offensively gifted forward in the AHL. This season he has notched just 11 goals and 37 points tying him for his most productive season to date.
Despite his continued lack of production, Emmerton appears to be improving in Grand Rapids after struggling with consistency his first two seasons. His improved play even earned him a brief call up with the Red Wings earlier this year where he played in two games and scored his first NHL goal.
Emmerton, who lacks top flight foot speed, has his work cut out for him when training camp opens in September. The skilled pivot will face stiff competition for a limited number of roster spots from the likes of Jan Mursak, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Drew Miller (if re-signed), Kris Draper (if re-signed), and Patrick Eaves (if re-signed). Depending on who Detroit retains, Emmerton will likely have to outplay a veteran or run the risk of being lost on waivers to another NHL team.
The Wings, who lost Mattias Ritola to Tampa Bay earlier this season because of similar circumstances, will likely let the situation be decided during training camp and exhibition season. With his strong play in Detroit this season, Mursak has likely cemented his spot on next season’s roster. The question remains is there room enough for two rookie forwards in Detroit next season?
• And, before I start looking for practice updates, I’d suggest that you take a look at Jake Duhaime’s “How we cope with big losses” edition of the Hockeytown Blog.
Update #2: MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that Modano’s groin is what’s ailing him...
“It was just something I felt as the game went on last night, same deal I had a couple of days ago,’’ Modano said. “Considering the type of day they were going to have today … you knew there was going to be a lot of skating. It was probably best to give today a little rest, get ready for tomorrow.’‘
Khan also reports that Chris Osgood took shots while sharing a net with Joey MacDonald, and that Pavel Datsyuk practiced as the team’s 2nd-line center, playing with his now-usual linemates in Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom (I’ll just say that the lines are “interesting” and suggest that you check Khan’s article out to look at ‘em).
As for the rest of practice? Khan reports that the Wings were skated hard, and Nicklas Lidstrom was fine with that:
“We deserved a hard skate today, the way we played last night,’’ captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
The Red Wings visit Nashville on Saturday (2 p.m., FSD), a team that has beaten them four times in a row, and they know what they have to do.
“Compete and work, that’s all it was,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “It was just penance day, basically, coaches and players didn’t do their job last night. Simple. So we flushed last night’s game here today and get on with our life.’‘
Lidstrom said it was a wake-up call. Players and Babcock talked about it.
“A lot of words were said. We’re going to keep that in the room,’’ Lidstrom said. “But effort-wise we know we have to a lot better job.’‘
Update #2: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also filed a practice report...
“You don’t want to go anywhere or be seen anywhere, you feel so bad about the way we played,” said Niklas Kronwall of the Wings’ ugly loss. “Obviously everybody was embarrassed.”
The Red Wings got back to work Thursday. Coach Mike Babcock skated them maybe a little harder than usual but nothing extraordinary. From before hitting the ice to after, it was time for the Wings to reflect on what they need to do to reclaim their aura.They’ve become too much of a beatable team at home (1-2-2 on the just finished 5-game homestand) and not playing Red Wings-like hockey.
“There’s no way you can say we outworked St. Louis,” Babcock said. “To me, that’s an unacceptable thing and it has to be fixed.”
Noting that Howard’s good to go on Saturday…
“It felt good in practice, the stiffness is pretty much gone,” Howard said .“I look forward to getting out there.”
One Wings forward who missed Thursday’s practice was Mike Modano, nursing a sore groin. Modano said it flared up during the loss to the Blues. Some of his younger teammates couldn’t help but kid Modano about the timing, given the skating-heavy practice.
“They commented it was something a 40-year-old would pull,” said Modano, who feels he should be ready to play in Nashville.
And he left it to Bob Wojnowski to suggest that Wings fans have every right to be worried after Wednesday night’s outing:
It’s just one game, although one of the ugliest in team history. And the Wings were playing two backup goalies—Joey MacDonald and Thomas McCollum in his NHL debut. But this wasn’t just a goalie collapse. It was the continuation of two troubling themes: The Wings’ inability to control play at home, and their sloppy defense.
Five games remain before the playoffs and the Wings still look strangely unsettled. I bet they’ll look a lot different in Nashville Saturday night, moreso if Jimmy Howard returns from his shoulder injury. No one is freaked out in their dressing room, but maybe they had to hit rock-bottom to realize how much sharper they must get. The Wings are pretty darn good at rebounding, especially on the road. And when the playoffs start in two weeks, no one will remember one awful night. They so desperately need Howard and injured Pavel Datsyuk back, it’s not even funny.
“Definitely, if we play like this, it’s gonna be an early exit,” Zetterberg said. “We gotta stick together in here. We can’t really focus on what other people are saying. We have a good team, we’re second in the West for a reason. We just gotta find ourselves again.”
They’re running out of time to look. As awful as the Wings played, it should produce some sort of heightened resolve. Lidstrom and Zetterberg spoke with unusually stern words and heavy tones, and I think Babcock was too stunned to unleash one of his passionate rants. Everyone knows a perennial playoff team tries to conserve energy as the regular season winds down. But the Wings, technically, haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet. And while the seeding won’t really matter because teams in the West are so tightly bunched, the Wings are not making anyone feel comfortable about their championship chances right now.
The response must be swift and it must come Saturday night against Nashville, which still has a chance to win the division. The Wings are a veteran, prideful bunch. They were visibly humiliated by the 10-3 score, and I don’t think they’ll duplicate that effort anytime soon. The key is, they now know beyond any reasonable doubt how much they must crank it up, and how little time they have left to do it.
“We deserved a hard skate with the way we played last night,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We know we have to have the effort there. We need to work hard and we didn’t last night. It was pretty much a wake up call for all of us,” Lidstrom continued. “If you don’t show up for work or you don’t show up for a game you’re going to lose. We were embarrassed with what happened, all of us in here. It’s no fun being booed at home, but we probably deserved it with the way we played.”
“It was a penance day basically,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The coaches and players we didn’t do our job last night. We flush that game away here today and get on with our lives.”
“We know what we have to do, it’s a matter of going out there and doing it now,” Lidstrom said. “We’ve said a lot of right things, but we haven’t done them yet.”
“We have to wakeup,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “The games are winding down and the playoffs are just around the corner and the way we’re playing right now we’re not going to win a lot of games. If we keep playing like this it’s going to be a short run in the playoffs. Everyone in here was embarrassed walking out,” Kronwall added. “You don’t want to go anywhere and be seen anywhere because you feel so bad with how you played. Everyone felt like that in here.”
Make that Pleiness times two as he offered injury updates:
“I’m good to go,” Howard after practice. “Last night was just precautionary, I just got one more night of just letting it heal up and getting treatment on it. I felt good out there in practice, the stiffness is pretty much all gone and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”
Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury) practiced again, on a line with Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom, but his status for Saturday won’t be determined till after practice Friday.
Mike Modano was given the day off after tweaking his groin Wednesday. He didn’t complain about having the day off the ice.
“It was just something I felt as the game went on, the same deal I had a couple of days ago, Modano said. “Considering the type of day they were going to have today … you knew there was going to be a lot of skating. It was probably best to give it a little rest, get ready for (today).”
Update: WXYZ’s Tom Leyden filed a video of Niklas Kronwall speaking to the press on TwitVid…
• Here’s an ugly stat from WXYT...
–LW Johan Franzen had two assists Wednesday but continues to struggle to find the net. He has just one goal in his last 22 games, since his five-goal outburst in Ottawa on Feb. 2.
• Today’s Red Wings playoff moment from “Twenty Straight Years” avoids the Wings’ 94 ouster via the San Jose Sharks and involves Sergei Fedorov winning the Hart Trophy instead;
• And let’s just roll with the lack of a coherent theme for a moment (I tend to view these updates as having a narrative, so it annoys me when I post stuff haphazardly, but that’s just me), via the Macomb Daily posting a clip of Ken Kal reading to a classroom of kids at Chesterfield Township’s Green Elementary....
• The Novi Observer’s Nathan Mueller attended the ceremony in which Novi re-named a street after Nicklas Lidstrom, and Lidstrom offered an observation regarding a classic Michigander behavior when it comes to meeting professional athletes away from their place of employment:
The Novi resident and captain of the Red Wings was honored last Thursday by the city of Novi as they renamed Arena Drive, the street fittingly leading to Novi Ice Arena, Nick Lidstrom Drive.
“It means a lot to me and my family,” he said, noting he was surprised when he got the news. “It makes it even more special that it’s leading up to a hockey arena, especially one I’ve spent a lot of time at.”
Lidstrom’s four children — Kevin, Adam, Samuel and Lukas — have all logged ice time at the arena, and his humble and quiet demeanor has endeared him to the many fans with whom he has bumped shoulders. He said he has signed a lot of autographs over the years and, even Thursday, on his day off, took time after the ceremony to oblige several of the fans who attended.
“The fans are used to seeing me here now because I have been coming here for so many years with my boys,” he said.
Lidstrom and his wife, Annika, have lived in Novi for 20 years, coming to the area on the advice of former teammate Johan Garpenlov. He said they “fell in love with the community and liked the area,” so leaving was never an option.
“This has been our second home for 20 years,” he said. “It’s a place we will always come visit because we have made a lot of friends here.”
We may ask for an autograph (“Pro Tip”: NEVER bother an athlete while he’s eating, especially with his family), but we tend to let our favorite players, coaches and managers do their own thing.
• If you want to read about the Grand Rapids Griffins’ rough road to the playofs, the Griffins’ “Afternoon Shift” spells out some daunting particulars;
• And WXYZ duly notes that Grosse Pointe native and one-time Wings prospect camper Andy Miele was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. He’s definitely an intriguing, if undersized, prospect…
Update: DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples spoke to the Wings as well, reiterating the concept that hard work is the solution to what ails them:
“It’s a concern that we didn’t work harder than we did last night,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We deserved a hard skate today, the way we played last night. We know we have to have the effort there, you have to play within your system and play your structure, but you have to work hard too, and we didn’t do that last night.”
“Work. Compete and work. That’s all it was,” Babcock said. “Penance Day, basically. The coaches and the players, we didn’t do our jobs last night. It’s simple. We flushed last night’s game here today, and we’ll move on with our life.”
“We need to stop the carousel rides in our own zone,” Howard said. “It seems like teams get wound up and just start circling the bandwagons. We need to just stay in spots, talk it out a little more in the defensive zone, communication will eliminate a lot of guys doubling up on coverages and a lot of things like that.”
“You don’t like to see your teammates go through that whatsoever. It’s tough when you’re watching and you can’t do anything about it, you want to help out the best you can, but we’ve got a veteran team here, and I’m pretty sure that the guys just hit the reset button.”
“Basically we have to wake up,” Kronwall said. “The games are winding down; the playoffs are coming around the corner. The way we’re playing right now, we’re not going to win a lot of games. If we keep playing like this, it will be a short run for us in the playoffs.”
One more update: WXYT’s Jeff Riger filed both a report...
The Red Wings went back to practice on Thursday afternoon, trying to forget about something that has not happened since 1988, giving up 10 goals at the Joe. In fact things were so bad on Wednesday night in a 10-3 loss to the Blues that words like “disgraceful” and “embarrassing” were used by the players afterwards. So where do you go from there? The answer is back to work! Mike Babcock was asked what was accomplished at practice, his response “work, compete and work, that’s all it was.”
Many of the players also commented on the St. Louis loss that they would rather just forget about. “I think it was a wakeup call for all of us, we were very embarrassed by the way we played last night” said Nick Lidstrom while Nick Kronwall said “by the way we are playing right now, we are not going to win a lot of games.” Kronwall also question the work ethic and passion of this Detroit team lately.
Update 7:43 PM: WDFN just posted Sean Baligian’s interview with Kris Draper:
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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.