Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

The good, the uncertain and the tweakable-preparing for the Red Wings’ locker room clean-out

A little over 24 hours after Red Bird II made its final hockey-player-ferrying landing of the season at Metro Airport, the Red Wings will gather at Joe Louis Arena today to take their team picture, reflect on their 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night and then begin the process of preparing for their off-seasons via exit interviews with the coaches, trainers and management.

What’s said during those meetings, by all four parties, will at least lay the groundwork for the determination of at least half a dozen players’ futures with the team, but we’re never made privy to what goes on during those meetings, but what the Wings’ players, coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland will say today will linger in the sound recorders of the reporters who’ve either already penned final analyses (plural) or are about to write their final assessments of the Wings’ collective and individual performances, and while fans like you and me will linger upon them for a long time, the Detroit News’s John Niyo provided a reminder of the fact that, as far as the Wings’ press corps is concerned, after the Sunday night sports TV shows, Monday morning papers and afternoon’s worth of sports talk radio are through assessing what went right and what went wrong, the Wings are, to them, anyway, history:

It’s the Tigers’ town now, for as long as they’d like to have it. And from the looks of it Friday night, with Justin Verlander mowing down batters as he again flirted with history, and with Austin Jackson cracking a leadoff home run to spark his team’s ninth win in 10 games, the boys of summer certainly seem intent on holding up their end of the bargain.

There’s Opening Day. And then there’s this weekend’s grand re-opening at Comerica Park, where Friday’s crowd of 33,641 for a scintillating 3-1 win over Kansas City was the second-largest since the season-opening series against the Royals more than a month ago. The game-time temperature was 77 degrees. Verlander was on the mound making his first start since last weekend’s no-hitter in Toronto.

And what with the Red Wings cleaning out their lockers today at Joe Louis Arena after another thrilling, if unfulfilling, playoff run was halted this week, the Tigers are now officially the only game in town. The Lions are locked out, and the Pistons are about to be, not that anyone will notice.

That’s not necessarily the case—the NHL has become, with perhaps the exception of the middle of July and first half of August, a 12-month season, especially given that so many foreign-born players reveal substantial information to their local towns’ newspapers and national correspondents, and as we’ve got the draft coming up in June, free agency in July and in between, Nicklas Lidstrom watch, I’ll at least be putting in a regular season day’s worth of work in making sure that not much slips by. I’ve learned that hockey talk never really stops, and it’s in the off-season, ironically enough, that audience-building tends to take place (that and I have to start up the training camp fund again), but for the person who gets their hockey news by what they see on TV, can pick up and read at the newsstand and what they hear on the radio, what’s said and written about today’s events will probably linger on our hockey palates until September.

With that in mind, let’s address the most important topic of all, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James—two Red Wings got hurt on Thursday night, and neither we nor the Wings know how significant Todd Bertuzzi or Danny Cleary’s concussions really are:

Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary suffered concussions during Thursday’s loss, Bertuzzi during a collision with Dany Heatley and Cleary during a collision with teammate Jiri Hudler.

“Hopefully Cleary and Bert will get healthy in an appropriate amount of time, if not, then we’ll deal with it,” Holland said Friday. “We’ve got four months now. We’ll see how they feel in a week or two. We have to watch and let it run its course for a bit.”

Bertuzzi missed 14 games with a concussion in the fall of 2007. Cleary hasn’t had one during his NHL career.

Otherwise, if you take a look over at Capgeek.com, you can spell out the Wings’ possible changes in red and blue—Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Ruslan Salei, Jonathan Ericsson, Chris Osgood and Joey MacDonald are all free agents this summer, and in the red-to-blue category, both Jan Mursak and Doug Janik‘s contracts become one-way deals next season, and Cory Emmerton and Logan Pyett (among a few others) will have to clear waivers to be sent down to the AHL.

Before we get to those gents, however, we’re going to start with the decision of a family man whose future will determine the course his team takes in making player personnel decisions this summer. The Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski notes that we’re all on watch until Nicklas Lidstrom speaks with the team and then his family to decide whether he wishes to continue playing:

Other seasons have ended with pointed questions and troubling issues. This time? Not as much. The Red Wings know they’ll be contenders again primarily because Datysuk, 32, and Zetterberg, 30, are so good. They’re also more confident they have a big-game goalie in Jimmy Howard, 27, who was excellent during the playoffs. What they don’t know for sure is whether they’ll be led again by their future Hall of Fame captain. Lidstrom hasn’t wavered in his comments. He’ll think about retirement and talk with his wife and four sons, then determine if he can summon the desire to compete at the highest level again.

“It’s been tough the last couple years,” Lidstrom said. “So I’m gonna take my time and not make any decisions here in the near future. But I like the team, I like how it’s put together. I think this team has a bright future.”

General manager Ken Holland said he had no idea what Lidstrom planned to do, and only needed to know by July 1, when free agency begins. No one has thought much about the future because the Red Wings, in their minds, were positive they were pulling off the historic comeback Thursday night and then flying to Vancouver for the Western Conference finals.

With Lidstrom completing his 19th season, the possibility of leaving naturally grows. He opted for only a one-year, $6.2 million deal last spring. Holland and coach Mike Babcock would have loved to lock him up longer, and seemed certain last year he would return. That certainty has to wither a bit as time passes.

“Obviously, Nick hasn’t told me what he’s gonna do,” Babcock said. “Hopefully I’ll be hearing good news. I think he does (have a lot of hockey left), and yet he’s a family guy with kids and a wife.”

A wife and four kids, one of whom, Kevin, is going to spend his junior year of high school living with Lidstrom’s family while attending the Ishockeygymnaset (ice hockey school) in Vasteras, Sweden. Lidstrom’s repeatedly stated that his decision will hinge equally upon his ability to compete at the level of hockey he expects himself to play, his team’s chances and his family’s desires, and we do know that his family eventually plans on moving back to Sweden, where Lidstrom wants to become a youth hockey coach, but one wonders whether Novi’s become enough of a second home that it might keep Lidstrom Stateside after his career ends—his carpool buddy, Tomas Holmstrom, both has a year remaining on his contract with Detroit and says he’s going to apply for U.S. citizenship when all is said and done—and the Wings will obviously push hard to bring him into the organization in some capacity or another.

But Lidstrom told both the English and Swedish-speaking press after Thursday’s game that he’d decide by July 1st, probably sooner, and that was that, so that’s all we know…

And going forward, we also have to take into account the modus operandi (a.k.a. standard operating procedures, or if you prefer, team-building philosophy) of Ken Holland, who told Wojnowski the following about his likely moves:

“When we won the Cup, we won games by a sliver, and when you lose, you lose by a sliver,” Holland said. “I think you just keep doing what you do. You always gotta make some moves. I think we have the nucleus of a good team, but I’m sure there are 14 other teams in the West that think the same thing.”

As the Detroit Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp notes, we also know that if the salary cap goes up to $61 million, or even if it stays at $59.4 million, the Wings will at least have some room to operate with 15 players signed and $46.8 million in committed salaries because Jimmy Howard signed a 2-year, $4.5 million extension with the Wings last summer, and this spring, he left no doubts about his ability to deliver in the clutch:

For the second straight playoffs, the Wings couldn’t get beyond the second round. That’s unacceptable for an organization built upon high standards. They’re like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. The bottom line dominates all. There’s initially consolation for the fight not surrendered until the final second expired. But time eventually will render this season as a grudging admission that the Wings no longer can count on reputation providing them with an advantage. The Wings remain a very good team. There’s no cause for panicky overreaction regarding personnel. But the Sharks’ second straight second-round playoff elimination of the Wings—especially under these circumstances when most thought the Sharks would gag away another playoff opportunity—stripped away the aura of mental intimidation Detroit enjoyed.

“The league is just so close and bunched together right now,” said general manager Ken Holland following Game 7. He still hadn’t had sufficient time to digest everything.

Like everyone else in the organization, he didn’t believe the Wings weren’t headed to Vancouver from San Jose for the Western Conference finals this weekend. He was certain it would happen, even though the Wings trailed, 2-0, following the first period and entered the third period with three of their top forwards—Johan Franzen, Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi—out with injuries. How tight was this series? Holland pinched his fingers so close they almost touched.

“When we won the Cups, we won games by a sliver,” he said. “When you lose, you lose by a sliver. Unfortunately, we got behind the eight ball, getting down, 3-0. If we could have won one of the first three, who knows what could have happened?”

Holland can’t afford devoting too much time to what could have happened. Where do the Wings go from here? They have an excellent young goalie in Howard. When analyzing the twists and turns of this seven-game adventure, the ultimate determining factor will be that San Jose’s Antti Niemi was slightly better. But both goalies were superb.

“I proved something to myself,” Howard said. “I know that I have the mental toughness necessary. It’s hard looking for positives this quickly after losing, but I do think we can come away from this knowing that there really wasn’t that much separating these two teams.”

The Free Press’s St. James continues the narrative:

Howard finished the playoffs 7-4 with a .923 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average. He gave the Wings a chance to win every game against the Sharks, right down to Thursday’s 3-2 loss. He started Game 7 by making 15 saves in the first period.

“He did a good job,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought the goaltending in the series was excellent. Both goalies were real good, giving their teams an opportunity. That’s what you need at playoff time.”
...
“He definitely took another step this year,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “In the Phoenix series he was outstanding, and he really kept us in the games in this series. He gave us a chance to win. He stole Game 5 for us here, and that’s the things that you need to have from a goalie. ... He’ll be our goalie for many, many years.”
...
“This is going to be tremendous for his growth,” general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s 27 years of age, he’s really just coming into this prime. He’s played in a lot of big games—Game 7 against Phoenix last year, Game 7 this year. You’re down 3-0. Four straight elimination games. He’s really coming into his prime. We believed really probably halfway through last year that we had a real goalie. We rode him into the playoffs a year ago. We think we’ve got a tremendous goalie.”

But where does Holland go from here otherwise? Modano’s likely to retire and move back to Dallas on a full-time basis, and Ruslan Salei’s probably going to want to remain closer to his wife and kids in California; Kris Draper and Chris Osgood’s futures may not be determined until training camp, and the same can be said for Cory Emmerton and Doug Janik; when it comes to Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and Jonathan Ericsson, money will probably be the bottom line, though the team obviously likes Eaves and views Ericsson more favorably than its fans do.

We also know that Jan Mursak’s been guaranteed a spot on the team by Mike Babcock, and the roster goes up to 23, so between about $60 million and 23, we have some absolute limits.

Aside from those numbers, this is where Holland, Jim Nill, capologist Ryan Martin, Babcock and assistant coaches Brad McCrimmon and Paul MacLean, as well as the Griffins’ coaches, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer, and Kirk Maltby and the pro scouts will all have to get creative to tweak the roster.

Holland suggested to St. James that he was not exactly planning on making sweeping changes:

“I don’t think we had anything more to give,” general manager Ken Holland said Friday. “We basically don’t have Johan Franzen for the entire series. ... We got 3 minutes of Bert in Game 7. We got 10 minutes of Cleary. The goal is to win the Stanley Cup, but it’s getting harder and harder. ... We think we’ve got the nucleus of a good team, but it’s getting harder and harder and harder to make the playoffs, to win a round, to make the final four. Next year, Chicago is going to be better. St. Louis. L.A. It’s a great league.”

As St. James suggests, if the Wings are to make a significant change to the roster as opposed to an oil change and tune-up—assuming that Lidstrom comes back—the Wings will probably have to make a trade, and there are two candidates in that regard:

[Valtteri] Filppula, who makes $3 million, had eight points in the playoffs, below what a guy of his talent should contribute, but he was so good in Games 6 and 7 against the Sharks the Wings may have a hard time surrendering him.

[Jiri] Hudler, who makes $2.85 million, had three points in 10 playoff games. He didn’t have a point against the Sharks, and was a minus-three. The Wings hoped he’d score in big games as in the past, but he didn’t have a shot on net in four of the six games he played against San Jose. That isn’t going to improve his trade value, but the Wings must hope somebody takes a chance that a change of scenery will revive Hudler’s career.

As I already mentioned, up front, Mursak comes in up front and that means that Modano’s definitely done as a Wing and one, if not two, of Kris Draper, Drew Miller or Patrick Eaves will have to go.

On the blueline, Ruslan Salei’s probably gone and Jakub Kindl will likely occupy the sixth defenseman’s spot, with either Janik taking the seventh defenseman’s role or the Wings cycling up Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, etc.

There is obviously a concern regarding one defenseman under contract and one who’s not..

Brian Rafalski is under contract for another year, though there are concerns over his back and knee. Jonathan Ericsson likely will draw good offers from other teams—young defensemen always seem to get money thrown at them. While the Wings like him, he hasn’t become the physical force they would have liked. Jakub Kindl is expected to be a regular next season and likely will replace Ruslan Salei.

But Rafalski posted 48 points over the course of 63 games, and between that point-per-game pace, the fact that he’s 37 and his $6 million salary, he’s sticking around. If Ericsson leaves—and again, the team’s much higher on Ericsson than its fans are—then there might be a bigger “tweak” in order.

In goal, we really don’t know what’s going to happen as Chris Osgood has missed significant time during each of his post-lockout seasons with groin injuries, and he couldn’t recover from sports hernia surgery in time for the stretch drive, prompting the Wings to make a bid for Evgeni Nabokov’s services. Joey MacDonald did a really good job given the circumstances, and both Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce are a ways away, so we’ll see there.

Overall…

“There’s a lot of positives,” he said. “Some teams miss the playoffs five or six years in a row and get high draft picks. We haven’t gone through that. I truly believe the series could have gone either way. But, we’re out. We’ve got to find a way to get just a little stronger.”

The Wings won’t rebuild. They reload, and questions about the team’s age, size and strength will remain.

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and Chris McCosky offered a solid set of player assessments via a 24-image photo gallery. Here’s a sampling thereof:

Valtteri Filppula
Age: 27
Contract: $3 million per year, through 2012-13.
Regular season: Still waiting for a breakout season. Injuries limited him to 16 goals, and he wasn’t always strong defensively.
Playoffs: Usually a dangerous secondary scorer, he wasn’t this time until late in series.
Future: They’ll keep him and hope for a breakout.
...
Johan Franzen
Age: 31
Contract: Nine seasons, at $3.954 million per year, through 2019-20.
Regular season: Scored two goals in 27 games after scoring five in one (Feb. 2). Take that away, and he had 22 goals in 75 games. More is expected.
Playoffs: An ankle injury bothered him.
Future: Needs to get back to that 30-goal plateau.
...
Niklas Kronwall
Age: 30
Contract: $3 million, through 2011-12.
Regular season: Was playing No. 1 defenseman-type minutes late and looking comfortable.
Playoffs: One of the better players.
Future: Is beginning to show his capability when not injured.

While I’m not going to get into the Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen’s frame for his take on a possible summer renovation (Brooklyn Decker = Detroit, Kate Upton = San Jose), he makes some good points:

How do you remake a team that doesn’t need to be remade? How do you alter a roster that’s good enough to win the Stanley Cup but hasn’t won a Cup in three years? How do you shake up a team that is consistently one of the best teams in the league, but hasn’t been as good as the Sharks for the last two seasons? The Red Wings lost to the Sharks for three primary reasons.

1) Injuries

2) Special Teams

3) Depth

Injuries are one of those fluky things that you can’t change. Johan Franzen simply wasn’t himself once he got taken out by Shane Doan in the first-round series against the Coyotes and he aggravated the injury against the Sharks. Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi both got knocked out of Thursday’s game because of concussions. And Pavel Datsyuk revealed after the game that he sprained his wrist thanks to a Joe Thornton slash during Game 3. The Sharks had to deal with the absence of Ryan Clowe for one game. But the Franzen loss is pretty daunting. (Not to mention Henrik Zetterberg, who was awesome in the San Jose series despite missing the entire Phoenix series with a knee injury.)

The special teams were just confounding and Game 7 was a microcosm. The Wings first power play was a jumbled mess that didn’t produce a shot (they had two shots on four power plays on the night). The Sharks first power play was a thing of beauty that was capped by a brilliant pass from Thornton to Devin Setoguchi for the first goal of the game. The Sharks weren’t perfect, but they were much better than the Wings. It doesn’t make much sense when you compare the rosters of the two teams. They’re very comparable. But the Wings struggled most of the season, and especially in the first round, with the penalty kill. It has to improve. The defense as a whole has to improve and that will be one of Holland’s goals during the off-season.

And then the magic bullet—depth. The Wings got big games and big goals from guys like Darren Helm and Valtteri Filpulla. But they didn’t get those games consistently. The Sharks meanwhile got a brilliant series from Logan Couture. Setoguchi had 41 points during the regular season and was a minus-two. But he was the Sharks most lethal offensive weapon against the Red Wings. Good luck finding the Wings version of Couture or Setoguchi, but that’s exactly what the Red Wings need—a bonafide second-level scorer who can pick up the slack if a top line star struggles or, worse yet, gets hurt.

Given the contracts of most of the players on the roster (many are already signed up for 2011-12) and given the skill level, I wouldn’t expect too many changes. Nor do I think there should be. A break here and a healthy player there, and the Red Wings would be in the Western Conference finals right now.

The Calgary Herald’s George Johnson of all people assesses the Wings’ failings with near-poetic license...

They seemed to be pushing the issue almost by rote. On instinct. Simply because they are the Detroit Red Wings. And the Detroit Red Wings do not roll over on their backs and simply wait for their masters to tickle their belly. Not that they weren’t every bit as worthy as Los Tuburones from San Jose, but to be thrown back in the cage, 48 hours after expending so much in the chase, would’ve been asking a lot. Even for them.

Johan Franzen’s persistently wonky ankle still felt as if it’d been kicked by, well, by a mule (ankles being notoriously finicky things), forcing him to miss yet another fly-or-die game. The irresistible Pavel Datsyuk had been reduced to playing with one hand so banged up he couldn’t take draws. Todd Bertuzzi, the Ol’ Canoli Truck, then exited in the first period of Game 7, after five shifts, clattering into Dany Heatley so hard he might’ve imagined through the haze that he’d been transported back to Calgary and Iron Mike Keenan was still in charge down at the Dome.

Daniel Cleary, meanwhile, was later gonged by teammate Jiri Hudler in open ice (Hudler’s one telling contribution to the series) and also departed, concussed. As an alternative to the wounded, the 41-year-old MoDo, Mike Modano, had proven an NoGo in a brief audition in Game 6.

So the all-season tread on that famed Winged Wheel was starting to look mighty worn. Had they advanced, Wings skipper Mike Babcock would’ve been running precariously shy of bodies, not to mention options.

Age and injury aside, Detroit had invested a perilous amount of emotional equity in dragging themselves back into the series in the first place. Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg appeared ready to drop from exhaustion. Niklas Kronwall’s body, stem to stern, must be one big, ugly bruise today. The Swedish Eclipse, Tomas Holmstrom, never did look his old self. Forty-one-year-old Nick Lidstrom was, as usual, logging 25-year-old minutes.

Homer’s inability to get to work has more to do with the fact that the Wings never really sustained puck possession, so he couldn’t get his big butt in front of Niemi when the Wings were generating one-and-done chances off the rush and then letting the Sharks go the other way, preparing to get their cycle game going while peppering Jimmy Howard with second, third, fourth and fifth shots and scoring chances.

So what do the Wings do?

Who do they target?

Who stays? Who goes?

I really did stick by my promise to not even look at possible personnel moves until the Wings were eliminated, so I’m admittedly caught flat-footed here. I’m also relatively conservative—I’ve suggested that the Wings might look for a Taylor Pyatt-style reclamation project who can add size up front in Hudler’s spot, assuming that they can peddle his salary for a mid-round pick and nothing more (he’s just got no trade value right now), that the Wings might decide to bring in a solid #6/7 defenseman only if they don’t re-sign Ericsson, and that I’m not sure whether Chris Osgood’s the answer in goal or whether Joey MacDonald can get the job done. Up front, I’m guessing that unless their salary demands are outlandish, Miller, Eaves and Draper will all battle it out for one or two spots during training camp, with the loser being traded or, in Draper’s case, possibly retiring.

But the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa thinks bigger—much bigger—while suggesting that even if Nicklas Lidstrom retires, it’s a goal-scoring, top-six forward that the Wings need to add:

Top among the available snipers is Brad Richards of the Stars, who must solve their ownership riddle before deciding if they can afford him. But at $7.8 million this year, and the best center available in the 2011 free-agent pool, Richards would have to make a drastic I-want-a-Stanley-Cup-so-I-signed-with-Detroit-for-peanuts decision.

Of the rest, rejected either for lack of goals, too many injuries, too little defense, age or miscellaneous reasons are: Simon Gagne, Alexei Kovalev, Michael Nylander, Tim Connolly, Teemu Selanne, Michal Handzus, Michael Ryder, Steve Sullivan, Cory Stillman and Tomas Fleischmann.

That leaves at least three candidates who fit: Marco Sturm, Radim Vrbata and Brooks Laich. Sturm tallied eight 20-goal seasons in the last 11. But while he is considered the fastest German skater in NHL history, injuries slowed him and may threaten his production. Vrbata happily plays defense. But he has only three 20-goal seasons at the NHL level, despite 19 and 24 for Phoenix in the past two. Laich, who kills penalties and blocks shots doing it, has three 20-goal seasons in the past four. He also is rugged.

Of the three, Laich seems the best fit, and like other Capitals, the 27-year-old may already have decided that his best shot at a Stanley Cup is elsewhere.

I have no clue. I’m guessing that Laich can get a bigger paycheck elsewhere, and that the Wings would even consider signing Nylander, who both played for the Griffins for a while and says that he wants to come back to the NHL at 38, if Holland, Nill, Babcock, et. al. believed that he was the right fit. I’ll have to look at the free agent lists before making any educated guesses, which I hate to do to begin with, and on top of it all…

I’d prefer to hear what the team and its players have to say today before rushing to any snap judgments. That’s not what the Wings do and it just doesn’t make sense to recommend big player personnel moves when people who know better than I do—even when I disagree with them—are incredibly conservative in their decision-making processes.

We’ll find out what’s said today and go from there.

Also of Red Wings-related note: Expressen’s Henrik Sjoberg reports that, once again, Farjestads BK’s general manager, Thomas Rundqvist, keeps suggesting that the Wings have chosen to qualify the restricted free agent with a contract offer to retain his rights and then simply allow him to continue playing in Europe, with FBK wanting to re-sign him despite their monetary issues (they’re a mid-market team and Axelsson’s talked about going to the KHL to chase petro-dollars);

• No fooling, Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette:

Wings’ Datsyuk a special player

Detroit head coach Mike Babcock says Pavel Datsyuk is the best example of what a playoff player should be. This is what he was saying after Datsyuk’s three assists led the Red Wings to a 4-3 victory over San Jose in Game 5. “He’s a world-class player. There’s lots of nice players during the regular season and they’ve got good skill and all that. But if you don’t have a drive, and you don’t compete at the highest level, you can’t win at this time of year. It’s all about competition level and digging in and winning those battles. And that’s what Pavel has.”

• Datsyuk merited a mention on TSN on Friday;

That’s just Jumbo Joe being himself, Bruce Garrioch;

• Speaking of which, Sharkspage.com’s P.J. Swenson posted a Game 7 recap and photo gallery;

• The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren noted a wise comment made about the Wings-Sharks series from afar, via Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas:

Last season, he was on the losing end of history when the Philadelphia Flyers won four straight against his Bruins, a major part of the motivation for this year’s Bruins in sweeping the Flyers in the second round this year. Four years ago, the Bruins came back from a 3-0 deficit before losing a Game 7 to the Montreal Canadiens.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to get that fourth win (in a series),” Thomas said in a conference call with NHL reporters, setting up the start of Saturday’s Eastern Conference finals between his Bruins and the surprising Tampa Bay Lightning. “You use more energy earlier in the series, that’s the reason why the momentum swings so much. That’s probably part of what happened with Detroit.”

• If you’re particularly interested, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr engaged in a two-part conversation with the IIHF’s Lukas Aykroyd and Andrew Podnieks, mostly talking about transfer agreements, the 2014 Olympics and his initial impressions as the NHLPA’s ED;

• And if you haven’t seen it already, yes, Mike Modano told the Dallas News’s Mike Heika that he’s probably going to retire, that he’s going to head back to Dallas to make that decision at his off-season home in about a week, and that while he enjoyed his time in Detroit, injury issues aside, he’d eventually like to work for the Stars’ organization. A 25-image photo gallery accompanies the story.

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Comments

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, I was happy to read that you’ll continue your work through the summer.  Apparently, John Niyo doesn’t get it.  For real fans of hockey, there is no “summer vacation.”

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/14/11 at 09:49 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

...the Red Wings will gather at Joe Louis Arena today to take their team picture, reflect on their 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night…

Not that the final score really matters at this point, but they actually lost 3-2 on Thursday, George.

Anyway, thanks for your voluminous daily reports. I rarely have the time to read everything, but I always find value in whatever I do manage to read.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 05/14/11 at 02:22 PM ET

CC Moor's avatar

George, per your comment: “I’ve suggested that the Wings might look for a Taylor Pyatt-style reclamation project who can add size up front in Hudler’s spot, assuming that they can peddle his salary for a mid-round pick and nothing more (he’s just got no trade value right now)”.....

I infer from this that you are negative and ‘down’ on Hudler?  I knew many fans were but did not know your opinion.  I wonder why, as I like him and feel next year will be a renewal for him.  He seems to me to have a lot of pride, and has some scoring and playmaking skills.  He played great for the better part of about 30 games with Datsyuk in much of Jan and Feb.

Clearly he learned a big lesson about what it takes to be game-ready in the NHL and got off to a bad start…and pressed.

Giving up on him implies he is either soft mentally, or his 2007-08 progress and 2008-09 season was a fluke.  Would love to know your thoughts. 

I’ve also wondered why the fans’ enmity toward Hudler, to the exclusion of other underperformers on the team relative to their paygrade, including Fil and Franzen.

Posted by CC Moor from Washington DC on 05/14/11 at 06:35 PM ET

Michiru Kaioh's avatar

I’m still high on Filppula. Datsyuk didn’t start to really come into his own until he hit 27 or so, and Fil has all the tools he could possibly need. Very good defensively.

What I dislike about Hudler is that if he isn’t scoring, he brings nothing to the team. Yes, he works hard, he plays hard, but it doesn’t matter when anyone at all can simply knock him over and take the puck. He’s slow, doesn’t skate well, and is very defensively irresponsible…if he’s not scoring goals, he’s not contributing in any way. I’d rather see his salary shed and spent on a defenseman…I would absolutely love to let Ericsson go.

Use the departing cap space of Draper, Modano, Ericsson, and Hudler to sign a top 4 D-man, like a Christian Ehrhoff. I think the biggest need the Wings have is actually up front…we need a bona-fide nhl goal scorer; Pav and Z can score, but they aren’t pure goal scorers. We need a guy who’s job is to shoot the puck and put it in the net, like a Hull was in his time here. I don’t see any guys like that on the FA market, so, I’d prefer to shore up the defense a little bit and hope that Franzen and Fil can contribute more goals.

Posted by Michiru Kaioh on 05/15/11 at 02:44 AM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

shore up the defense a little bit and hope that Franzen and Fil can contribute more goals.

With the Wings not having a bonafide ‘goal scorer’, they were still #2 in the league in goals scored.

They don’t need one. What they need is some defense, and a new assistant coach that’ll bring new ideas to the PK.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 05/15/11 at 03:54 AM 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.