The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/18/11 at 07:48 AM ET
The Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski wrote a fantastic article about the Wings’ veterans serving as mentors for the Wings’ younger players (like Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, etc.) and, in the cases of Kris Draper and Chris Osgood, hoping to make strong cases to extend their careers as members of the Red Wings:
“When I’m on the ice in practice, I got a smile on my face, and I try to be one of the last guys out there,” Draper said. “I feel great. I’m loving what I’m doing, and I just want to keep doing it as long as I can.”
“I never envisioned going under the knife and then my career being over,” Osgood said. “I always envisioned playing my last game in Joe Louis and then saying goodbye. So it was frightening, because I was really, genuinely concerned about being able to come back. Now I definitely have all intention of playing next year. I don’t want to leave knowing I can still play, and I think Drapes is the same way.”
“If you play, I’ll play,” Draper said with a laugh. “Be sure you write that down — we’re a package deal!”
Draper says that the Wings’ veterans are simply attempting to carry on the tradition of veterans mentoring youngsters which has served the organization so very well over the past 16 years…
“I had great leaders before me, very unselfish people that would do anything to help,” said Draper, a Wing for 17 seasons. “If I can help Helmer and Abby in any way possible, I’ve always told them I’m there for them. They’re great guys and have turned into great hockey players. And one day they’re gonna be in my situation and they’re gonna do good things for some young kid, and that’s the beauty of how it is here.”
And Ken Holland believes that the system Scotty Bowman essentially installed when he brought Igor Larionov and Slava Fetisov in way back in 1995 works incredibly well, and won’t be changing anytime soon, despite the media’s ever-present slings and arrows regarding the team’s supposedly imminent status as falling off the contenders’ heap.
Holland believes that the Wings’ status as an “aged” team is in fact the reason that the Wings are celebrating their 20th year and 19th season of consecutive playoff appearances:
“Scotty loved veteran players because he knew what he was gonna get, and when I took over in ‘97, I didn’t change much,” Holland said. “When you have a bunch of young kids, you’re going to lose games. We’re trying to bring in two or three kids a year, and they learn from the veterans. That’s how a culture is created and sustained.”
I agree with Holland’s concept 100%. From Nicklas Lidstrom playing alongside Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy (and Brad McCrimmon and Brad Marsh before that) to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk learning how to play the game and stay in shape from Chris Chelios, Steve Yzerman, Larionov, Brendan Shanahan, et. al. and the fact that the Wings have never needed a strength and conditioning coach because Draper, Chelios and even Ted Lindsay still frequent the Wings’ workout room…
It works. It works to the tune of 4 Stanley Cups, six trips to the Stanley Cup Finals and eight Conference Final appearances over the past 19 years.
In an era where medical technology and advances in nutrition and fitness extend players’ careers to previously unforeseen levels, there’s no reason for the Wings to change, and there’s no reason to believe that, should good fortune in the injury department and Holland’s sound salary cap management prevail, we’ll be reading Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall talking about mentoring the Wings’ next generation of stars and grinders alike ten years from now.
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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.