The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/02/13 at 03:46 PM ET
I stepped out to do a little, "I was boogery and the mom ran out of pop" drug-store run and I was surprisingly greeted by something I haven't gotten much of late: a stiff breeze and non-wind-noise silence.
Nobody swearing at each other in the comments sections, nobody yelling past each other on Twitter. Nobody saying, "Either go for it or blow it all up, this team is STALE!" or, "Promote everyone, waive everyone, trade everyone, fire everyone!"
It was nice. As of today, the Detroit Red Wings are a day away from a trade deadline which will probably provide no activity other than the team recalling Brian Lashoff from Grand Rapids, and a practice which will precede a 2-game road trip through Phoenix and Nashville, and, somehow, the injury-addled and youth movement-enduring Wings are in seventh place in the Western Conference, but are also only 3 points out of 4th place.
Sometimes I wonder whether what the Red Wings' coaches, management and players have admitted is as close to a rebuilding and/or transitional year as we're going to see here in Detroit, at least when the team's asking over $135 for seats on the glass and season ticket-holders tell me that playoff prices are going up, has registered with the fan base at all.
Especially over the past two months, the ever-twitchy, ever-bipolar Red Wings nation has begun to sound like Detroit Lions fans during the 0-and-16-or-nearly-so seasons. With every lineup change or other team's recall that's met with disapproval, you can practically hear the knives, pitchforks and torches come out, with fans ready to snap at each other and march on Ken Holland and Mike Babcock's homes (as if they're the only people who make decisions for the team, and as if they're the ones scoring goals and making saves).
If the Red Wings' management is anything, it is perhaps too consistent and too truthful with its message.
After the team struck out on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, we were told that the team would take its "depth" signings (see: Mikael Samuelsson, Jonas Gustavsson, Jordin Tootoo and, eventually, Carlo Colaiacovo) and ease into a transitional year.
After most of its "depth" signings and many of its key players got injured, the team reluctantly embraced what is as close to a youth movement as we're ever going to see in Detroit. The present iteration of the Wings' roster includes two 30-plus-year-olds on defense, 28 and 29-year-old goaltenders and six of fifteen total forwards over the age of 30. By Red Wings standards, you can't get much "greener."
And Ken Holland, Mike Babcock and the rest of the Wings' coaches and management have indicated that they plan on riding said youth movement out, attempting to re-sign Jimmy Howard and Damien Brunner, reassessing the team's future after whatever playoff run this team embarks upon, and then meaningfully addressing the team's need for a top-pair defenseman and a top-six, scoring forward who's big and strong by closely watching the cap compliance buy-outs as so many teams are in a crap-ton of cap trouble in terms of retaining their best players even if the cap were not to drop from $70.2 million to $64.3 million this summer.
Do I like that "let's stand pat and see what our kids can do come playoff time, and then make room for full-time promotions for Nyquist, Andersson and Tatar this summer, and maybe see if we can add to the mix" philosophy?
I'm not necessarily thrilled with it, but as a Wings fan who's seen the team go through significant ups and downs over my 22-year tenure as a fan, I understand why the organization's preaching a "steady as she goes, and player performances on the ice will dictate what moves we make off the ice after and only after we battle our way through this rebuilding/transitional year" mantra.
That's the way the team operates, and as someone who battles significant chronic illnesses on a daily basis, I don't have the energy to go bat-shit insane any time that the team makes or does not make a personnel move that I disagree with. I wouldn't have the energy to get out of bed, never mind do this job, if I reacted as violently as some Wings fans seem to do on such an incredibly regular basis.
It seems to throw many Wings fans into fits. It seems to make many of you so angry that you seem ready to burn your Wings jerseys and stomp away in anger, never to return to watching hockey again UNLESS the Wings make a BIG move between today and tomorrow at 3 PM EDT.
At least that's what things sound like, given your comments and Tweets.
'This team is probably going to make the playoffs but won't go far this season, and I can't take this steady trajectory anymore! Go for it or blow it up NOW!"
That ends up sounding more like, "This has been a difficult season, and I'm not only tiring of the team's inconsistency--it's also boring me--so I want the team to do something to grab my attention again."
That's definitely what the local sports talk radio station sounded like when I tried to listen to someone who watches two or three non-playoff Red Wings games a season try to instigate a plasma state amongst the already freaked-out and bubbling, boiling, Twilight-teenage-angst-worthy freak-out that is the Wings' fan base right now.
Then I switched NPR back on and went about my business.
Whether you and I like it or not, the Red Wings' management may be bunkered down at Joe Louis Arena, but given its historical tendencies and given its statements to the media of late, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, Mark Howe and the pro scouts, Joe McDonell and the amateur scouts and the coaching staff aren't likely to do much more than "explore."
There aren't many top-pair defensemen or top-line goal-scoring forwards who fit into the Red Wings' roster and salary cap picture going forward, at least not without forcing the team to take on more in cap space than they'd like and without forcing the team to trade prospects who the team believes will become its foundation going forward.
So the team will probably stand pat.
My question to you, as a fellow Wings fan, is this: if the Wings do nothing, is your discontent with the team great enough that you're going to walk away over the lack of an attention-grabbing trade?
Because I don't sense that there's a significant amount of...sense...among Wings fans right now. Not many people who seem to be willing to accept that even if the team does things that you disagree with, disagreement should not necessarily yield a termination of support.
The Wings probably won't make a trade over the next 20-some hours.
The team will probably survive.
The team will probably make the playoffs, though, as currently constructed, it's not a 3 or 4-round-pushing machine.
The team will probably more meaningfully address its roster needs through free agency, as it is wont to do.
That's not the way I like it, uh uh, uh uh, but that's the way it's probably going to go down.
I can live with that, and I'm not going to bite anyone's head off simply because he or she might passionately disagree with me.
Would some of you be so kind as to slow down for a minute before going into a spastic rage over differences of opinion over the next 20-some hours? Because that would be swell.
You can keep yelling at me--that's kind of my job, to provide you with someone to yell at during times like these--but if we can crank up the respect factor among each other, that'd be greatly appreciated. Even mosh pits tend to have codes of conduct.
Update: As if you needed a reminder, from the Free Press's George Sipple:
Wings general manager Ken Holland said that most of the deals at the deadline are “depth moves."
“Every year, there’s the odd big deal, but teams really make their moves at the June draft,” Holland said. "And then there’s some rentals."
“History tells you there’s going to be 20 to 30 trades, but there’s going to be lots of deals made for depth. I’ve had some conversations with some teams about the odd depth player. I don’t really have any interest."
The Wings already have an abundance of depth at each position. Impact players could come from their own roster in the form of injured forwards Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson.
“Barring a setback, we’re hoping, sometime in the next couple of weeks, (Bertuzzi) is going to play,” Holland said.
“It’s been a tough year with Helm with injuries. It’s been a tough year with Bert with injuries, tough year for Sammy with injuries. We’ve been able to stay afloat, and I think our depth has kept us afloat. For me to go out and get a depth (guy)…I can’t go out and acquire somebody that’s any better than the depth we’ve got.”
Update #2: From ESPN's Craig Custance's chat session:
John (Wings fan in Minny): With Filppula a UFA and wanting 5+ mil a year and the Wings not wanting to give it to him, is it a possibility that Kenny Holland actually trades him? KH never seems to get rid of UFAs at the deadline...
Craig Custance: John - I know the Red Wings like Jagr and Bouwmeester. With those two off the market, I don't think they'll be too active. Ken Holland is just looking for his team to get healthy and make a run. Don't see them being sellers either.
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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.