The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/02/14 at 12:24 AM ET
I may not be particularly active at present due to the whole concussion issue but I have been following the Wings as best as able, and all I can say about the following is this: people tend to forget that, prior to his heroic status grimmacing and skating through femur scraping on tibia and fibula along the way to the Red Wings' 2002 Stanley Cup championship, the Red Wings and their fans had to endure watching Steve Yzerman make similar pained faces while skating for Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
The NHL and NHLPA's Olympic participation is something of a devil's bargain, and whether we like it or not (and I do not like it at all), I have no doubt that Henrik Zetterberg will skate through any back issues he experiences in Sochi to captain the Swedish team, I have no doubt that Niklas Kronwall will continue to block shots, that Tomas Tatar will fearlessly skate into scrums with forwards half-a-foot taller and 40 pounds heavier than he is, and I have absolutely no doubt that Pavel Datsyuk will be skating for the Russian Olympic hockey team as its captain on home soil, regardless of how badly his left knee's messed up.*
As Paul noted, Datsyuk didn't skate with the team on Saturday, and he may not play in any of the Wings' four remaining games before the Olympics (Sunday vs. Washington, Monday vs. Vancouver, Thursday in Miami and Saturday in Tampa Bay), but given his history of hurrying home, even when injured, to play for the Russians at the World Championships, I don't think that anyone should question Datsyuk's status unless the Magic Man himself states that he's not healthy enough to play.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke with the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons about Datsyuk, and Holland--who is, of course, going to be campaigning for the Steven Stamkoses of the world to test their injuries in Canada's quest to defend their gold medal as a member of Steve Yzerman's advisory staff--understands that he's all but in "hope and pray for the best" mode in terms of being able to control his team's most important player's fate:
“I don’t believe I have the authority or the power to prevent someone from going to the Olympics,” said Ken Holland, the Red Wings general manager. “That’s the player’s call. When it comes to Pavel Datsyuk, I certainly understand the special opportunity he has, representing his country in his homeland, to be captain, to maybe win a gold medal in your home country, that will be with you for the rest of your life.”
But Datsyuk can’t play now, hasn’t played since Jan. 1, out with an undisclosed lower body injury, while the Red Wings are struggling and the playoffs, for the first time in 22 years, are no sure thing.
Uh, last year, Steve?
This is the Olympic dilemma for NHL teams. Never mind that Holland is part of the Team Canada braintrust. His first responsibility is the Red Wings and his best player may be going hurt to the Olympics, because of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The other day, Johan Franzen informed Holland and the Swedish team that he won’t be playing in the Olympics. But that’s a rare stance from an NHL player. In a culture where playing hurt is considered brave, Datsyuk is almost certain to suit up for Russia.
“Am I worried?” said Holland. “Of course, I’m worried. But I understand what an opportunity this is for every Russian and every other player. Pavel has a decision to make and I understand that it’s his decision and I respect that its his decision.”
The Steve Yzerman situation with Steven Stamkos is multi-faceted because Yzerman represents both Team Canada and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yzerman, himself, played hurt when he shouldn’t have in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. He didn’t regret winning gold. Wound up missing 30 regular-season games and then led the Wings to the Stanley Cup that spring.
(I'd been thinking about that for half a day. Thanks for making me sound unoriginal )
Babcock told the press that Franzen was working with neurologists from the University of Michigan, and we all remember that he suffered a subdural hematoma during the Wings' 08 Cup run, so he had more than "fogginess" to worry about...
But the reality of the situation is that Datsyuk is going to push himself, even if it means some sort of post-season surgery, and the same is true for Zetterberg, Kronwall, Ericsson, Gustavsson, Alfredsson (and Nyquist?), Tatar, Jurco and Howard.
Datsyuk had this to say to the Windsor Star's Bob Duff yesterday, and it's quite the understatement:
The Wings will ice two captains during the tournament – Zetterberg (Sweden) and Pavel Datsyuk (Russia) – if the latter’s mysterious lower-body injury clears up in time.
“I have two weeks,” Datsyuk said. “We do everything to help.”
Two weeks because Olympic hockey doesn't kick off until January 12th.
*And the asterisk comes from a small detail in HBO's 24/7 that many missed--while Daniel Cleary was making jokes regarding Siri's "Magic Man" line, Datsyuk was getting an ultrasound treatment on his left knee. My best guess is that he suffered some sort of MCL sprain, and that it was significant.
Again, I'm far from thrilled about the concept of any of the Wings' players testing injuries in Sochi, never mind Datsyuk and Zetterberg--that's downright terrifying--but especially in Datsyuk's case, the pressure on the Russians to deliver on "home ice" is ridiculously immense.
I was talking about a little preview WDIV aired regarding a Monday night interview (11 PM newscast) in which Devin Scillian will speak with Slava Fetisov about the Konstantinov accident, with Fetisov apparently believing that there may be a conspiratorial element involved, and that was kind of shocking to more than a few folks...
But Semyon Varlamov's legal troubles yielded instant insistence that there was an American conspiracy to undermine the Russian Olympic team and promises from the Russian ambassador to lend legal aid, and Sport-Express's Igor Larin posited suggestions that earlier-season injuries to Datsyuk and Ovechkin were part of a coordinated campaign where the NHL had tacitly agreed to allow players to target Russians for head-shots.
That's just sportswriting. The Russians have spent over $50 billion turning a Black Sea resort town to an Olympic venue--situated in the immediate vicinity of over two dozen ethnicities who don't get along and hate the Russians more and at least six ethnic regions where wars have been going on for the last 25 years--and if Datsyuk didn't take part in what are supposed to be the perfect conspiracy, it would cause a huge scandal.
I have yet to see the press acknowledge that players have anything other than a responsibility to put the national team above their employers over my tenure as a hockey fan able to access online translators, and that's not going to change.
The Wings don't have a choice about Datsyuk's participation in the Olympics, and I don't think Datsyuk does, either.
As for the rest of the "stuff" going on surrounding the Red Wings:
- I still don't see how Christopher Botta's solid-source rumor about the Wings inquiring regarding Thomas Vanek's status happens cap-wise. Even though the Sabres are eating $2 million of his $7.142 million cap hit (per Capgeek), a Wings team that's any sort of semblance of healthy would have to clear $5 million's worth of cap space to accommodate Vanek, and something tells me that Kyle Quincey and Daniel Cleary are not exactly hot commodities;
- Regarding Cory Emmerton being waived, I suppose one could argue that for the present moment, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening have out-paced him, but over the long haul, I'd imagine that it's Patrick Eaves who's earned a spot on the roster over Emmerton;
- I say that because I don't believe that the Wings are going to waive Todd Bertuzzi or Daniel Cleary over sending Sheahan, Jurco or Glendening back to Grand Rapids when the team gets healthier and the LTIR space runs out. The Griffins had four veterans on their roster to start the season and Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson in Grand Rapids = 1 player has to sit out as the AHL has a 5-veterans-can-dress-per-night limit.
- Ideally, come the trade deadline, when the Wings will still be under the 23-man roster limit and the team will have 4 non-roster emergency call-ups at hand (until the Griffins' playoff run ends, though it should be noted that the 23-man roster limit and cap limits expire when the NHL playoffs begin), the team will have a healthy Stephen Weiss, and even if the Wings choose to trade him this summer (I'm guessing that the Wings will use their final compliance buy-out on Tootoo; Holland's repeatedly said that the Wings feel that Franzen's not on their list as his cap hit and 25-goal-scorer status give the Wings enough bang for their buck, and I don't believe that theory's changed), they and the rest of the NHL have to know what a healthy Weiss is capable of--and when Weiss's cap hit is back on the books, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen are hopefully healthy, and the team still has Bertuzzi and Cleary at their disposal, it does no good to have "the kids" sit at the ready, even if the Wings did have the cap space to keep them here;
- I do believe that the showings of Glendening and Sheahan in particular have changed the way the Wings will build their team this summer, however, and at this point I'd guess that of the Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be, Alfredsson, possibly Gustavsson (is Mrazek better off spending one final season in Grand Rapids or sitting for 50 games?) and possibly Bertuzzi will be invited back, that Quincey's gone and that Cleary's going to have to bid Detroit a fond farewell, and I don't know if the team has the room to bring Eaves back.
- It is very, very clear that Glendening's embracing of a nasty streak has earned him an NHL job on next season's team, if not the playoff roster, and Sheahan's size, strength and wicked shot will serve him well in the NHL next season (and no, the Wings won't trade someone because they're both natural centers; the team is quite happy to shift centers to the wing). Jurco isn't far behind, though his status as getting bumped and ground and not flourishing his shot as much as usual indicate that he's got a little more pumping up and filling out to do;
- I wonder whether Joakim Andersson's got a long-term future in Detroit, too, and the same could be said for Jakub Kindl given his stint on the bench, but here's hoping that both surprise us;
- Watching the Wings regain their form whenever Zetterberg returns yields stirring viewing, but here's hoping that we don't have to witness any more "comebacks" and instead just more steady play (Howard looked very solid on Friday, too);
- In terms of the schedule, I think the pre-Olympic stuff seems pretty brutal: three games in four nights this weekend and then a pair of road tilts right before nine players, the coach and GM haul ass to Sochi, but the Wings can separate themselves from the pack if they beat Washington today, and if there was ever a time to defeat Tim Thomas's acting and the Panthers or Steve Yzerman's Bolts, the Wings need to gain ground on Tampa very badly (and I hate saying that out loud);
- In terms of the trade deadline, Holland wasn't kidding when he stated that the Wings' play over the next couple of weeks will determine what his team does, and again, I'm in the "add a top-four defenseman" club, but I have absolutely no clue as to who the Wings are really after, or what they'd give up (Quincey? Andersson? Kindl? Landon Ferraro, because we haven't seen a player who's no longer exempt from waivers next season as of yet to "find out what he can do" at the NHL level?) given that not making the playoffs = you're in the draft lottery.
That's what I've got for you for now. I've made some strides recovery-wise but I have good days and bad days still as the concussion heals. For what it's worth, my Pacifica's "repaired" date is now tentatively scheduled for February 17th as the insurance company and collision shop found over $2,300 of "hidden damage." The total damages are about $3,500 now, and in its own weird way, it makes me feel better to know that the accident on the way to the Winter Classic wasn't simply me sliding off the road and bumping my head. I will be back as soon as I can half-ass it, and in the interim, I'll do quick takes and contribute as I'm able. I'm incredibly grateful to Paul for doing double time.
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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.