The Malik Report
As noted earlier, the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Rockford IceHogs 5-3 on Sunday, and in doing so, they won the teams' second-round series in 5 games, advancing to the AHL's Western Conference Final as a result.
The Free Press's Drew Sharp hasn't been paying attention to the whole, "Blues and Sharks are also interested" news, but in discussing Mike Babcock's courtship with the Sabres and Maple Leafs, he may speak for those of you who watched or read about Babcock and Ken Holland's interview on TSN this past Friday, wondering why exactly Babcock has chosen to "play the field" when the field has turned out to be such a limited market for the services of--to take Sharp's tone--the supposedly hottest coach on the planet:
If there truly wasn't a better job than what he has, what is the point in dangling your gold medals out there to see what you can attract unless this coach fishing expedition was nothing more than an exercise in personal vanity? If there was absolute confidence that the Wings' next transformative star (à la Pavel Datsyuk) already was in the organization and perhaps a year or two away from blossoming, then wouldn't Babcock have agreed to the second generous contract extension in six months Holland offered in January if this were truly "the better job"?
It's believed that only Toronto and Buffalo submitted the necessary compensation paperwork to the league. The Wings demanded a third-round pick within the next three years for any team that signs Babcock. The Wings remain a better option than the Leafs and Sabres, but that doesn't mean they're any closer to seriously contending for a Stanley Cup in the immediate future.
And wasn't that Babcock's self-imposed bottom line in this process?
It's still stunning that Pittsburgh showed no interest in Babcock, considering Sidney Crosby's vast organizational influence and that the Penguins have the impactful stars Babcock seeks in Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are under 30. Boston apparently balked as well after missing the playoffs.
And then Montreal didn't hesitate endorsing head coach Michel Therrien's return soon after Tampa Bay eliminated the Habs in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The hottest-looking girls weren't interested.
Sharp continues, and the situation's changed, of course, but St. Louis still has a head coach and has become something of a perennial playoff underachiever, while San Jose's deeper into a "rebuild" than the Wings wish to venture, so Sharp does have a point, even if it's a misplaced one.
Update: And you can take this tidbit from CSN California's Kevin Kurz, regarding the Sharks' pursuit of Babcock, for what you will:
According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Sharks are “scheduled to speak” with Babcock at some point this week, and the expectation is that Babcock “wants to decide his future by Wednesday.”
A source informed CSNCalifornia.com that Babcock, 52, initiated the upcoming discussions with the Sharks, and the Sharks were obviously receptive to the offer.
At this point, it *appears* that Babcock's just shopping around to shop around, but who knows?
The Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Rockford IceHogs 5-3 on Sunday afternoon/evening, advancing to the AHL's Western Conference Final in 5 games.
The Griffins will play the winner of the Utica Comets (VAN)-Oklahoma City Barons (EDM) series (Utica up 3-2 with Game 6 tomorrow), and Grand Rapids has advanced to the Western Conference Final for the second time in 3 seasons.
They defeated Rockford in goals by Teemu Pulkkinen, Andy Miele, Marek Tvrdon, Tyler Bertuzzi and Jeff Hoggan, and Miele had 2 assists as well, and Tom McCollum stopped 23 shots, facing 17 in the 3rd period, when Rockford repeatedly pulled their goalie and "made it interesting."
Here are .gifs of the Griffins' goals (goals 1-4, anyway; Hoggan scored into an empty net):
The Grand Rapids Griffins take on the Rockford IceHogs at 5 PM EDT today, and the Griffins can eliminate the IceHogs if they win this afternoon as they possess a 3-games-to-1 series lead; if the Griffins don't win, it's back to Van Andel Arena for Games 6 (on Tuesday) and possibly Game 7 (on Wednesday).
Here's an open thread to suit your commenting needs or the lack thereof.
Update at 7:56 PM:
Updated 3x at 5:45 PM: You may take this for what you will:
Update: Here's Gave in article form ([edit: and Gave claims that the Wings won't necessarily match other teams' monetary offers, either /end edit]):
San Jose and St. Louis have joined Buffalo and Toronto in asking permission to speak with Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who has said he expects to have a decision about his future by Wednesday.
Babcock planned to return after today's gold medal game between Canada and Russia in the World Hockey Championships in Prague. An NHL source said he believes Babcock will meet with San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson on his return, probably on Monday. Babcock previously met with Toronto and Buffalo, and it's likely he met with St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong, who also attended the Worlds in the Czech Republic.
Neither Philadelphia nor Edmonton -- both widely speculated to be among the contenders for Babcock's services -- have sought permission from the Wings, the source said.
Detroit has asked for a third-round draft pick in the next three years from any club that signs Babcock away from Detroit.
This is an interesting angle on a story that's become more than a little tired and old: the Toledo Blade's Derek Hackenberg believes that, should Mike Babcock move to greener pastures and Jeff Blashill graduate to the Detroit Red Wings, Toledo Walleye coach Derek Lalonde would then be promoted from his ECHL post to helm the Grand Rapids Griffins:
If Mike Babcock departs after 10 seasons as coach of the Detroit Red Wings, Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill seems destined to get that job and Lalonde would be in line after one year in Toledo to jump to the American Hockey League as the Griffins’ coach.
“I honestly don’t think about it,” Lalonde said. “Jeff and I talk all the time and that’s pretty much the one thing we don’t talk about. You don’t look ahead. You focus on the task at hand and the things you can control. Do a good job and things take care of themselves.
“Sure, I have aspirations. Every move is an opportunity to better provide for my family, first and foremost. But, you know, I’ve been careful with jobs I’ve taken.
“Every time I’ve moved I’ve been comfortable that if I’m there for a long time I’ll be happy. And that’s certainly the case here in Toledo.”
Still, we have to assume Lalonde is on the rise in the Red Wings organization. How could it be any other way?
Dylan Larkin played a very limited role in the Americans' 3-0 win against the Czechs in the Gold Medal game, playing mostly 4th line minutes, looking steady but unspectacular playing alongside Matt Hendricks and Steve Moses (only playing 8:48)...
But Team USA really put on a clinic in scoring some predatory goals against Ondrej Pavelec at one end and receiving sterling goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck at the other end, and in between, the Americans' penalty-killing unit was spectacular, completely stifling 3 Czech PP's, including a double-minor, and just checking the hell out of the Jagrs, Plekanecs and Voraceks.
On the U.S. side, in addition to receiving great goaltending from Hellebuyck, Nick Bonino scored a goal and registered an assist, Charlie Coyle did the same, and Jack Eichel's pass to Trevor Lewis on the 2-0 goal was absolutely lovely.
So the "college kids" upset the hosts to earn bronze, and in terms of Larkin's performance:
Between TSN's interview with Mike Babcock and Ken Holland and the CBC's "Saturday Headlines," we have a pretty decent idea of what Mike Babcock is deciding between--most likely staying with the Wings or going to coach Toronto or Buffalo--though I believe we have to take the coach who says his "head is spinning" at his undecided word.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons posited several Red Wings-related observations in his Sunday notebook, and he believes that one of Babcock's utterances to Darren Dreger--the one suggesting that there is no better job than the one he has in Detroit, just different ones--tipped the coach's hand:
My read on Babcock: He looked around. He listened. He saw what was available. And he’ll return to Detroit because there’s no better place for him.
Simmons also wonders whether the Leafs-going-after-Jeff-Blashill talk is all it's cracked up to be:
The Leafs kicked tires on Paul MacLean and Pete DeBoer as interim coaches after firing Randy Carlyle. With Babcock’s free agency about to end and Todd McLellan on his way to Edmonton, do the Leafs turn back in that direction or does Blashill become their target?
If it wasn't Toronto, I wouldn't be worried at all about the Leafs going after a coach with so little NHL experience, but one never knows what the league's supposed flagship franchise (nice flag, eh?) might do.
The Free Press's Steve Schrader believes that Babcock sounds like a man who's played the field and found something better, much like Detroit sports' most recent high-profile defections:
Every once in a while, I find a colum that I stare at and stare at, trying to figure out what its message might be, and in the case of this missive from the Detroit News's mostly-retired Jerry Green, I believe his message, aside from telling "us bloggers" that we whipper-snappers are lazy, is that Gordie Howe deserves a bridge named after him as compared to Ted Williams' tunnel in Boston because Ted Williams was a dour grump:
Ted Williams and Gordie Howe played with exquisite skills before the beginning of my professional career in sports journalism.
And they waited around long enough so that I had the wonderful fortune to cover both for the Associated Press and then The Detroit News. Awe is the only word worthwhile to explain what it is like for a young sportswriter to sit down next to Williams or Howe and converse with them interview style.
The nouveau writers today – the bloggers who sit anchored in front of multiple TV sets, the ESPN dudes who invent clichés for our language, the Internet poseurs – they have no concept about old-fashioned digging and reporting.
Gordie Howe is pictured in Detroit in 2008.
In Boston, where I was schooled in journalism more than 60 years ago, there has long been a tunnel commemorating the name of Ted Williams. A tunnel seemed to be the perfect fit for Williams, too. He preferred to be silent and deep, except for the occasional display of bravado.
And now Gordie is destined to join Williams, commemorated for perpetuity with an artery for vehicular traffic.
They were the best of what they did in their eras, contemporaries with radically different personas.
Simmons continues, and he paints a touching picture of Gordie Howe, and a not-so-touching picture of Ted Williams...
The Toledo Walleye are in playoff trouble. They gave up 3 second-period goals en route to a 4-3 loss to the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday, and the Walleye now trail their Eastern Conference Final 2 games to zip (with Martin Frk registering 1 assist in 2 games).
The Walleye's website posted a recap and highlight clip...
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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.