The Malik Report
It shouldn't have to end like this, but end like this, it did:
The Detroit Red Wings lost 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, ending their playoff run in 5 games, and ending their season with 1:43 remaining in the 3rd period of a well-played game by the Wings, who simply couldn't solve Ben Bishop.
Petr Mrazek made a puckhandling mistake, Jonathan Ericsson messed up the exchange, and Ryan Callahan shoveled the puck to Alex Killorn, who beat Niklas Kronwall to the front of the net...and it was over just like that.
Pavel Datsyuk's post-game remarks obviously take center stage, as noted by the Free Press's Helene St. James...
The Red Wings are in a delicate position. They have made the playoffs for 25 straight seasons, an incredible accomplishment, especially under the circumstances. They haven't had a top-10 selection in the draft since 1991. No other NHL team has made the playoffs every season since the salary cap was introduced in 2005-06. But they have lost in the first round three years in a row and four times in the past five years, not good enough for a team that won the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.
"It gets tougher and tougher to go all the way," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "The first step is making the playoffs. We keep doing that. But then it's nothing more. That gets frustrating."
Datsyuk and Zetterberg, selected No. 210 in the 1999 NHL Draft, helped extend the Red Wings' run, essentially replacing Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov. But they aren't what they used to be. Nor is Kronwall. Whether Datsyuk leaves now or later, the Red Wings face the same issue: replacing their core.
Ownership has given management no mandate to tear down the roster, so the Red Wings can miss the playoffs, bottom out, draft high and rebuild. Ilitch remembers when Detroit wasn't known as "Hockeytown"; when he bought the team in the 1980s, the team had to give away cars to draw fans. He is building a new arena, set to open in 2017-18. He wants it to be full.
Holland will keep trying to rebuild on the fly. He didn't make a move at the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29 because he didn't want to trade an asset for a role player who wouldn't put the team over the top. You don't rebuild by trading high draft picks. You rebuild by drafting and developing.
Cotsonika continues, and he's right. The Red Wings are not going to tear down and rebuild for half a decade. They've got a new building to fill, and that means that Ken Holland and his management group, the coaching staff and the players all have a far harder job than rebuilding--they've got to find a way to make this "rebuild on the fly" work like a "reloading."
That's going to take some creative cap management, some serious recruiting during the unrestricted free agent wining and dining period, and it's probably going to take some trading as well. Mostly, it will take the kind of commitment to youth that it's hard to believe only Jeff Blashill didn't make when the team's coaching and management chose to recall Joakim Andersson over Anthony Mantha. That kind of over-reliance on veterans has to end for this team to move forward.
It's on the Wings, starting at 10 PM last night, to deliver a better product for the Joe's final season, with or without Pavel Datsyuk on the roster. It might prove impossible, but that's what a long summer's worth of expectations is for.
The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a massive playoff primer ahead of their first-round series with the Milwaukee Admirals, and it's a little too much to post in digest form, so:
How We Got Here: Grand Rapids clinched a 2016 Calder Cup Playoff berth on April 3, thanks to a 5-2 victory at Rochester, but much was still to be determined for playoff positioning in the Central Division over the final two weeks of the regular season. With just over a week left in the regular season, Grand Rapids climbed to second place in the division following its 4-3 home win against Chicago on April 8, but a five-game losing streak to close the campaign saw the Griffins drop to the No. 4 seed. In the penultimate game of the season, Grand Rapids came up short in a matchup at Rockford that would have locked the Griffins into third in the division and a first-round matchup against the Lake Erie Monsters. Instead, the Griffins finished fourth and will face off against the division champion Milwaukee Admirals. Milwaukee won its fifth division crown since joining the AHL in 2001 and its first since the 2010-11 season. When the calendar turned to March, the Admirals sat in second place in the Central Division as the top four teams were bunched together and separated by a mere two points. Aided by a 13-game point streak from March 13-April 12, Milwaukee distanced itself from the rest of the pack over the final two months, closing the regular season with a 15-5-0-1 record.
Setting the Stage: The Griffins qualified for the postseason for the 14th time in their 20-year history with a 44-30-1-1 record, claiming the fourth seed in the Central Division and finishing 12th overall in the AHL. Grand Rapids will face the division champion Milwaukee Admirals (48-23-3-2, 101 pts.) in the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals, marking only the second time the teams have squared off in the postseason. Grand Rapids won the season series against Milwaukee by way of a 5-3 record, including a 4-0 mark at Van Andel Arena. Milwaukee is returning to the playoffs following a one-year absence that broke a string of 12 consecutive appearances. The Admirals’ 101 points are the most since accumulating 102 during the 2010-11 campaign. The Griffins and Admirals last met in the postseason exactly 10 years ago, as Milwaukee swept Grand Rapids in the 2006 Western Conference Finals.
2016 Calder Cup Playoffs – Central Division Semifinals - Best-of-Five
Game 1 Fri., April 22 GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals 8 p.m.
Game 2 Sat., April 23 GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals 8 p.m.
Game 3 Tue., April 26 Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS 7 p.m.
*Game 4 Wed., April 27 Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS 7 p.m.
*Game 5 Sat., April 30 GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals 8 p.m.
* If necessary
All times Eastern and subject to change
All games on ESPN 96.1 FM and AHLLive.com
Datsyuk was incredibly forthcoming and eloquent while speaking about the disappointment of the Red Wings' 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay, and he did speak about the privilege of being a Red Wing, thanking the fans for their--our--support:
ESPN's Craig Custance has already penned an article highlighting "Three Keys for the Red Wings' offseason." Among the keys in the Insider-only entry:
3. Fix the defense
This won’t be an easy task. The Red Wings' defense is aging, slow and in need of a serious revamp. Jonathan Ericsson had a rough season, and he has four more years left on a deal with a salary that averages $4.25 million annually. The Red Wings should probably decide whether they’re in or out on Brendan Smith, but he’s the kind of defenseman this team needs, guys who can move the puck, skate, have a physical edge and are still fairly young.
There are options in free agency who might work, with players such as Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski potentially available, but it’s going to take more than one free agent signing to address the defense. If Holland can spin some of his skill and depth at forward into a young defenseman, that would be ideal.
The other keys? Figuring out Datsyuk's situation and going after Stamkos.
FSD posted a clip of the handshake line, focusing on #13, as the Wings shook hands with the Tampa Bay Lightning:
Update: Sportsnet also posted the handshake line:
Of note from the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson's Hockey World:
• With Pavel Datsyuk, 37, going back to Russia, the Wings need a team to take his $7.5 mil cap hit off their cap books in a trade and it’s obvious they’re looking around for a team with lots of cap room. Maybe Carolina. If I’m a team willing to take Datsyuk’s contract, I have to get a prospect forward, not a draft pick, along with Datsyuk, who could go and play for Sergei Fedorov’s CSKA team in Moscow. Say Tomas Jurco or Teemu Pulkkinen. One other thing on Datsyuk: He’s a Hall of Famer in my books, almost a point-a-game NHLer.
• One team that will go hard to sign UFA Troy Brouwer this summer is Detroit. Other than Justin Abdelkader, they are painfully small up front. “Detroit’s got skilled forwards but they’re small and not that fast,” said one Eastern-based pro scout. Detroit needs help on defence, too, because Niklas Kronwall’s body is beat up. UFA Alex Goligoski (Dallas) is a possibility.
Win or golf. The Red Wings faced a simple do-or-die equation on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Detroit lost on a catastrophic set of mistakes by Mrazek, Kronwall and Ericsson, losing 1-0 on a Killorn goal scored at 18:17 of the 3rd period.
Detroit has been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it's going to be a long summer.
Of prospect-related note:
In the SHL, Christoffer Ehn played 4:48 in the Frolunda Indians' 3-2 win over Skelleftea AIK. Frolunda has taken a 3 games-to-2 lead over the Axel Holmstrom-less SAIK, and the SHL championship may be decided on Saturday.
Of Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. Here's the Red Wings' Game-Day Preview video:
About The Malik Report
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.