The Malik Report
I haven't seen somebody completely change the focus of an article and produce a new product, but the Free Press's Drew Sharp did just that. Sharp drastically revised the article he posted yesterday regarding the much-watched Grand Rapids Griffins (as noted in the overnight report), producing an almost-new product that discusses the particulars who took in yesterday night's loss to Utica...
There were at least a half-dozen executives and scouts in Blashill's office. Even Johan Franzen, sidelined with concussionlike symptoms much of the season, hung around outside, chatting with Mark Howe and Chris Chelios.
"Yeah, it is a little crowded around here," [Griffins captain Jeff] Hoggan said with a laugh. "But instead of being a distraction, you have to look at it as the organization having a lot of confidence in what we're doing here."
Suggesting that Ken Holland's not long for the general manager's seat, at least assuming that he can pull off another championship via his "rebuild" of the roster minus one Mike Babcock...
He deftly hides his emotions, but privately, Holland must feel the same level of excitement and energy that Babcock acknowledged last week, after taking the Toronto Maple Leafs' head coaching job. If they climb back to playoff elitism in the next couple years -- with zero top-10 draft picks in a salary cap-driven league -- Holland adds one last glorious chapter to an already-illustrious career.
And Sharp's final focus involves Teemu Pulkkinen, who's most likely poised to blossom under an AHL-graduating coach who knows how to get the most out of the Finnish sniper:
Updated 4x at 2:46 PM: The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner has posited an unusual question, asking MLive readers to weigh in as to which member of the Grand Rapids Griffins will have the best NHL career. It is at least worth noting that Wings GM Ken Holland doesn't believe that he can count the number of probable key contributors and depth players on one hand...
"I think we're probably hoping two, three, four can make it next year and certainly some of them – (Xavier) Ouellet, (Alexey) Marchenko – played games for us last year. But I'd say seven, eight, nine that have a chance to play for the Red Wings at some point in time.
Is it the greatest collection of prospects ever growing in Grand Rapids? Time will tell, but let's give the nod for now to the 2013 Griffins, whose Calder Cup Trophy team included the likes of playoff MVP Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Petr Mrazek, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco. All are Wings now.
The caveat Holland inserted into his reply was this: You never know how a youngster will develop. Then there's the other challenge - finding a roster place for them.
To me, whether we're talking about Larkin, Mantha, Pulkkinen, Bertuzzi, "AA," Nosek, Marchenko, Ouellet, Sproul, Jensen, any of the Griffins' players, the biggest unknown really is what goes on within a player's mind as he develops, and whether his physical, mental and on-ice development can intersect at the right time.
The Red Wings give their players all the information they could possibly need as the prospect development pipeline fosters strength and conditioning, on-ice systems play, off-ice time management, nutrition and plain old growing-up mentorship from the Griffins' leadership and Jiri Fischer, but who makes the jump and who doesn't really depends on what the players do with the knowledge they're availed of and the opportunities for growth that they're given.
In any case, the Grand Rapids Griffins get "back at 'er" against Utica this evening (7 PM EDT on WOOD Radio and the AHL Live), and the AHL posited a "morning skate" set of notes regarding the series...
The Grand Rapids Griffins' defense is very balanced, but there are certain players that really jump out at you as NHL-ready, if not a little "over-ripe"; for the Griffins, Teemu Pulkkinen, Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet in particular look like players who are biding their time in the AHL until the Wings can find spots for them.
The Free Press's Helene St. James duly notes that Marchenko's more than ready to play NHL hockey, though the Wings' summer roster plans (see: free agency) will likely affect both Marchenko and Ouellet as they're waiver-exempt for another season:
Marchenko, 23, is likely to be a part of Detroit's defense corps from the start of next season. He played 13 games with the Wings this past season, but he was limited by an injury suffered at the end of February. He was back in the lineup for the regular-season finale and played in the first two playoff games when former coach Mike Babcock favored Marchenko over Brendan Smith.
At 6-feet-3, Marchenko adds size, and he has the rare asset of being a right-handed shooter. He was tops on the prospect defense depth chart in 2014 when a sprained ankle set him back significantly. It wasn't until this past season that he regained the form that impressed the Wings' front office.
St. James continues, and there are no questions about Marchenko's mobility any more. He's an incredibly useful multi-tool defenseman; at the AHL level, he's got some offensive flair, but at the NHL level, he's more of a Brad Stuart type, a safe, steady puck-mover, and you can't have too many of those kinds of players...
But Kronwall, Ericsson, DeKeyser, Quincey, Smith (restricted) and Kindl are already on the Wings' roster, and it doesn't benefit Marchenko to play as a 7th defenseman.
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Johan Franzen hasn't given up hope that he'll play hockey again, and neither have the Detroit Red Wings.
Franzen suffered a concussion on Jan. 6 that ended his season. But he is slowly working his way back and, according to general manager Ken Holland, showing improvement.
"I'm told he's working out every day," Holland said on Thursday. "The expectation is that over the course of the summer he's going to be healthy.
"I expect to see him in training camp. I expect to see him playing hockey next year. Until I hear otherwise, that's how I'm going to proceed."
The Free Press's Drew Sharp, Fox Sports Detroit's Keith Gave and a slew of other media types, myself included, were present for the Grand Rapids Griffins' 4-1 loss to the Utica Comets on Thursday evening, as was a certain guest of the Red Wings named Sergei Fedorov.
I came to Grand Rapids to watch the prospects and to speak with hockey players, because there's nothing better than "working" games; people like Gave, Sharp, and those who attended Wednesday's Griffins practice (the Free Press's Jeff Seidel and Detroit News's Ted Kulfan) have made the trip to Western Michigan for more obvious reasons--like the fact that the Red Wings' next coach is most likely wrapping up his tenure with the Griffins (thus allowing reporters a pretty dang good "pre-scout" of a Babcock disciple), or the fact that Dylan Larkin (who gave a 5-minute post-game interview that had very little to do with his good performance and not-so-good 2 minor penalties during Thursday's game), is at least for the moment the next big thing among Red Wings prospects.
Sharp penned a story in which he made sure to ask both Jeff Hoggan and coach Blashill the "no comment" topic while noting that a 1-to-3-person press junket has become a 12-person melee...
Updated 2x at 10:07 AM: The Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a disappointing 4-1 decision to the Utica Comets on Thursday, and as a result, the Griffins trail the best-of-seven series 2 games to 1 going into Friday's Game 4 (7 PM EDT on The AHL Live/WOOD Radio).
Grand Rapids got more than enough shots on Jacob Markstrom--41 to be exact--but Grand Rapids didn't drive to the Comets' net with the kind of intensity or numbers of players stopping and staying in Markstrom's sightlines to do anything less than fall prey to Utica's patented counterattack-and-let-the-goalie-mop-up-single-shots game.
By the time the Griffins really ramped things up in the third period, they were already trailing a 3-0 game, and none of Jeff Blashill's resets of the Griffins' lines took hold. The Griffins also gave up the second of Sven Baertschi's three goals with Dylan Larkin in the penalty box for the second time, so it was not the most auspicious "in Michigan" debut for Larkin, though he did play well overall.
The Grand Rapids Griffins open a 3-game home-ice stretch when they host the Utica Comets this evening (7 PM EDT on the AHL Live/WOOD Radio), and this could be the "pivot" (if not pivotal) game of the series as Grand Rapids and Utica are tied 1-1 after 2 games, with the Griffins having been snuffed out by the Comets' tight-checking ways in Sunday's Game 1 and the Griffins solving the Comets and Jacob Markstrom in Game 2.
Tonight, the Griffins hope to employ home-ice advantage as two formerly unfamiliar-with-each-other teams continue to get to dislike each other.
I'm hoping to contribute to some sort of live blog, but the wireless service at Van Andel Arena is shaky, so contributions will be on a touch-and-go basis; thus far I've had good luck finding, ahem, creative ways to watch the game on OnHockey.tv and stream2watch dot com. The fact that tonight's game isn't facing NHL competition might make it easier to find online.
Among this afternoon's "set-up" articles ahead of Game 3 of the Grand Rapids Griffins-Utica Comets series (7 PM EDT on the AHL Live/WOOD Radio/alternate means):
The AHL posted a "morning skate" entry...
Via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports Detroit's Keith Gave spoke with Red Wings GM Ken Holland about the fact that the Wings pushed the Tampa Bay Lightning to 7 games, which seems improbable now that the Lightning are a win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final...
"That's sports," Holland said. "We thought we had the potential to make some noise in these playoffs, but in the end, we weren't good enough. We've got to find a way to get a little better."
"Getting a little better" depends largely upon Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Petr Mrazek's continued improvement and maturation, as well as bounce-back campaigns from Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, and yes, even Jimmy Howard.
The offseason -- from the moment the Wings are eliminated through the rush of free agency that begins on July 1 -- is the busiest time of the year for Holland. And this year has been busier than usual as he tried in vain to negotiate a new contract with his coach. Mike Babcock left for Toronto, so Holland is occupied this week talking with Jeff Blashill, who's preoccupied himself trying to win a third playoff series this spring and get the Grand Rapids Griffins into the Calder Cup finals for the second time in three years.
Blashill is expected to be introduced as Detroit's next coach at the end of the Griffins' season.
In a few weeks, Holland will meet with his pro scouts to discuss potential free-agent targets in July. That will be followed by meetings with amateur scouts to prepare for the NHL Entry Draft in Florida.
The period between the draft on June 26th and July 5th-8th is when teams make the vast majority of their roster moves these days, trades included, so if the Wings are to move a Stephen Weiss or Jakub Kindl, that period of time is likely to result in any trades or free agent signings.
Holland also tells Gave that he's not expecting to make a gigantic splash in free agency; this summer's class is incredibly thin, and while the Wings will probably look at Mike Green, Jeff Petry and Christian Ehrhoff on the blueline, the cap rising by only $2 million + the team having to re-sign Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Landon Ferraro and possibly Joakim Andersson as restricted free agents = the Wings' cap space will disappear in a hurry. [Edit: That's not to say that they won't have any money to go after a free agent, but $5-7 million in free space if Weiss and Kindl return = one target, not two /end edit].
Instead, the Wings are likely (at least for the present moment) to lean on the players engaging in a "long playoff run" with the Grand Rapids Griffins:
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.