The Malik Report
Guest commentary: a journalism professor grades the 2011-2012 Wings’ players, coaches and management
Every once in a while, it’s good to change things up, and when readers ask me if they can weigh in with commentary of their own, I’m more than willing to oblige them. I know professor Steve Klein well, and his credentials speak for himself—as do his outspoken opinions—and here’s his take on the Wings’ disappointing 2011-2012 regular season and playoff run, including player grades (I’ll weigh in with my own in a day or two: I need to calm down, grieve a bit and pen something a little less emotionally charged than what you’re about to read) and recommendations in terms of necessary changes. His column comes with the usual blogger’s disclaimer: these opinions are his, not mine, and they stand on their own merit:
Steve Klein was sports editor of the Lansing State Journal from 1985-95 and is a life-long Detroit Red Wings fan. He coordinates the Journalism program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Here’s the thing I like most about Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. He’s brutally honest.
Like my old Michigan State friend, Ron Mason, the all-time winningest college hockey coach, Babcock is a zero-sum guy. It’s not, “What did you do last shift for me?” Its, “What did you do at the end of the last shift for me?” And the answer better not be that you were dragging your ass to the bench because you were on the ice too long.
If this morning’s Red Wings-Predators wrap-up, posts about Mike Babcock’s take on his team’s off-season to-do list and takes on the “rebuild/reload” equation from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the National Post’s Michael Traikos haven’t sated your desire for some closure and/or space to vent, a few more stories and videos have popped up this afternoon.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness leads us off by offering player and coach’s takes as to why the Wings, who Pleiness duly notes never spent that $5 million or so in cap space they possessed to add free agents and/or make trades which may have included roster players at the trade deadline, fell short against the Predators:
Regardless of whether you agree with Red Wings coach Mike Babcock’s assessment that scoring and depth up front doomed the Wings—and as Shark Circle points out, Babcock had hoped that the Wings would land a top-six forward as well as a top-flight defenseman to replace Brian Rafalski when he retired last spring—or whether you believe that the Wings might be better served to not spend their summer out-spending their rivals because of CBA uncertainty, or perhaps because you believe that sacrificing some of the Wings’ roster players and/or top prospects might serve the Wings’ needs better than dipping into the free agent pool…
It’s hard to suggest that the Wings need anything less than some significant personnel changes after last night’s loss to Nashville marked the third time in three years that the Wings have failed to meet their playoff expectations in at least making the Western Conference Final.
Nick Lidstrom is going to do what he always does, which is take some time off, and when it comes time in late June or early July when it’s time to get back in the gym and have to start working again, that’s when he’ll determine whether or not he’s fit to play for next year. It comes down to how much work he’s willing to do in the off-season. He’s capable of playing. The level he played at this year, he’s still a top five or six defenceman in the NHL. For that reason, nobody thinks he’s going anywhere, but it’s possible.
If he decided to go, people would say ‘that’s it for the Red Wings, their window closed. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are getting older along with a lot of other players on their roster.’ Even if Lidstrom left, the Red Wings have something this summer they haven’t had for an awfully long time, and that is cap space.
It’s almost like the old days for Ken Holland and Mike Ilitch, and there are guys out there for Detroit to target. Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, some big name free agents. The Detroit Red Wings, whether Lidstrom is back or not, are going big-game hunting this summer, I believe.
The Detroit Red Wings boarded Red Bird III for one final flight back to Detroit after dropping a devastating, heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, earning the uncomfortable status as the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs while failing to meet their Western Conference Final-making standard for the third straight year.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t pull any punches about his team not being deep enough to make deep pushes into the playoffs anymore in his post-game press conference, and in the quick take, I know that many of you weighed in as to the direction you believe the team should take going forward, but while the Wings will clean their lockers out today or on Monday (probably today), and then undergo exit interviews…
In Nashville, Predators put second round playoff tickets on sale and, well, after slaying their dragon and self-made arch-rival in the Wings, they talked about their long-time franchise idols in the way a teenager who tore the poster of his favorite athlete off the wall when he succeeded him would: in the past tense, as Fox Sports Tennessee’s John Manasso noted:
George’s ISP has been acting up all night long, and while George is a good worker bee who wants to write the God-damned recap he’s trying to cobble together, he wants to let you know that it’s entirely possible that it might not come until the morning if his internet service provider conks out yet again, he may punt his modem all the way from Southwestern Oakland County to Barry Trotz’s backyard.
George would also like to stop talking about himself in the third person. I just want to do my thing, stay up all night and give you guys something to chew on and/or vent grief by reading and commenting upon. :shakes fist at sky:
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was anything but happy while speaking to the media after the Wings’ 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, speaking to the media and suggesting that the Wings couldn’t match Nashville’s four-line depth or scoring, and he’s particularly dissatisfied with his team’s trend of losing in lower rounds over the past three seasons:
Updated 3x at 11:27 PM: The Detroit Red Wings lost 2-1 to the Nashville Predators, and have been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the first time since 2006. I’ll post a quick take soon, but share your thoughts in the comments, please.
Update #3: Tomas Holmstrom to FSD’s John Keating, asking whether he’s decide what he’ll do: “You’ve got to be kidding me?” He’s not sure. And for those of you who want to know, Red Bird III will return to Metro Airport at 1:11 AM.
Update #2: Via the Wings, amongst coach Babcock’s comments to Fox Sports Detroit:
Babcock: “I thought their goaltender was outstanding. I thought their depth up front was better than our depth up front.”
Babcock: “I didn’t think we had enough up front and I think it showed up front.”
Babcock: “When you lose 4-1 in a series, you can talk about them all being close games, but that’s not close. It’s not close.”
Updated 7x at 7:05 PM: The Detroit Red Wings may or may not have received good news as they ready themselves to attempt to stave off elimination against the Nashville Predators tonight (8 PM EDT, FSD/SportSouth/CNBC/97.1 FM) as defenseman Hal Gill and Predators coach Barry Trotz offered conflicting takes on the 6’7” defenseman’s availability, as noted by the Tennessean’s Joshua Cooper:
Gill says he is a game time decision #Preds #NHL #RedWings
Trotz said Gill is out
Is this gamesmanship? Probably, as the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair suggests:
Over the past few days, we’ve heard quite a bit about the Nashville Predators’ delight regarding the fact that they may very well be able to slay their self-created dragon in their arch-rival Red Wings this evening, and while that’s swell and all, it’s hard to argue that a playoff vanquishing of the “gold standard” means that your team has definitively surpassed said poster boy franchise once and for all.
That being said, I agree with SI’s Darren Eliot when he suggests that the Red Wings have run into a team that has spent the past two trade deadlines and summers very specifically building itself into a team very specifically designed to take the Wings out come playoff time, and there’s definitely something to Eliot’s theory that a team that’s embraced its identity as the Wings’ vanquisher is playing against a team that somehow lost its identity after establishing a home-ice winning streak in February—and it’s scary to watch the Predators prey upon a Wings team that doesn’t seem to understand what it takes to win against the Preds as much as Nashville knows exactly how to make Detroit lose:
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.