The Malik Report
MLive's Ansar Khan asks a question whose answer is relatively obvious this morning: "How is Red Wings' potential pursuit of Dion Phaneuf affected by Mike Babcock's move to Toronto?"
Put simply, given Babcock's comments, which Khan highlights, there's not much of a chance that the Red Wings and Leafs will do more than cursorily review their trade parameters from the deadline and move on. The Wings can't afford to take on all of Phaneuf's $7 million cap hit, and they certainly don't want to pay the price the Leafs are likely to demand for Babcock's reclamation project:
The Red Wings tried to get Toronto to retain about $2 million per season, but the Leafs declined. They also weren't interested in taking back Toronto native Stephen Weiss, who has three years remaining at a cap hit of $4.9 million ($16 million in actual salary). They wanted top forward prospect Anthony Mantha, who the Red Wings aren't likely to move despite his struggles during his first pro season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Toronto correspondents have stated that the Leafs actually asked for Weiss, Brendan Smith and either Mantha or Teemu Pulkkinen, to eat $2 million of Phaneuf's salary, while the Wings were offering Weiss, Jakub Kindl and either Pulkkinen or a less-heralded prospect (and possibly a 1st round draft pick to top it all off).
Babcock pushed hard for the Weiss signing in 2013 but surely isn't interested in him now, after making him a healthy scratch the final five games of the playoff series against Tampa Bay.
I'm not so sure about that--Weiss could prove more useful in Toronto--but when you read Babcock explain that he's a "fan of Dion" and that he wants to work with Phaneuf (and Phil Kessel), it certainly sounds like the Leafs plan on hanging on to Phaneuf.
I could see the Leafs trading Phaneuf if and only if they'd receive their asking price of Weiss, Smith and Mantha or Pulkkinen, and that's not happening.
from Peter J. Wallner of Mlive,
The 18-year-old center got off two shots, including a nifty wrist shot from the right corner early in the third period, and finished plus/minus at even. He didn't play on special teams.
It is not like he was rusty. Larkin, after a 35-game freshman season at Michigan, played on the U.S. team that took the bronze in the IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic on May 17. In 10 games, Larkin had no goals and one assist. He recorded 17 shots and a minus-2 rating.
His reaction to his first pro game?
"I mean, it's fast but it's the conference finals and down to the four best teams," Larkin said. "It was a physical game and a lot of characters out there and guys really want it and sacrifice their bodies.
"It's not that different than college, I guess. Probably a little less time (to move the puck), but you just have to capitalize on your chances."
After a very busy week, the press seems to have paused to catch its breath after last week's Babcockian fandango, so this morning, there are only two Red Wings-related items of note, and they both involve players whose 2014-15 campaigns were statistical disappointments.
Joakim Andersson, who's a restricted free agent this summer, may not necessarily have a home without Mike Babcock employing him as an extremely reliable penalty-killing forward, and at 26, dropping down from 17 points in 2013-14 to 8 in 2014-15 didn't help his statistical cause.
If he does return to the Red Wings, Andersson told the Free Press's George Sipple that he'd like to do the obvious--contribute more points:
The Grand Rapids Griffins found themselves playing an unfamiliar opponent after a 6-day break when they opened up their Western Conference Final series against the Utica Comets on Sunday, and a combination of rust and "not knowing your opponent" bit the Griffins in the collective butt.
Tom McCollum gave up a pair of weak first-period goals, and while Mark Zengerle's power play goal afforded the Griffins a 2-1 deficit going into the 1st intermission, the Griffins were absolutely checked into dust during the 2nd and 3rd periods, and because the Griffins couldn't get their offense on track, they dropped a 2-1 decision to Utica, and looked like a struggling team in doing so.
With Game 2 set for Monday night at 7 PM (on WOOD Radio and the AHL Live), the Griffins will have to make some adjustments to deal with Utica's suffocating checking in a hurry.
Dylan Larkin also made his pro debut, and he didn't dazzle, but he fit in nearly seamlessly with the better players on the Griffins' roster, and that was perhaps the only positive of the evening.
Here's an open thread to suit your needs and hopefully include some "alternate means" of watching the game.
The Grand Rapids Griffins posited a video preview setting up the Griffins-Utica Comets series, narrated by Griffins play-by-play man Bob Kaser, and it includes an interview with coach Jeff Blashill in which he parries a question about his potential future job status:
Also: the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner posited a list of "5 Things to Know About the Series":
The "aha" moment for me didn't happen until sometime late on Friday evening. I realized that the last thirteen months' worth of Babcock contract questions had yielded an unanswered question that became bigger than the team, and when someone, anyone becomes bigger than the team--and likes it when they remain that way--then it's time for them to leave.
A coach can be larger-than-life, a coach can be just as important to his team's success as the players, a coach can be a media phenomenon unto himself, but by December, Mike Babcock's future became a sideshow, and the few times the "verboten" subject and un-answerable question was asked and parried away, the coach did nothing to diminish its distraction-worthy qualities.
Is it realistic to blame the Wings' late-season swoon upon Babcock's up-in-the-air status? I don't believe so, but I do believe that the late-season swoon certainly illustrated that Babcock might have been a little burnt out as the Red Wings' coach, and perhaps his realization that his time was at an end yielded some dog-eared pages out of the playbook being leaned upon far too heavily by a team that didn't need to hear, "If we just stick with it, we'll be fine" for the third season in a row.
The Free Press's Jeff Seidel has written what I can only describe as the definitive profile of soon-to-be Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, and this column deserves its own entry and all sorts of praise because this is how those of you who don't already know someone who allows people to call him "Blash" who exactly "Blash" is:
Blashill is the perfect choice — and not just because he is basically a younger, less-experienced version of Babcock, minus the hard-edged personality. Blashill checks all of the boxes you want in a coach. Well, all of them but NHL head-coaching experience.
He is demanding, a hard worker, highly prepared, detail-oriented, intelligent, a tremendous communicator, able to motivate, confident, even-keeled under pressure, loyal, able to make adjustments on the bench, focused, a proven winner and a coach whose players would run through a sheet of Plexiglas for him.
Ask anyone who has spent some time with Blashill, and they all come back to the same phrase: He just gets it. All of it. How to handle players. How to prepare for games. How to deal with the media. How to talk to the front office. How to develop players. And how to treat those who work under him with respect. He even lets someone videotape his pregame speeches and put them online (Youtube.com/griffvision).
"He's awesome," said Grand Rapids Griffins equipment manager Brad Thompson, who has worked under 10 coaches. "He's just a good guy, a great guy. I probably respect him the most of any coach, just for the fact that he doesn't look at us as the schleps or the grunts of the team."
Other than a lack of head coaching experience in the NHL, what's Blashill's biggest weakness?
It might be his golf game. "His golf game is not as good as he thinks it is and that's what gets him into trouble," Ferris State hockey coach Bob Daniels said, with a laugh.
Seidel continues, and this is a must-read
The Toledo Walleye are trying to make some playoff history, and Martin Frk's lending them quite the hand. Two games after scoring a hat trick, Frk registered yet another as the Walleye rallied from a 4-2 deficit to defeat the South Carolina Stingrays 5-4 in overtime on Saturday.
The Walleye have rallied from a 3-games-to-none deficit to close to 3-games-to-2, with the teams playing Games 6 and possibly 7 in Toledo on the 26th and 27th; on Saturday, Frk scored a hat trick and added an assist on 8 shots.
The Walleye's website posited a game recap:
The Grand Rapids Griffins begin their Western Conference Final series against the Utica Comets tomorrow at 7 PM (WOOD Radio, AHL Live), and the Griffins' YouTube channel posted a series preview...
And as Dylan Larkin will be making his pro debut with the Griffins on Sunday, the Free Press's
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