The Malik Report
According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell’s insistence that the NHL does not wish to ban shoulder-to-head hits on unsuspecting defensemen in the “valley of death” beside or behind the net—in specifically referencing Raffi Torres’s long run on Brent Seabrook which went unpunished, to the consternation and rejuvenation of the Chicago Blackhawks—has raised an eyebrow or two among the NHLPA members who had assumed that forwards who charge defensemen would not be exempted from the blind-side hitting rule for the sake of Campbell’s insistence that players who don’t keep their heads up are still Marc Savard-hit-legal because the NHL chose not to ask referees to enforce its now largely ignored rules regarding charging, boarding and, as Brooks points out, an existing rule which should, in theory, have resulted in a penalty to what shouldn’t be a legal hit, ever:
The PA intends to use its representation on the increasingly irrelevant competition committee to attempt to craft a rule this summer that would explicitly outlaw the Torres’ hit that concussed the Blackhawks’ first-pair defensemen.
Really, though, what’s the point when the man in charge (with, it must be stressed, the full support of his employers on Sixth Avenue) spends his time searching for loopholes in the rulebook to enable predators rather than applying Rule 21.1 to protect the vast majority of players who are — now by definition — targets in the crosshairs.
As mentioned in the comments of Paul’s post about the New York Islanders tolling Evgeni Nabokov’s contract to next season on Friday, I happened to mention that the Russian Hockey Federation has spent almost three weeks attempting to negotiate with the Islanders, the NHL and, according to Sport-Express’s Andrei Kuznetsov, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, to secure Nabokov’s release to play for Russia in the World Championships.
As such, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun (who appeared on a Coyotes-centric Satellite Hotstove on the CBC on Saturday evening) reports, via his “Weekend Wrap,” that the Islanders and Nabokov have agreed to a compromise plan:
Not only are the New York Islanders going to “toll” Evgeni Nabokov’s contract, meaning he’ll owe the club that one-year, $570,000 contract next season after not reporting in January when the Isles claimed him off waivers, but it turns out the netminder and his agent are fully on board with it.
Veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports told ESPN.com he has informed Isles GM Garth Snow his client is fine with the contract being tolled. In return, Snow will allow Nabokov, who was suspended by the Islanders for not reporting, to play for Russia in the World Championships.
The idea is that both Nabokov and the Islanders would benefit from the veteran goalie putting on a solid performance in Slovakia. His stock may rise, as the Islanders will likely put him on the trade block this summer.
Continued with talk about Brad Richards, the Kings’ goaltending situation and Kyle Wellwood.
The Detroit Red Wings received the day off today and will spend Easter with their families, but if the Wings’ comments on Friday are to be believed, it’s a pretty safe bet that Al Sobotka had to resurface the ice at Joe Louis Arena after a few players skated on their own today, and it’s highly likely that Kris Draper and at least a couple of his teammates at least went down to the Joe to work out or spend quality time with the team’s trainers and doctors.
The Wings’ pro scouts remain on the road, crisscrossing the U.S. and Western Canada to observe the Wings’ potential second-round opponents, and given Mike Babcock’s personality, he probably woke up at 6:17 AM and headed down to the rink to work on drills designed to keep the Wings’ level of attention to detail razor-sharp, and he, Paul MacLean, Brad McCrimmon and Keith McKittrick are surely watching video of their potential opponents, looking for weaknesses to exploit and power play tendencies to stifle as the Wings hope to improve their penalty-killing.
Updated at 9:03 AM: On Friday, Red Wings forward Johan Franzen was named one of the candidates for TSN’s “No Guts, No Glory” award, facing off against Martin St. Louis in a web-voted determination of playoff toughness, and overnight, TSN nominated Pavel Datsyuk as a candidate for their Play of the Year Showdown.
Datsyuk’s competing with Minnesota Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the first of a series of quarterfinals, and while you may not have seen Bouchard’s spin-o-rama goal, you might remember this one from Datsyuk, scored on March 12th against St. Louis:
If you weren’t watching the Red Wings’ sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes on Fox Sports Detroit on Wednesday, you probably heard a familiar refrain from announcers on both the CBC and Versus: “And I picked the Coyotes!” Despite the fact that the Coyotes painted themselves as the consummate underdogs, a good 2/3rds of the media declared that the Coyotes would pull off an upset against an aging, fragile and injured Red Wings team backstopped by a shaky goaltender in Jimmy Howard. According to NHL.com’s Jerry Brown, Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney entertained similar thoughts ten days ago:
“I’m disappointed to be standing here so early,” Maloney said Friday as Coyotes packed up their gear and went through exit meetings at Jobing.com Arena. “I thought going into the playoffs we were better position to give Detroit a battle. I thought Detroit was vulnerable—they were a little banged up—but they really ratcheted up their game and we just didn’t.
“We’ll have to go back and look to see where we came up short. Going and losing four straight is just not acceptable. We’re going to figure out what went wrong and we’re going to fix it. We have enough players to play with anyone in this League … to blame franchise woes for the performance of the team is a cop-out to me. I won’t accept it.”
The Red Wings took part in a brief practice today and then told the media that the R&R they’ve earned between the first and second round will save some wear and tear on their bodies and allow them to address the on-ice issues which remain problem areas (like their penalty-killing unit). The Wings did insist to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, however, that they don’t plan on “resting” in the getting mentally soft sense of the term:
“I think it’s a good thing considering the guys that are out and you want to have back for the second round,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It looks like they’re going to be back. It just helps us giving them a few extra days to heal up. Getting back and finding that edge and mindset is the hard part,” Lidstrom added. “You have to find that right away after a week’s rest.”
“I think that edge comes back with the drop of the puck,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “A lot of people were talking about us going into the playoffs. They weren’t sure how we were going to be. We felt pretty confident going in. This time of year, this is what everyone loves to do. Guys will train and prepare themselves on and off the ice and stay ready.”
The Wings are aware of the fact that, should playoff math hold up, they’ll probably face the Sharks in the next round…
Even though the first round of the playoffs will continue through the weekend, TSN has settled upon two players who they believe exemplify playoff toughness in a big way, and as such, Red Wings forward Johan Franzen’s 23 stitches’ worth of “guts” will face off against Martin St. Louis’s toothless smile in a tangle of painful proportions:
Each year, the NHL on TSN bestows the No Guts, No Glory award to one of the elite within this special group - NHL players who have demonstrated uncommon courage by putting themselves in harm’s way for the greater good of their teams.
This year, we ask you to pick between these two playoff warriors who answered the call of glory - Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings.
Go to tsn.ca/nhl/nogutsnoglory to see the video evidence, cast your vote, and email your comments to the NHL on TSN.
Red Wings off-day updates: Zetterberg, Franzen are good to go for round #2, where Wings must improve
Updated 4x at 4:40 PM: Slightly belated news from the Red Wings’ Friday practice, via the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan: Henrik Zetterberg’s officially been deemed fit to play after taking part in a full practice on Friday:
“I’m feeling better than yesterday, and that’s all I can ask for,” said Zetterberg, who missed the entire first-round sweep of Phoenix because of a left knee sprain. “As long as it goes that way, it’ll be good.”
Franzen (sore ankle), who didn’t play in Wednesday’s deciding game against Phoenix, didn’t practice but Babcock said Franzen will be ready to go for the next round.
“We’ll give him as much time as (needed) to make sure he’s feeling good,” Babcock said. “I’m not one bit concerned.”
Since Bill already covered Gregg Krupa’s article insisting that the NHL is not attempting to squelch Red Wings fans’ octopus-throwing tradition, but is simply encouraging better timing and protecting both the players and integrity of the ice surface by imposing a $500 fine enforced via the Detroit Police Department…
I’ll say the following regarding the apologist, especially as the News cooked up a Flash game which insists that the youngsters who pick up octopi at Joe Louis Arena have a hard road to go in avoiding hockey players, fans throwing drinks and octopi—something’s definitely redolent here, and it’s not the smell of day-old octopus, nor the fact that the Superior Fish Company already tries to educate would-be octopus throwers in the etiquette of octopus-throwing.
Updated with comments from a few Wings players: As the sagas of the Phoenix Coyotes, Atlanta Thrashers, New York Islanders and other near-insolvent teams have perked up the Canadian media’s ears and inspired thousands of, “They’re going to be the new Winnipeg Jets and/or Quebec Nordiques” stories, it’s been hard for this old Jets fan to not get downright cynical regarding the fact that, since the Canadian dollar stabilized and American teams have found themselves in difficult situations ownership-wise, far too many radio hosts, television personalities and columnists from anywhere with a Sun or Star in its name or .ca suffix have happily jerked around the heartstrings and emotions of fans who were told some fifteen years ago what fans in Phoenix are being told now and what those Nordique fans who travel to Long Island, Miami, Atlanta etc. tell their fan bases—“Your team is in trouble, and you don’t support them well enough, so you don’t deserve a team.”
It’s gut-wrenching, so while I may be less than enthused with Ilya Bryzgalov’s suggestion that Winnipeg is nothing but a frozen wasteland dotted by one single, solitary edifice—a hockey rink—I won’t begrudge Phoenix fans’ their right to support a stand-alone entity with stable ownership seventeen years from now, either.
It would be hypocritical of me to suggest otherwise (and I have other stuff that I can be a hypocrite about instead). Just because a place that I love, have people who I consider to be family living in and nearly moved to to marry somebody is treated like it’s worse than hockey Siberia isn’t worth a knee-jerk reaction of the vulgar kind, especially given that my birth certificate says “Detroit, MI.”
But I’m happy to report that the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen, of all people, offered an assessment of the aftermath of the Phoenix Coyotes’ 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings that represents something we haven’t heard from any media outlet proffering the, “NHL back to Canadian City X or expanding to the Greater Toronto Area City Y” for the sake of stirring up emotion, debate, and advertising revenues.
Friesen feels sympathy for the team, players and fans who represent a city that once poached a Canadian team, and now knows exactly how Winnipeggers felt after a playoff game against the Red Wings in 1996:
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.