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The Malik Report

The, ‘Let Datsyuk walk and tank’ theory

Via RedWingsFeed, I had a feeling we were going to get an article like this popping up today, but I didn't expect it to be well-thought-out. The Hockey News's Matt Larkin suggests that the Red Wings should simply let Pavel Datsyuk head back to Russia, and that they should do so because such a move will kick-start a full rebuild.

I don't agree with the concept of a full tank-and-rebuild at all, and the team doesn't, either, but there's no doubt that Datsyuk leaving would cause a sea change in terms of the organization's attempts to improve its player personnel. Here's Larkin's take:

The Wings are now a team in transition. Veterans like Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall can still play the game well but are past their primes. On the other end of the spectrum, promising center Dylan Larkin just completed his rookie season and has the looks of a long-term franchise player. Goalie Petr Mrazek is a roller coaster at times but is just 24 and owns career regular season and playoff save percentages of .920 and .931, respectively. He, too, is just beginning a promising career. Same goes for speedy dangler Andreas Athanasiou and budding goal scorers Teemu Pulkkinen and Anthony Mantha, neither of whom has settled in as a bona fide NHLer yet. Evgeny Svechknikov, last year’s first-round draft choice, hasn’t turned pro.

This is where I also disagree with the assessment of the Wings' prospects, but I'm also heading to Grand Rapids next week to take in the team's playoff run...

The Wings’ farm system graded out as the NHL’s 20th-strongest according to our scouting panel in THN Future Watch 2016, with two players in the top 50, Mantha and Svechnikov. Their blueline prospect pool ranks among the league’s weakest, topped by Xavier Ouellet, who bounces up and down between the AHL and NHL and hasn’t been able to stick, five years after he was drafted.

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Datsyuk appears to be the first Red Wing to commit to World Championship play

We're about to find out which members of the Red Wings head to St. Petersburg and Moscow for the World Championship, which starts on May 6th, and it should come as little surprise that Sport-Express's Igor Eronko reports that Pavel Datsyuk's going to join Team Russia after his year-end physical and exit interview:

According to Sport-Express, Team Russia GM Alexei Zhamnov states that Datsyuk is healthy and will inform the Russian national team when exactly he'll be able to join them as the Russians are already preparing for the Worlds.

I believe that we're going to see most of Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, Jimmy Howard (Team USA), Gustav Nyquist (Sweden), Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco (Slovakia) and Petr Mrazek (Czech Republic) play at the World Championship.

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Darren Eliot, Elliotte Friedman give radio interviews discussing the Red Wings, Datsyuk

Two radio interviews of Red Wings-related note have popped up this morning.

First, Fox Sports Detroit's Darren Eliot appeared on WDFN AM 1130 The Fan's Matt Sheppard show, reflecting upon the Red Wings-Lightning series and the Wings' future...

And Sportnset's Elliotte Friedman spoke with The Fan 590's Dean Blundell & Co., suggesting (2:30 in) that Pavel Datsyuk is still Russia-bound:

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Go with veteran free agents, or ‘stick with the kids?’

The morning after the Red Wings were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning, I find myself a Red Wings fan torn in two very different directions.

Part of me listened to the press's suggestions that the Red Wings still need another top-four defenseman (Alex Goligoski?) and top-six forward who goes to the front of the net (Troy Brouwer? Andrew Ladd?) and nodded my head and said, "Yes, if you're still the genius you used to be, Ken Holland, make the near-impossible happen! Go after free agents! Use the Datsyuk $ and Franzen $ and make some damn magic already!"

The other part of me, the realist, believes that the Red Wings' very mediocre GM and solid management team would be best-served by doing what's necessary to "play the kids." Instead of hoping that the Wings add veterans, part of me says that the Wings need to make hard decisions about Drew Miller, Darren Helm, Brad Richards and Kyle Quincey (and maybe Jonathan Ericsson, too) in order to ensure that Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet are playing regular minutes on defense, and that Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha are more than spare parts up front, and part of me even wonders whether it's time to move Jimmy Howard and sign an interim back-up until Jared Coreau's ready to step in.

Part of me wants the Wings to dazzle with a star-studded lineup; the other part wants the Wings to finally commit to the youth movement, to commit to it fully, and to only make moves where it's possible to spin some of the young talent overflow into reinforcements (see: Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul in Grand Rapids without spaces in Detroit, and Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Jurco not seeming to fit into the Wings' long-term plans).

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Morning news: post-game videos, recaps and TSN talk

After I went to bed last night, the Red Wings posted a set of post-game comment videos from last night's 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The videos include comments from Henrik Zetterberg...

Niklas Kronwall...

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Andreas Athanasiou Won’t Be Playing For The Grand Rapids Griffins In Game 1 And Maybe Beyond

Wallner also tweeted saying Joakim Andersson won't be joining the Griffins either.

Update: From Wallner, via RedWingsFeed:

Athanasiou has been excused to attend a family matter at home, Ryan Martin, the Red Wings assistant general manager, said Friday morning.

The Red Wings' season ended Thursday with a 1-0 loss at Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs.

The Griffins, who open the best-of-five series tonight at Milwaukee, will get back defenseman Xavier Ouellet for tonight, but may have to make due without Athanasiou.

"It's difficult to say now, but I would assume through the playoffs unless something changes," Martin said of Athanasiou's long-term availability.

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Red Wings-Lightning Game 5 wrap-up: Datsyuk discusses his status as Wings are eliminated

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...

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Already, there’s talk of the Red Wings moving forward

From NHL.com's Nicholas J. Cotsonika:

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.

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Grand Rapids Griffins post playoff primer ahead of first-round series with Milwaukee

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.

Series Schedule:
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

The Griffins continue...

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Pavel Datsyuk speaks with Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson

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:

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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.

 

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