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The Malik Report

The Outlook For Justin Abdelkader This Season

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

2015-16 outlook: Former coach Mike Babcock gave Abdelkader the plum assignment as Pavel Datsyuk's linemate in 2013-14, counting on the big forward to do the dirty work on the top line – win puck battles, provide a net-front presence, use his physical game to create space for the skilled players. Abdelkader wasn't able to capitalize offensively, however. That changed last season, a breakout year for the Muskegon native and former Michigan State standout.

Abdelkader demonstrated his all-around value to the team, not only as an agitating grinder who is hard to play against but also as an offensive threat. He embraced the net-front role on the first power-play unit. His role on the penalty kill has diminished the past couple of seasons, due to more power-play responsibility, but he still is effective on the PK. His late-season injury was a big blow; even though he returned in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series against Tampa Bay, he wasn't the same.

If new coach Jeff Blashill plays Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together, Abdelkader likely would be their linemate. His size and grit are vital for a team with many smaller, skilled forwards. Abdelkader is entering a contract season and due for a significant raise on his next deal.

Key question: Can Abdelkader continue providing offense following his breakthrough season?

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St. James: Johan Franzen might need to retire for his own sake

The Free Press's Helene St. James scouts one Johan Franzen this evening, and St. James believes that Franzen might be best-served by ending his career:

LOOKING AHEAD: To borrow a tune from “The Sound of Music,” it’s tempting to hum “how do you solve a problem like Johan Franzen?” He has suffered multiple head injuries (by his own estimate, at least four), and has, since the last one, gone through a period that was heartbreaking to hear about (Franzen revealed in April that the hardest part was telling his two young sons that he couldn’t play with them because he felt so poorly). Franzen improved enough to go on the ice in April, but then had another setback. That’s a cycle typical of post-concussion syndrome.

The plan for 2015-16 is that Franzen plays, but all the Wings really can do is wait and see what happens. For now they have to count Franzen against the roster, and against the salary cap. Maybe Franzen gets through training camp and exhibition season feeling great. Maybe he even plays when the season opens. But given his history, it’s hard not to think that he is one hard hit away from another lengthy absence.

Should Franzen be sidelined again, the Wings can, of course, put him on long-term injured reserve, which includes salary-cap relief. Given recent stories about he possibility of devastating and long-lasting effects of head injuries, maybe Franzen would be best to call it a career, just as Chris Pronger did a few years back with Philadelphia. No game is worth risking long-term quality of life.

St. James cotinues...

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Early overnight report: On ‘Big E,’ repeating Datsyuk’s recovery time and Walleye news

Of Red Wings-related note this evening:

1. Oh, boy, this is going to be fun. The Free Press's Helene St. James profiles everybody's favorite defenseman (to say negative things about), one Jonathan Ericsson, and she's spot-on as to what Ericsson needs to do to salvage the final five years of his contract (at a capt hit of $4.25 million per season, with a no-trade clause [not a no-move clause, but a no-trade clause nonetheless]):

Looking back: Ericsson rebounded from an injury-plagued 2013-14 to play a full season, partnering at even strength with Niklas Kronwall and logging the second-most minutes per game among penalty-killing defensemen on the team. He was guilty of going through the motions at times during the regular season, but was noticeably more energized in the playoffs, where Ericsson's 0.57 point-per-game average was the best of his career — and that was done playing with a broken toe incurred during the dangerous recreational sport that is two-touch soccer.

Looking ahead: At 31, Ericsson seemingly has become entrenched as Kronwall's partner on the top defense pairing. That isn't likely to change, unless the expected partnership of Danny DeKeyser and newcomer Mike Green doesn't work. It would be nice to see Ericsson exert himself more when he has the puck — he had above-average numbers for him in 2013 with 13 points in 45 games, and had 11 points in 48 games the following season before settling for a more plodding production pace this past season. Ericsson can be frustrating to watch because he doesn't use his 6-foot-4, 220-pound body to be physical, but in that regard he's like a lot of big men in hockey. Ericsson is, at the end of the day, a serviceable stay-at-home defenseman with an all-things-considered amenable salary-cap hit.

2. Top-X player lists penned in the offseason are gifts that keep on giving, so there's a part of me that wants to call the Hockey News's Matt Larkin's first update of his "Top 200 fantasy players for 2015-16" list an, erm, exercise in maximizing bandwidth, but in the case of the player whose photo adorns the entry, he's got a point:

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‘Expertly Translated’: Kris Draper speaks to Sport.sk about the Wings’ Slovaks and Marian Hossa

You and I were both waiting for that Kris Draper interview to hit on Sport.sk today, but it wasn't published in the online publication, so TMR reader Martin Pohanic was kind enough to both snag a print copy and translate it into English for us.

Former Red Wing Kris Draper praises Tomas Tatar and expects more from Tomas Jurco in the upcoming season

He belongs to the most iconic of Red Wings players. Former Red Wing Kris Draper won 4 Stanley Cups with Detroit while playing over 1100 games in the Motor City. The 44-year old Toronto native moved from the ice into the office, as he became an assistant GM in the famous Detroit organization. Nowadays, he is in Bratislava to follow the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He provided an exclusive interview for the Sport newspaper.

How do you like it here in Bratislava?

It's wonderful in here. The Tournament is being played at beautiful arena. You can get a remarkable view on the swimming pool (which is right next to the arena) from here as well. (laughter) It is really hot in here, so I'm glad I can cool myself off a bit while watching some hockey. This is my second time being at the Hlinka Memorial. It is a high-quality event, as practically all of the interesting draft-eligible players are here.

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A Kocur charitable softball game reminder

Many Red Wings fans tell me that the Joe Kocur Foundation's annual charity softball game is the highlight of their summer, so, as a reminder:

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All Evgeny Svechnikov

From the Cape Breton Post's Q and A with Evgeny Svechnikov:

Who was your childhood hockey idol? Alex Cherepanov.  

Who has had the most influence on your career?  My parents.

What is one thing people don’t know about you? Things were not always so easy for my family financially, but my parents made a lot of sacrifices for me and my brother growing up, especially when it came to us playing hockey.

What jersey number do you prefer to wear and why? I wear No. 37 because in Russia, the number three is believed to be a number from God and my hockey idol Alex Cherepanov wore the number seven.

Do you have a nickname? Chevy, short form for my last name Svechnikov.

Continued

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Looking back at the Red Wings’ youth hockey camp

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned an article about the 298 players who took part in the Red Wings' youth hockey camp, including 3 VIP's in Teddy, Owen and Josie Blashill:

'They had a blast,” proclaimed coach Jeff Blashill, speaking about his kids’ experience. “It’s a really well-organized camp, and obviously with the addition of Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening and Danny DeKeyser, it’s a neat thing for the kids to be on the ice with Red Wings players. I know my kids had a lot of fun and I know they were really tired.”

Kids ages 6 to 16 came from every corner of the United States and two Canadian provinces – Ontario and Manitoba – to participate in the three-day instruction camp hosted by former Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby.

Told that two young sons of a U.S. serviceman stationed in Japan traveled to Detroit to join in the fun, Blashill said, “It means we have Red Wings fans everywhere and I think that just speaks to what a special thing it is to be part of the Red Wings’ organization.”

Blashill, who is getting set for his first season behind the bench as the 27th head coach in franchise history, was impressed with the pace of the camp and the level of instruction each youth skater received.

“First of all, it’s a well-planned camp and they do a real good job teaching skills,” he said. “No. 2, they get an opportunity to skate on Joe Louis ice and be here in this great arena. I think it’s a neat experience for the kids, and then No. 3. just being around guys like Kirk Maltby – a four-time Stanley Cup winner – and the players, I think it’s a real neat thing for them.”

Roose continues...

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Slightly off-topic: Little Caesars Hockey doubles in size and reach

This is definitely intriguing from a minor/developmental hockey standpoint. From the Red Wings:

ITTLE CAESARS AAA HOCKEY CLUB ANNOUNCES AFFILIATION WITH FARMINGTON HILLS HOCKEY ASSOCIATION
… New Collaboration Aims to Grow Number of Youth Hockey Players in Farmington Hills …

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings and Little Caesars Hockey today announced a collaboration with the Farmington Hills Hockey Association, allowing it to formally become the Little Caesars Farmington Hills Hockey Association (LCFHHA) and effectively more than doubling the number of Little Caesars affiliated teams in the Metro Detroit area. 

The agreement allows Little Caesars Hockey the opportunity to develop Farmington Hills-based teams from Mini-Mite (ages 5-6) up to Midget (ages 15-18) by fully integrating AAA hockey all the way through Initiation Programs, such as the Detroit Red Wings “Little Wings” program and “TimBits” Learn to Play program, designed to provide an affordable way for children to learn how to play hockey.

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Of Twitter-related Red Wings and Griffins note

I'm usually not a one-tweet-entry guy at TMR, but this is cool news from DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:

Also of Twitter-related note:

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Buccigross’s Wings ‘Mt. Rushmore’

ESPN's John Buccigross revisited his now six-year-old picks for NHL teams' respective Mt. Rushmores, and here's what he had to say about the Red Wings:

Detroit Red Wings

2009 team/theory: Gordie Howe, Nicklas Lidstrom, Terry Sawchuk and Steve Yzerman. Eleven Stanley Cups for the Red Wings. I believe Gordie, Lidstrom and Stevie Y are locks. I went with Sawchuk. He won three Cups in four seasons as the Wings' netminder in the early '50s.

2015: Pavel Datsyuk will make the Hall of Fame and have his number retired, but he can't crack this group. Same goes for Henrik Zetterberg. So: Howe, Lidstrom, Sawchuk, Yzerman.

Buccigross continues with 29 other teams' "4 best players"...

My Mt. Rushmore has Ted Lindsay instead of Sawchuk as Lindsay still bleeds Red Wings red. Who does your Wings Mt. Rushmore consist of?

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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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