The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings open a weekend’s worth of afternoon games by tangling with the Nashville Predators today (3 PM EDT, FSD/FS Tennessee/WXYT) hoping to both rebound from a 10-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, a 4-game losing streak at Bridgestone Arena and losses in five of their last six games…
But there’s more than pride at stake today because the Wings’ losing streak and awful 5-5-and-4 March record has placed them at the tip of the “playoff pack” iceberg in the Western Conference standings: the Wings’ 98 points are good for 3rd place in the Western Conference, only one point behind the 2nd-place Sharks, but with five games remaining, the Wings are all of 3 points ahead of the 4th-place Coyotes and 4 points ahead of both the Los Angeles Kings and today’s sixth-place opponent (though the Wings have a game in hand on Nashville).
If the Wings lose today and tomorrow, it’s not just conceivable that they could lose the Central Division title; they could also find themselves battling for playoff positioning with everybody from the Sharks to the 8th-place (with 92 points) Blackhawks, who the Wings face twice to close out the regular season. Things could get ugly, or, as coach Mike Babcock might say, “sporty,” very quickly.
NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell was in Windsor on Thursday to speak to the The Odette School of Business, and he also spoke in very frank terms to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell about the protocols involved in doing a job he insists he loves despite harsh criticism regarding every decision he and the NHL’s hockey operations department make:
Campbell touched on a variety of issues, including the first one that comes to mind. Why would anyone want to do his thankless job?
“I ask myself the same question every day, but I’m still here,” said Campbell, who’s filled the role of NHL sheriff for a dozen seasons. “There’s good and bad, it’s demanding, but I work with good people. There’s no reason I have to stand here and give (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman any credit, but I will, because he is a good boss. The same people who I’m getting yelled at by, he gets yelled at by, too.”
The Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis managed to score an interview with the NHLPA’s somewhat reclusive executive director, Donald Fehr, and Fehr suggested to Francis that the NHLPA plans on taking a larger role in terms of talking about ways to address the increasing number of concussions, rule-amending recommendations from this past March’s GM’s meetings included:
“It’s certainly possible you could have discussions on health and safety when CBA talks take place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have ongoing discussions,” said Fehr, who spends his weekdays at the NHLPA’s Toronto office before jetting back to New York City.“We’ve had ongoing discussions with the league on a lot of these issues, and what I’d like to have happen near the end of the season around the time the competition committee meets is have agreements on these type of issues. We share the same goal and want to make the game as safe as possible without changing it.”
That last part has to be music to the ears of all hockey fans. However, few doubt the players and owners are gearing up for another collision course in the summer of 2012 when the CBA expires. And with that in mind, everything the two sides do together will involve an insistence that when one side gives, there’ll have to be plenty of take elsewhere. For example, while it’s only natural the Players’ Association would bristle at the notion the league will hand out stiffer, costlier suspensions for blindside head-shots, it would be much more palatable if the teams and coaches were also punished.
“One of the issues Gary raised was looking into the possibility of taking action against clubs and personnel if there are continued violations — that’s certainly an issue I would urge them to follow through on,” said Fehr, the longtime head of baseball’s powerful union. “And, hopefully, we’ll have conversations on that, too.”
Continued with talks about the NHL’s current disciplinary structure and the new concussion protocols implemented by the league.
This bit of news precedes the Detroit Red Wings’ practice updates and the Claude Lemieux-Darren McCarty signing, as well as the viral video contest and Chris Chelios posts by a wide margin. Per DetroitRedWings.com’s Christy Hammond, the Wings and Canadian Club did something nothing less than fantastic today:
RED WINGS AND CANADIAN CLUB PRESENT CHECKS TO USO FOR $10,000: Donation Will Send 400 Care Packages to Military Serving Overseas …
Detroit, MI… All seven American Detroit Red Wings players joined Dan Tullio, the Director of Canadian Club; Ralph Pugliese, VP of Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc.; and Katie Boyle, USO Corporate Alliances Coordinator, in the presentation of two checks totaling $10,000 to the USO before the Wings’ home game against the St. Louis Blues on March 30. With this donation, USO will send 400 care packages to military members serving overseas.
The Red Wings players began an initiative in early 2011 to donate $50 for every Red Wings goal scored at home during the remainder of the regular season, which was then matched by Canadian Club. With each Wings goal netted at the Joe, the $100 donation between the players and Canadian Club covered the cost of four care packages to be sent by the USO to deployed service men and women.
Since the inception of the Operation USO Care Package program in 2003, the USO has sent more than two million care packages to military serving in the Middle East and other overseas locations. Each USO care package, sponsored for $25, includes approximately $75 worth of items requested by service members, such as a prepaid international phone card, sunscreen, travel size toiletries and snacks.
As outspoken government critic but ardent, ardent USA supporter Henry Rollins might suggest, regardless of what you think about the engagements our troops are fighting, the troops themselves deserve our respect, admiration, care, time energy and effort, because they’re doing some tremendously difficult and dangerous jobs so that we don’t have to do them. The USO makes a real difference in the lives of our fighting men and women.
As previously noted (and this got lost in my practice and game reports, today’s news excluded) Red Wings folk hero and grinder extraordinnaire Darren McCarty will be signing autographs alongside one Claude Lemieux at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mt. Clemens, MI between 2 and 4 PM on Saturday. McCarty told the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy that he had no problems signing autographs alongside Lemieux, though Kris Draper was obviously unwilling to talk about the issue with DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples in anything other than capitalistic terms…
And McCarty’s (a birthday boy today) currently on 97.1 The Ticket with Terry Foster, discussing the fact that he’s happy to sign autographs on a picture of him beating the snot out of Lemieux, who apparently proposed the venture to McCarty’s management, and he says that he neither holds a personal grudge against Lemieux the person, nor does he want Wings fans to be rude to Lemieux on Saturday, but he has already told Terry Foster that there’s no way in hell that he’ll ever respect Lemieux as a hockey player, and that if Lemieux were to ask him to get a beer or have a meal after the event, McCarty would turn him down immediately as he doesn’t want to spend a second with Lemieux outside the two hours when the pair are signing autographs.
Foster asks Wings fans what you might do if you do attend the signing (I’d encourage you to be polite, even though Lemieux remains a scumbag and jerk of the first order, because even jerks are owed a “please” and “thank you” instead of a taunt when they do something for you):
How will fans approach this? Do you just walk up to the guy and ask for an autograph, smile and take a photo with him? It is not only an uncomfortable setting for McCarty but it is strange for fans.
The photo of McCarty and Lemieux fighting will be the most signed item there. I know it is a historical photo and it is an item sports memorabilia people will want.
But I saw Draper’s face that night. I talked to Lemieux. And I want nothing to do with it.
Ditto. It’d be too weird for me, but McCarty himself says that he’s not just doing it for the money—as it turns out, he wants to have a Lemieux-signed photo from the Brawl in Hockeytown for his personal collection and his son, Griffin.
Quite spiffy, per DetroitRedWings.com’s Jake Duhaime:
We’re encouraging YOU, our awesome Social Media followers to break out the cameras and show off your creativity for the first ever Detroit Red Wings viral video campaign. Using our 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs tagline – ‘Don’t Miss a Moment’ as a springboard, we’re asking fans to showcase the moments they don’t want to miss come playoff time.
For example: Don’t miss a moment. Don’t miss the memories. Don’t miss the history. Don’t miss the octopus. Don’t miss 20 years of playoff excellence. This is open to EVERYBODY, young and old, local, national and international!
Continued, and Jake explains the concept via a YouTube video as well:
Per the Sporting News’s Craig Custance, the New York Rangers’ members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association have stood up for a fellow writer who was stripped of his credentials in bizarre fashion:
The New York Rangers chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has decided not to participate in voting on the annual NHL awards as a way to protest the Islanders’ decision to pull the credential of chapter member Chris Botta. The PHWA ballots were sent out this week, with the writers voting on the Hart Trophy, Norris Trophy, Calder Trophy, Lady Byng Trophy, Selke Trophy and All-Star teams.
“Although the Rangers’ chapter doesn’t reflect the sentiment of the other 30 chapters, I’m respectful of its decision,” PHWA president Kevin Allen said. “In America, the idea of using one’s vote as a means of protest is as old as the country itself. And the issue here is important. The PHWA doesn’t believe that an NHL team should be able to deny access to one of our members. Chris Botta is one of our members. And he was denied access by the New York Islanders.”
Botta was a longtime employee of the Islanders and also wrote for AOL FanHouse and his blog Islanders Point Blank. His work also can be found in The New York Times hockey blog Slap Shot. The Islanders never publicly explained the decision. There will still by 160 eligible voters for the award.
Updated 8x at 5:50 PM: Ugh. The Red Wings will remain without their biggest steadying force not named Nicklas Lidstrom on Saturday as Pavel Datsyuk remains unable to return from a “lower-body injury,” per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
The Red Wings won’t have Pavel Datsyuk available when they play Nashville Saturday, though he’s practicing and improving daily.
Mike Babcock said this afternoon Datsyuk will miss a seventh straight game because of a lower-body injury. Mike Modano (groin) practiced and will play, and Jimmy Howard is back in goal after missing a week because of a sore left shoulder.
Sans Datsyuk, the Wings need to win Saturday’s game very badly…
Much of the Detroit Red Wings players’ talk on Thursday involved “penance-making” after their 10-3 loss to St. Louis, all while gearing up for a weekend’s worth of back-to-back tilts against Nashville and Minnesota, and the Wings’ horrible record of late started biting them in the standings last night:
The Canucks officially clinched the President’s Trophy, the Sharks passed the Wings to take second place in the West, and the Wings’ 98 points now give them a slim 3-point lead on Phoenix, a 4-point lead on Saturday night’s opponent, the Nashville Predators—and a five-point lead over the seventh place Ducks.
So, technically speaking, the Wings have to get their butts in gear, or they’ll find themselves playing on the road in the first round. The Wings seemed to understand the realities surrounding their 5-5-and-4 (that’s 5-and-9 March record by admitting culpability, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, who notes that the Wings enjoyed a pseudo-bag skate at the end of Thursday’s practice:
It never fails. Every season, sometime between the middle of February and the end of March, buzz builds around a supposed “can’t miss” prospect who was never drafted, now finds himself an unrestricted free agent and is drawing the interest of every team under the sun. That player is inevitably courted, sometimes literally wined and dined, and eventually signed by the team that’s desperate enough to give said player a “rookie-max” contract (which involves a cap hit of $3.875 million via salary and signing/performance bonuses [edit: thought that’s not Da Costa’s case]) and a guarantee of a spot on the team’s NHL roster.
The rebuilding Ottawa Senators signed Merrmack College forward Stephane Da Costa to such a deal today, and, as the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston notes, nobody mentioned Fabian Brunnstrom while gushing over a player that will, thanks to a classic Bryan Murray move (signing Da Costa to a two-year deal which begins when he makes his NHL debut this Saturday), become an
restricted free agent in the summer of 2012:
Just last week Da Costa was competing for Merrimack College in the NCAA tournament. Once the team was eliminated, he hunkered down for two and a half days of meetings with NHL teams before eventually deciding to sign with Ottawa.
“(Just) like every other kid I’m sure, it was my dream to play in the NHL,” Da Costa said on a conference call. “Of course it was stressful, but I got the right place and the best fit for me I think.”
Da Costa grew up in Paris but moved to the U.S. as a teenager to pursue a career in hockey. The 21-year-old passed through the NHL draft a couple times without being selected, making him a free agent. Agent Wade Arnott of Newport Sports said that 16 NHL teams expressed legitimate interest in the forward during the last week. The Senators believe Da Costa is good enough to step right into their lineup and he’s thrilled about getting the chance to do that.
“I thought it was the best opportunity, a great fit,” said Da Costa. “I heard a lot of good things about it — about the city, the organization. I thought that was the best fit for me.”
Continued, and Da Costa will need luck in attempting to live up to his billing while going directly from NCAA Division I hockey to playing in the NHL while carrying the expectations of a seemingly long-suffering fan base on his shoulders.
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.