The Malik Report
The Columbus Dispatch's Tom Reed reports that Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Zach Werenski can thank the Detroit Red Wings for the passion and drive that led Werenski to play in the NHL:
The tale of Zach Werenski's introduction to hockey affords Blue Jackets' fans the rarest of stories -- one beginning with a Stanley Cup parade.
The rookie defenseman, who grew up 10 throws of an octopus from Joe Louis Arena, was five years old when his parents drove him to downtown Detroit to watch the 2002 Red Wings celebrate their third title in six seasons. Werenski and his older brother, Brad, each swaddled in Red Wings jerseys, were among the estimated one million fans to cheer their heroes.
“That was the first year I could really understand what it meant,” the 19-year-old said. “To go to the parade with my family, to see all the red and white and the Winged Wheel (logo) all over the city, to see how many people supported the team and how cool it was to see those guys holding the trophy coming up the street. It made me want to play in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup. That’s really where it started.”
Werenski and the Blue Jackets came of age during an era of Red Wings’ dominance. The Jackets have lost many times to many teams, but few have bedeviled them like the ones led by Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The roll call of lowlights is rote to the fan base.
And yet in the case of Werenski, arguably the most promising rookie in Jackets’ history, a debt of gratitude must be paid to the Red Wings. The influence of the Original Six organization on the youngster’s development is unmistakable.
From the Guelph Mercury's Paul Osborne:
Givani Smith was one of the most muscular athletes I have every seen pull on a Guelph Storm uniform as a 16-year-old. Most that age have scrawny upper bodies that have yet to manifest the full benefits of manhood. But Smith was ripped and powerful and still trying to learn how to best use his body on the ice.
Flash forward two years and you have a player that has the potential to dominate in the Ontario Hockey League. Hometown fans saw that Friday night as Smith scored two goals and added an assist in helping the club end a six-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over North Bay.
Smith’s first goal was a wrist shot rocket from the top of the circles that Battalion goaltender Brent Moran never even flinched on. His second goal was from right in front of the net. He carved out a piece of real estate and calmly scooped a rebound around Moran. It was by far the best effort of the season for the Detroit Red Wing second round draft pick.
“It’s difficult,” said Storm coach Jarrod Skalde, addressing the time it takes for a player to adjust upon returning from an NHL training camp. “You’d think this should be easy. You’re going from playing in a National Hockey League exhibition game to an OHL game but the problem is you think you can do more than you’re capable of (when you return). (Against North Bay) he was a beast going to the net and he was protecting pucks and managing pucks and his hard shot – I thought he was a force out there.”
Of Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. The Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliott notes that the Red Wings lead the NHL in a surprising category:
-The Detroit Red Wings aren’t letting their 25-season playoff streak end without a fight.
Or without taking major fighting penalties. The Red Wings, known more for finesse than fisticuffs, were assessed a league-leading five fighting majors in their first six games this season. They had eight all of last season and generally rank at the bottom of the NHL in that category. They’ve also won four straight games since losing their first two.
2. MLive's Ansar Khan points out that the Red Wings' penalty-killing unit has struggled:
As the Free Press's Helene St. James notes, Jonathan Ericsson of all people has played particularly strongly of late, and that's good for the Red Wings:
Ericsson said he felt he needed to “come back and prove I can still play and be a lot better player than I left last season.”
He was a big part of Saturday’s penalty kill success against San Jose, and showed how effective he can be when his hustle led to a pass to Gustav Nyquist that became a goal.
“It’s something that I’m trying to work on, to move my feet more and not get standing still, making passes,” Ericsson said.
Ericsson is playing with hip impingement, but said “I improved a lot during the off-season with that, mobility wise, strength wise. It’s always going to be there, but it’s not a big issue.”
Better mobility has translated to better puck management.
Updated 4x at 2:08 PM: The Detroit Red Wings practiced on Monday ahead of a slate of 4 games in 6 nights, and the Red Wings did so without the services of Justin Abdelkader, who remains iffy for tomorrow's game against the Carolina Hurricanes with a lower-and-or-mid-body injury.
MLive's Ansar Khan filed a set of notes from practice...
Abdelkader day-to-day: Forward Justin Abdelkader, who missed Saturday's 3-0 win over San Jose, didn't practice Monday and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Blashill hasn't ruled him out for Tuesday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit).
The Kronwall plan: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) didn't practice with the team Monday and it doesn't sound like he'll be ready to play this week.
"He's on a plan where he's a couple days on and a day off kind of approach," Blashill said. "Today, he skated with (strength coach) Mike Kadar, who kind of bridges the gap between the athletic trainers to when they can skate with us as a team.
"Obviously, Kronner has done some stuff with us as a team and he'll keep doing that. He's got to come where he can go full with us three days in a row before he's going to have an opportunity to play."
Jurco update: Tomas Jurco, who had off-season back surgery, has skated a little on his own
"I wouldn't expect him before the second week of November that he'd be ready to play," Blashill said.
In the prospect department:
The Toleo Walleye finally posted a video of Joe Everson of "Joe's Studio" signing the national anthem while painting a scene from Iwo Jima this past weekend...
And the painting went to a good cause:
From the NHL:
TALBOT, ANISIMOV AND GREEN NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ OF THE WEEK
NEW YORK (Oct. 24, 2016) – Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Oct. 23.
THIRD STAR – MIKE GREEN, D, DETROIT RED WINGS
Green registered 3-2—5 to lead the Red Wings (4-2-0, 8 points) to a perfect 4-0-0 week. He notched his first career hat trick – and the first by a Detroit defenseman since Dec. 15, 2010 (Nicklas Lidstrom) – in the final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Oct. 17. Green then collected one assist in both a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers Oct. 19 and a 5-3 triumph over the Nashville Predators Oct. 21 before being held off the scoresheet in a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks Oct. 22. The 31-year-old Calgary native has 123-279—402 in 655 career NHL outings, including 3-4—7 in six appearances this season.
Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski wrote an article taking note of Thomas Vanek's strong start as a member of the Red Wings:
"When we traded the Datsyuk cap space to Arizona at the draft, getting a center was a priority, if we could. We felt that Frans Nielsen was … if not the No. 1 centerman on the free agent market, he was right there. His cap number was $5.25 million. We still had some cap space available,” said [Red Wings GM Ken] Holland on NHL Network Radio last week.
He stayed in contact with [Vanek's agent, Steve] Bartlett after the buyout, sensing that Vanek could bring something to the Wings they lacked. “We struggled to score last year. We struggled to score on the power play,” he said. “Thomas had been bought out in Minnesota. We talked to a number of people. We thought on a one-year deal, it was a good gamble. We felt like we’d have a motivated athlete.”
So they handed him a $2.6 million “show me” contract for one season.
The results, so far, have met expectations and perhaps exceeded them.
Wyshynski continues, and here's the interview he quotes from, a Ken Holland interview on Sirius XM's NHL Network Radio from last Friday:
Updated 5x at 1:07 PM: Abdelkader is "day-to-day":
The Red Wings hit the ice at 11 AM this morning, preparing for a four-games-in-six-nights stretch which begins tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reported in from practice...
wings on ice @JoeLouisArena
#RedWings tied for 2d in points in east, MON 9 TB 8 DET 8 NYR 8
sked this wk, @DetroitRedWings
thu at STL
As did MLive's Ansar Khan...
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Here are five things to watch this week:
Larkin looking to break through
After six games, nobody expected Dylan Larkin to have more fights (one) than goals (none). But Larkin is second on the team with 17 shots and is playing hard and generating chances. The transition to center, with added defensive responsibility, was difficult. He has moved back to the wing the past two games.
Others also are looking to break through; one line (Gustav Nyquist-Darren Helm-Thomas Vanek) is supplying most of the offense. Henrik Zetterberg, back at center the past two games, has no goals, three assists and just seven shots. Tomas Tatar has one goal and one assist but has created chances and leads the team with 18 shots.
Rookie defenseman Ryan Sproul made a strong impression in his first two games, contributing offensively (two assists, seven shots) and playing well defensively.
The defense played well enough over the weekend that there likely won't be a change for Tuesday (Xavier Ouellet was the lone healthy scratch). Can Sproul secure a regular spot in the lineup, even when Niklas Kronwall returns from his knee issue? The 6-4 Sproul's big right shot is an asset, especially on the power play.
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.