Thursday, June 7, 2007
The Detroit Free Press reports that goaltender Dominik Hasek has informed the Red Wings he will let them know whether he will return to the team within a week.
"I talked earlier this week with Dom's agent, and he said he'd let us know by the middle of the next week at the latest," general manager Ken Holland told the newspaper on Wednesday. "Dom keeps his cards close to his vest."
Hasek, 42, signed to a one-year contract last summer worth $750,000.
He went 38-11-6 with a 2.05 goals-against average, .913 save percentage, and eight shutouts during the regular season, his 15th in the NHL and third with Detroit in two stints.
Hasek was 10-8 with a 1.79 GAA, .923 save percentage, and two shutouts in the playoffs.
Wow, has it been 10 years? It feels like just yesterday I was pacing around my living room with my parents watching the Red Wings break their 55 year-old drought to win the Stanley Cup. And to win it at home, at the Joe--absolutely awesome. I admit: I teared up as I saw Vernon throw his gloves in the air and the team celebrate on the ice, as Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" played over and over.
After the celebration, I jumped in my car, picked up some friends and drove around the various metro-Detroit cities in full celebration mode.
It was the summer before my senior year in high school and for the whole playoffs, I couldn't concentrate on the last couple of weeks of school. Forget summer break, the Red Wings were back and were destined to win it.
If you have the Red Wings DVD set, A Celebration Of Champions, pop that bad boy in tonight and watch the final game against Philly. You'll see a young Holmstrom, putting on his cap in the hallway behind the bench as the final seconds tick down. Mike Vernon...the savior we needed in net, and the Conn Smythe winner standing tall despite his small stature. Stevie Y, Sergei Fedorov, Vladdy...all throwing the cup over there heads. There are so many great memories from that night.
Where were you on this night? Who were you with? What are your memories?
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Red Wings European prospects season review
Written by Zoran Manojlovic on 06/04/2007
This past season wasn’t an overwhelming success story for the Red Wings European prospects. Several of the highly anticipated prospects didn’t have nearly as good of a season as expected.
Mattias Ritola couldn’t crack the lineup of Leksand, Christofer Löfberg had family problems, Anton Axelsson saw only limited ice time with Frölunda, Johan Ryno bounced around several teams in search of ice time and Juho Mielonen was once again hit by the injury bug.
Looking for some positive notes, last year’s second-rounder, Dick Axelsson proved to be a steady goal scorer in Allsvenskan and future teammate Daniel Larsson established himself as one of the best young goalies in Sweden. Russian late-rounder Gennady Stolyarov broke onto the big stage in the Russian Superleague with Dynamo Moscow.
Anton Axelsson, LW
Axelsson started the season on fire and was among the leading scorers on his team through the first five or six rounds of the season. But thereafter, he was almost nonexistent on the scoresheet. His ice time was reduced dramatically as he was stuck on the fourth line and even being a healthy scratch a few times. The head coach might have misused Axelsson early on, which derailed his confidence. That is the reason why he chose to switch team in the off-season, as he will be representing Timrå next year.
Axelsson is a steady checker who always plays the game with high intensity and a lot of jump. He might not have a high upside as an offensive winger, but if he can add some more strength and become even more physical then he could have a shot at cracking the NHL some day as a third-line checking winger.
Mattias Ritola, C/W
Ritola was also having trouble with the coaching staff, as he couldn’t manage to crack the lineup of Leksand. After his ice time had almost disappeared with Leksand, Ritola was loaned out to Arboga in the same league, but he couldn’t find his game there either so it was back to Leksand before he finally was loaned out to his native town of Borlänge. After the season Ritola was put on the plane and sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL for some testing. The Red Wings brass wanted to see if there was something worth keeping in Ritola, and apparently he showed enough to warrant a three-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings, which will start at the 2008-09 season.
His size, skating and skills are impressive while his work ethic and attitude are questionable. He will try to redeem himself next season with Leksand as they try to get back to the Elitserien, before moving over the pond.
Johan Ryno, RW
Ryno had the biggest expectations of any Red Wings prospect in Europe this season, including Igor Grigorenko. But he would probably want to forget this season as soon as possible. He started off on the wrong foot, having to recover from a back injury right before the regular season started. That set him back a few months conditioning-wise, and it took him two team changes and more than half the season to get back on track. Once he arrived late in the season with Timrå, the team was suffering several injuries, which gave him a chance to step up, and he sure did. He was producing at nearly a point per game during a short stint. During his time in Timrå, Ryno found his game and was playing with confidence.
He will need a full season with that kind of confidence and consistency before he moves over the pond. His size, skating and natural ability with the puck is a rare combination that could make him a star in the NHL one day. He has signed an entry-level contract with the Red Wings and will make his pro debut next season.
Igor Grigorenko, RW
Grigorenko had a very solid but unspectacular season in Russia, while playing for his home team Lada Togliatti. He was an assistant captain on a pretty young team, and he finished the season second on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 27 points in 49 regular season games. Those numbers are slightly down from his previous season in which he recorded 13 goals and 34 points in 51 games, but his overall game has improved. He’s more confident with the puck and his skating ability is pretty much the same as it was before his car accident.He was making plays with the puck, getting his nose dirty and contributing offensively. After signing a contract with the Wings just recently, it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to crack the Red Wings lineup for the next season. If all goes as expected, then Grigorenko would be a solid third or fourth line winger who gets about 10-12 minutes of ice time on a semi-regular basis.
Dick Axelsson, LW
Axelsson missed a big part of the start of the season because of a transfer disagreement between his former club Huddinge IK and Djurgården. He spent the preseason with Djurgården by turning heads of the coaching staff forcing them to offer him a contract to play in Elitserien, but his former club Huddinge didn’t want to lose him for nothing so Axelsson didn’t play at all for the start of the season. When all was said and done, Axelsson was back with Huddinge for one final year in Allsvenskan. He didn’t take long time to get on the scoresheet as he put up nearly a point-per-game in the (13 goals, 8 assists in 25 games) as well as 113 PIMs. So far Axelsson has been proving his worth as a second-round pick, but he will have to continue his development next year in Elitserien with Djurgården. His size, skating, scoring touch and skill are very encouraging. He has to add some bulk and improve his play away from the puck. He is almost a surefire bet to get a contract next summer with the Red Wings.
Daniel Larsson, G
This 21-year-old netminder had an impressive rookie season in Elitserien with Djurgården. A team with a lot of youth all over the roster provided a nice development place for Larsson. He stepped up after a very good season in Allsvenskan the year before, and just seemed to be improving with the challenge.He played in 24 games and posted a 2.53 GAA as well as .911 save percentage. Those numbers are very respectable for a 20-year-old rookie. During short stretches, he even pushed the No.1 goalie, Teemu Lassila (a former Nashville pick), to the bench with his strong play. For the upcoming season, Larsson will be the go-to guy on the team and will be looked upon delivering a solid effort night in and night out. That will be a big challenge for the young netminder who is a strong candidate for getting a contract with the Red Wings after next season.
Gennady Stolyarov, RW
Stolyarov was a gamble back at the 2004 NHL entry draft, being selected in the eighth round. But this was a conscious move by the Red Wings, who are known for going after talented players who seem to have some kind of a drawback in the latter rounds of the draft. Stolyarov spent the next two seasons playing quietly in the lower Russian leagues, before emerging with Dynamo Moscow during the last season. He played in 37 games scoring 6 goals and 9 points as well as 39 PIMs. His season wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but his game had improved a lot since his draft day. He’s a better skater and more responsible defensively, although he still needs to address that part of his game. He also has to gain a lot of strength as he has been pushed around by the veteran defensemen in the Russian Superleague. With a good season in the Russian Superleague, Red Wings might be forced to offer him a contract. His size and skill are still there, he just has to improve year by year, and he might make it one day to the NHL.
Five prospects who are no longer in the Red Wings system are Stefan Blom (D/F), Mikael Johansson (C) and Andreas Sundin (LW), Christofer Löfberg (C/W) and Juho Mielonen (D).
Blom has disappeared from the elite hockey stage, playing with Bålsta in the fourth best league in Sweden. His selection back in the 2003 draft was an unexpected one, as he didn’t offer much more than solid size and respectable skating. His hockey skills and sense are questionable and it seems that he will settle down as a low rank minor leaguer.
Johansson on the other hand has been improving consistently since being drafted. He was a very solid soldier for Färjestad this past season, contributing with 7 goals and 16 points in 55 regular season games. He has the skill and hockey sense, but his work ethic and conditioning needs a lot of improvement. Plus, his small stature makes it even harder to be in the fight for an NHL contract.
Sundin had a very productive season in the Finnish second tier league, scoring 21 goals and 41 points in 45 games. Next season he will be playing in Sweden with Bofors of Allsvenskan, in hopes that it will propel him back to Elitserien for the 2008-09 season. It will be interesting to see what he can do in Allsvenskan after his one-year stint in the Finnish hockey environment.
Löfberg, who is a big guy with very soft hands and a lot of intensity on the ice, had a rough season. He had some personal issues within his family, which might have gotten his attention away from hockey. His lack of scoring and intensity made him drop from the second line to the fourth line and even in the press box. For next season Löfberg has moved down a division and will be playing with Rögle in Allsvenskan. This could prove to be a very smart move as Rögle is a good team for young, talented prospects to develop in. For now he looks like a long shot of making it to the NHL, but his size, skating and skill level are still on demand. His rights have been released by the Red Wings, but with a productive year he might be back on track to North America.
Mielonen is a skilled defenseman with solid size and mobility, but injuries just can’t seem to stop coming for him. He has been injured for most part of the last two years. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy and that is the primary reason why he wasn’t given a contract by the Red Wings. But, as with fellow prospect Löfberg, Mielonen could be a guy who in a couple of years from now makes a name for himself in Europe and then moves over the pond, a few years older than the regular NHL rookie.
This is an issue the GM's, the players and the owners definitely need to examine and ultimately fix. I know my stance may not be popular with traditionalists (like myself), but I see a problem here in the NHL and I think it needs to be fixed.
OTTAWA (CP) - A minor penalty could be assessed to NHL players who deliver
a hit to the head as soon as next season.
The league's 30 general managers met for several hours Monday and spent
most of the time reviewing tape and talking about the issue, which has picked up
steam after several incidents this season.
The NHL will have to come up with the specific language of the rule before
it passes through the competition committee and is eventually approved by the
board of governors.
The general feeling after the meeting seemed to be that there would be
enough time for all of that to take place over the summer.
"I think some level could be in place by next season," said Edmonton Oilers
GM Kevin Lowe. "I think that there was enough appetite there, enough concern and
Added Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson: "I think there'll be something there."
The issue found it's way into the spotlight during this Stanley Cup after
Anaheim defenceman Chris Pronger was suspended for Monday's Game 4 for hitting Dean McAmmond with a forearm to the head.
The biggest obstacle to it entering the rule book as an infraction will be
outlining exactly what constitutes a hit to the head.
"There's going to be an attempt to draft some type of rule or enforcement
provision about a hit directly to the head and nothing but the head," said Ducks
GM Brian Burke. "My prediction is that it's going to be hard to draft that.
"Most of the hits we have to the head are also to some other part of the
body so it's going to be hard to do. I think we owe it to our players to try."
The issue has become a hot talking point in the league since Ottawa
Senators forward Chris Neil levelled Chris Drury of the Buffalo Sabres with a blindsided hit in February. No penalty was called on the play and Neil wasn't suspended. Drury missed four games with a concussion.
Sabres owner Thomas Golisano sent an open letter to NHL commissioner Gary
Bettman shortly after the incident saying that he was "deeply concerned" with
head shots. The Buffalo organization was feeling better Monday after the issue
was discussed at length.
"For me, for our organization, it's a step in the right direction," said
Sabres GM Darcy Regier. The managers were clear about the fact that they
were happy with the amount of contact in the game.
As more than one pointed out, big hits often bring as much attention to
hockey on sports highlight shows as pretty goals.
"There's lots of hitting in the game, everyone wants the hitting to
continue," said Minnesota Wild GM Doug Risebrough. "We want to make sure that
the hitting is done in a tactical way at the body."
The GM's also discussed discussed having bigger nets and instituting
four-on-four overtime during the playoffs, but neither issue was met with much
Risebrough was one of the general managers interested in bigger nets before
the meeting. "It was discussed but I can say there was not a great appetite
to deal with it right now," he said. "I would even put myself in - a guy who was
supportive - is not as supportive.
"I like what we have right now. There's been a lot of changes and sometimes
they don't amount to more goals."
Some GM's were open to the idea of playing overtime games in the playoffs
with four skaters on each team in an effort to avoid games dragging on into the
night. However, not enough were interested to recommend a change to the rules.
Vancouver and Dallas played into a fourth overtime during the first round
of the playoffs before Henrik Sedin scored to give the Canucks a win in the sixth-longest NHL game ever.
"I don't mind the fact that we played five-on-five for a long period of
time before we finally ended the game," said Canucks GM Dave Nonis. "People
talked about that game for a long time and that's not necessarily a bad
I'm all for old-school hockey and big, crunching hits. But it was not too long ago that the league removed hip-checks from the game because too many players were getting hurt. For years, players used hip-checks regularly--but there weren't as many injuries for whatever reason. Who didn't love watching a wicked hip-check delivered on a guy? I loved it. But, throughout the 90's, not every player was executing the move properly--some were accidents, some had some intent to injure--and, as a result, we saw a rise in knee injuries. Million dollar athletes being shelved, some for a season at a time, rehabbing their torn MCL's, ACL's, and every other part of the knee that was damaged.
The NHL recognized the rise of a serious issue and dealt with it. The same thing is happening here.
Head shots are an issue now. And it must be fixed, now.
Elbows to the head, cross checks to the head, headshots--these aren't new to the NHL. But, the injuries occuring from them are becoming more severe. Players are bigger, stronger and the equipment is harder and bigger. Some players are executing head shots accidentally, some are aiming high with intent.
Players aren't stupid. They know that--with their size, the speed of the game and the physicality of the sport--hitting someone in the head can have a very disasterous result. The NHL had the same problem with hits from behind. It was becoming an epidemic, and the NHL acted. They implemented "boarding" calls or hits-from-behind penalties. In pee-wee hockey, kids had stop signs sewn on the backs of their jerseys to teach kids to respect your opponent when his back is turned and to ease up, to lay off the hit from behind.
Hits to the head are becoming an epidemic, the new version of hitting from behind. There appears to be a lack of respect among players creeping into the game and it's evident when a player throws an elbow to the head of another player, or slams a players face into the glass with his forearms.
I'm a big supporter of physical, hard-hitting hockey. But I've seen too many hits to the head this year that have lead to concussions and other injuries--hits that still could have been executed without aiming, purposely or not, for the head.
The NHL has penalties for kneeing, for boarding and I hope they create a penalty for a headshot.
Let's not kid ourselves--hockey is a fast-paced, physical game. Hits to the head will happen whether you legislate them or not. Players have a split second to make a decision and sometimes they make the wrong one, or sometimes it's purely accidental. But, penalizing hits to the head will help decrease the amount of headshots that are happening (it won't make them completely disappear) and it will force players who are doing it on purpose to think otherwise.
From a business standpoint: these are million dollar athletes; they are pieces of property with tremendous value. Owners and GM's don't want to see their investments in doctors offices. They want to see them on the ice, doing what they can to win a championship for the organization. Your investment is no good when they are sidelined with post-concussion syndrome or a broken facial bones.
From a personal standpoint: these athletes are human beings. They are somebody's sons. Some are fathers. Playing professional sports is a risk, especially in a fast paced physical game like hockey. But the NHL owe's it to these people to minimize the risks when possible.
Players are going to keep getting better, bigger, stronger and faster. Now is the time to adress this problem. I'm not saying to legislate hitting out of the game. Creating a minor penalty, or a double minor penalty for a headshot might be a start in the right direction. Repeat offenders would be subjected to harsher punishment (fines and suspensions that elevate after X amount of offenses). As Risebrough stated, "we want to make sure the hitting is done in a tactical way to the body." Penalizing hits to the head will not eliminate hitting or hard, physical play from the game. Hip-checking is no longer part of the game and the game is still as physical.
Headshots are an issue now. They aren't becoming an issue, they ARE the issue. And the NHL needs to come up with a way to regain control of this epidemic, to minimize the chances of this happening as often as it has been.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard remains No. 1 in RedWingsCentral.com’s end-of-season ranking of Detroit Red Wings prospects. Howard, who grabbed the No. 1 spot from forward Igor Grigorenko at mid-season, narrowly edged second-ranked Jakub Kindl, a defenseman with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers. Grigorenko, who plays for Lada Togliatti of the Russian Elite League, is third.
Howard, 23, is coming off his sophomore year in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He went 21-21-3 and posted six shutouts, a 2.70 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. When is the 2003 second-round pick expected in Detroit? “He’s ready, but his play (in training camp) is going to dictate how ready he is,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He had a good year. There have obviously been a few bumps here and there, but he’s improved. It’s going to be a big training camp for him. “The thing with him is, is he better to be playing 20 to 30 games in the NHL or to be playing 60 in the AHL? Whether it’s the NHL or AHL, he’s got to be playing. There’s no sense in having him on the bench.” Where he plays will be partially determined by Dominik Hasek's retirement decision, which is expected in the near future.
Ontario Hockey League wingers Jan Mursak (fourth) and Cory Emmerton (fifth) round out the top-five ranking. Howard, Grigorenko and defensemen Kyle Quincey (seventh) and Derek Meech (11th) are the prospects on the list closest to playing in the NHL, but all four can go to the AHL without having to clear waivers.
Here’s a look at the top 20.
1. Jimmy Howard, G, 6-0, 215, Grand Rapids (AHL), 49 GP, 2.70 GAA, .911 SPCT. Howard is still Detroit’s goalie of the future. He’s still a pup in goalie years, having turned 23 in March. He’s made great strides in two minor-league seasons and the Red Wings are willing to remain patient.
2. Jakub Kindl, D, 6-3, 202, Kitchener (OHL), 54-11-44-55-142. Kindl finished second to Marc Staal for the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman award. He has great size and a pile of offensive talent, and should step in as a top-four AHL defenseman with Grand Rapids next season.
3. Igor Grigorenko, RW, 5-10, 209, Togliatti (RUS), 49-14-13-27-71. The fiercely competitive winger has terrific skills and smarts. His foot-speed and ability to adjust to the NHL pace are his only question marks, but the Red Wings are hoping he will crack their roster in the fall.
4. Jan Mursak, LW, 5-11, 173, Saginaw (OHL), 62-27-53-80-50. Mursak’s speed and spunk will push the prospects ranked ahead of him next season, especially if he hits the weight room in the summer. His strong showing in the AHL playoffs was indication of his bright future.
5. Cory Emmerton, C, 6-0, 190, Kingston (OHL), 40-29-37-66-22. He’s a complete player who thinks the game brilliantly. He missed a lot of time with a broken ankle this season and needs to get stronger and faster, but should challenge for the OHL scoring title next season.
6. Justin Abdelkader, LW, 6-1, 209, Michigan State (NCAA), 38-15-18-33-91. He’s big, he’s strong and he bangs. To top it off, he’s great skater with untapped offensive potential. He led Michigan State to an NCAA title and could be a third-line staple for Detroit in three years.
7. Kyle Quincey, D, 6-2, 215, Grand Rapids (AHL), 65-4-18-22-126. There was nothing outstanding about Quincey’s season until injuries hit the Red Wings and he stepped into the NHL for 13 playoff games. He played well and is ready for NHL duty as a sixth or seventh defenseman.
8. Darren Helm, C, 6-0, 182, Medicine Hat (WHL), 59-25-39-64-53. Blazing speed and terrific work ethic define his game. His skills are vastly underrated, too. Helm won a WHL title and a world junior gold medal this season, and will make the jump to the AHL in 2007-08.
9. Jonathan Ericsson, D, 6-5, 218, Grand Rapids (AHL), 67-5-24-29-102. He’s huge, gritty and has terrific raw skills, but he hit a wall at mid-season in his first year in North America. At 23, he has a lot of development ahead, but he looks like a real find and his upside is undeniable.
10. Johan Ryno, LW, 6-5, 209, Timra (SWE), 39-5-6-11-22. Except for one dynamite 11-game stretch (four goals, five assists), Ryno didn’t do much this season. But that stretch, combined with his size and skill, got him a contract, and the Red Wings hope he rewards them down the road.
11. Derek Meech, D, 5-11, 197, Grand Rapids (AHL), 67-6-23-29-40. He evolved into an AHL all-star and saw time in four NHL games. He might be ready for an NHL job, but the Red Wings’ defensive depth may force Meech back to the AHL for another year of seasoning.
12. Daniel Larsson, G, 6-0, 170, Djurgardens (SWE), 24 GP, 2.53 GAA, .910 SPCT. The technically-sound stopper had a solid rookie year in the Swedish Elite League and should get even more starts in 2007-08. If he performs well, the Red Wings won’t hesitate to sign him.
13. Dick Axelsson, LW, 6-2, 198, Huddinge (SWE-2), 25-13-8-21-113. He might have as much offensive upside as anyone in the system. He had a good year at Sweden’s second level but his true test is next season -- his Swedish Elite League rookie campaign with Djurgarden.
14. Evan McGrath, C, 6-0, 195, Grand Rapids (AHL), 59-6-8-14-41. McGrath’s AHL rookie year was a disappointment. He didn’t earn the trust of his coaches and struggled for ice time. He can bounce back, but needs to work on his conditioning and defensive play.
15. Mattias Ritola, RW, 6-0, 198, Leksands (SWE-2), 23-1-4-5-4. He’s a speedy winger who can dangle and that’s why the Red Wings signed him, even though he’s coming off two sub-par years in Sweden. Now, it’s Ritola’s job to work harder and shake the enigma tag.
16. Anton Axelsson, LW, 6-0, 187, Frolunda (SWE), 52-5-7-12-14. Axelsson had a decent year, but didn’t get see ice time on Frolunda’s top two lines. He’s entering a contract year and hopes that a transfer to Timra will help him get the ice time needed to post breakthrough numbers.
17. Logan Pyett, D, 5-11, 198, Regina (WHL), 71-14-48-62-84. He finished fourth among WHL defensemen in scoring and could follow a similar development path to Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Nathan White. Another strong year will go a long way toward helping him land a contract.
18. Gennady Stolyarov, RW, 6-4, 203, Dynamo Moscow (RUS), 37-6-3-9-39. Stolyarov was mostly forgotten before putting together a decent Russian Elite League rookie year. He’s entering his contract year, and more consistency might get the big, skilled winger signed.
19. Ryan Oulahen, C, 6-0, 190, Grand Rapids (AHL), 79-11-16-27-42. The defensive ace took another step forward in his development, showing he can do a little bit of everything in the AHL. Like Matt Ellis, don’t be surprised if Oulahen one day lands an NHL call-up.
20. Sergei Kolosov, D, 6-4, 187, Cedar Rapids (USHL), 51-1-10-11-79. There is plenty of intrigue around Kolosov -- he’s a big, mean hitter who flies below the radar. The Red Wings have another year to sign him, and they’ll let him play in Europe or the East Coast Hockey League until then.
June 05, 2007 08:46AM
According to Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, MLBPA director Don Fehr, MLBPA general counsel Michael Weiner, and former NBA PA director Charles Grantham will meet with the players in Toronto this month to discuss the PA's future:
June 5, Globe and Mail: The plan is for Fehr, Weiner and Grantham to help the NHLPA plot its future without former executive director Ted Saskin, who was fired with cause last month. Taking part in the meeting will be as many NHLPA player representatives as available, along with any players in the Southern Ontario area who wish to attend.
"I met with [Fehr, Weiner and Grantham] and we'd be crazy not to listen to these guys," said Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, whose dogged questioning of Saskin's hiring and in-office tactics led to his ouster. "Major League Baseball has the best union in sports and they're willing to help us."
Chelios said the three union officials, current and past, are willing to lend their expertise to help the NHLPA regain its stature as a unified and viable front. The rationale is that a weak union in one professional sport can undermine a union's bargaining position in another.
"If one sport gives something up, others follow, like the National Football League," Chelios said. "[What if NHL officials say] why not do what the NFL did and have no guaranteed contracts? I think there should be interaction within the unions. It's important."
The Globe and Mail's Alan Maki says that the PA will have to wait until August to hear the results of Shiela Block's investigation into Ted Saskin's regime as the PA's executive director, and it's then that Chelios may truly feel some vindication for his struggle against Saskin:
"I'd say about 85 per cent of the guys don't know what happened with the executive committee and Ted Saskin," Chelios said. "The more who know, the better it is because once they understand they'll feel as strongly as I do. We have to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Sunday, June 3, 2007
There were a lot of surprises during the Red Wings exciting run through the Stanley Cup playoffs. The most pleasant surprise, arguably, was the solid performance from veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja—a player many fans, including myself, weren’t expecting much from.
After all, this was a season that saw Lilja, 31, only play in 57 games, his lowest total since playing with Los Angeles in 2001-02 (26). He failed to register a goal and only had 5 assists for 5 points. This was the first season Lilja was held goalless since his rookie season in 2000-01 (Lilja only played in 2 games that season).
That’s not surprising given that Lilja’s game has never been based on offense, but the Wings organization and fans would liked to have seen some contribution offensively, as limited as it might have been. He was, however, a plus player with a respectable +6 and he kept his penalty minutes under control with 54. Before the season started, Coach Mike Babcock proclaimed Lilja was “the teams most improved player.” But on many nights during the regular season, Lilja was the odd man out—the seventh defenseman.
A ROCKY ROAD TO DETROIT
Lilja signed with the Red Wings before the 2005 season from Nashville. Coming to Detroit capped off a wild and scandalous year for the Swedish born defenseman. The lockout year didn’t start well for Lilja. During the lockout year, Lilja—like many NHL players—played overseas. Lilja played for the Swedish club Mora. In February 2005, a 22-year-old woman accused Lilja, along with NHL players Henrik Tallinder and Kristian Huselius, of raping her in her hotel room. Police opened an investigation into the trio on suspicion of sexual exploitation.
In March, one month later, after police dropped the charges due to lack of evidence, a special prosecutor re-opened the case. As a result of this new investigation, Lilja, Tallinder and Huselius were suspended from the Swedish national team for one year. In addition, Lilja was released outright by Mora for the rest of the season. All three admitted they had consensual sex with the woman, but they never raped her. In June, after a lengthy investigation, the special prosecutor cleared the trio when the prosecutor’s office could find no evidence that the three players forced the woman to have sex.
Before his release from Club Mora, Lilja had three goals and eight assists in 44. He played 11 games for Sweden, scoring three goals.
Despite seeing sporadic playing time during the regular season, Lilja would be called upon to be the reliable, stay-at-home defenseman that the Wings needed. He would also be called upon to elevate his physical game—to utilize his size on a depleted defensive corp. The loss of two of Detroit's top four defensemen in Nicklas Kronwall and Mathieu Schneider was a major blow. Lilja would indeed be called upon. Simply put, Lilja answered the call.
Because of the injuries to Kronwall and Schneider, Lilja went from being a spare playing sporadically; to being one of the Wings top four defenders and playing in all 18 of the Wings playoff games. He averaged nearly 19 minutes (66th among defensemen) per game in the playoffs, a considerable increase from his regular season average of 15:14 (191st among defensemen).
In an area that was desperately lacking from the Wings—a strong, physical defensive presence—Lilja really stepped up his game. He led all Red Wings in hits with 55 and was second behind Sammy Pahlsson at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals.
Then there’s that one blemish, that black-eye that will forever live in the minds of Red Wings fans and Lilja himself: “The Giveaway." It is the play that may very well have turned around the series. Lilja attempted to skate up the middle, in front of Hasek, when the puck bounced over his stick blade and right onto the tape of Duck’s forward Teemu Selanne. The rest is history. This was one area where Lilja struggled throughout the playoffs. He had 23 giveaways (third worst on the team).
Sure, Lilja made a mistake. A bad bounce, a great move by a talented forward and the game was over. But, to Lilja’s credit, he owned up to it in the locker room and addressed the media openly and honestly. And let’s not forget, in that same game, Lilja scored his first and only goal of the playoffs—and at the time, a very big goal. Had it not been for a fluky deflection off Lidstrom’s stick in the final seconds of regulation, it would have been the game winner.
Andreas Lilja was, in my opinion, the biggest positive surprise for the Red Wings this postseason. He made $1 million this past season and is another prime example of a Red Wing player whose on ice play far exceeded the value of his contract. This is what you want from your lower paid players in a salary cap system. Lilja truly gave the Red Wings the biggest bang for their buck. He exceeded everybody’s expectations with his smart, strong, physical play. As each playoff game wore on, you could add another label to Lilja: reliable. Lilja recognized the opportunity before him and he seized it.
Once the playoffs started, Lilja became a valuble part of the Wings deep playoff run. Was Andreas Lilja brilliant in these playoffs? No. Are there areas of his game that still need work? Yes. But did anyone, including die hard Red Wings fans and the “experts,” anticipate or expect a journey-man, No. 7 defenseman who played only a litte more than half of the regular season to emerge as one of the Wings more solid players on a lineup with future Hall of Famers? No way.
Over the course of 18 intense, grueling playoff games, one player surprised me more than the rest. Perhaps that earlier proclamation from Babcock came to fruition during this Stanley Cup Playoff run: Andreas Lilja really was “the teams most improved player.”
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Through five games of the Western final, the Ducks weren't picky when it came to trying to score on Wings goalie Dominik Hasek. But that changed in Game 6 when Anaheim found a spot it liked, and went with it. The Ducks scored all four goals with shots on the ice: three of which were due to Hasek being out of position and Detroit's defense not getting to rebounds.
The Ducks made their presence felt around the net as only one goal, Getzlaf's Game 4 winner, came from beyond the top of the faceoff circles. Only one goal all series, a Rob Niedermeyer deflection off a Pronger blast in Game 6, was tipped in.
I made a diagram, since none was available on the internet:
(click for a larger view)
1. Game 1-Kunitz scores off the rush
2. Game 2-Rob Niedermeyer one-times quick pass
3. Game 2-McDonald knocks in rebound, barely
4. Game 2-Moen's shot slides in on top of Hasek
5. Game 2-Scott Niedermeyer snipes after pass from brother Rob
6. Game 4-Perry blasts it in far side
7. Game 4-Jackman 28-foot wrister
8. Game 4-Selanne golfs bouncing puck
9. Game 4-Getzlaf's long wrister find top shelf
10. Game 4-Rob Niedermeyer empty-netter
11. Game 5-Scott Niedermeyer's shot deflects of Lidstrom's stick
12. Game 5-Selanne OT backhander after Lilja turnover
13. Game 6-Rob Niedermeyer deflects Pronger blast
14. Game 6-Perry pots rebound
15. Game 6-Getzlaf scores in scrum
16. Game 6-Pahlsson buries rebound
Goals 14, 15 and 16 illlustrate my point that I made in the my blog Net Front Domination: One Reason Why The Wings Lost. These three goals were scored in a scrum or a rebound that landed next to, or underneath, our goalie. Dom was out of position on the first goal in Game 6, as the article states. But it also states something that was painfully obvious--that the Detroit defense was unable to clear the rebounds, clear the crease or neutralize the Ducks in front.
There is another illustration in the magazine that shows where on the ice the Ducks players scored from. 6 goals came from directly in or on the edge of the crease. And as the article states, only one goal came from behind the face off circles. Every goal but one was concentrated in the faceoff circles, between the hash marks or directly in front of Dom.
Because this is starting to get ridiculous. While there are a good number of teams—such as oh, let’s see, Phoenix and Columbus—that have floundered for years because of bad management, the Red Wings have all the good hockey people to themselves and that has to stop.
I mean, come on, Ken Holland, recently ranked as the No. 1 GM in the NHL by The Hockey News, will celebrate his 25th anniversary with the Wings next season. Assistant GM Jim Nill, who continually takes third-round picks and makes them front-line players, has been with the Wings for 13 years. Senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano, Holland’s mentor, has been in Detroit 25 years and Scotty Bowman, who will continue consulting with the Wings until he dies at the age of 107, has been there 14 years.
That’s 25 Stanley Cup rings for those of you keeping score at home.
So all the Wings needed last summer was for Steve Yzerman to walk into Holland’s office to tell him he was retiring and that he wouldn’t mind having a copy of the keys to the executive bathroom. Then the guy goes out and wins a World Championship with Team Canada on his first try. Yes, putting together an all-star roster with the deepest talent pool in the world is nothing like running an NHL team, but you have to think Yzerman has a little something going here. Canada went 9-0 in the tournament and who knew about Jay McClement?
THREE’S A CROWD
The Red Wings have three Stanley Cups in the past decade and 16 straight playoff appearances largely because the members of the front office work so well together and are essentially without ego, but realistically how long can three men—Holland, Nill and Yzerman—who are capable GM’s continue to work for the same team?
The answer lies with Yzerman, who spent this season learning and absorbing everything he could. What Yzerman has to decide after making almost $70 million during his career is whether he wants to put in the heavy lifting it takes to become a GM in the NHL.
As involved as Yzerman was with the Wings this season, he also used this year to spend time traveling and vacationing with his family, and you simply can’t do that as a hockey executive when your itinerary says you have to be in Binghamton for a Friday night American League game before flying to Medicine Hat for a Sunday afternoon Western League game.
If Yzerman indeed wants to become the Wings version of Joe Dumars, he’ll have to spend a couple of years slogging it out like everyone else.
It was the same question Doug Gilmour faced this season when he became a professional development advisor with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It took him only a couple of scouting trips to realize he’s not cut out for management and his future probably lies in coaching. And it will be the same decision former stars such as Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Joe Nieuwnedyk and Mark Messier will face as they dream of becoming hockey executives.
What these guys have to realize is that, as a GM, you can’t go off to the cottage for a couple of months in the summer. Sure, you might be able to squeeze in a week or two, just as long as you bring along your cell-phone, laptop, and fax machine and a re prepared to leave on a moment’s notice. Oh yeah, and you also will have to do work every single day.
And what to do with Nill? Both the Coyotes and Blue Jackets asked the Wings for permission to speak to Nill about their GM vacancies, but it was denied by the Wings in both cases.
Nill still has three years remaining on his contract with the Wings and with an annual salary of above $600,000, he makes more than some GM’s in the league. He is treated very well by the organization, including receiving a nice, shiny ring every couple of years.
Nill has never approached the Wings asking to be released and chances are, he knows what a good thing he has going and probably never will. But one of these days, a team will push very, very hard to get Nill and the Wings will have a difficult decision to make.
Yzerman, of course, could leave the Wings, but it’s highly unlikely. In fact, probably the only way Yzerman would go somewhere else would be if he were offered a situation similar to Wayne Gretzky’s in Phoenix, where he would have the power to make decisions, be the face of the franchise and part owner.
Or will Holland be the one who ultimately leaves Detroit? If Yzerman decides he wants to devote his life to being a GM, and he wants to do it in Detroit, look for Holland to step aside and take on a new challenge. If Holland were ever to leave the Wings, he would have his pick of jobs and going to the Maple Leafs in a role similar to the on Bryan Colanagelo has with the NBA’s Raptors would be an enticing proposition.
Of course, this is all fodder for another day, but that day is coming. Count on it.
In my opinion, Yzerman is still several years away from becoming a full-time GM--if that's what he even wants to do in the first place--of an NHL team. I think what he did with Canada was excellent, but I think they'll continue grooming him via that route.
I could even see Yzerman becoming the GM of the Grand Rapids Griffins sometime down the road. He would be able to run an AHL team where he could familiarize himself with future Red Wing players. It's the best of both words. If Yzerman were to ever take of the Griffins GM position, he would be able to experience running a team and would be able to report to the Wings first-hand, intimate knowledge about Red Wing prospects. Whatever happens with Yzerman and the Red Wings will be very interesting.
Ken Holland, Jim Nill and Jimmy Devellano are without a doubt, the best trio working for an NHL team. Period. Their incorporation of scouting and development in Europe (when many NHL teams weren't looking at Europe at all), the talent they've been able to unearth all over the globe and the fact they've been able to rebuild a professional hockey team while remaining competitive is a real testament to their ability and their tremendous value to the organization.
Friday, June 1, 2007
The Red Wings signed another prospect today: Johan Ryno, a right winger from the Swedish Elite league. Ryno signed a three year entry-level contract. The 6'5", 209 lb Ryno was drafted in the 5th round, 137th overall.
From Red Wings Corner:
Hockey's Future ranks Johan Ryno 3rd out of 20 for the Red Wings Top 20 Prospects. They give him a 7.5 rating with a letter grade of C. A 7.5 rating is for players not quite good enough to play on the top line or pairing on a regular basis, but still possessing enough talent to contribute offensively. Think Andrew Cassels or Jason Arnott.
“Mattias and Johan are two highly-skilled young players,” said Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill. “They will attend our training camp this fall as a part of their continuing development towards the goal of playing for
the Red Wings in the NHL."
Ryno, who turns 21 June 5, played 39 games in the Swedish elite league this season -- his first in that circuit -- tallying five goals and 11 points.
A "C" rating is for a player who may reach potential, but could drop 2 ratings. This player has shown some flashes, but may ultimately not have what it takes to reach his potential. The potential rating is multiplied by 80 percent for depth chart purposes to show the uncertainty of a player reaching his potential.
Hockey's Future analysis:
Ryno had a very good season in Division-1 in 2004-05 and was among the
leaders on his team in scoring. He more than doubled his goals and points from
Ryno has tremendous size for a winger and is a solid skater. He does also
have respectable, but not spectacular puck skills. He has good attitude and is a
hard worker. Ryno isn´t afriad of using his size to his advantage. He has good
scoring touch and is dangerous around the net. He possesses above average hockey sense and uses his linemates well.
redwingscentral.com has three stories about Ryno:
Aug. 8, 2005: Ryno 'has all the tools'
Feb. 5, 2007: Ryno turns season around
March 26, 2007: Wings may let Europeans develop at home
I am really excited at seeing how Ryno performs at training camp. The guy is 6'5", 200 lbs and is still filling out. From everything I've read, Ryno has offensive gifts but needs to work on his skating and aspects of his physical game.
This is a kid who will be fun watching develop. He is obviously highly-regarded by Holland and Nill and there will be plenty of time for him to develop all of his tools. This could be a player who could really help the Wings in the future.
TRAVERSE CITY — Tickets for the Detroit Red Wings training camp will go on sale Saturday, June 2nd, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centre ICE.
This will be the 10th year for the Wings in Traverse City. Players will report on Sept. 13 for physicals and a golf outing. On-ice activities begin Sept. 14 and run through Sept. 18.
The camp will feature as many as 60 players. They'll be divided into three teams. The first three days of camp will consist of intrasquad games and on-ice workouts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tickets are $15 each. On Sept. 17, the top players compete in the annual Red & White game at 6 p.m. ($25). The camp ends on Sept. 18 with a unique 4-on-4 intrasquad game at 5 p.m. Tickets for the 4-on-4 game are $10, which includes a hot dog and soda.
I've always wanted to go the the training camp in Traverse City. Yet, every year my band has a show that weekend, most of the times out of state. Hopefully, I will be able to attend this year and examine some of our prospects in action.
I'd like to see Jimmy Howard, Igor Grigorenko, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak, Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm and our other prospects. Ericsson almost made the team last year with his strong training camp, so I'm curious to see what he beings to the camp this year.
Not to mention, the possibility of seeing Ryan Smyth in the red and white. Or maybe the return of one of the original Russian 5 members, Slava Kozlov. Maybe we'll see rival Scott Hartnell from Nashville wearing the winged-wheel. It will be interesting to see which UFA(s) Holland brings in to bolster our lineup.
Either way, my goal is to get to this training camp and to start blogging about it.
The 6-foot, 198-pound right-winger is one of 10 prospects the Red Wings
must sign or relinquish the rights to on Friday.
Ritola, 20, spent most of this season with Leksands at Sweden's second level, recording a goal and four assists in 23 games. He is known for his offensive ability but criticized for his inconsistency. He is expected to come to training camp in the fall but could spend another year developing in Sweden, depending on how things go.
Hockey's Future ranked Ritola 17th out of 20 for the Red Wings Top Prospects. They give him a 6.0 and a D on their grading scale. A 6.0 is the grade they give to a player they project to be a third line player, similar to Kris Draper. A "D" letter grade, according to Hockey Future's system, is for a player who has a chance to reach his potential but is unlikely to do so. The potential rating is multiplied by 70 percent for depth chart purposes, indicating that the player’s potential is extremely fluid.
Here's Hockey Future's analysis on Ritola:
Talent Analysis: Some have questioned Ritola’s attitude, while others have
stated the opposite. What is certain is that Ritola is a creative player with
soft hands, good hockey sense and good penalty-killing skills. His scoring touch
could use some improvement, though.
Future: Ritola has been a huge disappointment in all kinds of ways. Drafted
as highly-skilled player who could be a future top 6 forward, he has been
bouncing around in the lower divisions in Sweden.Ritola has to find a steady
home where he can develop his game and mature at the same time. That has been a
big question for him so far. He doesn’t seem to have the mental strength to
learn how to use his talent on the ice. Ritola has natural ability, but somehow
that disappears many times on the ice and he seems lost. He could be a potential
signing in the offseason, but it remains to be seen if the Red Wings are willing
to gamble on him.
Here are Ritola's stats for the last two seasons in Sweden:
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
2005-06 Leksands IF SEL 30 0 3 3 10
2006-07 Arboga IFK Swe-1 3 1 0 1 2
2006-07 Leksands IF Swe-1 23 1 4 5 4