Pencil-Fueled Awesomesauce

We’re a few months away, but true masters need to take their time with their art. Zac MacRostie, hubby of H2H2 Honcho Jen MacRostie, created an absolutely beautiful pencil sketch of Steve Yzerman — which can be seen above — for last year’s festivities. As far as I was concerned, it was the top prize available via raffle because — while signed jerseys, books, and other memorabilia are truly awesome things to own — how often will you come across a one-of-a-kind work of art, hand-drawn by a member of your community?

Luckily, Zac’s wrist didn’t snap working on it, and he made me and my wife an incredible wedding gift — seen below. It’s truly a cherished gift, and while we appreciate everyone’s generosity, it’s hard not to be touched by such a special thought.

For H2H2, Zac has agreed to create two drawings — one for the main raffle, and another for our pledge drive. We haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but we are almost positive we’re going to give the TPL-themed sketch (the players for this design have already been decided) to whoever pledges the most money during the drive (which will be hosted right here, just like last year).

My question for you good folks is this: which Red Wing would you like immortalized in this fashion for the H2H2 prize? We’ll throw a poll up on the TPL home page after we get a few submissions, so throw your two cents in!

Lilja to Try-Out with San Jose

DETROIT - MAY 06: Jamie McGinn #64 of the San Jose Sharks tries to get around Andreas Lilja #3 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Just spoke with Andreas Lilja’s agent, Todd Diamond, who notified me that Lilja will be taking a try-out with the San Jose Sharks. For those holding out hope that Lilja would appear at Wings training camp this week – despite not being on the bus this morning – well, that proverbial train has left the station. For San Jose.

TPL will keep you updated as more information comes available.

Lilja’s Agent Denies Interest In Red Wings Tryout

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 23: Andreas Lilja #3 of the Detroit Red Wings awaits a face off in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 23, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 4-1 to take a 3-2 series lead. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Just a quick update on the Andreas Lilja “try-out” discussion that arose today following reports that Red Wings GM Ken Holland has left the door open for Lilja to attend Wings training camp in Traverse City. While Lilja never came out and said he was definitely going to attend camp and take the Wings up on their offer, some of his comments earlier today made it seem as if the free agent defenseman was at least considering making the trip with his former teammates tomorrow.  Not so says agent Todd Diamond:

“False reports….if we accept a try-out offer it will likely be with another club.”

One way or another, this will all be settled tomorrow morning when the Wings bus rolls out at 8:00 AM, with or without Lilja.

Lilja Unlikely To Take Two-Way Offer, NHL Still In the Mix

DETROIT - FEBRUARY 12:  Andreas Lilja #3 and Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings look on during a break in their NHL game against the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena on February 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Wings defeated the Wild 4-2. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

I have to admit that it’s pretty disheartening to see all of the pictures coming out of the local papers showing former Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja still working out in his Wings gear with his former teammates. Lilja, a likable player who just caught some bad luck in terms of timing and the free agent market, is still without a team – NHL or abroad – as training camps prepares to open later this week across the league. That, combined with the two-way offer that Kirk Maltby took earlier this month, got me to thinking about whether or not Lilja might be willing to take a similar deal just to stay with the organization. Wishful thinking? Nostalgia? Bleeding heart? Maybe. But hey, if Kirk could do it, maybe Lilja could too.

Doubtful.

I touched base with Lilja’s agent, Todd Diamond, earlier this afternoon and asked him about the possibility of Lilja taking one of those “Maltby/McCarty Special” two-way deals and serving some time in Grand Rapids in case of a call-up. “At this point, I don’t see us accepting any two-way offers,” said Diamond. “We are in discussions with a few NHL teams and we will see where it takes us.”

While it is disappointing to hear that Lilja is unlikely to stick around with the Wings organization in a reduced capacity in Grand Rapids (not that it was ever LIKELY, mind you), it is good to hear that there’s still some NHL doors that haven’t been closed yet for the gritty Swede, and he may yet find a way to stick around the league this season. If not, Europe is still an “option” said Diamond, although “we haven’t had any discussions with any clubs yet.”

While it’s an almost certainty that Lilja won’t be on an NHL club when training camps open, there’s the always real and certainly viable option of him getting inked if a club suffers a major injury or rash of minor injuries during the camp/preseason run. You may recall that estranged Wings defenseman Derek Meech is in a similar boat, except that he already signed a deal to stay with the organization and would have to be traded out of town. It’ll be interesting to see which one of these two finds gainful NHL employment first, with Lilja generally believed to be the all-around better defenseman while Meech brings the Red Wings “pedigree” at a much lower price tag.

At any rate, we’ll keep you updated on the future of both these guys as training camp progresses.

SAVE YOUR CHILDREN AND YOUR VETERANS!

What do this outfit and the story have in common? They're both TERRIBLE fucking ideas.

Alternate title (h/t @mserven): “HIDE YO KIDS, HIDE YO VETS”

Very troubling news just came streaming down the RWFeed… well, not so much troubling as “aw that’s nice” with a sprinkle of “oh shit, they let him near children?”

As part of a state-wide tour, a handful of Red Wings are visiting schools and hospitals, hangin’ out with the kids and veterans and definitely not attacking them from behind.

Justin Adbelkader and Drew Miller are going to (wait for it…) East Lansing and Muskegon. Homer, Nick Lidstrom, and Patty Eaves are going to spend some time in Grand Rapids before meeting up with the aforementioned Spartans. Darren Helm, Tiberius Howard, newbie (I hope he’s hazed) Mike Modano, and THE SHETUZZ are checking out Flint and Saginaw.

But the real story here is that someone from PR thought that Todd Bertuzzi’s gap-toothed face wouldn’t scare the ever-loving bejesus out of children in Flint and veterans in Saginaw.

Here are a list of things that I assume are less frightening to third graders — feel free to add to this list in the comments:

1. Chucky.
2. The boogie man.
3. Spiders.
4. Chelsea Handler.
5. Pedo Bear.

At Least OUR Derek Didn’t Sign for 6.6M

Mark Humphrey, AP

Well, the time has come to part ways with the press box’s main attraction. Yes, the man who transformed the Leino Lounge into his own, personal VIP area has very likely played his last game as a Red Wing. Not that we remember when that was anyway.

It’s kind of a sad story. Derek (or, as he’s known around the DOT, Derrick) Meech seems like a genuine good man, and was always willing to play forward when the Wings needed him to. In fact, he did damn near anything the Wings needed him to. But, alas, it was not to be in the long-run, and having been waived (and not claimed), it looks like he’ll spend the duration of his one-year contract in Grand Rapids, adding to an unbelievably talented Griffins club that will likely boast quality NHL-calibre players like Kirk Maltby and Mattias Ritola.

Shortly after Kirk Maltby’s signing was announced, Ken Holland waived Derek Meech — an unrelated move, by the way — that opened him and his one-year, one-way, league-minimum contract up to anyone that needed depth at defense. But, being that teams are holding steady with their rosters and/or are waiting for their prospects to show something at training camp, no one plucked him off the wire. Holland said that he had been trying to trade the 26-year-old swingman, to no avail.

To be sure, Ken Holland will continue working the phones, offering Derek Meech to an NHL squad that could use a Red Wings castoff, which — for the record — is better pedigree than many teams’ actual blueliners can boast. If no other NHL club trades for Meech, he’ll very likely spend the whole season in the American Hockey League, thanks to his one-way contract. Since he’ll be making more than the AHL maximum of $105,000 (the nature of a one-way is that he’ll earn the same salary in the NHL or elsewhere), he’s subject to re-entry waivers, meaning that the Red Wings would be on the hook for half of his salary — both in paycheck form and cap hit form. That’s a risk that Ken Holland has said he will not take. It’s also the reason Kirk Maltby was talked into taking a two-way deal. While Maltby must also be waived on the way down, he will not be subject to re-entry waivers on the way back up, should an injury occur.

It’s been a strange summer for Meech. He was one of the Wings’ restricted free agents, and actually filed for arbitration before agreeing to a league-minimum deal. Which doesn’t add up. I had a feeling that Holland promised Meech that he’d find an NHL home for the defenseman — if it wasn’t in Detroit — but he had to take the league minimum to make a trade as easy as possible. But, there were no takers.

When news came down that he’d been waived, I thought for sure Holland had something up his sleeve. It’s an odd time to waive a player — since the team doesn’t need to be anywhere near the salary cap for another few weeks. Yes, there were too many bodies on the roster, but that doesn’t need to be settled right now, either. The timing was peculiar, and I even mentioned to Hollis that I bet Holland has lined up a taker — kind of a good faith “holding up his end of the bargain” now that the writing was on the wall — in Ruslan Salei’s handwriting.

There will be a lot of talk about Kyle Quincey in the coming weeks — since he was essentially given up on in favor of Derek Meech. I won’t get into specifics, since George Malik absolutely nailed it, but on the surface — it may look that way. Would we prefer to have Kyle Quincey than an already-waived, destined-for-Grand Rapids Derek Meech? Perhaps. But Derek Meech was far from useless and certainly had his role on the club for the last few years. Quincey likely would have had a larger role at this point, but what’s done is done. At the time of that decision, it was one or the other and Derek Meech was the better player — period.

But here we are. September 11th, 2010 (make sure you pay your respects today, by the way) and Derek Meech is without an NHL home. He’s been a good sport, a worthy soldier, and — yes, at times — a target of mockery. We wish him nothing but the best and hope that he’s back in the big leagues soon — wherever it may be.

Meech-you At the Door

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 12: Derek Meech #14 of the Detroit Red Wings awaits the faceoff during the game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on January 12, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Is there a future somewhere?

Hot on the heels of the news that Kirk Maltby decided to go against my advice and sign a one year, two-way deal with the Wings, Ken Holland finally pulled the trigger on the inevitable, sending Derek Meech to the waiver wire in hopes that someone will give the kid a chance to crack a top six somewhere in the league. Meech and his $500,000 salary are now up for grabs on the open market, hoping that someone will operate under the assumption that a Wings cast-off carries more weight than any other schmuck on the wire and providing a good home for the favorite son of JLA’s press box.

The problem for Meech is that an incredibly stagnant offseason market for player movement has led to a situation that could potentially (maybe likely) see #14 clear waivers and wind up as part of the Grand Rapids Griffins. According to Ken Holland, Meech has already been shopped around as trade bait in an attempt to get a return on his time spent with the Wings, yet there were no takers. Were teams simply waiting for Meech to hit the waiver wire? It’s absolutely a possibility, but it could also very well be the residue of a slow a offseason clinging to a player who would normally be snapped up pretty quickly for a draft pick or two.

At any rate, we’ll know by Noon tomorrow what Meech’s fate will be. If this is it for his time in the Winged Wheel, then let me be one of the first to say “peace out.” I have a hard time hating on the guy, as he genuinely seems like a good person who just wants a real chance to succeed on an NHL team. Here’s hoping that Meech lands on his feet somewhere…even if it is Grand Rapids.

#18 jersey still not available in Detroit

RELEVANT! It was mentioned last week that Maltby made an SI cover, but Yzerman never did (commemorative issues excluded). This is said cover.

Guess who’s joining the Red Wings for a 15th year?

Calm down, crowd-of-you-that’s-yelling-about-giving-youth-a-chance. It’s extremely unlikely that Kirk Maltby will be a member of the Detroit Red Wings for the bulk of the season — instead spending the majority of his two-way contract hangin’ out with soon-to-be-named Vice President Kujawa in Grand Rapids before making his way up to the NHL squad in time for the loosened roster restrictions come playoff time.

Hollis penned a nice open letter to Maltby on Thursday, and while I agree it’d be great to see Kirk continue his NHL career in an actual NHL capacity, he — like so many other Red Wings — has chosen to remain loyal to the cause.

I bet you can’t name more than a handful of guys on the entire planet that would be better locker room presences in the playoffs than four-time Stanley Cup champion and Hall-of-Fame yapper Kirkland Maltby IV (note: not actually his name).

Maltby originally joined the Red Wings in 1996 — in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers (Dan McGillis FTW!). In the fourteen seasons that followed, he didn’t play in the post-season tournament only once: last season, following a season-ending shoulder injury that conveniently coincided with Andreas Lilja’s return to action.

I’m a big fan of Kirk Maltby — and it’d be fitting if he calls it a career in the same summer as Kris Draper (who has a NO TRADE CLAUSE, for what it’s worth), and (God willing) Chris Osgood. I understand that there comes a time when you have to say goodbye to the veterans and the nostalgia to make way for the Danger and the Gator — and I’m fully aware that now is very likely that time for Kirk Maltby. But, he’s one of my favorite players of all-time, and I would prefer he would have the opportunity to say goodbye to the game on his own terms — and not forced out by an injury. Maltby needs that final lap in front of the crowd at the Joe so that we can let him know how much he means to us.

While I am a nostalgic sumumabitch, I’m also a realist and I’m aware that Kirk Maltby doesn’t particularly fit on this roster —  not when guys like Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller may be scratched due to a strangely well-populated fourth line. Not to mention, we’ve already got 24 guys — which is one more than you’re allowed.

Good luck to Kirk Maltby — I literally can’t wait to see him in uniform during the playoffs, even though it’ll very likely just be for warmups. Just like Chris Chelios a few seasons ago, that’s all I need.

An Open Letter to Kirk Maltby (Now with Postscript!)

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 12: Kirk Maltby #18 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during the game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on January 12, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hey Kirk.

Good to see you again. Hope the summer has been restful and relaxing for you, although it sounds like you’ve got alot on your mind. I don’t envy you Kirk. It’s just a major life changing decision in front of you, right?

I mean, let’s look at it objectively. On one hand, you’re the odd man out on the team that you have played with for 14 seasons. You’ve won four Stanley Cups in Hockeytown, and number five is more than a fleeting thought as training camp gets ready to crank up in a few weeks. Despite that, you’ve already been told that you probably won’t make the big club out of camp – given that there are a number of younger guys that can pretty much do everything you can – but have been offered the opportunity to take a two-way deal in case the Wings need you down the stretch. It’s obviously not an ideal situation, but you’re a loyal guy and want to give the franchise that has taken care of you the benefit of the doubt before looking elsewhere. That’s admirable for both sides, but it’s a harsh reality that sees you taking the AHL maximum $105,000, a far cry from the $750,000 you made last year and the $950,000 you made each of the two years prior.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Despite the relegated role you would have in Detroit, you know you still have some good hockey left and you really want it to be in the NHL. A couple of teams have expressed interest in your services, including the Tampa Bay Lightning and their GM – and your good buddy – Steve Yzerman. Sadly, it’s not the Red Wings, but it IS NHL hockey (with an NHL payday) and there’s a familiar face or two around the St. Pete Times Forum for you to connect with. Let’s not forget that it’s warm pretty much all year round, and there’s some great beaches that you can check out on those off days.  It sounds great, sure, but I feel you: it’s just not the same as playing in Detroit.

What to do?

Allow me to give you some advice Kirk: Go South.

Now, before you and the rest of the Wing-O-Sphere get out the pitchforks and torches, allow me to explain the logic here Kirk. First, I understand that you want to be loyal to this organization and to the fans who pack Joe Louis Arena every night. It’s an intoxicating feeling playing in front of the rabid Hockeytown fanbase, I’m sure, and one that will NOT be replicated in Tampa Bay. But the stark reality of your situation is that you won’t get that feeling on a regular basis here in Detroit, and if you do, you’ll most likely be taking it in from the comfort of a luxury suite high above Joe Louis Arena instead of on the ice with the teammates that you share the bonds of friendship with. Regular season, playoffs, it doesn’t matter. Time is of the essence in your situation and I can’t imagine the idea of appearing in (at best) 10 games this year is really worth it. The Lightning can offer you exactly what the Red Wings can’t right now, and that’s a legitimate shot at playing in the NHL this season on a regular basis. At the end of the day, isn’t that what this is really about? The fact that you can still play hockey and still can offer something to the team? Under that criteria, TB makes sense and you know it.

Sure, it’s a difficult situation with the family and you’ll be moving to a new place, but it’s only a temporary thing, right? Give it a year in Tampa Bay and if you’re ready to hang it up, the house in Grosse Pointe and the job with the Wings will still be right there. Hey, you may even decide you REALLY like it down in Tampa and I’m sure Stevie would be more than willing to hook you up with some work when the playing days are done. If not, hop on that jet back to Southeastern Michigan and pop on that training jacket and get to work scouting the young kids. Both the immediate family and the extended Wings family will be waiting for you with open arms when you return, and that’s a guarantee.

Look Kirk, I know it’s a tough decision and one that you want to take your time with. But take my advice to heart buddy. Nobody will question your loyalty when you head down south. The Wings have respected your work with the organization with the best offer they can muster and you’ve respected the organization by taking the time to carefully consider it. You’ve done your due diligence and you’ve thought long and hard about this one, I know it. You’ve earned it though. You’ve earned the right to have this decision put in front of you and you’ve earned the right to be a Red Wing for life. If that’s what you choose, I’ll give you a big virtual hug and say “Welcome back!” But you’ve also earned the right to play hockey at the highest level possible while making the best living possible for not only you, but your family as well, and sometimes that means making the difficult decision.

So sit back, wipe the cloudiness of the nostalgia from your eyes, and take a good long look at where the best fit for you is next season Kirk. It’s time to see the forest through the trees my friend.

A forest full of palm trees.

See you in a year,

Chris

P.S. (2:42 PM): Kirk, one more thought I meant to add in my original note and completely forgot to…

You might hear some people tell you that you should stay in Detroit based on the fact that good friend and former Grind Liner Darren McCarty did something similar on the way to the 2008 Stanley Cup. Remember that nostalgia I was talking about? Yea, that reference is nothing more than that. Any so called precedent that McCarty set is complete and utter bullshit.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love D-Mac as much as everyone else, but his stint in GR was a shrewd move by Ken Holland to give a guy who was struggling both professionally and personally a chance to finish out his career in a place that he knew as home, while bolstering the roster with some physical, veteran depth for the playoffs. The only similarity that the two of you share is the fact that you would (POTENTIALLY) provide that same playoff depth should the Wings need it. That’s where the similarities end. McCarty had ZERO options other than the contract in GR. You have NHL offers waiting for you. This is most definitely not the same situation and you know it. Do what’s best for you.

NHL Reaches Across Table, Extends Finger

If you were awake late last night, you likely saw the  now-infamous NY Post piece from Larry Brooks regarding the NHL and its butting of heads with the NHLPA regarding — essentially — the pending Kovalchuk contract. Good friend of TPL @mserven was kind enough to shoot me an IM since I wasn’t really hanging out on Twitter at the time.

And then I lost my goddamn mind.

Apologies to anyone that was caught off guard by my garlic-fueled, expletive-laden tirade on the matter, but as Philip J. Fry says…that dog won’t hunt, monsignor.

The League, it would seem, has issued an ultimatum to the players association. Long story short, the league is demanding the following:

1. The League will allow the new Kovalchuk deal — as well as two other questionable contracts in Marian Hossa and Roberto Luongo — to stand, IF:

2. The cap hit on future deals will not count any seasons after a player would turn 40.

3. The cap hit on future deals longer than five years will use a system to weigh the most expensive five years more than the rest of the deal.

If the NHLPA does not accept these tenets, the League has informed them that the following will take place:

1. The Kovalchuk deal will be rejected.

2. The League will move to void the Luongo deal.

3. The League will open formal proceedings to investigate the Hossa deal.

Here are my no-holds-barred thoughts on the matter, and you’re welcome to disagree with them: the National Hockey League should be ashamed of themselves. There isn’t a person on the entire planet that can tell me that the players “won” the current CBA following the lockout. The League essentially took them out behind the woodshed and had their way with them. Period. There’s a salary cap now, there’s a funky-ass escrow system in place that zero people understand, there’s revenue sharing. There’s nearly NOTHING redeeming about the system in place, from the players’ standpoint.

The one area that the players — or more accurately, general managers and agents — have been able to claim a minor victory is structuring deals in a way that decreases the cap hit — LEGALLY, MIND YOU — making players more affordable in a system that doesn’t promote paying players what they’re worth. The Hossa, Luongo, Zetterberg, and even the old Kovalchuk deal are examples of admittedly shrewd tactics designed to circumvent the spirit of a salary cap. That’s a given.

But guess what? It’s totally within the jailsexing rules! Just because the League didn’t have the foresight to predict this particular loophole doesn’t mean they have the right to bitch and moan and scream and kick and knock over furniture. At some point, you need to look in the mirror, admit that you’ve been defeated in this tiny battle that — when all is said in done — has zero impact on the war. You’ve WON the war, by thousands of soldiers. To demand that someone kick over the last midget on the way to the victory party is shallow and unbecoming.

I agree with @JJfromKansas, the things that the League is demanding aren’t unreasonable. In fact, they’re downright GOOD ideas. It isn’t what they’re demanding, it’s how and when they’re demanding them. You’ll have your chance to make sure you close these loopholes in 2012 when the CBA expires — to demand anything of the PA right now seems like it’s circumvention of the CBA in its own way. I have a hard time believing that the League has the right to make these kinds of offers/demands when the Players have played within the rules the entire time. I’m sure the League has some sort of clause giving them the right to fuck with the Players whenever they want (why not, they got everything else they wanted), but in the court of common sense, that’s a full-on OBJECTION from the hot Law & Order chick.

There are a lot of good points out there: that the Players should play ball, bend on these reasonable requests and continue to win the hearts and minds of the public. JJ thinks that it will go a long way in the new CBA negotiations, and that’s certainly possible. I respectfully disagree — if the League is willing to piss all over their agreements with the Players now, what’s stopping them from continuing to steamroll the NHLPA if they it won’t stand up for itself? These bully tactics are, tangentially, the reasons that the NHL and the sport of hockey are second class sports citizens and will never be taken seriously: too much machismo and muscle-flexing instead of focusing on how to grow the game.

If the Players back down from their stance — which, as we’ve said, is well within the rules — and fold for the League (again), they deserve everything that’s coming to them. I get the argument that it might make negotiations more pleasant in a few years, but I have a hard time swallowing it. If the PA is going to allow the League to pound them mercilessly, there will be no stopping the massacre until there’s nothing left of the Players.

As for the prospect of another lockout. I have a hard time envisioning a world in which there is no work stoppage. Considering how petty the League is being with this one deal (by the way, thanks a lot, asshole…you couldn’t be a team player and take a less ostentatious deal to make life easier for everyone? Get humped) and how much they’re crying about a system they won, the group that’s going to lose the most in 2012 is us — the fans.