Friday was by far the strangest, most surreal and plain old unusual day of training camp that I’ve ever experienced since first coming to Traverse City in 2010, and I must regrettably admit that it was one of the worst in terms of being able to actually watch players skate.
Instead, the 9:30 AM practice began with Ken Holland announcing that Henrik Zetterberg would no longer play, and Zetterberg himself confirming the news, for about 25 minutes. Watching one of your favorite all-time Wings essentially retire in front of you is weird enough; witnessing that happen while there’s hockey going on in the other rink is…well that’s just hard.
I was able to gather glimpses and glimmers of Team Delvecchio, Team Lindsay and Team Howe skating through what were mostly
dump-and-chase retrieval drills, I mean drills which focused on puck retrieval and breakout plays, as well as a little bit of Team Lindsay’s 5-1 victory over Team Howe in the daily scrimmage, but I’d be full of even more crap than usual if I were to suggest that I could give you full player assessments.
All in all, I was able to watch a fair bit of goaltending drills, I saw chunks of players in action between player media availabilities, and I at least got the flow of the scrimmage, but I usually take in excess of 10 pages of notes regarding a practice alone, and today, I took four pages of scribbled garble.
I can tell you that the latest trend on the team is the adoption of those big, square blocks of foam on the backhands of hockey gloves called “shot blockers”–Thomas Vanek, Tyler Bertuzzi, Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and another half-dozen players are sporting the “shot blockers” on their gloves, and I certainly think that 1. they look weird and 2. they probably don’t reduce injuries, because they don’t reduce slashes to the fingers, but what do I know? I’m just some dude who owns 16 pairs of hockey gloves…
I can tell you that Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier look to be a solid tandem in the goal, especially given how much “back-up” they’ve got in Harri Sateri and Patrik Rybar. Even over the course of goaltending drills alone, I was impressed by Sateri’s superb positioning and aggressive stance, and Rybar remains a rock-solid technical specimen; Bernier has some pucks bounce off his upper thighs, but the man with the Lion mask (a trademark of his) looks to be an aggressive, seal-the-hole kind of goaltender, and Howard is a little more comfortable in his skin than he’s been in some time.
I can tell you that Filip Zadina looked like he had at least put some of the bad ju ju from the prospect tournament behind him as he focused on scoring a little less and focused on plain old working in drills a little bit more. It will be good for Zadina to get some practices in with the big boys to work on the mechanics and fundamentals of what is hopefully a simpler, more direct offensive game for him…
Speaking of prospects, Michael Rasmussen, not surprisingly, was “all business” and then some, appearing ready and able to keep up with the stars of the team both offensively and defensively…
Mike Green looked mobile and comfortable out there despite having just been cleared for contact, and for the equipment nerds, he’s switched over to CCM sticks for the present moment after spending last year with Bauer. Bauer has adopted both of the Svechnikov brothers, by the way…
Axel Holmstrom displayed good jump and more speed than his legs indicated during the prospect tournament while engaging in drills that emphasized puck possession more than flat-out speed.
Of all the people to catch my eye, I was impressed with Joe Hicketts’ improved skating, the size of Brenden Kotyk, a 6’5″ pro try-out probably headed to Toledo, ECHL defenseman of the year Matt Register looked excellent for an ECHL defenseman, Gustav Nyquist had an extra jump in his step, while Thomas Vanek looked half[-a-step slower (as if he had any steps to begin with); Evgeny Svechnikov looked calmer and more comfortable in his own skin, Christoffer Ehn’s skating kept pace with the fastest Wings on the team(s), and both Libor Sulak and Filip Hronek are sporting facial hair and confidence galore as the two battle for that final spot on the blueline, alongside Dennis Cholowski and Vili Saarijarvi. Jake Chelios looked like a spare (not literally) defenseman whose simple style will fit in well in the AHL, and sometimes it’s fun to watch Kaden Fulcher because the young goaltender, who will start behind Pat Nagle on the Walleye, is still learning so much about body position and body control at all of 19 years of age.
I was not happy to hear that Martin Frk and Joe Veleno (shoulder) joined Brian Lashof on the IR, at least for Friday, but minor injuries are treated very carefully during training camp lest they linger;
And I will say this for the coaching staff: while Dan Bylsma is not a “talker” as an assistant, the Red Wings’ coaches were very vocal as a group on Friday, especially given that, between the team’s increasing speed in terms of player personnel and the team’s increasing emphasis on team speed, the drills moved incredibly quickly for a “first day of training camp,” but when the instructions were deviated from, the coaching staff did a fine job of correcting without cursing out and emphasizing form as much as function.
The Wings got to work on Friday, and 72 players worked their tails off under the watchful eyes of the coaches and management…
But I think we all felt strange because the news had come down and come down hard that Henrik Zetterberg had to stop his playing career because his back issues had become too severe. And you can imagine how unnerving that news is when it happens right in front of you, a pretend blogger and partisan Red Wings fan.
So I’m sorry that today’s entry is jumbled. I’ll try to find some sort of form tomorrow.