Q: What are you most interested in observing at camp?
A: The mainstream media are working very hard to get the quotes and get the big stories out — and I’m very interested to hear all that — but it’s the little details like the pace of the drills, who’s wearing new hockey equipment, how line chemistry is working between certain players, that’s what I’ll be looking at. I’ll take as many notes as I can, and hopefully find something unique.
Q: The big story is the additions of wingers Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Will that grab your attention?
A: Of course. Weiss wanted to be here, which is really neat, and the Wings believe he’s an upgrade over Valtteri Filppula as a second line center. And having Daniel Alfredsson, even at age 40, he’s an absolute legend. For somebody who has been with an organization for 17 years (in Ottawa) to decide he wants to join the Detroit Red Wings is pretty exciting and it’s also intriguing because this is going to be his first training camp that he’s not familiar with everybody. The adjustment period is going to be something to watch.
Q: Playing in the Eastern Conference, Wings fans didn’t see much of Alfredsson or Weiss. What can fans expect?
A: As long as Weiss has recovered from his wrist surgery from last year, he is going to be a more stable second line center. Weiss is more of a two-way guy (than Filppula). He’ll win a lot of faceoffs, he’ll play on the penalty kill, which is something Filppula didn’t do all that often. And he can be counted on to deliver a lot of offense from his position. You don’t have to move him around to tap the offense you want from him. In terms of Aldfredsson, the Wings obviously want to get a 20-goal season out of him, which he can still do at 40. He’s played a lot on the power play point — a righthanded shooter on the right point. And he’s very capable defensively Even though he’s not going to have a letter on his chest, he’s going to be one of the leaders. He’s going to be one of the people the Red Wings count on to sort of be a consultant for the coaching staff on the bench and in the lockerroom. I think that is absolutely essential.
Q: You covered the NHL Prospects Tournament, which the Wings won. Who impressed you?
A: Although Calle Jarnkrok didn’t necessarily impress because he’s still adjusting to the aggressiveness, pace of play and size of the rink in North America, I think he’s going to be excellent. I think he is, without a doubt, the top prospect in the Red Wings system. He does everything well and I think he is going to be in the NHL sooner than later. Teemu Pulkkinen showed quite the slapshot, quite the one-timer and had great defensive awareness. Obviously, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan displayed some really impressive two-way play. On defense, Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouelett were just spectacular. I expect to see them in the NHL in short order. And you can’t forget players in Grand Rapids like Landon Ferraro, Petr Mrazek and Adam Almquist, who is very small but very skilled.
Q:Will this stockpile of young talent alleviate the need to sign free agents?
A: It is just so much more essential because so many more free agents get locked up (by their respective teams). The hardest thing when you watch prospects, and get involved with them, is having to know that not everyone is going to make it, at least not in the NHL. The vast majority of the Red Wings prospects, who didn’t make it, are still playing somewhere. It is very obvious the Red Wings have a bright future and they didn’t have to draft particularly high to have that bright future because their scouts work very hard.
Q: Generally, if you get two future NHL players out a draft, that’s considered a good draft. Right?
A: That’s always what (former assistant GM) Jim Nill told me. The concept was that if you can find one or two NHLers in every draft, and you can find one superstar maybe every three drafts, you’re going to be fine. With Jim Nill leaving (for Dallas), and the scouting staff changing, it’s going to be interesting to see what the next couple drafts will tell us in terms of what direction the team will take. I think what you saw in (last week’s) Prospects Tournament is that the Wings very consciously decided to get bigger (in 2013 draft). And it seems to have paid off. They’ve gotten bigger players, but no less skilled. (Anthony) Mantha was fantastic.