The 2013 Red Wings Development Camp has come to a close. The players wrapped up the on ice activities by recording a happy birthday message for Pavel Datsyuk, and I'm left with piles of notes, hours of video to process, a lot of excitement for our prospects, and a few "wrap up" thoughts.
- This is the third Development Camp the Wings have done, and I mentioned before that the format was quite a bit different this year than in the past. The more I think about it, the more I think the changes are for the better. The Red Wings development program is one of the best in the NHL, and their development program is a big part of the reason they're able to get so much out of their players despite not typically having very high draft picks. While watching the on ice instruction, I was struck by just how high the quality really is. Having former players who were highly successful in the NHL, not only has the advantage of great firsthand experience, but also commands respect of the young players and allows them to get a very accurate perspective on what it takes to be an NHL player. Who better to teach players how to develop net front skills than Tomas Holmstrom? How about having a Hall of Famer Chris Chelios teaching the next generations of defensemen? Jiri Fischer? That amazing man still has skills that wow me. Who's working with the goalies? Oh, nobody much... Just Jim Bedard and Chris Osgood. Detroit is doing a fantastic job of employing some of the best development coaches possible, and it's great that our players can learn from some of the best.
- Jeff Blashill led the development camp for the first time this year and was largely responsible for the format changes. In past years the two groups of players would be practicing on the ice at the same time, but in different rinks. This year they used a single rink and had the teams practice at different times. Because the coaching staff wasn't split between 2 groups, there were 8 coaches and 15 players on the ice at most times. Because there were so many coaches, there was a lot more communication between them and the players, and I got the impression that the players also got more constructive criticism and instruction.
- Nick Jensen's shoulder is still bothering him from the fight with Tyler Bertuzzi in practice Wednesday and he's going in to have a doctor look at it. I'm really disappointed that I didn't get to see him in the scrimmage because I'm impressed by the enormous progress he's made since last year and was really looking forward to seeing him in game action.
- In what I'm sure is *ahem* unrelated news... For their "day off" on Saturday, the team went to Camp Grayling, the main training facility for the Michigan National Guard and the largest Coast Guard training facility in the country. The boys played paintball on the obstacle courses, and in what I'm sure was a bizarre coincidence, Tyler Bertuzzi was the only player not wearing long pants. Strangely enough, he got hit an awful lot and has welts all over his legs... I'm sure this had nothing to do with his aggressiveness the first couple days of camp... Nothing at all.
- Tyler Bertuzzi didn't look great at times, but he worked hard on the ice and I could see the wheels turning as he watched the other players execute the drills and exercises.The primary purpose of development camp is for the Wings to see where the players are, what they need to work on, and teach them how to do it. This was an opportunity for Tyler to learn not only what he needs to improve on, but how to do it. He intently watched the other players during the drills, watching and learning. Both his attitude and on ice execution improved noticeably over the course of 6 days and since improvement and development is the goal of the camp, I'm happy with his progress so far.
- Martin Frk's offensive skills aren't questioned, the boy can score goals. His skating and conditioning have been his biggest weaknesses this week, and while a big factor of his fatigue and difficulties keeping up with the pace are due to the face that he's worn out from a long mentally and physically draining season; he also knows he has some serious work to do in order to be ready to perform at the next level. Frk's skating often looked clumsy and labored. In the skating obstacle course he looked choppy and I could tell that he was concentrating hard on his movements; it wasn't coming naturally for him. The bad news is that as he makes the step to the next level and joins the Griffins next season, his skating deficiencies will be more noticeable and more detrimental to his success than it was in junior hockey. The good news is that Frk knows he needs to get better in this area and through development camp he's been given some tools to improve. Frk got bigger and stronger last year and knows he has more work to do before September. When asked about turning pro next season, he commented that he's going to be playing against bigger, stronger players and it's going to be a lot of work to be ready for camp in September. Often times a lot of context and intent doesn't come across very well when you only get the text of someone's interview, so I can tell you that when Frk talked about how he feels getting ready to turn pro and what he's doing to prepare, he was very genuine and serious about having a lot of work to do in order to be ready for the next level of his career. Sometimes you get the impression that a player is just giving you the generic "I need to get bigger and stronger" response, but after being put through the paces this last week and getting a small taste of what's going to be expected of him in Grand Rapids; I believe Frk has a new appreciation for what he has to improve upon. Because of some incidences in his junior career, I've been a little concerned at times about his attitude, but after watching him this week, and seeing and hearing the interviews with him, I feel much better. He's going to spend his summer in Montreal working with his trainer instead of going home to the Czech Republic. I like his dedication.
I still have a lot of information to sort through and process, and I'll try and post more video clips as I go through numerous hours of video. If you have any questions about the players in attendance, maybe something I didn't already mention, or clarification, or anything really. Please ask. There's a ton of information that didn't fit in the posts (to keep them from being tl:dr) so if I haven't yet addressed something or you'd like more information than I provided so far, I'm happy to assist.