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Abel to Yzerman

Holland Discusses Kick To The Groin (Anaheim) And Outlook for ‘08

Ken Holland just wrapped up an NHL media conference call, during which he answered the standard “how long can Lidstrom play?” question, a few on Kronwall, one on Grigorenko, another regarding Bubba and a gut wrencher on the shaft job in May.

You know, for us obviously we look back. We lost two key guys on defense: Nick Kronvall late in the regular season. In the middle of the San Jose series we lost Mathieu Schneider. We felt had either one of those two guys been healthy maybe we could have had a different outcome.


DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m David Keon of the National Hockey League’s public relations department, and I’d like to welcome you to our call as we prepare to open training camps this week for the 2007/8 season. We have with us Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland as he prepares his team for the season.
        Operator, we’ll open it up to questions.

Q. What kind of stands out about your team more than anyone else in the league I think is how you’ve been able to keep this core of guys together for so long, guys like Lidstrom, guys that have been around for 10, 15 years. How important is keeping a core like that intact over the years?

KEN HOLLAND: Well, I guess I would say that I think it’s been very important to the success of our team, and probably has been the reason why we have felt it’s important to try to keep as many players as possible.
You know, I think really the success for us goes back to the mid ‘90s when Scotty Bowman came to Detroit, put together the Russian five with Steve Yzerman. We started to play a style of hockey that we still play today. We draft that way. We try to sign free agents, make moves to a style of play that fits into really our team philosophy.
Ultimately having a number of players that are constant year after year after year like Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Tomas Holmstrom, Chris Chelios have now been here since 1999. They really pass on to the newcomers. They’re sort of like coaches for us.

Q. Talking about a newcomer, Igor Grigorenko, can you tell us a little bit about him, what you expect from him going into training camp here.

KEN HOLLAND: Well, we’re really looking forward to watching Igor. We really don’t know what we’ve got. We know that in the early 2002 in Halifax at the World Junior, Igor was selected as the most valuable forward in the World Junior tournament.
He was playing regularly in the Russian’s men’s league. A month after the World Junior at a men’s tournament in Sweden he had a hat trick in a national game and was selected as one of the tournament All?Star players in that tournament.
I watched him play again that May at the World Championships. He was on the line with Pavel Datsyuk. Might be the ‘03 season. Anyway, he was on the line with Pavel Datsyuk. They played very well together. We really felt that we had a real top prospect.
Unfortunately, shortly after the World Championships in May of that year, again, I think it was ‘03 now, he had a very serious car accident. He was in the hospital for an entire year, very close to death. Basically missed two years of hockey. As a prospect, he had tremendous hockey sense, ability to score. He liked to drive to the net. Skating needed to improve.
He lost a couple of years of key development time in his skating. The last couple years now he’s played regular in the Russian men’s league. I think both Igor and the Red Wings felt it was time for him to come over now and see where his game has gotten back to.
We’re going to give him every opportunity here in training camp to make our team. Again, we’re really anxious to see just where his game is at.

Q. I’d like to bring you back to your series with Anaheim last year for a second. A lot of people who covered that series say that really could have gone either way. Maybe you were unfortunate not to win. What do you think was the difference there in terms of your shortcomings? Do you feel you’ve addressed that going into this year?
KEN HOLLAND: You know, I think probably San Jose feels like we do. I think San Jose Sharks, the series before when we were down two games to one to San Jose, we were down by a goal with a minute to go in Game 4. Very easily could have been down three games to one. We scored in the last 30 seconds. Mathieu Schneider scored in overtime and we go home 2?2 instead of down 3?1. I’m sure that San Jose felt all summer that we got off the hook.
We probably felt the same way with Anaheim. We were up two games to one and up 1?0 in ?? we lost Game 4 in Anaheim and Game 5 in the series was tied 2?2. We were up 1?0 with a minute to go or just over a minute to go, and they tied it and beat us in overtime.
I think in a parity world, I think a lot of teams are very, very close. And it’s just a matter of coming up with the big plays at the right time. I think the reason Anaheim won the Stanley Cup was they came up with the big plays probably in every series, including ours, found ways to win games, win the Stanley Cup.
You know, for us obviously we look back. We lost two key guys on defense: Nick Kronvall late in the regular season. In the middle of the San Jose series we lost Mathieu Schneider. We felt had either one of those two guys been healthy maybe we could have had a different outcome.
At the same time playoffs are about playing through adversity and finding ways to win. Anaheim lost Kunitz during our series and found a way to win.
In looking at our team over the off?season, we’ve lost a number of guys. We lost Robert Lang, we lost Schneider, we lost Todd Bertuzzi, we lost Kyle Calder. We think that Brian Rafalski is going to be a real good fit for our team to maybe replace Mathieu Schneider.
We think that Dallas Drake is going to give us some grit. He’s been a captain, a leader. We’re hoping that some of our younger kids, Val Filppula, Jiri Hudler. If we can keep Nick Kronvall healthy. We think some of our younger kids: Brett Lebda, Tomas Kopecky who was out from Christmastime early on with a broken collarbone.
We’re hoping that some of these kids can take a step forward with bigger opportunity and fill some of the holes from some of the people that have left.
I really think that’s what really needs to happen. In a cap world, it’s impossible to address all your needs on the open market. You need internally players to step up. We’re anxious to see what Igor Grigorenko can do, Kyle Quincey on defense, Jonathan Ericsson on defense who played in Grand Rapids, Derek Meech.
We’ve got some younger players in our organization. Matty Ellis is a guy we called up in the playoffs. We need some younger players to step up and fill some of those holes where the veterans have departed.

Q. Can Dominik Hasek play as well this year as last year? Medical update on Kronvall? Could he have even played in the playoffs last year if you had gone to the finals?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, Dominik Hasek, obviously our hope ?? Dom was a big part of the success we had throughout the regular season and in the playoffs. Our hope obviously having Chris Osgood as his backup, a veteran backup, our hope would be that Dom would play 50 to 55 games in the regular season, much like he did last year.
Chris Osgood would play the rest. We think we’ve got ?? we’re protected with Jimmy Howard as being the No. 3 goalie, that if we do have some health issues, I think it’s important to have some depth.
Dom, Big Dom, did some things differently last year that he had never done in his career. Spent more time stretching before practice. Spent more time stretching after practice. I also think Dom understands he can’t play 70, 75 games. He was very satisfied with the way Mike Babcock used him.
With regards to Kronvall, I think when we were going through the playoffs in the Anaheim series, we were hoping if we got through the series, into the finals, Kronvall would have been healthy enough to play. As it turns out, no chance that Kronvall could have played.
He was in Detroit in early July during our summer development camp. Skated a little bit. Felt pretty good, but not a hundred percent. Just saw him actually the last couple days in Detroit skating. He now feels a hundred percent, feels great. He said some of the things that he wanted to do with his body maybe in July he didn’t feel his body was responding quite the way it should, but now he feels great.
He needed time to heal. He’s a hundred percent. He’s healthy. He’s excited. Certainly we’re hoping now that this is a year where he’s had some unfortunate health situations, injury situations, and hopefully he can have a healthy year and just play lots of hockey and continue to develop as a player.

Q. How long can Nicklas Lidstrom play at this level?
KEN HOLLAND: I hope about another 10 years (laughter). You know, I think Nick, he’s 37, 38 years of age. Certainly the superstars, it appears to me, can play into their early 40s. We’ve had guys like ?? barring injury ?? Steve Yzerman was a real good player for us in his late 30s. Unfortunately injury caught up to him. Chris Chelios at the age of 45 is still going strong.
You look around the league: Mark Messier, Ray Bourque, they were able to be real good players into their early 40s. I think there’s no reason to think that Nick can’t continue to play at the level he’s at for the next two or three years. Again, if he continues to stay healthy, Nick plays such a smart game, it’s all about positioning, the ability to move the puck, its positioning.
He rarely puts himself in a position where the other team can finish a check on him. He really reads the ice and reads the game well.
Again, for the next two or three years I don’t see any reason why he can’t continue to play at the level he’s at. Beyond that I think, again, it depends on health and I also think probably depends on passion. Sometimes as players get older their priorities change and they don’t want to play. There’s other things in their life. I think that’s a motivating factor.
As long as Nick loves going to the rink, loves to play hockey, healthy, I think he can remain one of the top defensemen here for a few years.

Q. When you look at the success of the Swedish players, you have to consider the Detroit Red Wings last year. Five of your top 10 scorers were Swedes, and eight of your regulars were from Sweden. You have prospects coming up as well. What is it about the organizational culture of the Red Wings that enables Swedish players to excel?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, I think first off, you know, they come here and there’s other Swedish players. Any time you go to a foreign country, there’s people from your own country, you instantly become comfortable with the environment.
I also think, again I go back to Scotty Bowman putting together the Russian 5 in the mid ‘90s. We play a European style of game. It’s a puck?possession game. It’s a style of game that I think most Europeans are comfortable with.
I think it’s allowed us to have the success we’ve had. Maybe some people probably think that maybe we should be grittier and harder, and there’s probably some merit to that. We’ve kind of stuck to our philosophy.
Again, when Swedish players come here, Nicklas Lidstrom is here, Tomas Holmstrom is here, Henrik Zetterberg is here. They’re world?class players. The other Swedes that continue to come over then after those ones, again, are comfortable with our team. They all seem to live in a similar area in the city.
They travel together back and forth to the rink. I think in order for players to be successful and really reach their potential, you know, the mental aspect of the game, just having an environment where you’re really comfortable, having a situation where you feel confident you’re going to get comfortable with the style of play allows a player to reach their potential.
I guess that’s why I would think we’ve had success with our Swedish players and our European players.

Q. You have developed a pretty good Central Division rivalry with the Predators over the last few years. Number of changes obviously in Nashville during this off?season. Could you talk about what kind of team you expect to see in Nashville this coming season.
KEN HOLLAND: Well, obviously they’ve lost some real top, top players. But I think they’ve got some great young players. In Shea Weber they’ve got one of the best young defensemen in the game. Martin Erat is a fabulous young player. David Legwand had a breakout year last year. I really anticipate that there’s no reason to think that Nashville isn’t going to be competing for the most points in our division.
We’re hoping to be in that race with them. I think if you can be in a race within your own division for the most points, ultimately you’re going to be in a race for the most points in the conference.
You know, I look at Nashville Predators, I think that our rivalry is going to continue. Again, I look for them to be a top team in the last.

Q. Do you see a slightly different style to them this year? Last year they had a lot of big guns, a high?scoring team. Possibility they’ll be a different style this coming season?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, I think maybe a little bit. Maybe not ?? obviously, I look at their team last year the end of the year. Unfortunately they had injuries to Steve Sullivan. Martin Erat got hurt in a game with us. All of a sudden it took away from their depth.
But I really thought that the trade deadline, when they acquired Peter Forsberg, they had the ability to roll three or four lines as good as any team in the Western Conference.
So they’ve got tremendous depth up front. I still expect they’re going to be able to score. Again, I think they’ve got a real mobile ?? I had the pleasure of being with Dan Hamhuis at the World Championships a couple years ago. I think he has a real bright future, is a real good player, is only going to get better.
I think there’s no reason to think they can’t be a team that is near the top of the league in goals?against. Are they going to be able to score quite as much? A lot depends on some of your younger people getting that opportunity to step up. Some players are ready to take that responsibility on.
But, again, maybe a little bit different, maybe not quite as high scoring. But, again, they’ve got so many young players there that are high draft picks, have been tremendous junior players, real good in the American League.
Sometimes all those players need is an opportunity to take a major step forward in their career. I think ?? I look for that to happen with the Predators.

Q. Obviously interference rules and obstruction rules are here to stay. Would you say the four new big rules in this coming season are going to make a big impact, five?minute interference, penalty shot rule?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, I think they’ll make little ?? for me personally I think that coming out of the work stoppage into this new world, I think the package of rules, I don’t think there was any really one rule. I think the package of rules has really opened up our game and allowed more flow to the game.
But I also think over the last couple of years, the first year, obviously the first season out there was more scoring. If you give coaches and players enough time they’re going to adjust and adapt.
Obviously things tightened down a little bit last year. I think there was more physical play last year than there was the previous years. I’d like to think that we’re slowly finding the balance between adding more flow and more space for the skill players. At the same time, our fans love to see fighting. They love to see good, hard hits, competitive hockey.
I think it seems to me people used to say the regular season doesn’t mean anything. I think now it’s really hard to make the playoffs. Most nights you’re going to go to an NHL game during the regular season and it’s almost like a playoff game. It’s 3?2, it’s 2?1, it’s 4?1, it’s tight checking, hard?hitting. Everybody knows that come March and April, a point or two or three here or there could be the difference between making the playoffs, missing the playoffs, winning your division, not winning your division.
Again, I think the package of rules has made our game real exciting. The new rules that they’ve put in, I don’t see anything that it will do significant. I think they’ve cleaned some things up, put the package over the two years, they’re just kind of fine tuning the package that was put in place a couple years ago.

Q. You referenced development and the importance of young players stepping in. You opted to change coaches in Grand Rapids this year, even though that team made the playoffs. Was that more of a development issue than a performance issue? Your thoughts on Mike?
KEN HOLLAND: The affiliation agreement we had with Grand Rapids had expired at the end of last season. Under the old affiliation agreement, Grand Rapids hired the coaching staff. We both decided, I guess for economic reasons, from their perspective a little bit, but really pushed strongly by our ?? from our side, we wanted to take over the coaching situation in Grand Rapids from a development standpoint, because in the new CBA it’s important to have home?grown talent.
Greg had done a real good job for us. We thought long and hard about what we were going to do. But ultimately we made a decision that we wanted to start fresh and put in our own coach. Went through a process. We interviewed a number of people.
Ultimately we made the decision to hire Mike Stothers. Mike was in the Flyers organization for a lot of years as a minor league player, worked his way up, played at the NHL level, was an assistant coach in Hershey, was a head coach, was an assistant coach at the NHL level, has been a head coach at the major junior level now for I think four, five years. Certainly I was very impressed in the interview process, and think he’s going to be a really good addition to our team.
So this week we’ve got starting tomorrow eight NHL teams up here in Traverse City for a development camp. This will be Mike’s first opportunity to be around our young players. So it was just a chance to start fresh with somebody that we hired and we’re looking forward to Mike running the show down in Grand Rapids.

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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com