Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 10/07/08 at 07:22 PM ET
Ken Holland and Mike Babcock participated in an NHL tele-conference today…
Q. I was just wondering, could you update us on your roster moves, how you’re getting down to the 23, beyond putting Aaron (Downey) on waivers, please?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, today we assigned Ville Leino to Grand Rapids; we assigned Jonathan Ericsson to Grand Rapids; we assigned Darren Helm to Grand Rapids. We’ve informed Aaron Downey that he’s been put on waivers, and we will readdress his situation tomorrow. And it appears that Jimmy Howard, Darren McCarty and Chris Chelios will all start the year on injured reserve.
Q. I just wanted to ask you as a coach, you had experience going to game seven with Anaheim a few years ago. Can you draw on that in terms of the short off-season and what you learned from that in terms of how you might coach and approach the early season with Detroit this year and try to avoid that Cup hangover?
MIKE BABCOCK: Right. Our situation there was totally different. Paul Kariya and Adam Oates left and we brought in Sergei Fedorov and Vinny Prospal. We changed the group at the top totally here. We’ve maintained the same group and probably added more talent—well, not probably. We’ve added more talent.
We talk about the short summer all the time. I’ve made it very clear to everyone that we had 106 days off this summer and 113 last year, so it wasn’t that short.
But there’s no question that it’s hard to win the Stanley Cup; it was hard to win it last year, it’s going to be hard to win it this year. Whether or not a Cup hangover has anything to do with that, I’m not sure. But we have done everything we can to reestablish our work ethic and our structure here at training camp, and we’re excited about one more day to prepare and then get at her.
Q. Ken, from the perspective of a longtime Red Wing person, can you look at the Chicago Blackhawks and see the potential for a Detroit-style turnaround, both on the ice and in the stands there?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, absolutely. Probably it reminds me a lot of in the mid-‘80s when Stevie Yzerman showed up. You think of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, what they’ve done to that franchise. When Steve showed up, and then we had Kocur and Probert, and obviously we had toughness and we had a young superstar, Jacques Demers came in as coach, and probably those four people were really what got this city reenergized with hockey.
And when Mr. Ilitch first bought the team, he was giving away a car at every home game. By year four, five and six of Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch’s ownership, the building was rocking. We went to the Final Four in ‘88, I think, and ‘89.
In Chicago last year—I think we’re going to have a tremendous rivalry with them. They beat us the first four times that we played them. Obviously Chicago and Detroit have had a tremendous history being Original Six teams. Obviously Scotty Bowman, who was a big part of a lot of success in the mid-‘90s has now joined Chicago to go work with his son in the front office, will add a little spice to our rivalry.
But I really look for Chicago to have a tremendous year and a tremendous amount of excitement, and we’re obviously looking forward to the rivalry.
Q. Ken, you were talking and maybe the coach was talking earlier about the Cup hangover. Is that one of the reasons you decided to go and get a guy like Marian Hossa? I know he played in the Final, too, but he wants to win that Stanley Cup. Can you tell us a little bit about how was those days when Marian was available and you knew that at one point he was going to your team?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, I’ll give you—I’ll tell you, it really goes back to probably the trade deadline last year. Don Waddell in Atlanta was my assistant manager in 19—my first year as the general manager was ‘97-‘98, and Donny was trying to re-sign Marian in Atlanta, and Donny was talking to a number of teams, us being one of them.
And about a week before the trade deadline, Donny gave me permission to talk to Rich Winter, Marian’s agent. We had some conversations, and Rich had expressed to me that Marian liked our style of play with our puck possession and our defense liked to join the rush and move the puck.
Ultimately we didn’t offer up enough. He went to Pittsburgh and obviously played tremendous hockey for them. I really thought that he was going to remain in Pittsburgh.
On July 1st, shortly after noon, I called Rich Winter and told him that we were prepared to make him an offer. We were prepared to talk term. I gave him a cap number, a salary that we—that I was prepared to talk term. I went to bed that night, saw that—on the internet that teams were offering more term, more annual salary and way bigger commitments than we were prepared to go because in ‘09 we got Zetterberg as an unrestricted free agent, Franzen unrestricted, Samuelsson was unrestricted, Hudler was a restricted.
So I really went to bed the night of the 1st figuring we were out of the sweepstakes. Woke up the morning of July the 2nd, phone rang at 8:30 in the morning as I was getting gas at a Mobil station. It was Rich Winter asking me what I thought about Marian coming to Detroit on a one-year deal. I said, “Love it.” He wanted to know what—kind of how he’d be used.
Rich and I set up that Marian and Mike Babcock spoke. Mike called me when the call was over, and Mike told me that he thought that Marian was really motivated to join us, and within two, three hours we had come to the one-year deal at $7.45M. Beyond that, Marian really made this happen.
And as far as the Cup hangover, Mike has talked to our team since the first day of training camp about the importance of everything we do has nothing to do with last year. It’s a new year, it’s a fresh year, and we’ve got to stay focused on the moment, the job at hand, and we’ve got to build just like we did last year. You start at a certain period and every day you’ve got to grow and you’ve got to get better as a team.
We’re hoping that we’ve got a younger group of players than we did maybe in 2002. We’re hoping that we’ve got some internal competition. We sent Darren Helm and Ville Leino and Jonathan Ericsson, some kids, down today that we think can play for us. We’re hoping that if we do falter a little bit that we can call these players up and they can make a difference.
You know, obviously bringing in Marian Hossa, who’s obviously made—he’s made a tremendous sacrifice to come and join us. I don’t know that anybody—I think that Dallas Drake last year, I don’t know that he joined us for one more year. I don’t know that every player ever says let’s win this one for Dallas or let’s win this one for Marian. Players want to win. Maybe when we got into the middle of the Pittsburgh series last year and it got close, you start to think about, boy, would it ever be nice to win for Dallas. I don’t know if there’s any motivation, let’s win this for Marian.
There are 29 other teams that want to win just as badly as we do. We have to grow as a team, and Mike is going to make sure that our team is focused.
Q. Ken, I’ve heard Kyle Quincey’s name attached to trade rumors and that type of thing. Do you anticipate making any deals before Wednesday?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, we’re talking. You know, we’ve got—right now in the short-term we can keep our players because obviously we’re putting McCarty and Chris Chelios on waivers. But ultimately at some point in time, once McCarty and Chris Chelios come off, we’re going to have to make some moves. We’re going to be capped out.
So I am talking. I am exploring the market. Do we do something in the next day or two or do we kind of start the year and wait for our injured players to come back; that’s also a possibility. But there’s no doubt at some point in time, we’re going to have to trade somebody.
MIKE BABCOCK: Ken meant IR, not waivers.
Q. In looking ahead to the banner raising ceremony, can you kind of take us through in your mind when you see that when that moment is happening?
KEN HOLLAND: I’m going to let Mike talk on that. This is Mike’s first championship here in Detroit. We’ll give you Mike’s thoughts.
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I can tell you just even in Anaheim when we lost, we had won the West and it was a thrill. It goes up there and it’s there forever. I spend a lot of time when I’m in an Original Six building, whether it be at the morning skate or standing on the bench during the national anthem looking at all the history up there, and to be a part of history I think is a special, special thing.
Last night when we got to see our names on the Stanley Cup, that was a great night for our players. For guys like Ken and Drapes and Maltby and a lot of our guys, Ozzie, they’re on there three and four times. I mean, what a fantastic tribute to their commitment and their passion for the game. So we’ll be thrilled to share that with the state of Michigan and our fans here in Detroit.
Q. I may have jumped in a little bit late. I want to ask Ken, are there any dynasties in hockey anymore, and can you just talk to how difficult it is even to win two championships in five years, never mind two in a row?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, I think as far as dynasties, my feeling is you leave it up to the media and whoever wants to talk about it. It’s hard to know what constitutes a dynasty. I would say in the NFL, which is a cap—we’re three years into a—we’ve got a whole new league compared to prior to the work stoppage. We’ve got a cap league, it’s designed for parity, but so is the NFL, and I think that the New England Patriots were a dynasty in the NFL.
So what constitutes a dynasty, that’s up for debate. But certainly I do think it’s possible to be a good team, a legitimate Cup contender year in and year out. You’ve got to really start at the draft table in developing players and then from there you’ve got to find your nucleus, your foundation, your key players to build around and then keep adding to it.
I don’t know what constitutes a dynasty, but we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished here, and I think we’ve had a ton of—a lot of people work real, real hard, and I really think that Jimmy Nill, Joe McDonnell and Hakan Andersson, there are three key decision makers in the amateurs, and then Mark Howe in the pros, who along with his staff have found some players, pro players, that were looking for homes, the Dan Clearys and Liljas and Samuelssons come to mind. So we’ve been lucky. But it’s hard to win.
Like I told somebody the other day, I really go into this year, I think out of 82 games, we’re probably going to be involved in 70 playoff games. I think there’s probably going to be 10 or 12 games where at the end of the second period we’re either kind of out of it or we’ve got the game put away. But I think 70 games, for most teams, out of 82, it’s going to be a playoff game; it’s going to go right down to the wire, to the last three or four minutes; the game is going to be decided by a goal. And that’s before the playoffs even start.
So I think that really—there’s parity, and there are so many teams so close, it’s hard to win.
Q. Can I ask you about Ville Leino? Is this another Hakan Andersson find?
KEN HOLLAND: I’m going to let Mike talk about him as a player. How we ended up getting him is really Ari Vuori, our Finnish scout, and Jimmy Nill both were aware of Ville, and he had a tremendous year last year in the Finnish league, finished second in the league in scoring. Obviously he was a free agent, wanted to come to North America. There were four or five teams that I think had expressed interest, and ultimately we met with him and he chose to sign with us.
So he’s come to training camp, and I’ll let Mike tell you what he thinks about him as a player.
MIKE BABCOCK: I can just tell you he’s good. He’s an NHL player for sure. The puck follows him around like it does Datsyuk. He’s got great hands and hangs on to it real well. The pace of his game is not what it’s going to be here in two months, but it’s very good.
I said to Ken today, these are the best players I’ve ever been involved with sending to the minors ever, I can tell you that.
Q. Is he kind of like Filppula?
MIKE BABCOCK: No, he’s a different player than Fil. He’s way more puck-oriented. Fil is more of a skater. This guy has a nose for the net, goes to the net, hangs on the puck, dominant on the cycle, slippery, spins, hangs on to pucks, made great passes. He’s a Red Wing type player.
Q. Ken, can you compare Kyle Quincy and Derek Meech? Are you pleased with their current rate of development? And how do you feel about their potential NHL upsides?
KEN HOLLAND: I’ll let Mike talk, too. I’d say to you, both were—Kyle was a fourth round pick, Meech was, I think, sixth. They both come into our system, they both spent three years in the American League. Two different types of players.
I would say Derek is more puck-oriented. He’s not as—he’s 5’10”, 5’11”, he likes to play with the puck and give-and-go, jump in, where Kyle is more of a defenseman. I see Kyle developing into a guy that can be on the penalty kill for his team because he’s a little bit bigger. He’s probably got a little bit more ability to play against some bigger men, a little more physical.
Two different types, but we like them both. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to keep them. We’ve also got Jonathan Ericsson who we like; Jakub Kindl, our first-round pick, is playing in the American League for another year, and at some point in time we’re going to have to try to create space for Jakub, although he probably needs another year in the American League.
So we’ve got our top four. Lidstrom has got a couple more years to go in his contract; Rafalski, four; Stuart, four; Kronwall, four; Lebda, two; Lilja, two. So these young kids, it’s going to be hard to keep them all. And I guess that’s kind of what we’re weighing here over the next little while is which ones we’re going to keep and which ones we’re going to trade. Again, they’re both a little bit different.
I’ll let Mike talk about Meech and Quincy.
MIKE BABCOCK: I’d say the same thing Ken has, just to reiterate. Two totally different guys. The biggest problem for young defensemen here in Detroit is we don’t play them. Unless it was February last year when the rest of them got hurt, they don’t get in the lineup. So development for these young guys is tough. It’s in our practice, rotation, and the best players play here in Detroit.
We’re trying to win each and every night, so that’s what’s been hard for both of these kids. In some ways they might develop quicker going somewhere else, and yet we can’t do that, either. We’ve got to worry about having depth here. Just like Ken said, Meech is more of a puck guy and Quincy is more defense with greater size. Both of them are going to be good players in the league.
Q. Mike, your third line remains such a strength. As a coach, what does having such a third line that’s so strong mean to you in terms of in-game planning?
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I think it’s really good. We’ve had good lineups since I’ve been here in Detroit. I mean, we’re deeper now, we’re younger and we’re faster and bigger than we used to be. But we’ve had good depth, and that’s always been a secret here or part of the success is you can roll people out the gate night after night. In 82 nights, you can’t just count on the same people. So Filppula, Cleary and Samuelsson can pick up the scoring; they can all score; they can penalty kill; they can play on the power play. So for example, that’s when Holmstrom or Zetterberg with Hudler and Franzen don’t get it done, they can.
Now, we don’t feel Kopecky, Draper and Maltby are any slouches, either. So those are our 12 forwards that we’re starting the year with, and we like all of them for different reasons. But they’re competitive people who work hard, and it gives us good depth. I think the more you can spread out the workload, the better off you are. In saying that, your good players always want to be on the ice, and we like watching them.
Q. Ken, a year ago was really the first time that the Wings really had a regular problem with sellouts at home, the first time in years. A lot of it had to do with a bad economic situation in the Detroit area but also because of the competition with the Tigers and Lions. But after the struggles that we’ve seen in Detroit with the Tigers this year and the continued struggles with the Detroit Lions, do you guys think that there’s kind of a return to normalcy in this city now with the Wings once again on top as far as the local sports scene is concerned?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, I think—we all live here; I think the economy is really, really tough. Our season ticket base is probably similar to what it was last year. And I know they’re still fine-tuning it, but is it going to be up a little bit? But I would say to you very similar.
In a real tough economy, we’re looking at that as being a real positive, that our fans are sticking with us. And hopefully once the economy gets turned around and people get working, now, it might take a while, six months, 12 months, 18 months, hopefully we can stay competitive, we can remain a legitimate contender. What we’ve tried over the last—since Mike came here, Mike Babcock, out of the work stoppage, we’ve transitioned slowly from Yzerman and Shanahan and Robert Lang and some older players to some younger players so we’re optimistic that we can continue to be a playoff team, with the ability to be a playoff team going forward, and I really think if you put the product on the ice and people have disposable income, they’re going to come support you. If they don’t have disposable income, you don’t blame them for not coming.
We’re optimistic heading into this year with the ability to draw fans. Obviously we know we’re sold out on Thursday night, and we play four home games here in the next two, two and a half weeks, then we go on a long road trip. So we have four home games between now and November 8th. We’ve got a good schedule. When we come back November 8th it’s starting to get into the middle of November and weather is turning bad and it’s getting to be hockey season. Even in our heyday, going back to the late the ‘90s and early 2000s, in October with Michigan football, Michigan State football and everything that’s going on, the Lions and all the major league playoffs on TV, baseball, you know, it’s always been—we’ve had to work to get those tickets sold.
So I still anticipate we’re going to have to really work early, but as we get into the season, hopefully we get off to a good start and people are coming to the Joe.
Q. Kenny, Mike spoke of the depth of this team, not only on the big club but the minors. Is this the deepest team that you can remember since being in Detroit?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, probably, Mike, it was similar to where we were in ‘97 when we won the Cup in ‘97 we had real good depth. Our corps was younger. Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan, they were more in the prime of their career. In ‘02 we were a little longer on the tooth; we brought in some players that were nearing the end of their careers and played great hockey for us, the Brett Hulls and the Luke Robitailles and the Dominik Haseks and obviously Steve and Brendan and them at ages from ‘97 to ‘02.
So again, we’ve worked real hard to try to turn our team into a younger team, and at the same time, we haven’t traded as many draft picks. If you think to the late ‘90s and early 2000s we were trading lots of first-round draft picks as packages for Shanahan and Chelios and Hasek and Robert Lang. We’ve traded the odd—we haven’t been quite as aggressive trading players, so Jimmy Nill and the staff have had more picks to go to the draft table with, and they’ve done a tremendous job in identifying some young players.
We like our depth, but I would say to you that we really have got an eye towards ‘09. I’ve mentioned a bunch of those players that are unrestricted free agents. We’re losing players. I mean, this is a one-year window of opportunity to win the Stanley Cup and add a Marian Hossa and really keep our team together. No matter what happens, when this season is over, we’re going to have to make some hard decisions and we’re going to have to keep some players and we’re going to have to lose some players, just because—first off, the players that are unrestricted are looking for and are deserving of big raises, and secondly, we’ve got some young kids that we can send these guys to the minors for one more year, but at some point we’re going to have to put them into our team or we’re going to risk losing them.
Q. Ken, talk a little bit about Helm and what he’s shown you in this preseason and the training camp. Would he be the first one you would call up in case of an injury up front?
KEN HOLLAND: All of them—I’ll let Mike talk. He’s with him every day at practice and on the game. Mike, you can answer that.
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I think him and Leino are two different players. To me they both are NHL players and in my opinion made the team; we just didn’t have enough space for them. So they go down there, and the business is now you’ve got to play well and you’ve got to continue to play well, and every time Ken and Jim go down there or we talk to Fraser, we get the information and the guy playing the best usually gets called up.
Now, Helm is an on-the-puck, two-way guy, really good player, plays with a lot of pace. Leino, I think he’s going to be a scoring machine. So they both bring different things. They’re as good of call-ups as we’ve had since I’ve been here, I can tell you that for sure. They’re going to give us excellent depth. We all know there’s going to be injuries, and especially with just 12 forwards, there’s going to be room for guys to play a lot of games.
Q. Mike, the departure of Scotty Bowman is obvious, but can you talk a little bit about Todd McLellan leaving as your assistant? And the second part of that question is he inherits a pretty talented roster in San Jose; you inherited a talented roster in Detroit. What are the challenges that might be similar there?
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I think Todd has earned this opportunity. Him and Woody (Jay Woodcroft) go together there and they’re going to do a real good job. They’ve got a real, real good opportunity there. I think Wilson did a good job in improving his back end, and they already had great forwards and good goaltending, so they’re going to be a tough team.
You know, the challenges are going to be like anything; you’ve got to establish a program and you’ve got to keep people accountable, and it’s hard to win each night in the west. It’s not like Ron Wilson didn’t do a good job. So the opportunity to improve, it’s much like when I came here. Lewie (Dave Lewis) had done a fantastic job. So you never want it to go bad on your watch, and that’s what Todd is going to go through.
But I think your first opportunity is real exciting. There’s only 30 of these jobs in the world. He’s a very capable coach. He’s a great speaker, understands the game. He was a huge help to myself and Paul MacLean, and he’ll do a great job.
Q. I know, Ken, you were talking about Brendan Shanahan and the question popped up, he’s looking for a job, and there’s some talk that Detroit could be interested, but with cap issues, is that something possible?
KEN HOLLAND: No, we’re not—I’ve got a tremendous respect for Brendan, but we’re so close to the cap, unless Brendan wants to play for the minimum salary, which I don’t anticipate. So no, I don’t—we’ve got 12 forwards and we’re really against the cap, so we’re not looking to add any players, any forwards.
Q. Mike, did you get a chance to talk to anybody else in the league, any other coaches in the league, who coached a team after winning their first championship? And the second part of that question is did you seek out any advice from Scotty about how to handle a team maybe differently, even subconsciously, knowing that you’ve won a championship? Are things a little bit different during the course of a season after you’ve come off a Stanley Cup win?
MIKE BABCOCK: I asked everybody I possibly could. Sometimes it just worked out, for example, I was with Ronnie Francis and Jim Rutherford on a bus on the way to the draft, and we talked for a long time about it. Just the guys in our organization, you talked about Scotty, I talked to him a number of times, and obviously Ken and Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper and Nick Lidstrom, and the list goes on and on. I’ve read a number of things about it.
I’m a big believer that each year is different, and there isn’t a huge carryover from year to year anyway. I believe this is an opportunity. When I hear Ken talk about what’s going to happen next year, I get nervous for next year already. So this is our opportunity. This is our chance. We don’t know when this chance will come this good again. We have to make sure our preparation is equal to the opportunity, and so that means it’s a great one, let’s get to work.
Our players are comfortable with that. We think we’re in shape. We think we’re energized. Only time is going to tell. But I’m excited about this year, and so are our players, so let’s get at it.
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