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Fire Babcock? Fire Holland? Not bloody likely, nor very smart

Off-day stories continue to roll in via my ever-updated practice post, and I tend to prefer to keep everything on one place so as to not monopolize KK’s front page, but this story from 97.1 the Ticket’s Jamie Samuelssen merits an entry of its own.

Samuelssen has found that more than a few Red Wings fans are suggesting that the easiest way for the Wings’ organization to remedy their mediocre playoff showings of late involve either firing coach Mike Babcock—who will coach in Detroit until he no longer wishes to do so—or GM ken Holland, and while Samuelssen believes that Holland and the Wings front office’s recent draft record in particular merits criticizing, he doesn’t buy the concept that the answer to the Wings’ underwhelming springs since 2009 involves kicking Babcock or Holland to the curb:

Some of the criticism is certainly warranted. This is not some blanket love fest for Holland and Babcock based only on what they’ve done in the past. Holland’s draft record for the past few years has been pretty empty. The last star to come to Detroit via the draft was Franzen in 2004. Since then, we’ve had promising players like Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist. And there are the prospects that warrant excitement like Brendan Smith and Riley Sheahan. But no studs. No stars. Not yet. The excuse is obvious. First, the Wings are always one of the top teams in the league, so the draft spot is generally late in the first round. And second, Holland has been more than willing to part with number one picks to acquire help at the trade deadline. Both valid points. But both lose a little steam when you consider that Pavel Datsyuk was taken in the sixth round (1998) and Henrik Zetterberg was taken in the seventh round (1999). It’s still possible to find stars in later rounds. Holland just hasn’t done it in a long time.

So the criticism is fair. And I’m sure Holland isn’t thrilled with his drafting record in the past decade. But if we all agree on that – what is the next thing that people want. If we agree that Holland didn’t have a good year as the Red Wings’ GM, are we asking that he have some mea culpa press conference? Are we hoping he gets flogged? Or worst of all, are people saying that he should be fired?

Because that’s where our agreement end. Ken Holland remains one of the top GMs in all of sports. He oversaw the transition from the Red Wings being the Yankees of the NHL to just another team existing under the cap. He purged the roster of excess salaries and players and signed some of his stars to cap-friendly deals. He created an atmosphere where a guy like Marian Hossa was willing to take a one-year deal in his quest for a Cup and Brad Stuart was willing to give the team a hometown discount to sign a four-year contract.

He deserves some criticism this year – no doubt. But you take the good (a lot of it) with the bad (not much of it). Nothing lasts forever. Even the most ardent [Joe] Dumars supporter can’t handle many more years of what we’ve seen since that last run in 2008. But with everyone – you have to look at the big picture. And the big picture with Holland remains very, very positive.

So criticize away. It’s your right as a fan. And by Red Wings standards – this isn’t working. Trust me, Holland feels the same way. But when you’re looking for accountability – be careful what you’re looking for. The roster will change. The players should change. The general manager should not. That’s lunacy.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I’d extend that “the GM should not” to the coach. The coach lost his right-hand man in Paul MacLean and someone we all underestimated in Brad McCrimmon, as well as three de-facto coaches in Kris Draper, Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood, and he’s done the best he possibly can to get his horses to run. The fact that the players haven’t delivered isn’t all Babcock’s fault by any stretch of the imagination.

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Comments

WingsFaninCO's avatar

My thoughts exactly..though I think in 2 years or so, we won’t necessarily be saying that Tick Tock’s drafting hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years.  Some of the “kids” will be stars when they make the big show

Posted by WingsFaninCO on 04/19/12 at 07:30 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

He does know that the Wings stars don’t even get to the league until 4+ years has passed from the draft time right?  At this point you really can’t judge many of their drafts since lots of those players won’t be in Detroit for a while.  It would be nice to hit on a player and have an immediate impact but given their proclivity to let them get ‘overripe’ I’m not all that confident they’d be brought up any sooner anyway.  Look at Nyquist, probably the most NHL ready player the Wings have had since Darren Helm and he toils away with 5 minutes a game.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 04/19/12 at 07:31 PM ET

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Still the best GM and Coach in NHL. Unfortunately Holland made a bad trade for Quincy. Not worthy of a first round draft pick but not a slouch either. Needed a power forward but we don’t know the extent to which Holland tried to get one. Red Wings do have good players in their system and maybe it isn’t enough this year..time will tell. It’s shift by shift, period by period..counting the # of games is suicide and it isn’t painlesshow

Posted by Barb Miller from Windsor on 04/19/12 at 07:46 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

He does know that the Wings stars don’t even get to the league until 4+ years has passed from the draft time right?

I think this is the problem.  before the cap it worked.  for a few years after the cap, it worked.  but the cap has caught up to them.  the numbers don’t work out right any more for them to be able to keep young energetic talented players in the minors while the core ages and gets more expensive.

we’re used to something on the order of an 8 year rotation.  I think that needs to be cut in half.

Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom, Holmstrom…they’re the old core and they’re old by NHL standards.  who is the new core?  there isn’t one, and that’s a problem.

this team is not ready for the departure of those players over the next couple years, like it was ready for the departure of Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, Larionov, etc

it used to be that the 8 year rotation worked because the holes during that time could be plugged with Haseks, Robitailles, and Hulls.  that doesn’t work any more.

I think Holland has failed to adjust to the salary cap world.  this is probably because it appeared he was able to continue business as usual…but I think what really happened is there was a lag of a few years before the cap system caught up with them.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/19/12 at 07:52 PM ET

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George,
I’ve noted that you’ve begun to refer to McCrimmon as “underestimated” in your last few blog postings.  With the caveat that you know more about hockey than I, what are you basing this on?  Our team defense when he was with the team was not particularly good in comparison to before he arrived or after he left (i.e. this year).  I realize that a team’s total goals against is only metric of defense, but it’s a pretty good one.  Playoff defense is another metric (and maybe a better one). Regardless, wasn’t McCrimmon supposed to coach our defense?  On pure stats, wouldn’t you argue that our current defensive coaching is better than under McCrimmon? Just a thought.

Posted by Rob on 04/19/12 at 08:03 PM ET

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You know, going back a few draft years, I’ve noted players being taken after our draft picks and they’re arguably impact players within the NHL before ours even hit the ice. Paul Stastny was drafted two spots after Justin Abdelkader; Ryan O’Reilly came right after Landon Ferraro; Tuukka Rask after Jakub Kindl; Mattias Ritola was taken instead of Keith Yandle; PK Subban came after Brendan Smith, etc. Now, I’m not declaring a final ruling on the efficacy of their entire careers, but it’s hard to ignore that these are players that are making significant contributions to their teams. Expecting the Wings to have taken all of those players would have been madness, of course, but there are some missed opportunities.

I personally don’t believe that the Red Wings are markedly better than other teams at drafting (like a lot of media outlets will declare)—we’re probably just around average, too.

Posted by Freamon on 04/19/12 at 08:03 PM ET

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I think we should keep everything the way it is. This team has proven the past 4 seasons (starting with the game 7 loss to the Pens at the Joe) that they’re headed in the right direction. I have complete faith that Johan Franzen will break out of his 4 year coma, at the age of 32, and instantly become a workhorse who uses his size to power over defenders and pot 40 goals a year. Jiri Hudler is a beast. Don’t let his pint size frame fool you. He muscles opposing players off the puck like nobody’s business. At any moment he will start shooting the puck somewhere near the net and will no longer pass back to the blueline when all alone in the slot. In my opinion he’s due 4-5 year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 mil/per. Big E would be a number 1 d-man on any other team, but we relegate him to 5-6 d-man status. Such a shame. His silky smooth skating and uncanny ability to, no matter his position on the ice, shoot the puck directly into an opposing players’ shins or onto their stick is precisely why we gave him that nice raise last off season. This team is built to win in the playoffs, when it matters. They come out like they were shot from a cannon and go hard until the very last second. They initiate contact rather than allow other teams to punish them physically and dictate the flow of the game. They almost always play with a lead and really now how to hold onto to it. Babbles has his finger on the pulse of his team, for sure. It’s evident his players “buy in” and respect him in a way few other teams can claim.

Detroit may bow out early again this spring, but make no mistake: the seeds for long term success are being planted even as we speak. I mean, I’m not the only one who watches this team and thinks “Jesus. These guys can just flip a switch at a moment’s notice and reel off 16 consecutive playoff wins. What a complete and completely efficient unit we have assembled.”, am I?

Posted by godblender on 04/19/12 at 08:06 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/19/12 at 05:52 PM ET

I agree with a lot of this, I hear about all these good young players and by the time they get to the Wings I’ve forgotten their names.

They need to cut down their gestation period a couple years because the thing about young players which cannot be filled the same as current players is the hunger and desire to win and be a pro.  Sometimes I feel like they really lack that hunger.

Previously they could fill those spots with vets who hadn’t won anything yet and it worked, now it just doesn’t seem to be as successful.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 04/19/12 at 08:08 PM ET

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The problem that Holland has is he’s just too precious about the team.  He’s quick to reward potential on players he drafted but he’s loathe to “overpay” on the open market.  I have to wonder if, looking back on it, he would choose to reward Franzen based on potential again or if he would choose to pay a little more to keep Marian Hossa around. 

Any time someone levels a complaint or a concern about his team, the answer is always “I like our team”, which is great, I like the team too, but everyone knows there are areas they can improve on.  And I really don’t understand how he can be happy with the two past post-seasons, or this one if they lose in the first or second round.  Someone said on another thread, and I’m starting to agree, that he’s happy just extending the playoff streak.  If the Wings get bounced in the first round for the next five years he can still point to the fact that they kept making the playoffs and apparently be content with that.

I don’t know.  This off-season is going to be big.  The team has been mostly the same for three years and has been mediocre in the playoffs, and with Stuart looking more and more like he’s leaving (or, like he’s already left), a few holes to fill and some contracts coming up…there are some decisions to be made and some of these decisions are likely to affect what Lidstrom decides to do.

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 08:17 PM ET

dougie's avatar

George, we live in a “What have you done for me lately, kill ‘em all and let God sort em out” world. Our unspoken national debt is the one we have in critical thinking.

I don’t think you can shake a tree and have improvements on Holland/Babcock fall on the ground at your feet. Sure , I have some questions and frustrations the last few seasons,
but owning a keyboard doesn’t make me a hockey expert.

So, Imma STFU and try to enjoy as many games as we have left. Thanks for your hard work on the site.

Posted by dougie on 04/19/12 at 08:19 PM ET

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I think Holland has failed to adjust to the salary cap world.

I do think you’re right about this.  It amazes me that they won the Cup with a $50M cap but somehow, as the cap has continued to climb, the team has gotten worse.

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 08:20 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I have no idea how to look it up, but I’d like to see the average length of contracts (over $1.5 mil) before the salary cap, and since.

my thinking is that rather than causing teams an inability to keep their core together by re-signing players 3-4 times throughout their career (and the idea that this would mean players move around more), that the cap has made teams sign longer-term contracts for big-name players to avoid being priced out of being able to keep them.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/19/12 at 08:20 PM ET

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Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 06:20 PM ET

AND this has all happened with Lidstrom taking paycuts.

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 08:21 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I don’t mind the self-proclaimed experts weighing in, Dougie. That’s kind of the point of having a blog and encouraging readers to engage in conversations and sometimes-out-and-out venting.

Does the team need a shake-up this summer? Yes, but if you go down to the practice post, Craig Custance says that there be legs where Parise is concerned, and Suter as well. Adding a top-six forward and a top-pair defenseman would go a long way toward making all of us happy…

As would, as some of you suggest, bringing up the next generation of prospects as quickly as Gustav Nyquist earned his promotion as opposed to say, the way the Wings have brought along Howard or Smith…

And yes, yes indeed, the Wings have had some terrible luck in terms of watching players slip away, but we can make that estimation for 28 other teams when they bafflingly let the same players slip through their fingers. That’s why drafting is an art as much as it is a science in the NHL. Hell, the year the Wings grabbed Igor Grigorenko, I wondered why the hell they didn’t get some guy named Mike Cammalleri, but if we’re talking about players to come, I’m as enthusiastic as all hell get out about guys like Jarnkrok, Nyquist, Smith, Tatar, Jurco, Sproul, Lashoff, Aubry and Pulkkinen.

The Wings’ drafting went through a pretty rough patch right after the lockout, but over the past 2-3 seasons, the Wings have gotten to the point where they’re signing the vast majority of the players they draft, and that’s an encouraging sign.

Overall?

Significant tweaks. A little less loyalty to the prospects who don’t pan out quickly and a little more willingness to make a splashy signing or trade. Continued improvement at the draft table and in terms of player development (it’s no coincidence that adding Jiri Fischer, Chris Chelios, Aaron Downey and now Chris Osgood to the team’s developmental staff has coincided with better drafting and better results in terms of turning draft picks into solid NHL prospects), and yeah, maybe a thrown chair or five.

But we’re simply not going to see Franzen moved at his salary, we’re gonna have to live with Babs and Holland remaining where they are and we’re going to have to cross our fingers and hope that Nick Lidstrom gives the team his seal of approval…

And then we’ll have to wait and see.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/19/12 at 08:28 PM ET

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People, look at any other team and who is in better shape when you look at a few year time frame?  What western conf team has won the cup lately beside chicago and detroit?  Where is Chicago now? About the same boat as detroit.  San Jose was close and they thought they had to “do something” and they got arguably worse.  Vancouver’s been president winners two years straight and they’re likey to get bumped first round.  Dumars had a team that went went to the conf finals how many straight years and it wasn’t good enough so he “made big changes”.  Look where it got him.  I’d expect this offseason to be the most activity we’ve seen in a while from KH but not based on this years success or lack of it in the post season but because of a combination of Stuart, hudler, parise suter, doan and possibly lidstrom and holmstrom.  Wings another 100 point season but alot of injuries late in the year to key players and they possibly can’t recover.  No reason to panic and blow up the team and I’m thankful for KH because HE WON’T.  And the wings will most likely hit 100 points again next year and have as good a shot as anyone in the playoffs.  And Parise and Suter may be part of the next “core”.

Posted by longtimewingsfan from mi on 04/19/12 at 09:12 PM ET

joedaiceman's avatar

We are down 3-1 and everyone is debating whether to fire Holland or Babcock. Holy crap!!! At a mininum lets wait until the series is over and even then, a little perspective is in order. Everyone shoulkd have the problems the RedWings have.

Posted by joedaiceman on 04/19/12 at 09:49 PM ET

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I think we should keep everything the way it is. This team has proven the past 4 seasons (starting with the game 7 loss to the Pens at the Joe) that they’re headed in the right direction.

Posted by godblender on 04/19/12 at 06:06 PM ET

I see what you did there. I also think this team has been hugely successful the past 3 seasons with three straight 100-point regular seasons and two series wins in the postseason despite long travel, including one by a crushing sweep. That’s well above average for the league wallowing in a cap-induced mediocrity and more than any other team can write home about. This team will most likely hit 100 points again next year and have as good a shot as anyone in the playoffs.

Posted by Alex on 04/19/12 at 10:51 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

This team will most likely hit 100 points again next year and have as good a shot as anyone in the playoffs.

100 points, sure.

as good a shot as anyone in the playoffs?  I don’t think so.  not any more.

it used to be that the Wings were built as the penultimate playoff team.  solid mix of experience, youth, grit, speed, finesse.  no longer, IMO.

I think the league has changed, as well as the definition of “built for the playoffs.”

it is time to get bigger.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/19/12 at 11:46 PM ET

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That’s well above average for the league wallowing in a cap-induced mediocrity and more than any other team can write home about.

Ah yes, I guess they should be happy with above average regular seasons…

Posted by Garth on 04/20/12 at 12:46 AM ET

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I mean, I’m not the only one who watches this team and thinks “Jesus. These guys can just flip a switch at a moment’s notice and reel off 16 consecutive playoff wins. What a complete and completely efficient unit we have assembled.”, am I?

Posted by godblender on 04/19/12 at 06:06 PM ET

No no no, you are not alone. KH is your company.
And BTW, why is everyone salivating over Parise? The dude is 5’10 and less than a point a game. Besides we already have a beast in Happy.

Posted by Alex on 04/20/12 at 01:13 AM ET

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And BTW, why is everyone salivating over Parise?

Speed, hustle, heart intelligence and an elite scoring touch to the tune of five 30-goal seasons in his last five full seasons (He missed most of 2010-11).  He’s kind of like the offensive forward version of Darren Helm.

Posted by Garth on 04/20/12 at 01:50 AM ET

perfection's avatar

For the most part, these days the playoffs are a crapshoot. Every game in almost every series is being decided by a break or a bounce here or there.

Babcock is one of the best coaches in the game whether we get knocked out in the first round or in the finals. If we ever fire him he will be hired in under five minutes by another NHL team. This is not Dave Lewis we’re talking about. Sometimes the breaks go your way and sometimes they don’t. It is possible to be a great team with a great coach, play really well… and still lose.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/20/12 at 02:24 AM ET

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Concerned about the coaching staff and their inability to solve the year long special teams problems.
Concerned about Holland “We like our team” and standing pat. Stagnation allows improved teams like St. Louis and Nashville to surge past us.
Concerned about pressers by Howard, Lidstrom and Zetterberg .. facing elimination Friday night and quietly saying (paraphrase) “We’ve been doing good things out there. We’ve played hard and things have not bounced our way. We just need to coreect our few mistakes, stick to our plan and we will be OK. I am confident that we can find success again.” The lack of urgency, excitement and evenm anxiety is troublesome. Not much emotion shown by any of them.
That said ... I agree with most of the criticisms lodged in this comments column. I think this season is lost. As far as the future .. it makes little sense to proclaim the wonders of the talent in the system if when (and if) they are ever ready to make the big jump tro the big club .. Holland is so reluctant to move or release any of his veterans to make a spot for them. They wallow in GR and lose confidence.

Posted by Edd from Wauseon, OH on 04/20/12 at 03:56 AM ET

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For the most part, these days the playoffs are a crapshoot. Every game in almost every series is being decided by a break or a bounce here or there.

Babcock is one of the best coaches in the game whether we get knocked out in the first round or in the finals. If we ever fire him he will be hired in under five minutes by another NHL team. This is not Dave Lewis we’re talking about. Sometimes the breaks go your way and sometimes they don’t. It is possible to be a great team with a great coach, play really well… and still lose.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/20/12 at 12:24 AM ET

This ^^^^^

Posted by Seaner from San Jose on 04/20/12 at 06:29 AM ET

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Posted by Edd from Wauseon, OH on 04/20/12 at 01:56 AM ET

I’ve got some concern about Holland’s “we like our team” stand, but I’m never worried about what anyone says in pressers. I’m concerned about what happens on the ice, not in the dressing room after the game, that shit means nothing.

I’m also not concerned about the coaching when it comes to the special teams.  The PK has been great in the playoffs and they’ve scored on the PP in three of the four games in this series.  Not to mention that they started off the season with both a very good PK and PP.  Clearly they can execute, I don’t think the problem is the coaches.

Posted by Garth on 04/20/12 at 09:13 AM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Posted by Garth on 04/19/12 at 06:17 PM ET

Great post, thanks Garth.  You touch on the same themes that are running through my mind. 

The Abdelkader contract is the one I’m watching this May/June, I have a bad feeling they are going to give this guy a raise and frankly, he has done nothing to justify it as far as I’m concerned.  Not that I have anything personal against Abs, its just that when you put him on the open market and stack him up against others who carry similar skill-sets who have < 1m annual deals, it seems like they would be better off going down that path rather than rewarding the guy for being a loyal good guy.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/19/12 at 06:28 PM ET

George, same to you.  Fantastic follow-up.  My patience with Holland is beyond thin and your words give me pause and reason for hope. 


The roster situation on defense is a complete cluster.  Let’s be real about a few things (bear with me if I’m preaching to the choir, it’s been a while since I posted on here):

- Stuart is leaving
- Quincey is not a first line defensemen nor a PP1 QB
- White is not a first line defensemen nor a PP1 blue liner
- Kronwall is not a PP1 regular and I would argue his best fit on a roster is as the lead on the second pairing like he is with Stuart (and has a PP2 blue line compliment)
- Ericsson makes way too much money for a third line regular (dead horse)
- Commodore was a complete waste of money and time
- Lilja made 786k getting 14 mins of TOI in the reg season and 16 mins of TOI this post-season with the Flyers
- Compare Stuart in spring of 2008 to Quincey in spring of 2012, that’s your replacement for the next few years according to all we are told.

It’s a joke right now with the defensive corps, and without Nick on the roster to make everybody he plays with look better, it is an utter embarrassment.  Sure, bringing in Suter would be great, but they’ve got a long ways to go to clean up the deficiencies as far as I’m concerned.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/20/12 at 12:07 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.