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Red Wings’ captain, coach and GM tell MLive’s Khan that the team’s on an upward trajectory

Yesterday we received some strong indications of where the Red Wings' players, coach, possible soon-to-be alumni and the Wings' beat writers believe the team is headed, and this afternoon, MLive's Ansar Khan provides words of cautious optimism from the team's captain...

“It's a fine line here,'' [Henrik] Zetterberg said. “But, it feels better to stand here and look to the future than it did last year. You're a lot more positive. We know we have a good group of guys. We'll make some additions and keep building on what we have. We know we're going to do good things."

The coach...

“We did a great job and I think we improved our roster drastically, and I think we're in a much better spot than we were,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “And yet, we haven't been a final four team since '09, so we're a work in progress. What they got to understand is the journey was only half-way there. You got to win two more rounds.''

And, after a significant amount of roster-handicapping analysis from Khan, the general manager:

“We’re not getting 50 percent better, we’re not bringing in a superstar player, so we have to figure out a way to get a little bit better and a little bit different,'' Holland said. “We’re trying to rebuild on the fly. There are no quick fixes. The plan is we’re going to draft, we’re going to develop and we’re going to try to sign some guys. We’re in the game. I don’t know how you get ahead of the game unless you want to go into a five-year rebuild. I don’t want to miss the playoff five straight years to get that core of players together.''


“Teams are changing coaches, they’re changing managers, they’re going through the pains,'' Holland said. “We are trying as hard as we can to avoid the real pain of not being a playoff team.''

This is not the star-studded, elite team it was in the past. But, it is moving in the right direction.

“You can find the negatives in our program, but I think there are a lot more positives,'' Holland said.

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Bugsy's avatar

George, your scenario earlier about the Wings maybe waiting until the trade deadline next year for a top defeneseman makes sense, since, as the article repeated, their priorites are the defenseman, forward, and size are their priorities, the debate being is the defensman or forward the easier/priority to fill this summer, and if they can get the forward with size, so much the better.

It seems like just about every one posting on here can keep track of the free agents/roster better than me, so I’ll throw the question out to you/the forum (especially since it’s been very quiet today): who should the Wings aim for defenseman-wise that’s realistically available now? Harder to project, but also for next trade deadline?

The names for forward are already out there (Clarkson, Bickell, Stalberg, Horton, etc.) but I don’t see much on what defenseman to target.  I get Khan saying that the GAA was 5th, but I feel more optimistic about the offense getting better than the defense, and that defense didn’t look like against Chicago like the 5th best defense (maybe I’m giving Chicago too little credit) as much as Howard looked like a top goalie (shootout/penalty shot skill excepted).

Posted by Bugsy on 06/01/13 at 08:21 PM ET

Chet's avatar

holland isn’t perfect but you have to agree he’s a consummate pro. the reality is these guys are FUMING they dumped a 3-1 series lead. that’s supposed to be a lock under most circumstances. going forward, their strategy is sensible, but these guys aren’t losers by nature. across the board, sure the team improved massively (babs clear HOF’er based on this team and that 2003 team can we agree?), but they know it was a goal here and there from SCF final like us fans do in our heart of hearts.

the moment for this team was that horror show game late in call gary. the wings are who they are, not losers by nature, but shit. WE should be playing LA.

so dump some dead weight and see you in oct.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 06/01/13 at 08:40 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 06/01/13 at 08:40 PM ET

Agree. Holland isn’t perfect, and I can see the arguments of those saying he should have been more aggressive the last few years, but it’s like those most fervent seem to ignore the salary cap problems and sound like they think Holland suddenly turned into a subpar GM. A lot of recent success from the better teams now is because they could draft higher than the Wings over the years (I believe it was said the best Wings pick over the years was 11th). The fact that Ken Holland was thinking back to the middle of last decade and already planning this change in strategy then wasn’t rocket science but smart to look ahead to a salary cap world to develop from within despite not having top draft picks, knowing the Wings couldn’t rely on buying their way to the title anymore.

I realize I lose some of you in my outside sports references, but I still compare the Red Wings to the Pistons (and again, I’ll bring up the San Antonio Spurs) in basketball. The Pistons had the 6 year streak of making the Conference Finals (which is incredible), the Spurs have the second longest playoff streak in pro sports. As an optimist, the Pistons streak broke as the team got older and was starting into their chaos of being sold (which I hope won’t happen when Ilitch passes/can’t lead anymore). The Spurs are remarkable that they’ve stayed in the upper tier, but probably are a more desirable destination than Detroit for basketball players and have the added advantage of a long-time coach for stability and winning (which the Pistons don’t and hopefully will finally get right this time), not to mention not having the ownership changeover turmoil.

The Wings, to finish the comparison, are more desirable of a destination for hockey players re: free agents/trades, but have to deal with a tighter salary cap with much fewer exceptions than basketball. Holland has to assume that although the free agent market is still necessary, it can’t be relied upon anymore like in the past when he could simply outbid anyone with Ilitch’s money (see how Ilitch has overspent with the Tigers. Even in baseball though, the teams that seem to have longer term staying power at least develop enough young talent from within to start (or in the Tigers’ case, to enough young players to trade for better players) in addition to the money.

I get impatient like everyone else with not being as “active” in the summer or at the trade deadline, but Holland (to me at least) has earned the benefit of the doubt from his past success (although the free agent signings the last 2 years haven’t turned out so good overall) to stick with his overall plan and get some help from outside but primarily rely on developing from within. If nothing else, Ken Holland is patient, and as long as he can get this team back in position talent-wise (no, I’m not discounting Babcock’s coaching acumen in the least this season) to get in position for the Cup again (and STAY THERE: remember Chicago having to break up the team after the Cup year, and fell way back to the 8th seed the next year), I’ll trust patience is a virtue.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/01/13 at 11:45 PM ET


The Wings should target Anton Babchuk of Calgary.  He’s BIG, a righty, and two years ago had 27 points. 2 years before that he had 16 goals. But most importantly, the Wings should be able to sign him as inexpensive insurance.

RE: Injuries - Could you have imagined this playoffs with a healthy Helm?

I really hope that Holland is building value for the Wings 1st round pick based on all his statements lately.  The Wings have prospects “for days”, and are fully stocked.  There aren’t many spots for Tatar, Jarnkrok, Pulkinnen, “Tinky Winky”, Backman or Ouellett.  Frk might be able to jump to the NHL after one year in the AHL.  He’s looked as good as and sometimes better than MacKinnon or Drouin, both of which will probably be top 5 picks in this draft. 

Might I dream of trading Franzen, the rights to Filppula, Smith and a 1st rounder for the #2 pick (MacKinnon) if the Avs select Seth Jones?  Obviously I don’t think that the Avs would trade the #1 pick to the Wings just on principle, ESPECIALLY now that they have a coach name WAAAH.



Posted by zombietroy on 06/02/13 at 01:26 AM ET

Bugsy's avatar

The Wings should target Anton Babchuk of Calgary.  He’s BIG, a righty, and two years ago had 27 points. 2 years before that he had 16 goals. But most importantly, the Wings should be able to sign him as inexpensive insurance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lost track of many things hockey, but he’s headed out of the NHL:


Posted by Bugsy on 06/02/13 at 02:32 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I wouldn’t have minded seeing the Wings go after Babchuk as another reclamation project, but Salvat Yulaev is directly subsidized by the government of the province of Bashkortostan, which makes the capital city of Ufa sound very sunny when it’s an average of 1 degree Fahrenheit every night in January…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/02/13 at 05:04 AM ET


Enough with theft china reclamation projects.  It’s great to have solid bottom six players, but not when you NEED top six guys…

Posted by Garth on 06/02/13 at 05:46 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.