The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/16/13 at 02:16 PM ET
Updated at 2:42 PM: Red Wings GM Ken Holland and special assistant to the GM Kris Draper took part in a luncheon held by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters' Association today, and Holland and Draper's comments are way too important to simply squeeze into the mid-day news post. Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji offered Twitter-based highlights of Holland's comments...
The NHL Fan Apology Tour made a stop at the Hockeytown Café this afternoon, as Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland reiterated the league’s regret about putting the fans through a 113-day lockout that cost the NHL nearly half of its schedule. Holland also called the fans’ response to the Wings' scrimmage Tuesday night “incredible.”
Holland told the audience attending the monthly Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association luncheon that everyone understands how bitter many will remain about the work stoppage, but he believes Detroit will be one of the cities that will forgive faster than others.
“The fans were the biggest losers in that,” he said. “We know that. And we know that we’re going to have to make it up to them, day-to-day-to-day. But I thought (the positive fan reaction to the scrimmage) was a good start.”
Holland confirmed that the Wings will host the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day 2014 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. But he said that the organization is looking at tweaking the schedule of events prior to the game to enhance the fan experience.
In regard to potential conference realignment, Holland said that as much as the Wings would prefer to move to a more Eastern-centric configuration, they recently agreed to a compromise with the NHL Board of Governors that would put them in an eight-team conference in which most of the teams would be in the Central Time Zone.
“We’re hoping that they’re still going to go ahead with the realignment,” Holland said. “It was more important for us that we play everybody in the league at least once every year and that our fans don’t have to go through as many 10 o’clock starts as they have in the past.”
Holland declined to discuss specifics regarding potential acquisitions of players who are being bought out by their teams, such as New York Rangers defenseman Wade Redden.
Ken Holland said special teams will be an important aspect of the 48-game season, which the Red Wings start Saturday, and he noted that the team already has begun work on the power play.
"Up until game 45 last season we were fifth in the power play, and I think we ended up 22nd," Holland said Wednesday. "That means over the last 37 games, we were probably the worst power play in the National Hockey League. That is an area, this week, that Mike (Babcock) is really working on. Last night (scrimmage), he wanted over the course of the game to have every team get one or two power-play chances."
Holland said that the Red Wings will likely have to play better than .500 hockey to make the playoffs, "and specialty teams win games."
Holland, executive vice-president and general manger of the Wings, and Kris Draper, an assistant general manager, spoke to the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association at the Hockeytown Cafe.
When asked how low his heart sank when he heard that Pavel Datsyuk liked playing in Russia during the lockout, Holland said, without elaboration, "It sank very low."
Datsyuk said upon his return to the Red Wings that playing professional hockey in Russia always has been a goal of his, and that playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, there, will be "an alternative," if he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-14 season. One of the most talented professional players in the world, Datsyuk will then be 36 years old.
As for the prospects for the 2013 Red Wings, Holland said: "Obviously, from a personnel standpoint, we're ready to go. I think if some things happen the way we hope it will happen, we can compete for the best in the (Western Conference). And if some things happen the way we don't think they will happen, it'll be a struggle."
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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.