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The Malik Report

This year’s Red Wings are enduring a transitional year, but its coach is enjoying every minute of it

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock offered some intriguing insights on his profession to Canucks Army's Jason Gregor recently, and on Tuesday, Babcock told the Associated Press's Larry Lage that he's actually enjoying coaching a very youthful and sometimes mistake-prone Red Wings team as his charges slowly skate and occasionally stumble toward a playoff berth:

"It’s been exciting and invigorating to coach a team with a lot of kids,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock insisted Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve heard people say that we’re not consistent, but I will say this is the most consistent group we’ve had in terms of preparation and work ethic since we’ve been here. Do we make mistakes and do things that make you scratch your head? Yeah, we’ve got kids playing a lot. But we compete for one and another and that’s what we’re still hanging in the playoff picture.”

Ken Holland let Lage know that he's not sure whether he's going to make a move as of this afternoon...

General manager Ken Holland doesn’t plan to panic and make a move before the NHL trading deadline Wednesday unless he can add an impact player. Holland wrote in a text message that he couldn’t predict the chances of pulling off a trade because there are too many moving parts. Kind of like his roster.

By the Red Wings’ count, injured players have missed 203 games due to various ailments and no team says it has been more banged up this season. Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm, each of whom was counted on to play key roles, have combined to play just 12 games this season. The team is hoping all of them come back at some point during the regular season.

“If we can get those guys back, we’ll be better because the growth of our defense,” Babcock said. “ I like the process that we’ve been in with this group and with the fact that we’re getting better.”

And Justin Abdelkader told Lage that the Wings are still to be taken seriously, at least if they make the playoffs, despite the fact that nobody's denying that this year is a rebuilding-and-or-transitional campaign:

“Especially in the Western Conference, anybody can beat anybody,” Abdelkader said. “You just have to get in the playoffs, when anything can happen. Look at what happened with LA last season” when the Kings became the first eighth-seeded team to hoist the Stanley Cup.

While it might be a stretch to think the Red Wings can win their first championship since 2008, Abdelkader doesn’t think anyone should count the franchise out during a period he calls “a transition” instead of a rebuilding season in the Motor City.

“We still have a lot of good pieces here and tremendous leadership and we have a backstop in Howie that bails us out when we need him to,” Abdelkader said. “We definitely don’t have some of the pieces that have led this team for so many years, but we’ve got leaders who have stepped up on ice with their play.”

Othewrise, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff reiterated the statements Ken Holland made about his desire to make neither rental nor depth moves from Sunday...

“Is there a player that someone wants to trade that wants to be a top six or top nine forward? Not really, when everyone is trying to win. A couple of teams signed players that were going to be unrestricted free agents. I think between now and Wednesday lots of teams are going to sign some of their players. I’m working the phones and if there’s a legitimate top six or top nine or a legitimate top four D, behind that I don’t think we have (much interest in making a move).”

While Holland believes there will be plenty of trades before the deadline, he doesn’t imagine there will be many impact deals done. “I just think it’s the league,” he said. “I think the conversation we’re having today is the same conversation we’re having next year and I think it’s the conversation from last year. If we pulled up last year’s trade-deadline moves, and every year there’s between 20-30, 90 percent of them are little depth moves. It’s a fourth-round pick for this one, a third-round pick for that one. Every year there’s that odd big deal, but teams really make their moves at the June draft. And then there are some rentals.

“Obviously, Pittsburgh has been really aggressive, but beyond that I don’t think much has gone on around the National Hockey League. I think we wake up Wednesday and because of history we’ll have 20-30 trades, but lots of deals will be made for depth. I’ve had some conversations with some teams about the odd depth player. And I really don’t have an interest. Again, because of the development of (Jakub) Kindl, the development of Lashoff, Brendan Smith, because of the signing of Dan DeKeyser on defence, we’ve got nine guys here and had to trade away Kent Huskins to make room.

“Because of the development of Joakim Andersson, who we really like, because Patty Eaves is healthy, because we signed Damien Brunner, who can play in the NHL, you look up front and we don’t need any depth. Then you look and Todd Bertuzzi (back injury) is practicing every day and barring any setback we’re hoping sometime in the next couple of weeks that he’s going to play. It’s been tough year for (Darren) Helm for injuries, tough year for Bert with injuries, for Sammy (Mikael Samuelsson) with injuries, but we’ve been able to stay afloat and I think our depth has kept up afloat. So I can’t go out and acquire any better depth than the depth we’ve got that’s kept us afloat.”

It’s that overall depth which leaves Holland to believe he can’t do much before Wednesday to upgrade his team significantly.

“There are depth players out there that in the past we may have been interested in, but because of what has transpired here over the last 6-8 weeks with all the injuries it’s been an opportunity for some young guys to get in and they’ve done a good job,” he said. “Lashoff, Kindl and Andersson have really done a great job. Tatar played well when he was in. I don’t think (Gustav) Nyquist has really gotten the opportunity that he really needs. He’s sort of in and out. (Tomas) Tatar seemed to have a better opportunity, but there’s more people back though. I think we’re a deeper team today than we were six weeks ago. And I’m hoping we can get lucky over the next six weeks with some of these injured people.

Regardless, Holland will keep working the phones, seeing if there’s a move that makes sense for the Wings. “If there’s a deal to made by Wednesday for a top four D man or top nine forward, then we’ll look at it,” he said. “If not, I’m not going to spend any assets to acquire any depth players. We have lots of depth.”

And a little earlier this afternoon, MLive's Ansar Khan noted that Danny DeKeyser has been receiving congratulations from friends and family members up the wazoo lately, but he may actually end up playing for the team he'd hoped to sign with soon...

“He’s coming to a program where things are going to be a bit different, yet we just have to get him in the lineup,'' Babcock said. “The reason we didn’t play him this weekend is because he has been off from practice since (Sunday). And we want him to be skating and comfortable for when he does go in for his first game.''

Though Kyle Quincey hopes to do the same despite not being able to feel his teeth as his broken cheekbone heals, and the whole wearing a full cage part...

“It’s going to take a while to get used to, but every day it gets better and better,'' Quincey said. “The visibility is tough, especially when the puck is in your feet and it’s even harder when you’ve been off for two weeks.''

He hasn't been able to eat a lot of solid foods since the injury on March 15.

“The nerve hasn’t come back,'' Quincey said. “Once that does I will start having feeling in my teeth and gums and lips.It’s not too bad. I just dice up the food pretty good. The blender is getting a lot of use.''

And Babcock wasn't discounting the possibility that Carlo Colaiacovo was in the mix for a full-time spot in the lineup after he played pretty darn well against the Avs on Monday night:

“He’s got to get in here and grab his piece,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “At this time of the year, we're not in the business of trying people out. You start in a position and if you’re not going, someone else is going to take your spot.''

The Red Wings have a surplus of defensemen. Kyle Quincey hopes to return from his fractured cheek bone this week. Brian Lashoff will be back on Thursday following a one-game stint with Grand Rapids due to the 23-man roster limit. And the club wants to get Danny DeKeyser into a game soon. With nine defensemen, Babcock has plenty of options.

Colaiacovo logged 19:46 in Monday's 3-2 victory over Colorado, his first game since Jan. 21. He had missed 33 games with a sprained left shoulder. He saw some time on the power play and on the penalty kill.

“I thought he was good,'' Babcock said. “He moved the puck, he executed. We just got to keep him healthy so he can help us. I like what he brought today and I thought he made our whole team quicker because of his ability to move the puck.''

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Comments

OnlyWings's avatar

You start in a position and if you’re not going, someone else is going to take your spot.’‘

Well that is a close comment but Babs better do some head scratching with Fil. Is Fil Untouchable, Invisible or both.

I like Fil a lot but I have little hair to lose being frustrated with whatever is up with him.

I would also like some wins from our backup Goalie on Friday. Eaten alive with the Leafs sure didn’t help his composure it appears!!

Posted by OnlyWings on 04/02/13 at 08:31 PM ET

w2j2's avatar

Given that this is a transitional year, what will the Wings look like in 2013-2014 after the transition?

For sure Holland has his “depth” for next year.

And he has tons of work to do in re-signing his own players.

However, I think he will be looking for a couple top 6 forwards and at least 1 top defenseman in free agency this summer.

imho.

Posted by w2j2 on 04/02/13 at 08:46 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

w2j2, agreed 1,000%. The whole cap going down = compliance buy-outs involving good, serviceable players seems to be what the Wings are banking upon.

At this point, I think that at least three of UFA’s-to-be Cleary Miller, Filppula (if he’s not re-signed, I expect the Wings to move his rights) buy-out candidate Samuelsson and Eaves or Emmerton won’t be back to accommodate Nyquist, Andersson and Tatar receiving full-time promotions to the NHL level—and an addition in the way of a top-six forward with size who can score goals…

I’m not sure what the Wings will do with Gustavsson, though I think they’re going to keep him…

And, suddenly, the Wings have 10 defensemen, and while Ian White will probably be let go and Colaicovo will probably be bought out, I don’t know if the Wings may parlay some of the “losers” of next fall’s competition for top-six spots on defense to additions that may help the team. The Wings will definitely go after a top-pair defenseman this summer.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/02/13 at 08:58 PM ET

gt500x's avatar

We should not be talking about adding star players.  Now is a time to sell.  I like what the Sharks have done.

Posted by gt500x on 04/02/13 at 09:04 PM ET

SK77's avatar

We should not be talking about adding star players.  Now is a time to sell.  I like what the Sharks have done.

Posted by gt500x on 04/02/13 at 09:04 PM ET

They’re talking about this summer / next season.

Posted by SK77 on 04/02/13 at 09:08 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

One thing about this team over last year that I can say… its nice to see a team that takes the day off once every ten games or so instead two or three nights a week.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/02/13 at 09:30 PM ET

Avatar

Yeah right, another summer of hopes raised and hopes dashed.  How many summers have we heard the same thing?  Holland has no intention of doing anything, there will be no buy outs, Samuelsson isn’t gong anywhere neither is Colocaivo, but keep dreaming guys

Posted by bababooey on 04/02/13 at 09:40 PM ET

gt500x's avatar

Cola was good but he wasn’t real good.

Posted by gt500x on 04/02/13 at 10:05 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

The Wings this year in general don’t look like effort is their problem, it’s confidence or the “deer in headlights” problem, whenever I’ve seen them fall apart.
I don’t recall previous summers before last, but it didn’t look like Holland was lollygagging in trying to sign Parise or Suter—it was put all your eggs in one basket, and there wasn’t much left once that fell apart last year.
I should have posted this here rather than the last post:
Stanley Cup finals 2012 # 8 seed over # 6 seed
2011: #3 over #1
2010: #2 over #7
2009: #4 over #2
2008: #1 over #2
2007: #2 over #4
2006: #2 over #8

Two #8 seeds, a #7 and a #6 seed have made the Cup Finals out of 14 possible teams.  2 #1 seeds have made it, the Wings the only #1 seed to win it. Who knows? Ignore last Sunday, and all things are possible.

George, I want your opinion. Are the Wings more likely to get their Top 6 forward(s) and/or top pair defenseman via free agency or trade?

Posted by Bugsy on 04/02/13 at 10:40 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Babcock’s a masochist.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 04/03/13 at 12:33 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Stanley Cup finals 2012 # 8 seed over # 6 seed
2011: #3 over #1
2010: #2 over #7
2009: #4 over #2
2008: #1 over #2
2007: #2 over #4
2006: #2 over #8

Two #8 seeds, a #7 and a #6 seed have made the Cup Finals out of 14 possible teams.  2 #1 seeds have made it, the Wings the only #1 seed to win it. Who knows? Ignore last Sunday, and all things are possible.

George, I want your opinion. Are the Wings more likely to get their Top 6 forward(s) and/or top pair defenseman via free agency or trade?

Posted by Bugsy on 04/02/13 at 10:40 PM ET

Acckkkk…. This team has as much a chance winning the Cup as the Lions winning two playoff rounds next year. Even though that’s Holland’s new mantra it ain’t gonna happen.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/03/13 at 08:47 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.