Monthly Archives: May 2014

Holland set to begin talking to Babcock about possible contract extension

DETROIT >> As Mike Babcock heads into the final year of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings, general manager Ken Holland will at least begin negotiations with him to try and sign him to another extension.

“I wouldn’t categorize our talks as formal negotiations, just because how our relationship is,” Holland said during a phone interview Friday. “I’d like to get him signed to an extension. It might take 10 minutes, it might take two months.”

The two will be in contact beginning next week during their pro scouting meetings and then see each other again at the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Holland said the two have spoken briefly since the season ended, but have not met or talked for an extended period of time.

Babcock just wrapped up his ninth season with the Wings and has compiled a regular season record of 415-198-91.

He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him roughly $2 million a season.

“If he wants to go into the last year of his contract and play out his option that’s his prerogative,” Holland said. “I don’t know if he wants to stay or doesn’t want to stay, but I think he’s happy here.”

Babcock said when the season ended he wasn’t worried about possibly becoming a lame duck coach anytime next season.

“No priority whatsoever,” Babcock said when asked if getting an extension was a priority of his this offseason. “I’m real comfortable with the owner and the manager. That’s not a concern for me one bit.

“When you’re at the stage of my career that I am, I’m real comfortable with whatever they want,” Babcock continued. “I want them to be happy. If they’re not happy then I’m not happy. I have no problem. I can go year to year.”

The Wings were eliminated in five games in the first round of this year’s Eastern Conference playoffs by the Boston Bruins.

It’s the second time in the past three seasons Detroit hasn’t made it out of the first round. They haven’t advanced past the second round the past five postseasons.

Asked if he thought he would talk about a contract extension over the summer Babcock said, “I doubt it. I just told you I’m comfortable. If I was uncomfortable, if this was my gig I’d want an extension, it’s not, I’m good.”

Babcock, 51, is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given out annually by the broadcasters to the league’s top coach.

Babcock set a franchise record this season with his 415th win, passing Scotty Bowman and Jack Adams, whom the award is named after, in the process. He’s led the Wings to a Stanley Cup and a two conference championships.

 

With a depleted lineup missing stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, along with free agent signee Stephen Weiss, Babcock had to work with a roster full of youngsters this season and still was able to guide the franchise to a 23rd consecutive postseason berth.

Zetterberg and Datsyuk each played 45 games of the 82-game regular season.

Nine players made their NHL debuts during the regular season, the most since 14 rookies did so during the 1990-91 season.

Babcock has also led Canada to two straight Olympic gold medals.

There had been rumors circulating awhile back that Babcock could eventually take over for Red Berenson as the head coach at the University of Michigan.

“I never even thought about it,” Babcock said when asked if he had a few more years in him to coach in Detroit. “My daughter’s going into her grade 12 year. I’m either going to be the coach of the Red Wings or, I haven’t had a talk with Red Berenson yet, either that or I’ll be Red’s assistant coach for a year.

“For sure I’m staying in Detroit,” Babcock added. “I haven’t thought about going anywhere else. I’m real comfortable. I know Scotty Bowman went year to year sometime here and I’m real comfortable with that. I can get a job. I’m not worried about that. The owner has been better than great to me. They do things right. They treat people right. The GM is a driven guy who can’t stand losing and I like to be around ultracompetitive people.”

Holland is also heading into the final year of his contract with the team.

“We work well together,” Holland said when the season ended. “He and I we want to go farther. I told the players I’m proud of the fact we made the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive year. It’s a hard league to make the playoffs. Thirty teams start the year and 14 miss. It’s getting to the point when the season starts most teams think they can make the playoffs. I’m proud we made the playoffs. I’m proud with all the adversity we faced with injuries, we had a lot of great stories, but nobody here wants to be taking team pictures in April. We certainly have bigger hopes and aspirations.”

Wings waiting on decisions with unrestricted free agents

DETROIT >> As far as the Wings’ pending free agents, Wings general manager Ken Holland said he probably won’t decide for another month on them.

The one that seems to be a lock to come back is Daniel Alfredsson, but only if he feels he can play another season.

“We had an exit meeting with Alfie,” Holland said. “He needs time to determine if he’s got the passion and desire to play again and if his body will let him do the things he wants to do.”

Holland told Alfredsson, 41, they wouldn’t be making a decision until the middle of June.

“There’s lots of time,” Holland said.

The other unrestricted free agents include David Legwand, Kyle Quincey, Jonas Gustavsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson.

“I told Legwand, Quincey and Gustavsson we’re going to take time to have internal meetings,” Holland said. “In late May or early June I’ll reach out to their agents to let them know if we have a contract offer.”

Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan are both restricted free agents.

Datsyuk opts for rehab over surgery to repair ailing left knee

DETROIT >> Will he or won’t he need surgery?

It looks like he won’t.

Pavel Datsyuk appears to be leaning toward an aggressive rehab to strengthen his ailing left knee, according to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

“As of right now I don’t think he’s having surgery,” Holland said in a phone interview. “He’s begun some offseason workouts in Detroit. We’ve asked him to stay in communication.”

Holland said coach Mike Babcock introduced Datsyuk to a local trainer to begin a rehab program to strengthen his left knee in order to avoid going under the knife.

“He’s pushing hard and we’re going to continue to monitor,” Holland said. “If nothing changes, he won’t have surgery.”

Holland added that Datsyuk will be re-evaluated in possibly a couple of weeks.

“We asked him to push hard,” Holland said. “At the end of the year he had no pain. That’s why the doctors said they can’t recommend surgery if he doesn’t have pain.

“The hockey people felt he had a quickness to his stride in playoffs,” Holland added.

Datsyuk will be in Detroit for another month to hopefully help fix the ailment.

“As we go along, if he has no discomfort or pain we’ll do no surgery,” Holland said.

The Wings announced they were shutting Datsyuk down for three weeks at the trade deadline due to inflammation in his ailing left knee, which wound up being four weeks.

He missed 16 straight games, but returned for the final six of the regular season.

Detroit went 8-6-2 in those 16 games without their shifty forward.

Datsyuk, who turns 36 on July 20, had 17 goals and 20 assists in 45 regular season games.

“He has an ability to change the game,” Babcock said last season.

“He slows the game down,” Darren Helm said of Datsyuk. “He plays with so much poise and skill he backs the other team’s D off a lot.”

Datsyuk, who wound up missing 30 of the final 40 regular season games, played all five games in the first round series with the Boston Bruins, leading the team with three goals and five points.

Datsyuk played for Russia at the Olympics.

Babcock named finalist for Jack Adams Award; Nyquist: “He’s a great teacher.”

DETROIT >> For just the second time in his NHL coaching career, Mike Babcock has been named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given annually by the broadcasters to the league’s top coach. Continue reading

Wings’ final grades add up to an average season

DETROIT – Once again the Detroit Red Wings scratched and clawed their way into the postseason for a 23rd consecutive season, but the ouster in five games by the Boston Bruins wasn’t what they had planned.

“I’m general manager of a team that this ownership, this fan base, they want us to be a playoff team,” Ken Holland said. “Nobody seems to have an appetite to miss the playoff for four or five consecutive years to try and replenish and build up this core of players that you can build around for 10 or 12 years.

“Where we draft, we don’t draft high enough to move players from junior to the National Hockey League to make the playoffs,” Holland continued. “We can have the youngest team in the league next year, we’re going to miss the playoffs. How do I know? I just look at other teams and other situations.”

The youth movement was this year’s theme as eight players make their NHL debut in the regular season.

“I want to be a playoff team and I think that when players are ready to help us win, they’ll be here,” Holland said. “The one guy that wasn’t here that probably should have been here at the start of the season was (Gustav) Nyquist. Other than that, Tomas Jurco, when we called him up in November, he was the eighth leading scorer in the American Hockey League. This isn’t a league where you’re going to learn to score in. You’re going to score in other leagues. You don’t come up here and learn to score. If you can’t score before you get here, the coaches aren’t going to give you enough time to learn to score because they want to win. They’re going to put people out there that they know have got a track record to do it. If you can’t defend, it doesn’t matter how many points you get.

“This is a hard league to be a real player in at 22 and 23,” Holland continued. “We don’t have a 22-year-old (Steve) Yzerman. We don’t have a 22-year-old (Nicklas) Lidstrom. We don’t have those players. I’ll be the first to tell you. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, they weren’t Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at 22. They became Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at 26.

Forwards Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, along with defensemen Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser also played huge roles this season.

“That’s why young players get traded to other organizations,” Holland said. “Because they get there too quick, they’re not quite ready for the challenge and then people get down on them. The manager and the coach, then they go to another city. I’m hoping to leave these players away from here as long as possible so that when they do get here, the growing pains are as short as possible.”
Here are the final positional grades, which includes playoffs and has each of the first three quarter grades after.

Forwards: C+ (B-, B, B)

Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk combined to play 90 regular season games. Zetterberg still was third on the team in scoring.

The duo shined in the playoffs with Datsyuk leading the team with five points and Zetterberg had a goal and an assist in just two games.

Daniel Alfredsson, when healthy, was a fine addition, finishing tied for the team lead with 49 points.

Johan Franzen was a complete no show down the stretch.

Gustav Nyquist had a magnificent regular season, leading the team with 28 goals in just 57 games.

However, he and the rest of the young forwards found it difficult to produce in the postseason. The only newbie to register a point in five games was Luke Glendening.

Injury-riddled Darren Helm potted 12 goals in 42 games. His speed is unmatched in the league.

Justin Abdelkader was like a yo-yo with linemates, but still managed 10 goals and 18 assists.

Drew Miller was the lone forward to play the entire 82-game regular season schedule.

The trade for David Legwand didn’t pan out like hoped and Todd Bertuzzi’s best days are behind him.

The signing of Daniel Cleary haunted them all year as did the two-year deal they struck with Mikael Samuelsson two seasons ago.

Defensemen: B (B, B+, C+)

Niklas Kronwall has truly taken over as the leader on the blue line having to mentor a mistake-prone Brendan Smith once Jonathan Ericsson’s regular season ended with a fractured finger.

Danny DeKeyser is here to stay.

Despite getting off to a rough start in the plus-minus category, Kyle Quincey recovered and finished just a minus-5. He was the lone defenseman to play all 82 regular season games.

And just like last season Brian Lashoff leaped over Jakub Kindl on the depth chart when playoffs rolled around.

The team also got a look at a few youngsters on the blue line – Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Adam Almquist – this season to see if they’re ready to make the leap to the NHL.

Goalies: C (C+, B-, C)

Jimmy Howard admitted, “I thought it was an OK season, by no means was it a good or great season.”

He finished the regular season with his worst goals-against average (2.66) and save percentage (.910) since his second season as the Wings’ starter.

Battling injures from groins to shoulders, Jonas Gustavsson appeared in just 34 regular-season games with the Wings over two seasons.

When he’s healthy he’s a reliable backup, going 16-5-4 this season. He also started the final two playoff games because Howard at the flu and gave them a chance to win.

Petr Mrazek will likely spend one more season in Grand Rapids before coming to Detroit fulltime.

Coaching: A- (B+, B-, A-)

When the finalists for the Jack Adams Award is announced on Tuesday, look for Mike Babcock to be on the list of final three.

With the amount of injured players, many of them were the core of the franchise, Babcock changed up his coaching style and put his trust in the kids and it paid off.

“The way I look it the coach of the year gets to raise the Stanley Cup and the rest of us are trying to get better,” Babcock said. “I thought we did lots of good things here this year. It was spectacular to get in the playoffs because our guys worked so hard.”

Wings staying hitched to the Mule

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings know what they have in Johan Franzen and they’re not willing to part with what’s already been invested in him.

“I just think Mule has been a streaky scorer,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “When he gets into a groove, he rides the wave. When it’s not going, it’s not going in.”

It wasn’t going for Franzen over the last part of the regular season and five playoff games the Wings played.

After a stretch of six goals over four games from late February to early March, Franzen had just one goal over the final 18 games of the regular season and none in the postseason.

“He had 16 goals in 54 games,” Holland said. “I know he didn’t score down the stretch, he didn’t score in the playoffs. We had a lot of guys that didn’t score in the playoffs. I look around the league and I kind of hear this talk about players in other teams a year ago and this year those players are scoring. It’s a hard league every year to score come playoff time.”

“Mule’s a big body,” Holland continued. “Coming out of the Olympic break, he was on a hot streak and I think that hot streak is part of the reason why we were able to play our way into the (playoffs). To go on the open market, I think there’s this perception that July 1 free agents, there’s this hockey store, there’s this fantasy hockey league that I’m running, they’re playing in, where you can go get superstars. Those days are over.”

Franzen, who still has six years left on a deal that has an average annual salary cap hit of just under $4 million, had just two assists in the five-game series with the Boston Bruins and 14 shots on goal.

In his last 23 games, playoffs and regular season, he had one goal, eight assists and a minus-8 rating. In the previous 23 games, he had 13 goals, 16 assists and a plus-14.

“It’s hard league to score,” Holland said. “You score 20-25 goals now, it’s a lot of goals. Other than superstars, we don’t have 60-goal scorers anymore. I don’t even know 50, but obviously (Alex) Ovechkin. What we need, we need six or seven or eight guys that score 25. Mule is a guy that has the potential to score 25. We need more players that can score 25. I think that’s the way to be successful.

“Mule can score 20 goals,” Holland added. “We need more Mules. We need more players who can score 20 goals. If you had nine forwards who could score 20 goals, you could go into a playoff series, you’re not sure who’s going to score. But you feel you’re going to score because you’ve got lots of people who have scored over the course of the year.”

In Franzen’s last 32 playoff games since the start of 2011, he has seven goals (one game winner), five assists and a minus-11.

In his previous 51 playoff games from 2008-2010, he had 31 goals (nine game winners), 28 assists and a plus-29.

“I like Mule,” Holland said. “When he gets on a roll, he can carry a team. He’s a streaky scorer. We’ve had other streaky scorers. We’ve had streaky scorers here that are in the Hall of Fame that I’ve gone to Toronto for a Hall of Fame ceremony. This is a league where there’s 30 teams and most of them think they’re going to be a playoff team as we head into this offseason. I don’t have any plans to buy Mule out. I don’t know where you go replace these people.”

Perhaps the best example of how streaky of a goal scorer Franzen is game in the 2010-11 season. After a five-goal game against Ottawa, he went on a 14-game goalless drought and ended the regular season with just two goals over his last 27 games.

“You don’t really go into a game, ‘Oh, I’ve got to score, I’ve got to score,’” Franzen said after the Wings lost in Game 5 to the Bruins. “You go out there and try to do your job. I always want to play defense first and make sure I don’t (make) any mistakes in my own end and try to help out the D. When the goals are coming, they’re coming. You get confidence and it’s easy to score. You can only go out there and do your best and try to battle as hard as you can.”

Samuelsson feels he wasn’t given a chance

DETROIT >> Mikael Samuelsson’s return to the Detroit Red Wings didn’t start well and it most certainly didn’t end well.

After an injury plagued first year, the veteran forward quickly found himself passed over by the youngsters in the organization this past season.

“I’m just disappointed the way this year started out,” said Samuelsson, who just wrapped up his two-year deal worth $6 million. “I was hoping and believe I have something more to give, but at the same time when the young guys came in they definitely deserved a chance to play. They played so good then it became a tough spot for the management. I guess I was the odd man out. From my standpoint I didn’t like what was going on.”

In 26 games last season, he had just one goal, two assists and was a minus-4. He averaged just over 10 minutes of ice time a game.

“It was very disappointing,” Samuelsson said. “You can see it from both ends, they didn’t think I performed and I don’t think I got that much of an opportunity. Even though I played 20-plus games when you look at the games the amount of ice time I got, in my mind that’s not what I wanted here.”

The Wings waived Samuelsson in late January. He played just two games in Grand Rapids and registered no points and was a minus-4.

“I was happy something was going on at the point,” Samuelsson said. “It’s not easy to waive a guy that makes the amount of money I made and showed pretty much absolutely nothing this year. At that point I knew I wasn’t going to get picked up, one plus one is two. I just wanted to play some games.”

It looked like Detroit was going to use one of its two amnesty buyouts on Samuelsson last offseason, but the team felt he possible would contest the move because of a pectoral muscle/shoulder injury he suffered in the playoffs.

“They talked to me for a little bit, but I didn’t expect or wanted them to talk,” Samuelsson said. “They talked through actions. That’s how they talked. It’s not like they said you’re still a good player. It’s the actions that spoke more than words.

“I need to take some time and do some good thinking what I want to do,” Samuelsson continued. “I still think I can play hockey that’s the bottom line. Whether it’s going to be here or somewhere else today I don’t know what’s going on.”