Tag Archives: wings

Mike Babcock: ‘It’s a career decision’

DETROIT >> In the end it came down to a new opportunity and a new challenge when Mike Babcock made his choice to leave from behind the bench he called home for the last 10 seasons.

And it wasn’t an easy one for him.

“Oh, it’s going to be hard,” said Babcock, who fought back tears numerous times addressing the media one last time Friday at Joe Louis Arena. “I have a burning desire to win. Winning where I’m going is going to be different. The immediate gratification thing that I’m used to every game day that I love is going to be hard. Yet, there’s a big plan there. They’ve made a big commitment, a long-term commitment to me. I’ve made a long-term commitment to them.

“We’re going to go grow that franchise,” Babcock continued. “The guys have already told me they’re happy to lay the boots to us when they play us. They already told me that. But what we’re going to do is we’re going to build a franchise that people of Toronto can be proud of.”

Babcock, 52, was named the Toronto Maple Leafs coach on Thursday and became the highest paid NHL coach – $50 million over eight years – in the process.

Detroit’s final offer to Babcock, who made $2 million last season, was $4 million for each of the next five seasons. The offer the Wings general manager Ken Holland made prior to that was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season.

“I didn’t want more than five years with Kenny,” Babcock said. “You already knew what you had here. When you’re going to these other places and they’re setup the way they are you needed more term. You needed more commitment. I even said to Kenny at one time just give me three. I wasn’t concerned about that at all. In the end what happened I think two pretty good friends sat down and talked it out. He’s my advisor too. In the end I had to make a decision.”

The Leafs, who have won 13 Stanley Cups, that last of which came in 1967, last made the playoffs in 2013, losing in the first round to the Boston Bruins in a heartbreaking Game 7.

The last trip to the postseason prior to that was 2004.

“It’s a career decision,” Babcock said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in my life chasing a dream thinking you can make it happen and it’s worked out thus far. Don’t get me wrong I love it here, but I also think it was time for me.”

The Leafs, who have the fifth and 24th overall picks in this year’s draft, finished 27th in the overall league standings last season.

“I wanted a different challenge and when I got it in my head I’m coaching an Original Six franchise, the model of the NHL, if I’m going to leave I have to go to an Original Six franchise,” Babcock said. “I went back and forth on it 100 times. I probably wore Kenny out being a pain in the butt and I know I wore my family out. It was gut-wrenching. As much of it is emotional for me right now I felt (Thursday) like I was 25. I was jacked up, scared to death. Only time will tell. I believe you put your foot on the gas and go get it and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Babcock, who leaves as the Wings’ all-time winningest coach, took over a winning organization and helped maintain its success.

He guided Detroit to winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and then reached Game 7 of the Cup finals the following year. He’s also the only coach to guide a team to the playoffs every year in the salary-cap era.

Babcock said he spoke with the Wings’ core players Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and left a message for Niklas Kronwall.

“I don’t think the young guys needed it,” Babcock said when asked if the team needed a new voice. “I love those guys. I’m going to be friends with those guys forever. When Pav goes home one day and sets up his sports school, I’m going to go help him. They’re great men. You don’t win as a coach without great players and great leadership. They provided me an opportunity.

“When I talked about the age of Z and Pav and Kronner at the end and the new guys coming and they’ve got to do it,” Babcock added. “That’s what those guys did for this franchise for 10 years. They’re great people. Do they need a new voice? Ask them. The way I look at it is I’m proud when I walk out of here knowing that, one of the teams I talked to showed me that we averaged 106.4 points over my 10 years here and that we played 23 playoff rounds, both the most and the only team to make the playoffs (all 10 years).”

The Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t made it out of the second round of the playoffs since 2009.

Wings won’t try and influence Dylan Larkin to turn pro

DETROIT >> While the Detroit Red Wings await a decision on whether or not coach Mike Babcock will return, they’re also waiting to hear on one from their one of their top prospects … Dylan Larkin.

Larkin will make it known sometime after the World Championships in the Czech Republic if he’ll return to the University of Michigan for his second season or turn pro.

And the Wings aren’t going to try and sway him either way.

“I’ve told Dylan we have no role in his decision,” general manager Ken Holland said prior to leaving to take in a few games at the tournament. “It’s different when your junior eligibility is over. Players in Europe and college want to know when they’re turning pro, like where they stand in the organization.

“It’s competition,” Holland continued. “If you don’t win that competition you go to Grand Rapids. I don’t believe in guaranteeing roster spots. My philosophy in player development is you’ve got to compete for a roster spot.”

In six games for the United States, Larkin has one assist with eight shots on goal and a minus-one rating.

“I think whatever decision he makes is a great decision,” Holland said. “Going back to Michigan for another year, playing with your age group is a positive. If he turns pro, there’s no doubt he can play at the AHL level. The question is can he play at the NHL level. You don’t know that until he gets to training camp in Traverse City. He’s still pretty young. The Detroit Red Wings will support his decision.”

The Waterford native was the unanimous winner of the Big Ten’s freshman of the year award, leading the conference’s first-year players in goals (15), assists (32) and points (47) in 35 games with the Wolverines.

He was second at Michigan in goals scored Zach Hyman and tied with him in assists. He did lead the team with 15 power play points (six goals) and with 151 shots on goal.

“He’s a good skater and can transport the puck,” Holland said. “He’s very competitive. He plays a 200-foot game. He back checks hard and he’s conscientious defensively.

“He needs to get physically stronger, like most young players,” Holland continued. “With strength you get heavier. He needs to put on weight and strength.”

Larkin, who’s a two-way center, is the Wings’ highest draft pick, selected 15th overall last year, since 1991.

“He can play the power play, penalty kill, four-on-four,” Holland said. “He can play in every different situation.”

It’s kind of uncommon for the collegiate players the Wings draft to leave the school after one season. Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Jimmy Howard all stayed three years.

Danny DeKeyser did as well, while Luke Glendening played four seasons at Michigan.

DeKeyser and Glendening both went undrafted.

“Some are ready sooner than others,” Holland said. “We’re not swaying him one way or the other. I like players to be mature and have a lot of experiences before they hit the NHL because the NHL is a tough league.”

Larkin had a very good World Junior Championships, leading the United States with five goals, seven points and a plus-seven rating.

“He’s a very good prospect,” Holland said. “I like his determination, his passion. He has the intangibles. He competes and doesn’t mind going to the hard areas. He’s got intangibles as part of his skills.

“When you’re building a team, you like to be strong down the middle,” Holland added. “We’re very pleased with the year he’s had.”

Weiss unsure of role next season with Wings

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings’ $5 million dollar man had another one of those less than $5 million dollar performance seasons.

And a lot of his performance issues are due to how things went his first season with the Wings since signing a hefty five-year deal worth $24.5 million.

Stephen Weiss, 32, tried to play through a sports hernia, which he started to feel the effects of during training camp, that first year. He wound up having sports hernia surgery and then had a second procedure later to repair an issue with scar tissue.

“What I had in mind last year was tough going through those injuries and it kind of hurt me this year,” Weiss said during the Wings’ locker room cleanup Friday at Joe Louis Arena. “Didn’t get in the lineup right away and I was still going through a bit of issues when I did get in the lineup. That took some time. I felt like I played really well when I got back and then for whatever reason fell down the lineup and just couldn’t recover.”

In the first season in Detroit, Weiss managed to play just 26 games totaling two goals, two assists and a minus-4.

“Looking back on it I should have taken time right away instead of playing through it,” Weiss said. “When I decided to play through it that wound up costing me.”

He played in 52 games regular season games this year and finished with nine goals and 16 assists.

Weiss appeared in the first two playoff games against Tampa Bay before finding himself benched the rest of the series.

“I’ve been around long enough, it was frustrating,” Weiss said. “You always want to do more. You feel like you can do more. I felt that way. I wanted to be in there, especially in the playoffs playing and have a bigger role, but it wasn’t to be.”

In all, he’s appeared in just 78 of a possible 164 regular season games since signing with the Wings.

After beginning this year as a healthy scratch, Weiss seemed to ignite the offense when he got in after a brief conditioning stint in Grand Rapids.

He had two goals in his first game back and had another goal in his next game.

In a seven-game stretch, Weiss had four goals and six assists. He had just five goals and 10 assists over the next 44 games as he slipped further and further down the lineup.

“At this point I’m just trying to get stronger and stay healthy over the summer and hopefully find a way to get a bigger role,” said Weiss, who missed the final 26 games of the 2012-13 season with Florida due to a wrist injury. “That would be nice. I feel like I can do a lot more. We’ll see.

“I think the way things ended last year when I came back when the season started I wasn’t in the lineup, I was a healthy scratch, sat around for a while,” Weiss continued. “They told me they were going to put me in and wanted to know if I wanted to go play a couple games in Grand Rapids. I wanted to. I went and did that, came back and got a good opportunity then. Playing with (Pavel Datsyuk) there for a little bit and playing pretty well. And then, for whatever reason, I just fell down the lineup. I wasn’t playing a ton and when you’re not playing a lot it’s tough to do what you’ve always done.”

Babcock in ‘driver’s seat’ when it comes to where he’ll coach next season

DETROIT >> Will he stay or will he go?

That’ll be the question lingering around Mike Babcock and the Detroit Red Wings until a decision on his future is made either by the coach himself or the organization.

Babcock is scheduled to meet with general manager Ken Holland on Friday morning prior to the team photo and locker cleanout at Joe Louis Arena.

Will a decision be announced after that?

That seems highly unlikely.

Babcock, who turned 52 on Wednesday, wants to weigh his options, and with coaches still in place at his possible landing spots, he can do that.

“He’s in the driver’s seat,” Holland said. “He’s one of the top coaches in the game, if not the top coach and he’s in the prime of his career.
“Our hope is that Mike wants to stay,” Holland continued. “He’s positioned himself to have the option to explore.”

His contract doesn’t expire until June 30, which means he can’t talk to any other teams until then. He’s searching for a deal that would pay him close to $5 million a season.

The only thing that would speed up the process is the Wings deciding to not give him a contract and pursue his replacement, which could come within the organization in Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill.

Babcock said after the Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a second straight season Wednesday that he wasn’t going to discuss his future until he meets again with the media after locker cleanout.

He just wrapped up his 11th season in Detroit, earning roughly $2 million a season.

The Wings have not made it out of the second round of the playoffs since losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final in the 2008-09 season, the year after Babcock won his only Cup in Detroit.

They’ve also been eliminated in the first round three of the last four seasons.

“We want him back, I’ve expressed that,” Holland said. “He’ll have a lot of say in how it all plays out.”

Babcock wants to win.

He’ll be the first to tell you that.

“I just thought our team played hard and we gave ourselves an opportunity but you want to win,” Babcock said after the Wings’ 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7. “I want to win. In order to do that, you’ve got to score more goals and you got to find a way to win the series, bottom line right there but we didn’t get it done.”

And with that said, Babcock shed some light on how he perceives the Wings’ current roster and that their future looks like.

“I would tell you this, that our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said. “It was very evident we battled our butts off to get in the playoffs. They picked us, whether you guys know what you’re talking about or not, they picked us to miss the playoffs and then no one even picks us to win in the playoffs. I thought we gave (Tampa Bay) a real good run for their money to say the least.”

His main focus appears to be on the core group – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – which isn’t getting any younger.

“You are what you are and (the Lighting) have a young team that they were bad here for long enough that they were able to rebuild it,” Babcock said. “Good, young players and they’ve got young players in key positions. Three of our best players are 34, 35, 37, so any way you look at it, we’re a team that’s changed a bunch of players. We’re a team that’s added a lot of youth to the lineup. Right now on the outside they don’t pick us as a Stanley Cup contender.”

Datsyuk turns 37 in July, Zetterberg turns 35 in October and Kronwall turned 34 in January.

The Wings began the process of incorporating young talent and needed to do so rapidly because of injuries two seasons ago to extend their playoff streak.

They also have a number of highly talented players in the minors.

Babcock, who has led Canada to two straight Olympic gold medals, was offered a four-year deal in excess of $3 million a season that would have made him the highest paid coach in the league.

Babcock said if a deal wasn’t in place before the season began he would not discuss a contract until after the season.

Zetterberg still has yet to score in series

DETROIT >> Henrik Zetterberg is on the verge of doing something he’s never done as a member of the Detroit Red Wings … not score a goal in a series.

Zetterberg has scored in each of his previous 21 series with the Wings.

“Obviously you want to produce more than I have done,” Zetterberg said. “I had more looks during these games. Game 1 and Game 2 I didn’t play good. After that it’s been better, but obviously it would be nice to see the back of the net.

“You just try to do everything right,” Zetterberg added. “Play good defensively, good at face-offs, and try to lead by example. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Zetterberg has three assists through six games.

“I haven’t (talked to him) and I’m not going to either,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Just play hard (Wednesday) and do a good job.”

He has just two goals in his last 35 games dating back to Jan. 27.

“I think Hank’s doing a lot of good things,” linemate Justin Abdelkader said. “Hank’s a player that even if he’s not on the score sheet he’s going to positively affect the game. He’s our leader. Playoffs are all about different guys chipping in. It’s not always going to be your big-name guys. You see (Steven) Stamkos over there hasn’t scored any goals. I imagine they’re talking about him, too. I think playoffs are about your depth as a team, different guys chipping in. It’s not always going to be your all-stars or superstars.”

Zetterberg does have a knack of stepping up in the big game. In six previous Game 7s he’s appeared in, the Wings captain has three goals and three assists.

Wings didn’t expect NHL verdict on Kronwall … he’s suspended for Game 7 against Tampa Bay

DETROIT >> The worst case scenario has happened to the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wings will be without defenseman Niklas Kronwall for Game 7, Wednesday night at Tampa Bay, after he was suspended for one game by the league for a hit he had on Nikita Kucherov in Game 6.

The league said Kronwall was suspended for “charging.”

“I thought it was a good hit,” Wings coach Mike Babcock prior to finding out what the league decided. “I thought it was, you know he (Kucherov) was leaning back, trying to get out of the way. Kronner’s foot was on the ice when he made contact, elbow tucked in on the side. It went
through him.

“If you go through the series, in Game 2 (Ryan) Callahan did the same to (Danny) DeKeyser. (Monday) night, was it in the second period or the first period, (Ondrej) Palat got (Luke) Glendening exactly the same way.”

Kronwall was not penalized for the hit, during which his elbow made contact with Kucherov’s head as the second period drew to a close. Kucherov, but was back for the start of the third period.

Kronwall is their top defenseman and logs the most ice time of any player and playing in all situations.

“I’ve seen it many times, a lot of slow-motion,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think when the contact is made his feet are on the ground. His follow through, I think, hit’s his head, but he has his arms down. His elbow is down when the contact is made, and just got to wait to see what the league thinks.

“He’s a real important for us,” Zetterberg continued. “He plays a lot of minutes, so we just got to wait and see.”

Rookie Alexey Marchenko or Jakub Kindl will be in the lineup.

Mrazek has another one of his bounce-back games to give Wings 2-1 lead in series

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings have seen this out of Petr Mrazek before.

After a not-so-stellar performance one game, the rookie netminder bounces right back with a beyond-stellar outing his very next outing.

He did it again Tuesday night.

Mrazek stopped all 22 shots he faced to blank the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0, and give the Wings the best-of-seven-series lead back at 2-1.

“He has lots of confidence,” Tomas Tatar said. “When the game didn’t go his way there was nothing he could do. He’s a good goalie. I feel like those goals they scored in Tampa weren’t his fault at all. We didn’t help him much. When we help Petr, Petr is helping us out too.”

Mrazek was pulled in Game 2 after two periods, allowing four goals on 18 shots.

This came after he stole Game 1 in Tampa, stopping 44 of the 46 shots he faced.

“What I tried to say so I can clear that up, if you think you can have a bounce-back game, that means that you had a bad game, right? You’re not playing in the NHL if you keep having bad games, that’s all I’m trying to say,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You’ve got to play good every night, that’s the National Hockey (League), that’s how you get to be a starting goalie in the National Hockey League. We expect him to play good every night.”

Mrazek is now 4-0-1 with a 1.38 goals-against average with a .962 save percentage in the five games after he was relieved in a start.

“It’s over right now,” Mrazek said. “Don’t worry about the one we won today. Of course it helps you when you win first game home and you’re up 2-1 in the series.”

Mrazek also shut out the Lightning in the last regular season meeting between the teams. Tampa Bay was the highest scoring team in the league.

“I think Petr played pretty good in Game 2,” Landon Ferraro said. “He made a lot of saves, but
we kind of left him out to dry. A couple of them he had no chance on.”

Mrazek, who led the Mrazek helped lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup in 2013.

“This is the Petr I’m used to watching,” Ferraro said. “We had our (Calder) Cup run a couple of years ago and that’s what he did for us every night. We’d give up a chance or two a game against good guys and he’d make sure he stands tall and made those saves for us. Then we’d take over and that’s all you need out of your goalie, making sure he can make up for a couple of mistakes throughout the night.”

Jimmy Howard had lost the starting job to Mrazek after back-to-back poor outings, but then regained it after the 23-year-old couldn’t provide any consistency between the pipes.

Then, Howard gave up three soft goals in an overtime loss to Montreal in the second to last regular season game.
Mrazek got the job back after making 33 saves to post a 2-0 shutout in the regular season finale over Carolina.

In Mrazek’s last six wins of the regular season he had a .982 save percentage (stopping 172 of 175 shots), a 0.50 goal against average and three shutouts.

It’s the first shutout by a Wings goalie since Howard blanked the Phoenix Coyotes, 3-0, on April 20, 2010.

He’s also just the 19th Wings goalie all-time to record a postseason shutout.