Change may lead to uncertainty but Detroit Red Wings
coach Mike Babcock is certain of one thing -- he's as hungry as he's ever been to begin a season.
Compared to 2008, it was a pretty quiet summer for Babcock. That is, if you don't consider the Wings' roster shuffling that took place right before his eyes. In particular, the losses of Marian Hossa
, Mikael Samuelsson
, Tomas Kopecky
, Ty Conklin
and Jiri Hudler
"Yeah, we also didn't party all summer like we did the summer before," Babcock told NHL.com. "We didn't have that magnet (Stanley Cup) even though we would have loved to have it and carry on the whole summer. But we got to go home and get some more rest, so we'll be more ready this year."
That's what Babcock is hoping for following an excruciating Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the Stanley Cup Final last June. Babcock is actually amazed how some would simply toss a 112-point regular season -- good enough for third best in the League in 2008-09 -- by the wayside.
"I bumped into people all summer who were still trying to convince me we had a great year last season when I already knew that," Babcock said. "I was talking to one guy who was so devastated, I thought something was wrong with a family member, but he admitted it was about the Red Wings losing in the Final."
For Babcock, who enters his fifth season as the head man in Detroit, it didn't take long to recover from his team's loss in the Final.
"It took me two days," he said. "My wife gave me two days to get over that, so that's all I had. Then, it was about getting on with your life and being proud about how hard the guys worked and how hard they competed. We had four guys who should have never played they were so badly hurt, but they found a way to keep playing. We did everything we possibly could to win, but didn't win. So, let's get on with it."
Babcock is happy the core of his team is returning with centers Pavel Datsyuk
, Henrik Zetterberg
and Valtteri Filppula
, wings John Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom
, defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom
, Brian Rafalski
and Niklas Kronwall
and goalie Chris Osgood
back in the fold. While he was saddened to see a few members leave, he is quick to stress the importance of living in the present and not the past and what it means to be a Wing.
"I told Huds (Hudler) that I thought he was crazy for leaving," Babcock said. "I also told him he played hard for our organization -- he helped us win the Cup and helped us to the final four three years in a row. He's a man and he had to make a decision and whatever decision he made was going to be the right one because he made it.
"I think he should have stayed as a Red Wing though," Babcock continued. "Being a Red Wing is something special; it's more than money, it's more than fame, it's being a part of something bigger than yourself. Something that has history and tradition and wins and I think he still had a lot of growth in him to become a better player. But, money talks."
And now that he knows the team he'll go to battle with to start the season, what will it take to recapture that championship magic.
"I'm a big believer that you have to be lucky to win," Babcock said. "What I mean by that is you have to be really good and really healthy at playoff time. If the wrong guys get hurt and you're not as good, it doesn't matter what I say or how hard they try. Pittsburgh wasn't as healthy the previous year when we won the Cup. But, us being banged up was only part of it. Pittsburgh was that good too."
"It took me two days. My wife gave me two days to get over that, so that's all I had. Then, it was about getting on with your life and being proud about how hard the guys worked and how hard they competed."
-- Mike Babcock
Babcock is quick to credit the Penguins.
"I thought they played really well without the puck, thought they backchecked hard and thought they stopped us on defense and competed hard," Babcock praised. "But, really, none of that surprised me. If anything, when someone beats you, and they beat us four out of five times in the end, you got to give them credit."
Babcock admits feeling reinvigorated this season and expects his team to push even harder in training camp since there is a sense of uncertainty with the changes made.
"Sometimes you have to get fired to get reinvigorated but, what happened to me, I got a great education this summer so I'm coming back fresher, better, hungrier and more excited," Babcock said.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com