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Babcock unsure where Red Wings go from here

by Arpon Basu

TAMPA -- The future of Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has been a topic of discussion all season. With his contract set to expire and the Red Wings now eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs after losing Game 7 of their Eastern Conference First Round series to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 on Wednesday, that discussion will intensify.

But Babcock had no interest in addressing it after the loss, deferring to his end-of-season press conference to be held in the coming days.

"I'll be happy to talk about any of that [stuff] then," Babcock said.

Babcock did say a lot about the future of the Red Wings, and it gave the impression it was tied to his own.

He spoke of how no one picked the Red Wings to win the series against the Lightning, and that many predicted they would miss the playoffs for the first time in 24 seasons.

"We are what we are," Babcock said. "[The Lightning] have a young team, they were bad here for long enough that they were able to rebuild and get good young players, and young players at key positions.

"Three of our best players are 34 [Niklas Kronwall], 35 [Henrik Zetterberg] and 37 [Pavel Datsyuk]. So any way you look at it, we're a team that's changed a ton of players, we're a team that's added a lot of youth to our lineup, and right now on the outside they don't pick us as a Stanley Cup contender."

The ages of Zetterberg and Datsyuk that Babcock used are how old they will be next season, not what they were this season. Zetterberg turns 35 on Oct. 9, and Datsyuk turns 37 on July 20. It could be interpreted as an evaluation of Detroit's chance of success next season.

Babcock was asked about some of the young players in the organization, and whether or not he sees Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and others being able to compensate for the aging of the veterans.

"We have lots of good, young players, no question about it, and we've got some good ones coming," Babcock said. "But who's going to replace [Datsyuk]? I don't think [Datsyuk] is going anywhere right away, but that's what you've got to do. You've got to have big-time players up the middle and on the back to be successful. So those are questions that our organization works towards, we've been drafting good, we've been developing good, but we've been winning too much (to get high draft picks). That's the facts."

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