A franchise accustomed to playing deep into the spring and competing for the Stanley Cup has given its fan base plenty of thrills already with the recent announcement of the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the setting of a new League record for consecutive home wins. On top of that, Detroit is prepared to be active as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland appeared as a guest on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman" to talk about all the excitement, including the 21-game run at Joe Louis Arena that the team will take into Friday night's Central Division matchup with the Nashville Predators.
"I don't think we really thought about it as a team until this weekend when we were at 19, one game short of the all-time record," Holland said of the old mark that was established by the Boston Bruins in 1929-30 and matched by the Philadelphia Flyers 46 years later. "I think the guys, when you get that close and you hear about records that have been standing for 80 years, wanted to play their way into the record book. But ultimately, I think our guys know we're going to be judged on making the playoffs and how far we go in the playoffs. This is a nice accomplishment, but there's bigger things that we'd like to accomplish."
That said, Holland readily admitted there was a playoff atmosphere to Tuesday's game against the Dallas Stars, in which the Red Wings set the record with a 3-1 victory.
"Our fans have been incredible," Holland said. "I think the passion of the Red Wing fans, the passion of our city and the passion of the state of Michigan for our team also helps drive our team on a regular basis."
It also couldn't have hurt in Detroit's bid to land a Winter Classic after the Red Wings were the visiting team in the 2009 game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field. When Jan. 1, 2013, rolls around, Michigan Stadium will be packed with well over 100,000 fans as the Wings host their Original Six rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In addition, the city of Detroit will hold the inaugural Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park, with an ice rink being built in the Tigers' ballpark to host the NHL Alumni Showdown as well as numerous other AHL, OHL and collegiate games.
"Tremendous excitement in the community," Holland said in describing the reaction around town since the announcement was made on Feb. 9. "There's incredible demand for tickets. I've got people, friends from western Canada and all over the United States, emailing me, texting me, wanting to know when to buy tickets and how to buy tickets, are you going to get tickets to the Winter Classic, and wherever I go around town here people are talking about it."
People have been talking about the Red Wings in general this season, not only in Detroit but around the League. They entered play Thursday leading the race for the Presidents' Trophy with a 39-17-2 record, good for 80 points. Holland praised the job coach Mike Babcock has done this season and said the team had positioned itself to make moves at the trade deadline if it could find the right fits.
"Obviously there was a trade here in the last hour," Holland said, referring to the Flyers' acquisition of defenseman Nicklas Grossman from the Stars for a pair of draft picks. "I think there's so many teams that are either in the playoffs or two, three, four, five points behind the playoffs that they're making some decisions here in the next week or 10 days.
"This time of the year you're looking for veteran players. We've got some kids in Grand Rapids that we think can play, but I think when you come playoff time, the coach isn't sure what those young players are going to do, and one bad play can turn a game and one bad game can turn a series. So everybody's looking for veteran defensemen, veteran forwards. … I still think there's going to be 15, 20, 25 moves between now and trade deadline day. Most of them are going to be depth players, and that's really what we're looking for -- just a little more depth, a little more veteran experience if we can find it."