Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's Public Relations Department. I'd like to welcome you to our call. Ken Holland's team leads the overall NHL standings with 87 points on a record of 41-13-5. Thanks to Ken for joining us. We'll open it up for questions.
Ken, with the injuries you're suffering, does this make you change your trade program going into the trading deadline; are you still on the same program you would have been if everybody was healthy?KEN HOLLAND:
We'll be on the same program. We expect our players back before the playoffs start. In Nik Kronwall's case, he's skating. I think he's still probably - we don't have a definitive date, but certainly think in the next two weeks, give or take a few days, he'll be back in our lineup. In Dan Cleary's case, we definitely think he's going to be ready for the start of the playoffs. Hopefully he can play a couple of league games before we go in.
So I think injuries are a part of the league. And there's lots of teams around the league that have had real key injures and they've found ways to win games. That's what we'll have to do. Q.
Do you sense this year that the teams won't be as willing to give up as much to get rental players? HOLLAND:
I'm interested as everybody. The calls are slowly starting to come in now from general managers basically saying, you know, we're on the bubble and we're going to see here over the next week or 10 days whether we're a buyer or a seller. And if you look at last year's trade deadline, there was some real steep prices paid and ultimately only eight teams can win a playoff round.
When you look at the way the CBA has - I think we're three years into the CBA. We're starting to get in my opinion getting a real feel that the draft developing in the back-end of your roster have to be cheaper players. If you don't have those players through the draft, through development, where do you get them? And I think teams are going to have to make harder decisions about trading first-round picks and real good prospects. I'm not saying it's not going to happen. But I think as we go along here it's going to be harder and harder to do just because of the way the CBA is starting to flush itself out now.
We're starting to get into the system, and I know in our case we've got 15 players on our roster that make a million two or less. And over the next two or three years some of those players will retire. Some of those players will move up into our group where we're going to pay them more. How do you fill out the back-end of the roster if we continually trade away high picks and prospects?
On the flip side, I guess when you get a legitimate chance to - anybody that makes the playoffs in my opinion can win the Stanley Cup when you get a legitimate chance for a playoff run it's hard not to spend some assets to try to go in a long playoff run.
I think every team, depends on the depth of prospects and depends on where your team is age-wise and I think different decisions for different teams certainly expect to see lots of trades between now and trade deadline day. I'm interested like everybody else to see who is going to step up and pay some steep prices. But I certainly think in two or three players' cases you hear some rumors out there that somebody is going to pay a pretty good price. Q.
When the CBA came aboard and there was a lot of talk about how GMs had to adjust their thinking and maybe accept the idea that guys were going to ride off into the sunset in free agency and you weren't going to get anything in return. But I've taken note and I wonder if you agree with this, that it's been more difficult than maybe anyone anticipated for general managers to sort of get away from that thinking, that even now do you agree that it's still hard for GMs not to get anything; it's hard for them to say, well, I'll just play it out. Or do you think they are crossing over in that? HOLLAND:
Well, I think, if you're a playoffs team - obviously in our case Dan Cleary is an unrestricted free agent and Andreas Lilja is an unrestricted free agent. And (Dominik) Hasek and (Chris) Chelios are different circumstance because of their age. But teams that have got a chance to go for a long playoff run, you're going to hang onto your unrestricted free agents and deal with it prior to July 1 and in some cases playoff teams are even acquiring players who are going to be unrestricted free agents because when you get a chance to go for it you want to go for it.
But I think what's happening, the feeling coming into the new CBA was on July 1st there was going to be lots of players to choose from and players were going to move around. And I think what's happened is we've all realized working with free agency, teams are tying up players for longer term and I think you'll see less and less top players hit the market on July 1st. And to me that really puts the importance on drafting and developing. And you need to have home grown talent, because you can't rely on July 1st. It's just - the players that do hit the market, everybody's got money.
Lots of teams have cap space. So there's no guarantee you're going to get a player that's important that you draft and develop. Again, that dovetails what we were talking about earlier about how aggressive do you get. It's something we're internally deciding. We kind of know some of our assets that we'll trade and there's assets that we won't trade.
And because of the importance of the way the CBA works. Q.
Can you give your perspective on your goaltending? Obviously Mike Babcock said Dom was still the guy but Ozzie (Chris Osgood) has played well throughout the season. How do you view the goaltending situation? HOLLAND:
We like our one-two punch. We feel that we have a real strength that we're comfortable with either guy. I still think heading down the stretch Dom is the guy. We won the Cup with him in 2002. Last year he took us to the Final Four. But really Mike Babcock's plan going back probably a month ago was basically to rotate them game for game until we get into probably, what, the last 20 games. And we thought it would do two things. One it would keep them both sharp. Two, we wouldn't wear either one out. Dom's 43. Chris is 35. Down here the stretch the last 15 to 20 games, I think, Mike is going to lean on one guy more than the other. Maybe 60/40 instead of 50/50 or two-thirds one-third to get somebody ready for the playoffs.
I'm expecting it's going to be Dom, but certainly Chris Osgood really has come back to Detroit and he's accepted the role of being the number two guy. He's built a relationship up with Dom and I think he's comfortable that Dom's the guy.
If we have to go to him, he's ready to go. Q.
Ken, is it true there's a rumor out there you've gone from a buyer to a seller because of the four-game winless streak? (laughs) HOLLAND:
We haven't played very well lately. It was actually before the four-game losing streak. We won in Minnesota last Tuesday. We weren't good for two periods but over 82 games everything evens out. So we probably won some games we shouldn't have and played not bad over the weekend in Toronto and Anaheim and didn't really come out with much. But so far we're still a buyer. (laughs) Q.
What are your general needs? Obviously you can't throw out names. But it seems to me just looking from the outside that maybe if the price is right you could add - this is a magical catch phrase that all GMs are using - the top six forwards maybe? HOLLAND:
Everybody in the league is looking - obviously scoring is something - with parity, you know, the scoring is spread throughout the league. And I think everybody's got probably three or four guys on their roster that you can count on to score and we're all looking for different people to step up.
And I think this time of the year everybody can use a top six forward. And you can never have enough D. And I look back toward our run last year, the Final Four, when we lost (Niklas) Kronwall before the playoffs started and we lose (Mathieu) Schneider in the San Jose series.
I thought that (Danny) Markov and Chelios and Lilja did a tremendous job stepping up the minutes. Last year we had really seven NHL defensemen, experienced NHL defensemen. This year we have six. Derek Meech. He's a rookie we like the way he's played, but he's a rookie. This time of the year you're looking for experience. Again, everybody would love to have a top six forward or a number four, number five defenseman. Everything depends on price. Q.
In light of what happened to Richard Zednik, did you get a sense from your team, the mood of the team, their thoughts on what happened and how it affected them from a mental/emotional perspective? And second part of the question is do you believe the NHL needs to consider in the future some additional safety measures, neck guards, things of that nature? HOLLAND:
You know, I talked to a couple of our players. Obviously it was a horrific situation that happened to Richard Zednik. But emotionally it didn't really - obviously I think their thoughts are with Richard. But as far as their own situation - I think in our sport a lot of our players, we have players who are going high speed and it's a physical game. And I think when you go out for the game you know that there's always - I don't know that you think you know, but there's always the chance that you could get hurt. I think that's just something that the players grew up with the game and they play the game and you've got guys that are six-foot-three, 200 -plus pounds and they're in tremendous shape and they're going high speed and they're banging.
So there's a chance you can get hurt. Obviously the Zednik situation is a bit of a freak injury in the sense it happened a long time ago. I think to Clint Malarchuk. I played in the American League one year. One of our defensemen had a similar situation happen right in front of me. So it's something that's happened in our game. But very, very infrequently.
As far as neck guards go, I'm not sure what to - again, it happens so rarely that I'm not sure you need neck guards. But certainly I think probably a committee should look into it and it should be something that you would want to have players to weigh in on and people in the game to weigh in on. Q.
Over the years, has your philosophy changed approaching the deadline? I remember you used to be a big-time player and have made some significant deals at the deadline. Are you more cautious now? HOLLAND:
Well, you look at last year, when we traded Shawn Matthias and a second round pick to acquire - it was a draft pick last year with Shawn Matthias and it was anywhere from no draft pick, if Todd Bertuzzi
couldn't play in the playoffs, became a third round pick if he played in the first round, became a second if we went two rounds, became a first if we got in the finals. So we found a way to get a deal done. But Shawn Matthias is a good prospect. But we thought last year for our team it was important to try to do something with some impact because we'd lost to Edmonton two years ago in the first round just before the work stoppage, second round LA.
We thought that last year we had a younger team. We've kind of evolved. (Steve) Yzerman has retired. (Brendan) Shanahan has moved on. (Sergei) Fedorov has moved on, if you think of our team before the work stoppage. We got a lot of younger players. Kronwalls and Lebdas and Samuelssons and Clearys and Franzens and we thought we wanted to try to bring in some experience and some physical presence. We traded Jason Williams to bring in Kyle Calder. So we were fairly aggressive last year.
I don't know that you can be aggressive every year. And I think that's what we have to determine here the next two weeks. Do we be a little more conservative or - and I think that's why you work the phones. We've had our internal meetings. We've evaluated. We've gone through our list. We're sitting and waiting and eventually when the phone call comes and you're on the phone call and you're talking to somebody and things start to go along, they've got something they're looking for and you've got something you're looking for and you work towards and eventually you work to a deal or you get to a point you say you know what we've gone far enough.
I think it's the experience and the preparation that your staff does ultimately comes to gut instincts. Q.
Have you noticed any difference in terms of your owner's response to this? Because it seems to me that they, too, would be looking at more big picture thoughts than maybe that they were prior to the lockout? HOLLAND:
Yes. I've spoken to Mr. (Mike) Ilitch and explained the CBA and our philosophy. Basically Mr. Ilitch has just told me whatever our hockey department is comfortable he backs us 100 percent. The old CBA prior, we knew we had - there was eight to 10 teams that spent salary-wise what we did. So we knew that if we traded some younger players away, we had the financial advantage where we could hit the open market on July 1st and maybe replenish some of those things.
Everybody's on a level playing field now. And it does alter your thinking. And again you want to try and go for it but you also want to try to - we were fortunate we got off to a great start the first 50, 60 games we've now come off of it here. But it's going to be a race every year to try to get into the playoffs. And I think the goal is to try to be a playoff team every year and build a program and I don't know that you can all of a sudden run for it one year because it takes a long time to build. Q.
Are you trying to get Pete Forsberg? HOLLAND:
We're a team I don't think that he's got any interest in. I did have a conversation, I'm not sure, a couple of weeks ago with his agent Don Baizley, and I think there was a number of - my understanding there was a lot of teams expressed interest. And but in our own specific situation, Don Baizley told me that there were other teams that Peter had more interest in and we were a team at that time that he didn't have any interest in.
So I haven't heard back and I just know what I read in the newspaper. Basically my feeling is we're out. We're not a candidate for his services. He's got other teams that interest him more. Q.
Would it be Detroit and Colorado a factor? HOLLAND:
I don't know you have to ask that to Peter. But that would certainly be my - that would be my guess. DAVID KEON:
Thank you for your time today.