DETROIT – Let the youth movement begin in Hockeytown.
Ken Holland worked the phones this week seeking to acquire a top four defenseman or a top six forward at the NHL’s trade deadline. But the Red Wings’ general manager wasn’t willing to make a deal that would jeopardize the future health of the team.
“There were a couple of players we had some interest in. We didn’t get it done,” Holland said. “From a depth standpoint, we have young kids that have played. We’re going to go with the kids.”
It wasn’t that Holland was reluctant to part way with a prospect or two. But, for whatever reason, a deal wasn’t consummated. And he wasn’t particularly keen on losing a first-round pick in this summer’s draft, which is loaded with talent.
“We haven’t had a top 10 pick since 1993,” Holland said. “We traded eight or nine first-round picks from 1995 to 2003. … They were picked by other teams and they’re playing in the NHL. I think since ’05, for the most part, we’ve tried to be conservative and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve got some young players on the roster and some others coming through the system.”
The kids that the Red Wings will go with, Holland said, are top-round draft picks like forwards Riley Sheahan and Landon Ferraro, who have developed nicely during their time with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Holland also pointed toward the immediate dividends paid through players like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner, who have all contributed to the Wings this season.
Same is true for the defense with the recent signing of former Western Michigan standout Danny DeKeyser and the evolution of Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff.
“We think the young kids could be real good depth players for us,” Holland said.
Holland spoke to the Detroit media at Joe Louis Arena shortly after Wednesday’s trade deadline passed. Here is the rest of his interview:
Are you surprised to still be in the playoff hunt despite the number of injuries this season? “I’m not like all the media is. I think our players are better than what people give them credit for. I think that our goaltending has been real good. We had a bad outing against Chicago, but up until then we were eighth in the league in goals against. I think now we’re 10th or 11th. Anytime you’re in the top third of the league when we’ve got a lot of kids on defense and a lot of injuries up front. But we’ve got some good stories up front.
“Hopefully we get some of our injured players back. In the meantime, there’s been real opportunity for our kids and I think they’ve done a good job.
“Tomas Tatar was only really sent down because we wanted to give Gustav Nyquist a chance. He had seven points in 18 games. You start putting that over 80 games and you get 30-35 points. The best rookies don’t do a whole lot more than 30-35 points. Gustav Nyquist has led the American League in scoring. We could go out and acquire some veterans, but these kids need to play. They are the elite players in the American Hockey League.”
Are you worried about what other teams did? “Not at all. You have to look over the last 10 years at what teams have got. The age of their best players. The position they are (in) for the next five or six years. We’re trying to compete, we’re trying to rebuild, reload, whatever you want to talk about it. You look at the moment in time. I can’t look at the moment in time. I have to look at what we’ve got and where I think we can go over the next few years. The age of the rosters? Who’s going to be here for a while? And at the end of the day, we think, we hope. … We played the other day and there wasn’t (Henrik) Zetterberg, there wasn’t (Mikael) Samuelsson, there wasn’t (Todd) Bertuzzi, there wasn’t (Darren) Helm, there wasn’t (Kyle) Quincey. If we can get those five guys in the lineup in two weeks, I couldn’t do any better moves than getting those five guys back in the lineup. And if they don’t come back, it probably doesn’t matter what moves you make. You need your players. We think they’re going to come back. I think that, Mike Babcock thinks that. We’re happy with Jakub Kindl, we’re happy with Brian Lashoff, we’re happy with Brendan Smith. We’re happy with the way the kids have played. We don’t want to trade them away.”
Is it tougher to find a fit with all of the parity in the league? “I don’t know about that. There were 8-9 trades today. There was 15-17 over the last few days. There were four or five big ones, but you have to really analyze them. When you really analyze those trades and you put it to Detroit, we were making those trades six or seven years ago. Other teams weren’t making those trades. You’ve got to look at your moment in time and find out if the trade fits, do you have the assets, is it worth it? We’re trying to compete. We’re on the bubble. Would I have liked to do a deal? Yeah, I would have liked to do a deal. We made some offers, but again we weren’t looking for anything for depth. We don’t need depth defensemen. I traded Kent Huskins away. We don’t need any depth forwards. We would have liked to have put an extra top six forward and an extra top four defenseman. When you look at what transpired, you can figure out who we would have had some interest in, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get it done for a whole host of reasons.”
Can you talk about the state of the Western Conference and how two teams really have separated themselves? “The regular-season means nothing to me. If the regular-season meant anything, we would have beaten Edmonton in 2006. I think we were 30-35 points ahead of Edmonton in 2006 with 126 points. We were the first seed, Edmonton was the eighth seed, they got a hot goalie and they knocked us out. I’ve watched both ends of the spectrum. I think the regular-season, it’s meaningful in the sense that you need to be in the top eight. But I think when the playoffs start on the first of May, I think you can throw all the statistics out in the garbage. That’s what history says since 2005. I look at it today, we’re three points out of opening at home and we’re four points out of not being part of the tournament. We’re right in the middle. We’ve got 12 games to go, seven on the road. We’ve got to win some hockey games.”
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