Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland joined the NHL Live! crew on Friday afternoon to talk about the Red Wings' recent series loss to the San Jose Sharks, react to Brian Rafalski's retirement, and talk about the Red Wings going forward. The following may not be complete because I cannot find the archive of today's episode (I didn't realize until it was too late that I could have recorded it), and I am working from memory.
Join me after the jump, and I'll attempt to channel my inner Ken Holland.The conversation started about the series loss against the San Jose Sharks. Obviously Holland was disappointed with the result but was also proud of the way the team responded in the face of the deficit and, like all Red Wings fans, was hoping for the finish in Game 7 that was not meant to be. He mentioned the disappointment of creating a team thought to be a Stanley Cup contender but bowing out after winning only one playoff round. EJ Hradek then brought up the injury factor brought on by Zetterberg's need to get in game shape after missing the entire Phoenix series and Franzen's inability to play at 100% because of an ankle ailment suffered in the Phoenix series. Hradek mentioned that if Zetterberg played in Games 1 and 2 the way he did after he got his legs under him in Games 3 and 4, the Red Wings would have been in a different "circumstance" [I think that's the word he used]. We fans obviously know the Mule factor missing because of the ankle injury that had us begging for Mike Modano or anyone who could skate on two good legs to take Franzen's spot in the lineup, no matter how dangerous an offensive force Franzen still might have been on one leg.
Talk turned to the retirement announcement from Brian Rafalski, Holland's reaction to it, and the plan for the Red Wings heading into the summer and into next season. Holland called it a "big loss" despite the additional $6 million in cap space afforded the Red Wings because of the difficulty in replacing the offensive production of a Rafalski-type player. (I don't think he mentioned it, but I was also thinking about the fact that Rafalski was a right hand shot.) Holland felt that it was the best decision for both parties because of the fact that, as Rafalski mentioned in his press conference, hockey had fallen down the priority chart for Rafalski. The Red Wings could not afford to have such an important player like Rafalski having his mind elsewhere while the team would chase its 12th Stanley Cup. As for the team that Rafalski left, Holland mentioned that the opening in the lineup, while it did mean he would make a signing or two on the blue line, also created a great opportunity for Niklas Kronwall. Holland talked about how having Lidstrom and Rafalski on the blue line meant that Kronwall had to be content with being, at highest, third on the Red Wings' defensive depth chart. Holland spoke about the growth of Kronwall this past season and how he started playing more important minutes and just more minutes in general, especially in the playoffs and with games on the line. Hradek brought up the Lidstrom question, but everyone knew that that discussion would go nowhere because Lidstrom has yet to make a decision on playing next season. Despite the lack of a definitive answer, the discussion seemed to proceed assuming Lidstrom would come back, and the talk about Kronwall's continued growth coupled with the opening created by Rafalski's departure meant a grand opportunity for Kronwall to step up as the number one defenseman in the very near future.
In the same train of thought, Holland then talked about the openings further down the depth chart. Jonathan Ericsson was definitely going to get an offer, and Brendan Smith would get a long look in training camp. Holland mentioned toward the end of this interview that the Red Wings had "$10 million" in cap space, but I wonder from where he pulled that number. The Red Wings would definitely sign a defenseman, maybe two, and no mention was made of resigning Ruslan Salei. Though Holland spoke of entering the free agent market for depth, no talk was made of the other Red Wings free agents--no Miller, Eaves, Osgood, Modano, or Draper.
I don't remember where this next part came in the interview, so I'll put it here because it makes the most sense and because it's probably where it actually was. The question was "Would you put forth an offer sheet to a restricted free agent?" The short answer was no. (Sorry, Shea-Weber-to-Detroit fans.) The long answer was that there's such a disincentive to making offer sheets: In order to even have hope of prying players away from other teams, general managers would have to severely overpay to even have a chance of getting the player. With no mention of the draft pick compensation, Holland delved into a discussion of cost-effectiveness from the roster of players. With the cap as it is, teams would be wise to avoid overpaying for players and wasting money and valuable cap space; instead, teams should be trying to get "$6 million production out of a $5 million dollar player, or $1.2 million out of an $800,000 player."
That's the end of my memory in terms of the interview. There was no talk of the goaltending situation with Osgood and MacDonald or a free agent goaltender possibly vying for the back up job, and no talk was made about the Red Wings' forward prospects. One point Hradek brought up after Holland left was that the rest of the league should be worried about the prospect of Detroit having money to spend and a willingness to enter the free agent market because the allure of playing in Detroit--"alongside Zetterberg and Datsyuk"--might prove to be a thorn in other teams' sides when it comes to trying to re-sign their own unrestricted free agents. Let's all hope this offseason translates into Cup-clinching signings and decisions for the 2011-2012 season.