Babcock and Holland On The Radio

Richard Wolowicz

With their 23rd straight playoff appearance secured, the Wings have been getting more attention recently. Yesterday Mike Babcock was a guest on Hockey Central at Noon, and Ken Holland was a guest on the Marek vs Wyshynski podcast. Both guys had some interesting things to say but for different reasons.

Ken Holland on the Marek vs Wyshynski Podcast (18:50-36:15)

Holland talked about the kids (of course), injuries, the Legwand trade, the Wings overall performance this season, Anthony Mantha (Ken expects him to be on the Wings in a year and a half if not sooner), Gustav Nyquist, what makes Mike Babcock such a coach, and the shoot out.

Marek asked Holland about how much advanced stats figure into his valuation and evaluation of a player. Jeff then tweeted out a partial quote that garnered a bit of attention and even some ridicule.

"The analytics we use are gut analytics" - Wings GM Ken Holland on moments ago

On the surface it sounds like Kenny was pulling a "get off my lawn" and poo poo'ing advanced stats and analytics. The entirety of what Kenny said however paints a little different picture.

[We use them] a little bit, but we're just slowly getting there and dipping our toe in the water. The analytics that we use are guy analytics and experience. Certainly I think there's a place for numbers in our game. I still think it's different in baseball with pitcher vs batter.... What you do here as a player on the ice, with four other player with you and you go from team to team against five other players, so... We think analytics can weigh into your decision [along with] what your pro scouts see, what you see and feel, and you go through the whole analysis and ultimately you're trying to be right 70% of the time. It's impossible to be right 100% of the time because we're dealing with people. So analytics play a little part, we do have it, we do look at it, but I wouldn't say it's got a big big factor in our decision making yet; but we're still exploring and talking about it internally to figure out how it can best help us.

The Wings aren't relying heavily on advanced stats or metrics such as corsi or fenwick, but everyone knows that the Red Wings are a puck possession team so wouldn't it makes sense that they use such metrics in evaluating their current players as well as future ones? Probably. I had two initial trains of thought here. The first being..

  • The Wings as an organization have done a very good job of getting and retaining the best players for our team. Sometimes it's not in the team's best interest to get the "best" players, but rather the right players; the players who are very good, but also fit well in the system and with the team. The Wings have been doing this for a million years (pardon my slight exaggeration) without using advanced metrics so they obviously have a good system of evaluation in place.
  • Ken Holland is a sly mother Frker. He's not going to come right out and explain the team's system for player evaluation, and from a business standpoint that makes sense. Holland is purposely vague on a lot of questions he gets and that's part of his job. So we still don't really know exactly how or how much the Wings look at advanced stats or metrics. We just think we do.

Mike Babcock on Hockey Central At Noon (16:04-24:50)

Babs talked a lot about the Nyquist, Tatar, Jurco, and Sheahan, as well as making the playoffs, the season so far, injures (of course), how much he loves coaching this team, Jonas Gustavsson, and reassures us that with the emergence of the young guns, there have been jobs takes that aren't going to be given back (woo!).

Is Babcock relieved to get into the playoffs? He doesn't really think about it in those terms...

Do you think Tomas Jurco, Tatar, Nyquist and these kids [think about the 23 year streak]? They're just playing. They just want to play and I want to coach them...We're excited to be in the playoffs. It's been a grind since 10 games in, and we've been hurt the whole year and these kids- we've found really good players that have replaced our players, because our players that were here can't take their jobs back. It's not like these guys are going anywhere. They're NHL'ers from now on and they're going to have to battle to keep their jobs, but they're good players.- Mike Babcock

Hockey Central- Did you let the kids go, or did they fit into your system and get comfortable?

You go to the minors here, you learn how to play, then when you get good enough you get to come here so you know how to play. Jeff Blashill was my assistant coach here for a year. He's a heck of a coach and he knows what we want... Let them go.. I think what that means is if a guy is an offensive guy you just let him play and you don't worry about whether he can check his hat. That doesn't happen on any team I coach. That's a fantasy world. Most centers come here and play on the wing until they learn how to play, then we move him into the middle. A guy like Riley Sheahan, because he played at Notre Dame for so long with a real good defensive coach, you can play him against the best people because he knows how to play without the puck, so he gets way more offensive touches because he knows how to play defense.

What does Babcock think about Nyquist?

He's got a hockey IQ off the charts. he's brilliant with the puck, he creates space, he's learned how to really shoot the puck, and he's one of these kids that's going to get better every day because he works that hard at it and he loves it that much. The last couple games he hasn't been quite as good, but he carried us for a month. he carried us literally on his back for a month to allow us to be in a [playoff] spot. I'm looking at last night (Wendesday against the Penguins) and with 1:44 with an O zone faceoff, I pulled Datsyuk, Abdelkader, and Franzen off the ice and I put out Sheahan, Jurco, (because I was leaving Nyquist to go 6 on 5) and Tatar, and most people would say you're crazy. Well, I had the next group come out and they end up scoring. The way I look at it is, they're good players so we play them. If they weren't good we wouldn't play them. Nyquist is a real good player.

Babs also talked about How important Gustavsson has been to us making the playoffs and a few other things as well. I'm glad he praised Blashill, because he's a big reason why guys like Sheahan and Jurco, and yes Nyquist and Tatar as well, are as good as they are. I love, love, LOVE that Babs specifically said that the kids have taken people's jobs and those former job holders can't get them back. I think that because the Wings as an organization treat their players with so much respect, as human beings, that is maybe sometimes makes those kinds of decisions more difficult. But at the end of the day you have to put the very best players on the ice that you possibly can. Last year started the turning point in this youth movement, but we've seen it absolutely flourish this season. Rebuild? Tank for higher draft picks? Please... The Wings are showing yet again that they're the best at re-tooling on the fly and keeping the team competitive and in the playoffs while doing it. 29 other teams can eat their hearts out.

There's more good stuff you can listen to via both of the full links above. Enjoy.

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