Ken Holland on 105.1, Discusses Free Agency, Coaching Search, and The Team's Plan Going Forward

If you missed it this afternoon, 105.1's had Ken Holland on to discuss the Red Wings. They went on for more than 17 minutes discussing the summer for the Red Wings and how they're going moving forward. You can listen to the entire thing over at 105.1's site, linked here.

Overall, I thought Dery made sure to cover all of the bases as far as the criticisms of the Red Wings' summer so far, letting Holland dictate how he wanted to present each answer. In the meta version of the blogs-covering-the-media angle, I thought Dery did what he could. Holland is very good at being diplomatic about these things and it likely would ahve taken an antagonistic turn for him to have delved into more specific criticisms. It was a good interview with plenty of good information.

Overall, I'd say that Holland sounded diplomatically defensive, which should count as a step in the right direction, because it at least shows that the head of the organization is aware that many people are looking for more answers about what's gone on this summer. I'll try to break this down as he covers each topic:

On the coaching staff

This was the very first topic covered and didn't really get much of an answer other than they're looking for another assistant to go along with the hiring of Tony Granato and that now they're looking for a new video review coach after the news about Keith McKittrick leaving the organization hit yesterday. Holland had nothing but nice things to say about the guys leaving and about their reasons for doing so.

On missing out on targeted players on July 1st

Holland starts out with quite a bit of info about this and touches on the concepts multiple times, but he goes a couple different routes in at least partially explaining why it happened, defending against speculation, and explaining what it means for the team going forward. First, he points out that the team was looking for a very specific set of abilities in a player and that's a fairly popular one. He explained that he could have gone and gotten a right-shooting defenseman, but they were specifically targeting one that he'd feel comfortable playing in the top four, on the power play and the penalty kill.

He doesn't really name any names, but Holland boils down the "miss" in free agency to a very small group of targeted players: 3-4, he said. Based on what we've learned, Niskanen and Robidas fit the bill of the top-four all-around right-shooters while Boyle probably makes enough of a difference at ES and PP that the PK issue wasn't a big enough deal to knock him out of contention.

On what those misses mean for the team

Holland says a few times that the team has seven NHL defensemen and also talks about the kids being very close to ready. He especially keys in on Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko as right-shooting players while also mentioning how well he thought Ouellet played in limited minutes last year and how much they're looking forward to seeing what Mattias Backman can do.

I wish here that Dery had asked him what kind of opportunity he feels the kids will get to steal jobs from Kindl and Lashoff, but that might have been more of a Babcock question anyway. It's not exactly as though Holland is going to put kids on the carpet in late July.

On free agency in general and the organizational philosophy

Holland speaks a few times about the concept of what they're trying to accomplish in Detroit and he keeps coming back to the idea that you have to spend the time to home-grow your talent. He does say that free agency is part of supplementing it, but he mainly talks about wanting to create the core type players out of the draft who want to be around forever. He essentially calls playing in free agency all the time something that a team can't afford to do while remaining competitive.

Honestly, I'd be inclined to throw a bit of snark Holland's way about how it's a good thing he doesn't put a ton of stock into free agency, but he does talk quite a bit about the idea of missing out on players for various reasons.

On missing out on players in free agency

When asked whether Babcock having only one year left in his deal is an important consideration in players not wanting to come to Detroit, Holland comes as close to scoffing as I've ever heard him do. He goes over a few different reasons that have been brought up (Babcock's one year left, Babcock being tough on players, the Joe Louis Arena being an old facility), and he essentially dismisses it with a concept that it's now a level playing field for free agents and there are so many factors that play into individual decisions that simplifying it down like that isn't very effective. He especially mentions that when we're talking 5-6 year deals on players that a one-year deal for the coach isn't much of a consideration.

I can buy that, but I don't think necessarily that scoffing indifference is the right reaction to a few things that could at least have a partial affect on free agents' decisions.

On Dan Cleary

Here, Dery asks Holland about the idea of how Holland made a promise to bring Cleary back and Holland spends quite a bit of time dancing around telling people that's what happened without telling people that's OFFICIALLY what happened. He starts answering the question with a mention of the CBA before quickly abandoning that and eventually working back around to saying "my word is my bond" when discussing that Cleary left multi-year deals (with multiple teams, according to Holland) on the table to rejoin the Wings.

Holland also makes sure to mention that the leadership of the team and other team executives were unanimous in their support for bringing Cleary back, but there's a bit of a double-consideration here. It seems very much that this unanimous support was something he mentioned to support last year's signing, but it still came across that Holland's word being his bond was the primary driving force behind Cleary's return this season.

Of course, Holland also mentions that Cleary has been a very good leader in the locker room for the Wings and a vocal guy for good both on and off the ice. He recognized that last year for Cleary sucked, but didn't miss a beat transitioning back to more of the rah-rah stuff on this summer's most-maligned signing.

Other tidbits

  • Perhaps he was just rambling a bit and perhaps he was showing his hand a bit, but Holland talked about liking the forward corps before mentioning that the team could use a 35-goal scorer. He immediately transitions to the idea that the team wasn't looking to allocate their cap space to that kind of a player though because they're fairly rare and none were really available.
  • Holland mentions the young forwards by name a few times, specifically Nyquist, Tatar, and Sheahan. He does mention Glendening as one of the young developing kids, but curiously omits Joakim Andersson's name from that list. In fact, Andersson might have been the only forward that never gets mentioned once throughout the entire interview (Helm, Franzen, Datsyuk, Weiss, and Zetterberg all get mentioned as needing to be healthy).
  • Speaking of health, Holland does mention that he believes a healthy Wings team has a very good chance of competing in the East before what sounded very much to me like stumbling up against saying the same thing about Western teams. Maybe I'm just reading too much into that though./

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I highly recommend giving the entire thing a listen. Like I said, I got the feeling that Holland was being diplomatically defensive. It doesn't make me feel too differently about this summer, but I'm glad that there's an assumption here that the organization is at least aware of the criticisms being levied.