Mike Babcock Hopes To Return Red Wings To Finals Despite Missing Out On Big Free Agents

The Detroit Red Wings haven’t made it any secret that they were going after big-name free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, who eventually wound up with the Minnesota Wild. But now that the lockout is over and the season starts tomorrow, they can’t be dwelling on that. The Red Wings haven’t made the Stanley Cup Finals since and they’ll be an uphill battle to get back there in the shortened season. Mike Babcock joined WXYT in Detroit with Stoney and Bill to discuss Detroit Red Wings fans, if he’s worried about conditioning to start the lockout-delayed season, replacing Niklas Lidstrom, the pressure to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals and moving on after missing out on big-name free agents in the offseason.

On Red Wings’ season-ticket holders:

“We can’t thank our fans enough for sticking with us. What’s interesting to me is, they were giving me some numbers on season-ticket holders the other day, and it’s unbelievable how they stuck with us. So we really appreciate the great support. … It’s important we do a good job and have a good product and reach out to our fans.”

How concerned are you about conditioning given the late start and short training camp?:

“There’s no sense worrying about it. It is what it is. My big concern, if there is a concern, is I’m hoping we get real lucky with injuries. What I mean by that is, you’re going to get bumps and bruises, but if you get significant things — this year, a groin pull is going to be five games. When you’re playing 48 games in 98 nights, it’s jammed together and your time to recover isn’t very good. The guys that have played are going to be fine. The guys that have really trained hard and were professional about it and got after it are going to be fine. If you didn’t do that, though, it’s going to be obvious.”

How weird is it to be out there without Niklas Lidstrom and how hard will it be to replace him and another top defenseman?:

“I would say to you this: Obviously we knew both guys were leaving. … It’s not like we haven’t known this is coming. Rafalski, Stewart and Lidstrom were three of our big four. … We did what we could to react. We got in the free-agent market; we did everything we could. That didn’t work for us. So that means growth from within. … There’s opportunity. … There’s a piece out there for you to grab, and like any job, you’ve got to create work for yourself.”

Do you feel pressure to get this team back to the Finals?:

“I feel pressure all the time, but that’s pressure from me, to be honest with you. We haven’t been as good a team since ’09. There’s no question about it. I really felt like we had a great regular season in ’05-’06, after the lockout … but we didn’t have any playoff success. The following year, we had great playoff success. … Now, what are we going to do about that? We’re going to, every day, get after it and do the best we possibly can to improve our team.”

You talked about free agency and missing out on some guys like Suter and Parise. Looking back, could you guys have done anything differently?:

“No, I don’t think [so]. The bottom line is it was about going home. The guy’s wife was from [Minnesota]. … The reality is we really felt like we were in a good situation to make that happen. We think we did the right things. I don’t think it came down to money at all. I think it came down to you’ve got a young family and you want to live close to your mom. … Good luck to them and now we’ve got to move on and find other ways to get the job done.”

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