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Babcock dishes on Lidstrom, players to watch

Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 1:13 PM ET / News
By Mike G. Morreale
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Babcock dishes on Lidstrom, players to watch
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The secret's out on how the Detroit Red Wings game plan for a majority of their opponents.
"We talk to our best players all the time and we call (the plays) Nick-isms and Pav-isms and Z-isms because we steal what they do and turn it into a system play because they do it better than anyone else," Detroit coach Mike Babcock told

"We got six lines coming to training camp that all think they can play in the NHL. We'll get a good look at prospects Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Jan) Mursak, (Cory) Emmerton and many others. They're all in the running, so we'll see what happens." -- Wings coach Mike Babcock

And, to think, we all thought Babcock was a master tactician.
The veteran coach is referring, of course, to defenseman Nick Lidstrom, center Pavel Datsyuk and left wing Henrik 'Z' Zetterberg. The 41-year-old Lidstrom needs to win just one more Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman to tie the great Bobby Orr.
Babcock, who took some time to speak with during an intermission break at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, was asked where the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Lidstrom stood all time.
"He's the best of this generation for sure," Babcock said. "To me, he's ahead of anybody that I've seen. Now, Ray Bourque was a heck of a player and Bobby Orr, obviously. I don't know anyone before that, but Nick's the best.
"You don't win seven Norris Trophies without doing something right," he continued. "He's smoother, smarter and better than everybody else. He just doesn't make mistakes, is risk-free, skates unbelievable, sees the ice, is good offensively, good defensively and doesn't force anything. And he's a great leader."
Babcock also admitted that the 19-season veteran is not only a heck of a hockey player, but a great coach.


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"We brought him in the other day to ask what he thought of a certain D-zone coverage ... I talk to him about players all the time, about travel," Babcock said. "Nick told me something on the penalty kill just a couple of days ago after (Red Wings assistant coach) Bill Peters called him in. We were talking PK and he told us something and I told him, 'Nick, I've been here seven years with you and how come it took me seven years to learn this.' He just shrugged and said I never thought about it."
Lidstrom has produced 253 goals and 1,108 points in 1,494 career games. He has played in all 82 regular-season games the past two seasons.
Offensively, Babcock said Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary are his top four forwards. Who does he expect to pick up the pace following two consecutive second-round ousters in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
"I think Abby (Justin Abdelkader) and (Darren) Helm are going to have huge years," Babcock said. "I think they're probably sitting there wondering, 'Is our coach dumb? Why aren't I playing more?' I think they've earned the right to play more, so they will play more. Abby can't be on the fourth line anymore, and Helmer on the third line, unless someone else can take their job and I don't see that happening."
Abdelkader, who averaged 12:18 of ice time last season, led the team with 188 hits and a plus-15 rating. Helm, who averaged 13:18 of ice time, scored a team-high 2 shorthanded goals and finished the season with 32 points and a plus-9 rating.
Babcock is also relying on four other players to rebound in 2011-12.
"There is opportunity for more people, but the guys I feel we need to step up and have better years than last year are Franzen, (Valtteri) Filppula, (Jiri) Hudler and (Jonathan) Ericsson. We expect growth from Ericsson, and Helm and Abdelkader, as well. Those are the guys, to me, that are going to make us a better team. They're ready to make this a better team and they have to."
The Red Wings begin training camp on Sept. 17 at Center ICE Arena -- three days after the completion of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. Babcock is looking forward to the battles at each position.
"We got six lines coming to training camp that all think they can play in the NHL," he said. "We'll get a good look at prospects Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Jan) Mursak, (Cory) Emmerton and many others. They're all in the running, so we'll see what happens."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Author: Mike G. Morreale | Staff Writer




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
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