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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 - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80