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Ex-Red Wings GM Ken Holland weighs in on Mike Babcock controversies


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Michael Whitaker
Always at the front lines of Detroit Sports.

Ever since former Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was dismissed by the Toronto Maple Leafs last month, there have been stories coming out from his former players of his conduct with their respective teams.

And that conduct has raised more than a few eyebrows.

From a local perspective, former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen accused Babcock of causing him to suffer a nervous breakdown, a story that was supported by another former Red Wing in Chris Chelios.

Holland, now the GM of the Edmonton Oilers, weighed in on the controversy and wanted to make a few things clear.

“I’ve been a general manager for 22 years,” he told reporters during his media availability on Wednesday. “I’ve had [head coaches] Scotty Bowman, Dave Lewis, Mike Babcock, Jeff Blashill and now [Dave Tippett]. At the end of the year, I always do exit interviews. A player not liking the coach, not liking their role, not liking who they’re playing with – I hear that all the time.

“You talk about Johan Franzen, I can’t speak for Johan. And when he came out, he was very clear and said Mike Babcock was a tremendous coach. He doesn’t like him as a person.
“When you have a 23-man roster and when I was in Detroit with Mike Babcock, there were some players in that locker room that didn’t like the coach, some players in that locker room who didn’t have any feelings either way, and there were some players in the locker room who thought he was the best coach that they ever played for…some people are going to like you, some people aren’t.”

Holland also weighed in on the controversy that Chelios described.

“I spoke to Cheli,” Holland explained, per TSN. “I hold Cheli in the highest regard…I just said to Cheli that the timeline he laid out – the perception was there was a situation between Babcock and Franzen on the bench and the next day I came down and said something to the team – both are true, but they’re about five to six years apart. When I did address the team one point in time – I think Cheli retired in ’09 – Cheli said he was sitting in the locker room, so it’s gotta be ’06, ’07 – and the Franzen-Babcock was the Nashville series in 2012.

“I just wanted to make sure everybody understood the timeline was five or six years apart.”

NHL Insider Elliott Friedman also supported Holland’s timeline.

Chris Chelios’s Spittin’ Chiclets interview about Babcock had some confusing timelines, because when the Johan Franzen incident occurred (as Nashville eliminated Detroit in Game 5 of the 2012 first round), Chelios was no longer on the Red Wings,” Friedman said. “He referenced a meeting Ken Holland had with the players, where the GM defended his coach. I think this has to do with Marty McSorley. McSorley worked on San Jose Sharks broadcasts, and once said none of the Red Wings liked playing for Babcock. Word got back to Detroit reporters, who asked Holland about it. (The current Edmonton GM declined to discuss this, but did speak to the Detroit Free Press ’s Helene St. James about the Franzen incident.)”

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