By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings acquired right wing Erik Cole and defenseman Marek Zidlicky before Monday’s trade deadline, and head coach Mike Babcock is happy to have both of them. After Tuesday’s practice, Babcock described both players and how he plans to use them.
“I think Cole’s a right winger who plays with pace, can take the puck to the net and is having a good year this year,” Babcock said. “Looks to me to have some size and some ability to be heavy on it. We’re going to watch him play and get to know him better, but he’s going to start on a line with [Justin] Abdelkader and [Henrik] Zetterberg, if Zetterberg clears tomorrow, and we’ll just see how he does. He’s going to play on the power play and play a regular shift.
“Zidlicky’s going to play on the power play and play a regular shift, starting with [Brendan] Smith, and he’s going to run our power play with [Pavel] Datsyuk, and we’ll see kind of where it goes from there,” Babcock continued. “Zidlicky, he’s a competitor, he can shoot the puck, he can make plays, he’s got good offensive skill. I think he’ll be a real addition. He made some plays in practice today that make you smile, which is positive.”
The way Babcock sees it, the trades – in which the Red Wings gave up several picks and a pair of lower-level prospects – are an endorsement of what the Red Wings have done so far this season.
“Why would you burn assets if you don’t think your group has opportunity?” Babcock said. “That makes no sense. What I like is since I’ve been here they’ve rewarded the players when we deserved it. And when we didn’t, they didn’t. You can’t blame them for that.
“I like this group,” Babcock added. “It’s the best group I’ve had since ’09. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve got the most points, but I think it’s the best group, and we’re getting better, and we seem to enjoy being around each other and working hard and competing hard, and so there’s lots of teams in the East that feel they have an opportunity. We’re all going to find out.”
For any player, it is a challenge to acclimate to a new locker room and a new system with only a month and a half remaining in a season, but both Cole and Zidlicky are veterans, which helps the situation. When Babcock sat down with them Tuesday, he told them to simply continue to play how they have been playing.
“I said, ‘Picture who you are in your mind’s eye, and the kind of player you are, and then just do that. Period. That’s why we acquired you,'” Babcock said. “And then I said, ‘Here’s our structure. Now you’ve got to find a way to do the two together … When we get on the ice, I don’t want you thinking. I want you playing.’
“We didn’t get them here to change them,” Babcock continued. “We got them here so they can do what they do, and we’ll figure out a way to make it work for them. So that’s going to be a work in progress, but I’m excited about the guys. As long as they’re competitive, everything’s going to work out fine.”
Like general manager Ken Holland, Babcock was grateful the trades did not involve any players currently in Detroit or any of the most promising prospects.
“Our team’s done a real nice job, and if you do a good job around here, Kenny’s shown over the years that he tries to help you,” Babcock said. “From an organizational standpoint and long-term we were able to do that without giving up a whole bunch, and so therefore we serve ourselves for now and for the future, which is real important with the group we have coming.
“We’re excited to add both guys, think they both can be prominent players for us,” Babcock added. “It’s going to take them some time to adjust, but we think it’ll be a factor.”