Holland says he was unaware of Babcock verbal abuse of Franzen
Former Detroit GM Ken Holland, left, talking about his years with Mike Babcock, right, as his coach: “Some people are going to like you, some people aren’t."
Former Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he was never told of any inappropriate behavior by Mike Babcock toward Johan Franzen when they were in Detroit.
Holland responded to the charges by Franzen, to Swedish newspaper Expressen, and Chris Chelios, on the “Spittin Chiclets” podcast, that Babcock verbally assaulted Franzen so badly on the bench during a playoff game in 2012 that he had a “nervous breakdown” that continued after the game.
Holland is now GM of the Edmonton Oilers after Steve Yzerman became Detroit’s GM this past April.
"I've been a general manager for 22 years," he told reporters during his media availability on Wednesday in Edmonton. "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.”
Holland took over as Red Wings general manager in 1997.
“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,” Holland said. “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."
Franzen said he continued to have problems caused by his interactions with Babcock after h retired in 2016, including a situation during a 2012 first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators in Nashville.
"I get the shivers when I think about it, that incident against Nashville in the playoffs," Franzen told the newspaper. "It was coarse, nasty and shocking.
"But it was just the tip of the iceberg. It was verbal attacks. He said horrible things."
Franzen, who spent his entire NHL career with the Red Wings, added that the incident forced him to seek professional help.
Babcock – who coached Detroit for 10 seasons (2005-06 to 2014-15) and is the Red Wings’ all-time leader in coaching wins – has not responded to requests for comments, according to Canadian network TSN.
Holland said he has not spoken to Franzen but did talk to Chelios. Holland said that Chelios’ description of what happened with Franzen in Nashville was off in its time frame.
"I spoke to Cheli," Holland said. "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 (episode) was the Nashville series in 2012.
"I just wanted to make sure everybody understood the timeline was five or six years apart."
Chelios also said that the leadership group of captain Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg – who was named captain after Lidstrom retired in 2012 – and Pavel Datsyuk talked about Babcock’s treatment of players among themselves and went to Holland to try and get Babcock fired.
"I'm aware of everything – that’s my job as the general manager,” Holland said. “I'm around the team on an everyday basis, either first-hand or second-hand, for the most part.
“When the coach talks to the team, I’m not in there. I want the players to know that the coach is the boss. There's one-on-one meetings and some team meetings. I'm not privy to every word that comes out, but certainly I’m aware of the message. I try to be available to our players through the years ... to talk to the players after the season in exit meetings and get to know what's going on.
“Am I aware that there was some unhappiness? Yeah. But there's always going to be some unhappiness. I don't care what your style is. But some stuff, I'm not aware of."