Holland wasn't aware of Babcock treating players inappropriately in Detroit
Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland said he wasn’t made aware of any inappropriate behaviour involving head coach Mike Babcock and forward Johan Franzen during their time together with the Detroit Red Wings.
"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."
In an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen published Monday, Franzen said he suffered greatly from his interactions with Babcock in Detroit – especially an incident during a 2012 first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators.
"I get the shivers when I think about it, that incident against Nashville in the playoffs," Franzen told the newspaper in translated quotes. "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 from 2005 to 2016, added that the incident forced him to seek professional help.
Babcock did not respond to a request for comment from TSN.
Holland was general manager of the Red Wings from 1997 through last April. He hired Babcock as head coach in 2005 and worked with him for 10 seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008.
"I'm aware of everything – that’s my job as the general manager," Holland told reporters Wednesday. "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."
Holland added that he has not spoken to Franzen but did talk to former Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, who alleged on a Spittin' Chiclets podcast this week that he witnessed Babcock "verbally assault" Franzen to the point where the player had a "nervous breakdown" on the bench and in one of the rooms following the game.
"I spoke to Cheli," Holland continued. "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."
While Holland was complementary of Babcock's work in Detroit, he also emphasized the need for healthy relationships between all levels and roles in hockey.
"I think the most important thing is respect," he said. "We’re all trying to find it - managers and coaches and players - to make sure respect is the most important thing in our game."