Jason Brough

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 11: Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings leans on the bench during a timeout during the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 11, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Devils defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Holland: Larkin has ‘face of the franchise’ potential

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It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings are in a major transition phase. Nicklas Lidstrom retired in 2012. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are 37 and 35, respectively. Lidstrom has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The other two will be there eventually.

And so, for the last few years, the big question in Detroit has been, who will replace those guys? Or, to use Mike Babcock’s words, who will be the Wings’ next “big-time” player?

Today on TSN 1040 radio, Detroit GM Ken Holland was asked if the answer was forward Dylan Larkin.

“It’s hard to be the face of a franchise,” said Holland. “Dylan Larkin, for a lot of reasons — he’s 19 years of age; he’s had a real impact on our team; he’s homegrown; he’s from Waterford, Michigan; he played minor hockey in Detroit — probably has a chance to be the face of the franchise.”

Holland then went on to list all the other good, young players in the organization, like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser, and Petr Mrazek.

“But certainly Dylan Larkin, with what he’s accomplished at the age he’s accomplished it,” said Holland, “has the most potential of the players on our team to become the face of the franchise, or one of the faces of the franchise.”

Anyway, the entire interview is worth a listen. Holland’s interviews usually are.

For what it’s worth, I still wonder about the future of the Red Wings’ blue line, what with Niklas Kronwall turning 35 next month. Yes, DeKeyser is a good young player. But again, there’s a difference between “good” and “big-time.”

Hence, all the excitement about Larkin.

Senators owner: We’ll only play in an arena we control

OTTAWA - OCTOBER 8:   Ottawa Senators team owner Eugene Melnyk attends an event before the home opener against the New York Islanders at Scotiabank Place on October 8, 2009 in Ottawa, Canada.  The Ottawa Senators defeated the New York Islanders 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
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Remember yesterday when we wrote about the plan to redevelop a part of Ottawa called LeBreton Flats, and how only two proposals were submitted and that each proposal included an NHL arena?

And remember how one of the proposals was being spearheaded by the Ottawa Senators, and the other wasn’t?

Can you guess which proposal the Sens are supporting?

This is not a trick question.

“We wouldn’t consider going into a building that we don’t control completely,” Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told reporters today. “Forget about the financial part. You’ve got to control things.”

The Sens already control their current arena, Canadian Tire Centre, in suburban Kanata. (They control it because they own it.)

Melnyk said he doesn’t even know the group behind the competing proposal.

“I mean, come on,” he said. “How in God’s name do they want to build an arena? I don’t get it. Because there’s no NHL team available. This team is mine for life. The team’s not for sale. Never will be, in my lifetime for sure.”

So, basically, unless we’re missing something here, of the two proposals submitted, only one has any chance of going anywhere — the Senators’.

Babcock sees progress towards goal of creating a ‘safe environment’ for Leafs

Mike Babcock
AP
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When Mike Babcock was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the goals he set was to “create a safe environment” for his players.

Translation: he didn’t want his players to feel trapped in the hockey-mad market that is Toronto.

He didn’t want them fighting with the media anymore.

He didn’t want them feuding with the fans anymore.

“Right now, it’s a hard place,” he said.

Fast forward to the present and Babcock believes he’s made progress in that area.

“I think our players, you can tell it by talking to them right now, they feel pretty good,” he told the team’s website in a one-on-one interview. “And when you feel safe, that doesn’t mean it’s friendly and cuddly. I never said that at all. It’s ‘do your job, do it well, we’re gonna look after you.'”

Certainly, “friendly and cuddly” is not how Babcock has treated struggling goalie Jonathan Bernier.

“The way I look at it is this: You can’t give up four in the National Hockey League and win,” Babcock said late last month, before Bernier was dispatched to the minors on a conditioning stint.

People noticed:

But the truth can be brutal sometimes. Bernier was not playing well. He still hasn’t won a game.

The challenge for Babcock is that in a city like Toronto — where a former coach once said his goalie was “just OK” and all hell broke loose — it can be tough to balance the goal of creating a “safe environment” with the goal of being “a team that comes to the media everyday, after a win, after a loss, after practice, and owns their own stuff,” which was another thing the new coach said in the offseason.

And that’s why Babcock got the big bucks. The Leafs believed he was the man to strike the right balance.

Jobs that pay $50 million typically aren’t easy.

Related: Babcock wants to ‘put Canada’s team back on the map’

Hot start has teams ‘really paying attention’ to Stars

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 17: Head coach Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars directs the players during a break in third period action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on October 17, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. The Stars defeated the Panthers 4-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars are experiencing their season’s first real dose of adversity.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that, according to coach Lindy Ruff, the adversity has only arisen because the Stars are off to such a hot start.

“We’re in a place that a lot of guys haven’t been before, and we’ve got to handle it better,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News after last night’s 3-1 loss to Calgary. “We are at the top of the league, we’ve got teams that are really paying attention to what our strengths are, and I am trying to find an extra two or three percent here or there to help them on their way.”

Last night’s loss came after Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Columbus — a good result, yes, but a performance that left Ruff fuming.

“I’m pretty frustrated with the way we played,” Ruff told the newspaper. “We had a total lack of mental focus. I know we won 5-1, but we’ll lose games if we play like that.”

And as noted by broadcaster Mike Kelly, the Stars have a challenging schedule ahead of them:

As good a reason as any for Ruff to get that “extra two or three percent” out of his troops.

The Stars host the Canadiens on Saturday.

Related: Are the Stars contenders or pretenders?

Winter Classic forecast looking good…for now

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As of right now, the 14-day forecast is predicting ideal conditions for the 2016 Winter Classic in Foxborough.

Of course, Boston-area weather being notoriously unpredictable, that forecast could easily change. On New Year’s Day, when the Bruins and Canadiens are scheduled to play outdoors at Gillette Stadium, who knows what kind of conditions will exist?

“One of the intriguing aspects of the outdoor games is that you can’t script what’s going to happen,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told CSN New England. “Precipitation is more of an issue than temperature because as you know we played an outdoor game in Los Angeles. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather in all of the outdoor games that we’ve done so far. Hopefully we’ll have a nice day.”

From The Weather Network:

Weather

Remember that the outdoor rink needs a few days to be built, and that there’s an alumni game on Dec. 31.