It's like an ocean liner, Ken Holland said.
"When you want to change course, you don't just whip them into a 360-degree turn," he said. "You slowly, slowly change course one decision at a time."
Even though the Red Wings are joining the Eastern Conference this year, they won't be changing much -- not their plan, or their play -- Holland said.
The Wings general manager spoke on Tuesday at the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association's Red Wings luncheon at Hockeytown Cafe, and he spoke on a number of issues, first and foremost being the team's conference change.
"We're sticking to what we believe in," Holland said. "We're going East, we've got to roll four lines -- as long as you got players on your team that are physical, they don't back off and they don't change the way they play."
The Wings open their Eastern Conference tenure Wednesday night against Buffalo at Joe Louis Arena.
Traditionally, the East has housed rough-riding teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, teams not afraid to drop the gloves. Traditionally, the Wings haven't carried those bruising bullies, instead focusing on putting the puck in the net.
"Nobody can change the way Henrik Zetterberg plays," Holland said. "Nobody can change the way Pavel Datsyuk plays. That, to me, is toughness. Toughness is going into the hard areas time after time and you continue to go back and continue to win the battles. I don't care how big, how tough, how hard those other teams are. If another team tries to deter you and ultimately you start to shy away, you're not tough enough. We play hard and we play tough to protect the puck."
The signings of centerman Stephen Weiss and veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson were made in part to strengthen the team's secondary scoring.
"We've always liked four lines that can score and I think in a league where it's hard to score, to eliminate your fourth lines and put two tough guys that are one-dimensional guys and they can fight, that's great, but it's too hard to get goals," Holland said.
Joined on stage by assistant general manager Ryan Martin and former Wing turned front-office member Kris Draper, Holland shed light on the Wings' developmental system.
"The plan is one of patience," he said. "One that older players mentor other players and we've got to believe in the culture, in the history of the city, the ownership, those are the things we got to believe in."
Part of that plan is graduating bigger, younger defensemen to the big league. Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff, prospects Riley Sheahan and Ryan Sproul, and last year's first round-draft pick Anthony Mantha all stand 6-feet plus.
"We're working on getting bigger and we've talked about getting bigger," he said. "These guys are ocean liners."
NOTEBOOK: Holland said the team and Damien Brunner had mutual interest in staying together, and that he was offered a two-year deal but after the Weiss and Alfredsson signings, "the money was gone." He also said that forward Daniel Cleary "drastically" reduced his salary demands to stay in Detroit ... About the NHL's new hybrid icing rule, Holland said, "We're trying to eliminate races into the boards.
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