TRAVERSE CITY — The hope is the experience many Detroit Red Wings prospects gained in last year's Calder Cup-winning season by the Grand Rapids Griffins will pay off big-time at the NHL level.
"It's incredible," general manager Ken Holland said. "Think about all the adversity they faced, going to Game 5 with Houston and a Game 6 on the road in Toronto and losing a Game 6 against Oklahoma City when you're up and then bouncing back. Those are experiences that are important in the development of a player. I think Luke Glendening, (Tomas) Jurco, (Gustav) Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Danny) DeKeyser, (Petr) Mrazek — you can go on and on — it speeds up the process and hopefully one day when we're in some tough series in Detroit and we're facing adversity, they can fall back on those experiences to get them through."
For director of player development Jiri Fisher, the impressive thing about Grand Rapids' run is they did it without relying too heavily on first-round picks, especially on defense.
"None of them was a first-round pick," Fisher said. "You've got Xavier and Ryan who were second-rounders. It's just guys who find a way. That's what pro hockey is, finding a way. Every player needs to reinvent themselves every three to five years. Hockey changes. Guys who survive — the Steve Yzermans, the Nick Lidstroms — everybody has to reinvent themselves."
NHL Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — who helps coach up the Griffins' defensemen — says the Wings have done a good job of getting blueline players with the right physical tools and then developing their skills.
"We've got some size on the back end," Chelios said. "Sproul, he's got the big shot. He's obviously going to be part of Grand Rapids next year. We went from being not so big on the back end to having some really good size there."