DETROIT — Every new NHL season provides teams with a fresh start and an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
And for the Detroit Red Wings, who haven’t played a competitive game in 272 days, the upcoming season provides a much-needed clean slate as the club attempts to end its four-year streak of missing the playoffs.
That’s Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill’s mentality as the Wings prepare for a season that they hope will start as soon as possible.
“Every year is a new year. Certainly this year more than ever, it’s a totally new year,” Blashill said to Art Regner last Thursday during The Word on Woodward. “We’ve never had this much time between seasons, so it’s a fresh start, so to speak. Let’s go out and let’s try to prove on a daily basis that we can get better. That’s, to me, the focus, just getting better on a daily basis.”
Blashill said he was extremely pleased with the work that executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman Jersey did this offseason to improve the roster. With offseason additions like forwards Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov Jersey, defensemen Marc Staal, Troy Stecher Jersey and Jon Merrill Jersey and goaltender Thomas Greiss Jersey, Blashill said he’s excited for some renewed energy on and off the ice in Detroit.
During his appearance on the Red & White Authority, Horcoff weighed in on several of the Red Wings’ young players and prospects. He also confirmed that Filip Hronek Jersey, Gustav Lindstrom Jersey, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina Jersey will travel back to the United States and be eligible to rejoin the Red Wings’ Training Camp roster, whenever it begins.
On 2020 first-round pick Lucas Raymond
“He’s a really good player. You can just see the talent and skill and sense that he has. But even more so, the drive he has. He’s got this quiet confidence. He knows that he’s good, but he wants to be great. He just seems motivated and even more dedicated to being the best player that he can. So there’s lots to like about Lucas.”
On 2020 second-round pick William Wallinder
“He’s a big, raw kid. There’s some ability there. Obviously, he’s played well, and been a name to kind of follow for the past few years. There’s some fine tuning in his game that he’s going to need to do. He needs to get bigger and stronger. Needs to find more dedication in the gym. But there’s lots of raw ability there. The development staff likes raw ability, so we’re looking forward to working with him.”
“Marc Staal Jersey has been a good player in this league for a long time. I think he can still continue to be a good player, but he’s going to get a chance to prove that when we start camp. It’s no different than any of the other guys we’ve added,” Blashill said. “Troy Stecher is a guy who did a good job in Vancouver. Didn’t get as much specialty time as he liked. Does he get more of those opportunities? We’ll see. He’ll get a chance to do that.
“Bobby Ryan Jersey‘s a guy who I’ve really enjoyed getting to know. He’s a mature player. He’s been around the league a long time, but he’s also hungry. When you get bought out, you get knocked down, and I think he’s done a good job of getting himself back up and ready to try to go out and have a good year. But he’s got to go out and prove it. And it’s the same for any of the players coming in.”
Blashill is also optimistic about the future of the team with the help of players like Lucas Raymond, who the Wings selected No. 4 overall in October’s NHL Draft.
“With Raymond, we got a player who has a chance to be dynamic,” the Wings coach said. “If the draft had been a 17-year-old draft instead of an 18-year-old draft, after the U-18’s that he had, he might have went one or two overall, so that shows you the level of talent. Over the next year, he played men’s league where it’s harder to show your skillset, there’s injuries involved, and we got him at four.
“We think we got a good player who could become a really good player at No. 4, and we hope he becomes an elite player.”
But as excited as he is for the new additions, Blashill warned that everyone will still need to earn their time on the ice.
“We’ll know the makeup of what our group looks like better once we get to camp, and guys will have a chance to show they can make us better,” Blashill said. “To say jobs are open, to me would be an obvious statement in a sense that we were a bad hockey team last year. We need to be a better hockey team. Guys have to prove they can help us win more games than what we won a year ago. You need players to continuously take steps and we need guys to come out and have great years.”
One of the biggest keys that Blashill identified for the Red Wings’ improvement this season is depth.
Detroit’s top forward line of Dylan Larkin Jersey, Anthony Mantha Jersey and Tyler Bertuzzi Jersey combined for 56 of the Red Wings’ 142 goals last season (more than 39 percent) and 139 of the club’s 392 points (more than 35 percent).
Blashill said to compete among the NHL’s best, you need to have more players contribute offensively.
16:59 • December 4, 2020
“The one thing I know for sure is we have to get more out of more lines. Last year, if you look at the chances generated, generally it was based on the Larkin line and they also got the lion’s share of the ice time,” Blashill said. “As a coaching staff, we’ve looked at it and said, ‘how can we make sure we get more out of more lines?’ We certainly need Larkin’s line to be really good, but we need other guys to have important roles and need to get more out of more guys.
“That’s partly our responsibility as coaches to make sure we’re putting them in the situations to do that. And it’s the players’ responsibility to go out and execute and continue to earn more ice time. We can’t be a one-line team. We’ve added some players to give us more depth. We’ll get a chance to prove that as we get going.”
While he may not light up the score sheet, one of the players the Red Wings are hoping can provide depth is defenseman Danny DeKeyser Jersey, who was limited to eight games last season because of a back injury.
When he’s healthy, DeKeyser is a top-two blueliner for the Wings, and Blashill said he’s cautiously optimistic for DeKeyser’s return.
“Danny DeKeyser, we’re hoping can come back and be healthy. But he was out with a real severe injury,” Blashill said. “A back injury is a big deal. You don’t just hop back in and everything’s great. Sometimes, there’s trials and tribulations that go with returning from a back injury. So we don’t know until we get going where his health is.”
And while DeKeyser’s status is promising, but uncertain, so too is the start date for training camp and the NHL season.
Last week, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the reality of the league’s goal to start the season on January 1 is a “work in progress” but couldn’t commit on a firm start date.
Most of Detroit’s roster has returned to Little Caesars Arena’s BELFOR Training Center for informal workouts, and Blashill said although he’d like as much time as possible to prepare for the season, his main goal is to begin playing as soon as it can be done safely.
“As a coach, you want as much time as you can to plan and get things in place. Whatever amount of time we get, we’re going to maximize that and be ready to go,” Blashill said. “Right now, we just want to play hockey. We really don’t care what the timeframe is, we just want to get going.”
Blashill said the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the notion that every day in the NHL is a gift, and the privilege of playing hockey at the highest level shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“We talk here lots about making sure that you appreciate every single day in the National Hockey League,” he said. “Through hard times like last year, it’s really important to make sure you appreciate every day you have in this league. And if we’ve learned anything, it’s just reaffirmed that belief.”
And while Blashill remains grateful to be a head coach in the NHL, he said he’s champing at the bit to get back to business.
“All we want to do is play,” he said emphatically. “Whatever the parameters are, we don’t care. Let’s just go play.”