Wings are 30th out of 31 NHL teams, so why does GM Steve Yzerman see progress?

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
| The Detroit News

Detroit — It may not reflect in the standings, the progress the Red Wings have made this season.

But general manager Steve Yzerman sounded positive with where the Wings’ stand about one-third into this shortened NHL regular season, speaking during a virtual Detroit Economic Club roundtable Monday.

Ken Daniels, Wings’ play-by-play man, interviewed Yzerman and coach Jeff Blashill during the virtual event.

The Wings are 5-12-3, ranking 30th in the 31-team league, but they have generally been much more competitive than a year ago. 

The veterans the Wings added during free-agency have strengthened the team, narrowing the gap in talent there was last season, and young players are improving, though some individual statistics aren’t showing it.

“Our first four games, we played pretty well and got a split in those two (series) and right away, we lost, over a course of a week, five players (to COVID-19 protocol),” Yzerman said. “The decision was made to keep playing and we lost every single game and these were key players for us.

“It’s difficult to win with a healthy squad, and it’s a challenge when you’re not healthy. We missed a lot of guys and we paid for it. (But) since the first game in Tampa (Feb. 3), we have got to be generally pleased with the effort and competitiveness and the way we’ve been playing apart from the Florida game (Friday, a 7-2 loss).

“Our guys are playing hard and they’re working and we’re in a lot of close games, which is positive.”

More: Red Wings forward Mathias Brome’s patience pays off, gets into NHL scoring column

Yzerman was pleased with the way the Wings responded the next night, Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Florida, and the way the Wings hung around and “found a way” to earn a victory in a hard-fought game.

“We all get emotional game to game and when you win, you’re happy and when you lose, you’re not happy, depending on the last performance,” Yzerman said. “But overall, in the last month since we got our guys healthy, I’ve seen a lot of positives in a lot of things, and it doesn’t really show in the wins and losses, but in a lot of things, we have a seen a significant step in the right direction.”

Yzerman has been pleased with the progress of the younger players, despite many of them having statistics that are down compared to last year.

“A guy like Filip Zadina, he knows how to score, the goals and assists will come,” Yzerman said. “They know what to do. I want to see them develop into better all around hockey players. It’s not (just) goals and assists. That’s kind of how i watch their progress.

“We’re watching all different types of things. From last year to this year, and it’s relatively early (in this season), but we’re a much harder team to play against. We’re playing much better.”

Yzerman touched on a variety of topics concerning the Wings, and around the NHL:

More: Red Wings come back from ‘devastating’ news of Tchekmarev’s death

►On prospects forward Lucas Raymond and defenseman Moritz Seider, Yzerman had injury updates on the young players, both of whom are playing in Sweden. Raymond will have surgery in his elbow area soon, and will be out of action for approximately eight weeks.

“He re-injured an old injury from four years ago that didn’t heal properly,” Yzerman said. “It’s a minor procedure that will keep him out maybe eight weeks.

“In the long term, it’s not a big deal and won’t be an issue.”

Seider had a bruised shoulder suffered several weeks ago when he fell hard, and awkwardly into the boards, but has returned with no ill effects.

Seider is playing for Rogle, one of the top teams in the Swedish Elite League this season, and likely will have a deep playoff run.

“He’s back playing and he has played well,” Yzerman said. “He’s had a great year and we’re happy with him.”

►There’s been plenty of discussion around the NHL about delaying the Entry Draft, what with many junior leagues still not playing or having had many pauses or delays limiting games.

The draft lottery, which has hurt the Wings in the past, also has been discussed about getting tweaked to give teams with worse records more favorable odds of picking higher.

Yzerman, for one, would like to see the draft pushed back.

“I would hope they push it back and give us a chance to watch these kids and give these kids a chance to play and put their best foot forward,” Yzerman said.

►Yzerman doesn’t know how busy the climate will be around the NHL regarding the April 12 trade deadline, but with a chance to win the Stanley Cup there, he expects contenders to continue being aggressive.

“Everyone will get a chance (to win the Cup) and will do anything they can,” Yzerman said “Teams that go for it will do whatever they can to give themselves their best chance.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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