The Detroit Red Wings, though never really answering the Jamie Benn crosscheck to Dylan Larkin’s neck last season–may have this afternoon:
Now, general manager Steve Yzerman did indicate that Witkowski was more a signing for Grand Rapids than the big club, but let’s say it might not be a coincidence if Witkowski is called up when a team known for its more physical play is on the schedule.
I know there are those who don’t like this element of the game, and I understand that. But there is also the argument that Larkin spent a lot more time–quietly mind you–suffering from an injury that was had by a dirty play. Witkowski’s signing to me appears an insurance policy. In other signings:
Long time Red Wings Forward Darren Helm Signs Elsewhere
Let’s give a stick tap to Darren Helm’s Red Wings career and what he brought to Detroit for thirteen seasons. I remember Helm being a plucky little forward in the ’08 playoffs and then who can forget his shift against Chicago in the 2009 Western Conference Finals. And of course, the game winner:
Helm signed with Colorado for $1M over a year, which is a nice deal for him and them. Though he never really lived up to that $3.8M AAV he had, no one can discount the fanbase’s affection for the speedy Helm, who well, sometimes struggled to finish on breakaways.
Regardless, it’s the end of an era for a player that came up during the team’s zenith and leaves at what is hopefully its valley.
Yzerman Provides Updates Following Signings
He spoke on a variety of topics, indicating that he maybe had one more signing outside his RFAs for a forward, but seemed to take umbrage a bit to the continued questioning on whether or not he’s focusing enough on the offense:
The question I’ve gotten a lot –again you (Helene St James) raised it and previous meetings with our local media seems to be ‘improving the offense, improving the offense.’ I don’t think it’s the only area we need to improve upon. We need to improve on our defensive game as well. I’d like to think you know that with Pius Suter in there, with Nick Leddy, and the rest of our group–Tyler Bertuzzi coming back healthy, I think we’re going to generate a little more offense.
Yzerman continued a bit more, saying that defensively they had to be better which in turn means that one, either offense or defense, isn’t more important than they other.
He also stipulated that the open spots up front, and on the blue line will go to the best player–period. But my favorite part is when asked about Detroit “making a run” without getting a top two pick:
Absolutely (we can). As much as we’d love to get a first or second overall pick–the way I hope we get it is through the lottery. We’re not giving up on the rebuild or trying to expedite it and sign a bunch of free agents and trade picks to move up. We’re going to stick with the process. We’re going to have to find a great player at six–whether it’s Edvinsson or Seider.”
Yzerman recounts the teams who won the Cup without picking high–St. Louis with Alex Pietrangelo as an example, to which he points out Lucas Raymond was their fourth overall pick last season. He went further by pointing out later round picks who turned out to be superstars–citing his own choice of Nikita Kucherov or many of the picks Boston made later on to add to its arsenal.
It was a great question and an equally great answer. No excuses will be made. No shortcuts taken. The rebuild is rounding a bit here, but there’s still some time to go.
One Final Thought after Two Weeks of Transactions
For a fanbase that was somewhat rankled by some of the Red Wings picks during the recent draft, that’s perfectly acceptable. Yzerman isn’t infallible. He’s not right on everything. You can look at some of the draft picks or trades he made in Tampa Bay or even some already while with Detroit. They didn’t work out. And that’s part of sports. Disagreements will happen, and they should. Otherwise, it becomes an echo chamber.
What does matter is that there’s a coherent plan in place. That is evident. The majority of Red Wings fans’ issues with Ken Holland weren’t with him–it was with what seemed like a lack of a plan. The rebuild on the fly wasn’t that–it felt ultimately like panic to hang on to the playoffs. It failed miserably. When Holland finally conceded that it was over, he actually made half decent trades to garner picks, and did very well in the 2018 draft.
Yzerman, though, was willing to do the nasty stuff–seeing the Red Wings bottom out and let the bad contracts run their course so he could then build around the core he’s piecing together. He’ll be the first to say that he hopes it all comes together, but ultimately, even the best plans don’t always work out.
Seider’s development speaks to things working out well. Jonatan Berggren, and Joe Veleno appear to be on the right path. Raymond is on the mend and could be a real dynamic player for them. After the latest draft haul, if it all works out as planned–the Red Wings defense could be a dominant force for years to come.
This next season will be another one of transition. But Detroit is slowly moving toward the other side of the rebuild–and that’s a positive everyone can at least agree upon.