Dylan Larkin trusts what Steve Yzerman is trying to do with Detroit Red Wings. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

Dylan Larkin opted for surgery before this season ended to get a head start on rehabbing.

The Detroit Red Wings captain sounded excited as he anticipated a summer of change. For the first time since entering the NHL in 2015, he’ll be guided by a new coach. Larkin said Jeff Blashill’s dismissal by general manager Steve Yzerman the day after the season ended should serve as a wake-up call within the locker room: Even though the team is in a rebuild, there are great expectations.

“I think it’s difficult to be in this position again, yes, but I love being a Detroit Red Wing and I love the passion that our fans brought to the rink this year,” Larkin said Tuesday. “We have a great group of players and a great locker room that has certainly made the hard times much easier. But I don’t think anybody wants to be in this position for much longer, certainly.

“There is frustration but I do understand what Steve is trying to do and what the end goal is and I think that’s to win a Stanley Cup for the city of Detroit. I believe in that. I’m excited for the future.”

MORE WINGS: What Yzerman is looking for in new coach of Wings

MORE LARKIN: Seeing Jeff Blashill lose his job was tough

Larkin underwent core muscle surgery April 18, the day after playing in his 71st game. He hadn’t been practicing over the previous weeks to help with pain management, but decided there was a better solution.

“I would say it was being in pain and making the decision to have two weeks ahead of recovery for making sure I’m ready for training camp,” Larkin said. “The surgery was a success, and I will be ready for the start of training camp and have a good summer of training.”

Larkin posted 31 goals among 69 points, a career-best .97 points-per-game pace. He was suspended the second game of the season for punching Mathieu Joseph in the season opener; that was in retaliation for Joseph shoving Larkin from behind, which angered Larkin because he missed the last few weeks of last season after being cross-checked in the neck by Dallas’ Jamie Benn. Larkin missed three games in November for personal reasons.

“It felt good to get back to the way I know I can play,” Larkin said. “I came into this year and wanted to drive the play and use my skating ability and kind of relax and just play. There was a lot of adversity and some things in my control, some things not in my control, that kind of happened. A lot of distractions.

“I was proud of myself how I tried to stay consistent and my character and how I showed up to the rink and how I was there for the guys. It was difficult at times but I think I was most proud of that.”

It was mid-February when Larkin spoke with enthusiasm about a possible playoff berth, when the Wings were 21-20-6 and seven points out of a wildcard spot. The Wings were competitive, ignited by the play of rookie of the year candidates Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Then the games intensified, hope ebbed and the Wings limped across the finish line for a sixth straight season.

How Wings’ Moritz Seider went from ‘a bit overwhelmed’ to NHL’s leading rookie ]

“I really do think this season there were a lot of positives, where we played well to start the year,” Larkin said. “That was a really good feeling. We had February where it was a lot of practicing and not many games, and then we played against high competition and we didn’t match up well and it took our confidence away. It really set us back in what we wanted to do.

“Reflecting on the season, I believe that we are in a better spot today than we were a couple years ago. To finally see the Lucas Raymonds and the Mo Seiders come into our lineup and have an impact, it certainly gives me hope for the future, because they are really good players, they’re really good people, really high-character guys. I think now that they’re starting to come, it makes me excited and more optimistic about the future, absolutely.”

Larkin turns 26 in July. He’s entering the last season of a five-year, $30.5 million contract negotiated by former GM Ken Holland.

He expressed confidence an extension will get done, saying he’s “excited to see what (Yzerman) has to say. I love being the captain of the team. I don’t envision myself being anywhere else but I also do understand there’s a business side of hockey.”

Larkin is a core part of the rebuild, and it was Yzerman who named him captain. The Wings haven’t made the playoffs since Larkin’s rookie year, and while it’s on Yzerman to further bolster the lineup, Larkin’s message to his teammates is that Yzerman expects more of everyone.

“I have been patient and I continue to have patience,” Larkin said. “But I also want guys to know — and I try to lead by example — that we can try and change this ourselves as well.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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