Detroit Red Wings hit break wanting to give Steve Yzerman ‘something to think about’

Detroit Free Press

Steve Yzerman had just walked by in the visitors’ dressing room at UBS Arena when David Perron brought up the Detroit Red Wings general manager.

“We have to get our rest, get refocused, get reenergized to come back for a big push before the deadline,” Perron said, “and give Steve something to think about.”

Perron was speaking immediately after the Wings (21-19-8) had again come up short in their bid to win more than two in a row, losing 2-0, at the New York Islanders. It was the last game before the Wings’ bye week and followed a trend they cannot seem to break: Win two or three games in a row, then lose. That “push,” that “run,” they have talked about so often this season has not materialized — and now comes the time of the season good teams rise to secure playoff positioning. The Wings know it is on them to convince Yzerman to limit the changes he makes.

“I hope that we can remain together and see it through and give it all we’ve got,” captain and 2023 All-Star Dylan Larkin said. “We haven’t been able to do that in many years, but that’s my hope, to see this thing through and to stay in it and make going to the rink meaningful every day going down the stretch.”

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Keeping games close would be an improvement over last season, when the Wings’ stretch run was tarnished by blowouts. But as head coach Derek Lalonde can attest, having joined the Wings last summer after winning Stanley Cups as an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Wings are missing the ingredients that mark a playoff team.

“I came from a team that quote-unquote rose,” Lalonde said. “We had four or five of the best players in the world.

“For us to win, it’s got to be a complete effort from everyone. All of our wins are full team-effort wins, and we’ve had them. But we need more consistency throughout. You see bits and parts. Our defensive game, we do not want to let that slip. We need a little more consistency on special teams. Keep pounding, trying to create some offense.”

The offensive capability has been hurt by Tyler Bertuzzi missing 31 games because of injuries; he has one goal in 17 games. The Wings were counting on him for 30 goals, as they were Jakub Vrana, who the Wings placed in the minors after he was reinstated in mid-December following two months in the players assistance program. Yzerman already has tried to shed Vrana from the organization by placing him on waivers, and with Bertuzzi being in the last year of his contract, with unrestricted free agency on the horizon, Yzerman could look to trade Bertuzzi.

Yzerman demonstrated his belief the Wings were ready to move out of the rebuild last summer, when he added players such as Perron, Ville Husso and Ben Chiarot to the roster. As it stands approaching All-Star Weekend on Feb. 3-4, the Wings have 50 points in 48 games; last year at the mid-season break, they had 46 points in 47 games. They’re on pace this season to finish with 85 — an 11-point improvement over last season, but not within reach of the playoffs. (Last season it took 100 points to advance in the Eastern Conference.)

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Higher-ups in the organization don’t expect the Wings to end a playoff drought that began in 2017, because, as Lalonde pointed out, they don’t yet have superstar players. But to Perron’s point, the players who are on the roster should come out of the break conscious of the scrutiny they will face as Yzerman evaluates his team leading up to the March 3 trade deadline. Just this month, Yzerman has seen the Wings beat top-tier teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs at home and the Vegas Golden Knights on the road, but also lose to teams near the bottom of the standings (the Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes). Just this week, Yzerman saw the Wings win two games in a row, then stumble. They have not strung together more than two victories in a row since late November.

“We’re playing good hockey, we just don’t always find results,” Perron said. “If we keep playing mature hockey, we are making strides forward. It’s good to play good hockey, but we need results.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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