TAMPA, FLA. — Dylan Larkin brought it up. So did Moritz Seider and Derek Lalonde.
The five-game losing streak that ended the Detroit Red Wings’ season with a 35-37-10 record benefitted their draft lottery odds, but that was scant balm for the guys who had just lost, 5-0, unable to muster even a single goal.
“It’s very disappointing,” Larkin said in the locker room at Amalie Arena. “It’s been very difficult since the trade deadline, emotionally, physically. We traded away a lot of guys, guys played through injuries. We wanted to get back to .500 and finish on a good note and it didn’t happen. The message was there, it’s been there — there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in this locker room, and I think hopefully — I say it every year, but hopefully we’re not in this position much longer.”
Larkin, the longest tenured Wings player, hasn’t been in the playoffs since his rookie season in 2015-16. He spoke before this year’s trade deadline, as he did last year, of wanting to be in a position where the Wings aren’t sellers.
But they were, again, and general manager Steve Yzerman really sold, trading forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana and Oskar Sundqvist, and defenseman Filip Hronek. That robbed the Wings of significant skill, and the Wings won just seven of the 22 games they played after trading Hronek.
“It’s really hard if you’re missing key players, motors I want to even say, in the lineup,” Seider said. Had the Wings won Thursday, they would have at least been .500 — which also hasn’t happened since the last time they made the playoffs.
“It’s very disappointing. I think we all had higher expectations for that game, we wanted to be a .500 team, and we didn’t achieve that. I think frustration, a little bit of sadness, will be on the way back on the plane for sure. But other than that I think we can be very proud of ourselves, took big strides this year in almost every category. There’s a lot of positives to think back on.”
Lalonde reiterated what he has said for the past month: The rise and fall of the Wings won’t make for an easy evaluation. They were in a wild card spot on Feb. 23; a week later, they were gutted.
“I know this will be a really tough year to judge from where we were before the deadline to where we were after,” he said. “A lot of positives, some huge ups and downs.”
The Wings had some ups after the trade deadline, like playing two really good games against the NHL’s top team, the Boston Bruins, and winning one of them. There were victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs, all of them at times those teams had a great deal of stake in terms of playoff positioning.
“With saying that about the trade deadline, it’s very easy to just let it go after that but we battled,” Larkin said. “It took us a little bit to get out of that, but once we did, we won some big games and played some good hockey down the stretch. We gave ourselves a chance. That’s something to build on for next year for sure.
“I think it’s guy to guy. I think you’re pretty crazy if you don’t look at the end of the season that you don’t need to improve. I think every guy probably, hopefully, they reflect, meet with the staff, and figure out what it is they personally need to do and make us better.”
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.