Dylan Larkin: Red Wings are ‘headed in right direction,’ set for more success next season

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings aren’t in the playoffs this spring, and that’s usually the bottom line in pro sports.

But captain Dylan Larkin feels like the Wings are pointing toward that milestone.

“This thing is headed in the right direction,” said Larkin, the Wings’ captain, addressing the media Tuesday in a season-ending press conference. “Thinking about next year and the young players coming into our lineup, it’s a much better environment for them.”

The Wings should have more familiarity with coach Derek Lalonde and with themselves, given how many new faces there were in the lineup this season. Improvement is likely from so many of the younger players, and there’s likely to be additions in the offseason.

And given all the injuries the Wings had, especially early on, good health will be a plus, too.

“There was a lot of new players coming in, and a lot of us were trying to build chemistry. Experienced players were coming into the leadership group and everyone trying to figure each other out and where they are in the lineup,” Larkin said. “We had injuries to start camp. Hopefully next year we won’t be in that position and we start healthy and really push each other and have a great camp and start the year great.”

The Wings stayed in the playoff chase, mathematically, until the final week. They were in playoff position as late as Feb. 23, and stayed in the shadow of the race throughout March despite losing so many players through trade or injuries.

Veteran forward David Perron believes the playoffs should be on everybody’s mind entering next season.

“I hope so. We should have been thinking as players this year, too,” Perron said. “But I do think guys are going to be a little more invested knowing the standard has been elevated. We have to keep doing that.”

Larkin felt the Wings learned important lessons this season in terms of how much a good start can mean, as well as capitalizing in overtime games.

“Early in the season we didn’t really find consistency, didn’t go on a winning streak that we needed to keep ourselves in the top of the standings,” Larkin said. “We kind of found that after the (All-Star) break, right before the trade deadline (winning seven of eight), and then we unfortunately traded guys away. We’ve heard (general manager) Steve’s (Yzerman) plan and the direction this is going and how we wanted to make moves for the future and the team did that.

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted how after the trade deadline went in our conference and those (wild-card) spots weren’t really grabbed until the last couple games of the year. It’s a good lesson for us that you’re never out of it and how valuable those points are, whether at home, or we can be better in overtime (7-10 record) and get a couple of extra points there.”

Larkin had a career-best 79 points, tying career highs with 32 goals and 47 assists, while playing through some injuries.

“I was satisfied with how it went, but it was a year with many ups and downs and injuries,” Larkin said. “Having to battle through that, going forward I know I have more and I can be a dominant player. I look at the stretch through western Canada and playing some of the best hockey I’ve played in my career. I know I can do that more consistently.”

Larkin will be entering the ninth year with the Wings and the start of an eight-year contract worth $69.6 million ($8.7 million annual salary cap value).

“It’s crazy to think about it, how fast it goes,” Larkin said. “Guys say it’s like that to young players and it hasn’t felt that long. But I’m really hoping for a lot more years left and I’d like to make the playoffs next year and have the last years of my career be kind of a different story.

“I’d really like that.”

Fabbri’s procedure

Forward Robby Fabbri disclosed it was a minor knee procedure that ended his season on March 8 against Chicago.

Fabbri was involved in a collision in that game that aggravated one of his previous three major knee surgeries, and ultimately led to another minor surgery.

“Just a clean up of my meniscus,” Fabbri said. “When you have major surgeries like this, things are going to come up over the years with wear and tear. It wasn’t anything serious. We were trying to come back and play and it depended on where we were in the standings. That would have decided how we handled things. It was just smarter to get it done and now I’m feeling good and starting training again. I have all summer to get 100%.

“It was something that was lingering and that hit just kind of sped up the process of when this procedure was going to get done.”

Fabbri returned in January from ACL surgery (knee injury late last season) and wound up playing 28 games with 16 points (seven goals, nine assists). It wasn’t easy jumping that deep into the season, but Fabbri was pleased with his level of production under the circumstances.

“Everybody (was) in midseason form and I’m just trying to find my game,” Fabbri said. “I had some ups and downs, but looking back on it I was definitely happy with coming in and being able to produce and play my game. It was good to get my reps in and feel good going into the summer.”

Backing Bert

Former teammates were watching and feeling good for Tyler Bertuzzi, who made his playoff debut Monday in Boston, had two assists and played the gritty type of game that usually proves to be successful in the postseason.

Many Bruins analysts felt Bertuzzi was the best player on the ice for Game 1 against Florida.

“I would agree with that,” Fabbri said. “Just the type of player he is, the playoffs amplify what he brings to the team and what he does for the team. He showed it. I’ve been in contact with him but now the playoffs have started, I’ll let him do his thing. Hopefully I’ll text him congratulations (in two months).”

Larkin said Bertuzzi is “really enjoying it.”

“I watched (Monday) and it’s not surprising at all how he played,” Larkin said. “It’s hard to watch Boston, but it’s fun to watch Bert in the playoffs.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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