Detroit — The Red Wings have missed the playoffs for the last seven consecutive seasons.
General manager Steve Yzerman assembled a roster this summer that looks deeper and more talented in his fifth season managing the Wings.
But to say it’s a playoffs-or-bust season, or having the playoffs as the single, sharp focus in mind, would be inaccurate.
Yzerman would love to make the playoffs, but he’s maintaining a clear eye on the future.
“Every team would love to make the playoffs, we’d be thrilled to make the playoffs,” Yzerman said Tuesday during a Zoom call on the eve of Thursday’s on-ice start to training camp. “Is it playoff or bust? You say playoffs, or bust, meaning you’re prepared to trade all of your draft picks and whatever you have to do at some point? No, it’s not playoff or bust.
“But we’re going to try to win every game and try to make the playoffs, but to me, it’s not at the expense of the future. I’m trying to build a nucleus of a team that can make the playoffs on an annual basis. You squeak in one year and don’t have the foundation to sustain it, and we’ll be sitting here a year or two years from now and we’ll be wondering again.”
Yzerman seemingly filled many holes on the Wings roster, adding goal-scoring forward Alex DeBrincat, forwards J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, Klim Kostin and Christian Fischer, goaltenders James Reimer and Alex Lyon, and defensemen Jeff Petry, Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Holl.
The Wings appear to have more offensive punch, are grittier and physical, and have depth behind goaltender Ville Husso, all missing ingredients last season. Whether that’s enough to make the playoffs in what could be a somewhat weaker Atlantic Division remains to be seen.
“I’d love to make the playoffs; the whole city would,” Yzerman said. “Every one of our players would, everyone in the organization, and we’ll give it a shot. We did what we could in the offseason to improve our team without mortgaging really any part of the future, and we’ll continue to get better, and sooner rather than later, we’ll be a playoff team.”
Yzerman wasn’t ready to say the Wings are completely out of their rebuild phase.
“I guess you’re out of your rebuild when you’re not doing that (trading prospective free agents, for draft picks) at the (trade) deadline,” Yzerman said. “We’re still being patient and waiting for our younger players to develop and intend to hold on to our draft picks for the foreseeable future and try to add to that small core that we have that makes us a competitive team for a long stretch of time.”
Yzerman is optimistic about the Wings’ roster, but isn’t yet sure how it looks against the rest of the division.
“I want to see us start the season and see how we look,” Yzerman said. “Again, we’re a deeper team. Are we better? I hope so, but to sit here and see we’re definitely going to make the playoffs, I’m not sure.
“I look at our division and I’m not sure what to expect from some teams that are continuing to get better and teams that lost players whether it was due to (salary) cap or retirements or whatever. What are they going to be like?
“There’s a lot of uncertainty. We’ll go into the season and see how we match up and go through the first quarter of the season and then have a better idea of where we’re at. I’d like to think we’re a better team, a competitive team, and we’ll see if that puts us in a position to compete for a playoff spot.”