NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Detroit Red Wings.
The Detroit Red Wings are entering a transition period with Steve Yzerman in his first season as general manager.
The Red Wings have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs three seasons in a row after a streak of 25 consecutive appearances, their longest such stretch since they failed to qualify in five consecutive seasons from 1978-83.
[Red Wings 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
"I know everyone feels his presence already, just him being around, him being back with our organization," center Dylan Larkin said. "Everyone's on their toes. Everyone's prepared. It's a great thing to have."
Yzerman played his entire 22-season NHL career as a center for the Red Wings from 1983-2006, winning the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002. He won the Cup again with the Red Wings in 2008 as vice president before leaving for the Tampa Bay Lightning, for whom he was GM from 2010-18 and senior adviser last season.
"Obviously, knowing who he is, you're nervous when you're around him," Larkin said with a laugh. "But he's a great guy. He's a classy guy, and he does the right things all the time. He's here to help us and help our organization, and he's back home. So we're thrilled."
Before Yzerman, Detroit had one GM since 1997: Ken Holland, who was named senior vice president when Yzerman became GM on April 19 and left to become GM of the Edmonton Oilers on May 7.
"I think any time in any business that a new head comes in and starts running things, it's going to be a little bit different," Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. "That's no different in hockey for us. Everybody wants to stick around, and nobody wants to lose their job. So you've got to play for somebody else and make sure you're doing the right things and stuff like that. So it'll definitely be a change, but I think it's good."
Video: Hradek's expectations for Red Wings in 2019-20
Detroit signed free agent center Valtteri Filppula and defenseman Patrik Nemeth on July 1, each to a two-year contract. But the roster will look much like it did last season, with coach Jeff Blashill back for his fifth season.
"Obviously, being new to the organization, I want to proceed somewhat slowly and kind of get to know really what we have within the organization," Yzerman said. "I think I have a good handle on the NHL team, but the prospects we have coming, the players we have in Grand Rapids (of the American Hockey League), I wanted to give us the flexibility of providing opportunity for our young players but also trying to help the Detroit Red Wings immediately as much as possible."
Detroit needs veterans like DeKeyser and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley and Mike Green to stay healthy. DeKeyser and Erissson each was limited to 52 games last season, Daley to 44, Green to 43. Yzerman said everyone is expected to be ready for training camp.
It needs Larkin, center Andreas Athanasiou and forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi to continue growing and taking leading roles. Larkin (32) and Athanasiou (30) each scored 30 goals in the NHL for the first time last season. Mantha (25) and Bertuzzi (21) also set his NHL career high.
Then the Red Wings need center Michael Rasmussen, forwards Taro Hirose and Filip Zadina, and defensemen Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek and Oliwer Kaski to develop.
Video: Red Wings take the No. 7 spot in Prospect Pipeline
"I think it's all excitement," Larkin said. "I think a long summer like we've had, you can't forget the young guys that we have."
The focus is on the long term, but there is hope in the short term too.
"I think we're close," DeKeyser said. "We want to make the playoffs. I definitely think we have a team that can do it. We've got some high-end skill up front and some speed too. The way the game's going, it's all about speed and getting up and down the ice and that kind of thing. So I think that works well for us. We've got young players who are growing and getting better every year, so I think guys will take another step this year."