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Transcript: Steve Yzerman End of Season Press Conference

Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager discusses 2020-21 season and promising future of young team

by Jennifer Rogers @DetroitRedWings / DetroitRedWings.com

Yzerman | End of Season Media

Steve Yzerman | End of Season Media Availability

Red Wings EVP and GM Steve Yzerman holds his end of season press conference to discuss extending coach Jeff Blashill, the offseason and more

  • 49:27 •

Last week, Executive Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman spoke to the media regarding the 2020-21 season, the extension for head coach Jeff Blashill and the path forward for the Red Wings, including all the exciting young talent on the horizon. The transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

 

On the decision to extend coach Jeff Blashill's contract …

"Two things may be most important to me. One, I feel our team is collectively very competitive, whether we played well or not every night is different. But we played hard and I think our players play hard, and I think that is a reflection of the coaching staff. The coaching staff has the respect of the players and that was important. The other part is Jeff has really worked with me in transitioning our young players into the lineup, being patient with them, not handing them positions or ice time. Really forcing them to earn it and guiding them along, being firm yet patient with our young guys. As we are rebuilding and trying to, over the course of last year, this year and coming seasons to move younger players into the lineup, I think it is important to have a coach that has a calmness and a willingness and the patience to allow these younger players to go through some of the growing pains of playing in the NHL."

 

On what he's learned about Jeff Blashill over the past two years working with him …

"He is very passionate about his job. He is very serious about his job. A great attention to detail a great work ethic. He is very well prepared; every day is well thought out. Every practice, his game plans, he prepares. I have enjoyed working with him, in that he is comfortable in speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts and for a manager and a coach relationship to debate, to discuss and ultimately respect my decisions and in return it is my job to respect the coach's decisions as well and allow him to do his job."

Video: Jeff Blashill | End of Season Media Availability

 

On Blashill's biggest strengths as a coach …

"Jeff Blashill, I like the fact he is not trying to impress me or you, he just does his job. I think our players appreciate the fact he has a tremendous work ethic, that he genuinely cares about the players. I know he cares about the players because he and I talk virtually after every game and depending on the results of the game, our feelings can vary. He takes great pride in the players and helping them. What I think his great strengths are, the most important thing for our team right now is that he is levelheaded, openminded, willing to listen and learn. His eyes are open to what is going on around the league. That he doesn't have a big enough ego that he is not going to listen to his staff, to his players, to me. He is learning, he is getting more experience and better. It is important for us that he has some patience not just with our kids, but our veteran players. As we are rebuilding, you have to have to have some patience and be levelheaded."

 

On the ideal attributes for a new assistant coach …

"I think we will work together in that process. We are just getting started, see who maybe is interested, who our candidates are, who is a good fit. Doug Houda basically working with the defense and with Blashill and the other coaches heading up the penalty killing unit, I kind of expect Blash will keep Doug's duties the same. We will probably look for someone to work with our forwards, more involved with the power play. We will kind of see. Jeff and I will really work together to figure out who is the right person for that role."

 

On the team's progress made during the 2020-21 season …

"We have a long way to go and we recognize that. We have a lot of work to do in all areas. Again, I watch our team play and I like the competitive fire that our team shows. They work hard, they compete hard and I think throughout the course of this season, I see progress being made. Specifically, I am watching some of our younger players take on bigger roles within a game and our veterans are high-character guys, that's what they do, they compete hard, so I do think there is progress. Having said that, there is so much work to be done. We have a lot of improving on the ice in all aspects, offensively, defensively, special teams, but individually, we need to improve the talent level of our team. As an organization, it is important for our hockey operations department, management, pro and amateur scouting staff to really do their jobs in order to get us where we are going."

 

On his assessment of the team's performance on the ice this season …

"Obviously we had a few clunkers along the way, but I think every team in the League had a few of those. In general, I thought our team was very competitive. There are areas of our game that got better over the course of the season. As the year went on, our goaltending was very good, very consistent as it went on. That helped every part of our game. Defensively, we made a lot of changes, whether it be through the neutral zone, on our end of the rink, killing penalties, we saw improvement in that area. Obviously our one area we need to address, need to get better at, is we need to score more goals and improve offensively. That is easier said than done. The biggest part of that is having players that have the ability to produce. Over the course of the season, I thought there was a lot of progress made collectively as a team. But also individually, not only for our young guys, but for some of our veteran players who played extremely well as the year went on and was very beneficial for us and beneficial for them, individually as well."

Video: Stecher, Vrana carry Red Wings past Blackhawks, 4-1

 

On the process of making moves to accelerate the rebuild timeline …

"My approach has been you look for opportunities, you wait for opportunities to come along. When I have tried to force something and chase something, it hasn't really worked out. Along the way, I have never really tried to do something to make a splash, there has to be a reason for it, a good reason, thinking you're going to be a better team. I don't want it to just look good, it has to actually be good. Anything along the way that might make sense, I am not opposed to signing a free agent. Any particular trade that may come along, you have to find a partner first. There are a lot of players around the League that I would like to add to the Red Wings, I just can't convince another GM to give them to me. If there is an opportunity to expedite our rebuilding process by making a trade that brings us a good player or good players, I am certainly open to doing that, but I don't want to trade what I think are valuable young assets for players that might only be here a year or two. That is not what I want to do. Would that make us better now? It might. Ultimately, I don't want to just make the Playoffs, I want us to become a playoff team and a team that is trying to win a Stanley Cup somewhere down the road."

 

On the top priorities this offseason…

"We will watch the playoffs. A little bit of the USHL is playing, so there is some hockey to watch for the Draft, but our priorities now are to get with our amateur scouting department to get organized for the Draft - to get our draft list in order, that would be one. Preparing for the Expansion Draft, between now and the end of the Playoffs, we are obviously out, but we will spend some time with other clubs that aren't playing and as teams get eliminated, work your way around the League to find out if there is a match, similar to the trade deadline. Find out what teams are trying to do and if there is a fit that we can address any of our needs prior to the Expansion Draft. Things will happen really quickly once you get close to that Expansion Draft. We have to be really prepared for the Draft, then free agency - to get ourselves organized to make sure we have identified what, if any targets in free agency, and be prepared to go. Because once we get the Expansion Draft, the NHL Draft and the free agency period, that will all happen very quickly at the end of July. Between now and then, those are our biggest priorities and in the interim, we spend some time talking to all the players within the Red Wings, with Grand Rapids wrapping up over the weekend, there is quite a bit to do. Once we get to the end of July, it is going to be busy. On top of that, it is watching these [playoff] games at night. For us they are enjoyable to watch but we are watching with a purpose for sure."

 

On the possibility of building the roster through trades and/or free agency …

"In general, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for us to be trading draft picks and prospects for players that might not be here in three, four, five years. If we are able to do something with some of our future assets, I certainly would be willing to do that, but I would look to add younger players that are going to fit with the core group of guys; which are basically (Dylan) Larkin, (Jakub) Vrana, (Tyler) Bertuzzi, roughly in that 26-or-younger range. Get players that fit and grow with that group, I would certainly be interested in that. You are limited what other teams are willing to do as well. Having said that, if something out there is too good to pass up, that doesn't exactly fit that description, I would be open to it. Ultimately, you can look at free agency and the players that might be there today, I don't know that they are going to be there once free agency opens up and one, what they are going to cost, and two, are we a fit for them. We will certainly explore it. Free agency is a little bit different then trades. In trades, I would really like to add younger players, and free agency, we are more open to anything. I am not sure how the Expansion Draft is going to affect what happens around the League with teams. It is too early to know. I have talked to one or two teams, that is really it. If there is going to be a lot of movement related to the Expansion Draft, we aren't really sure."

 

On the biggest areas of need for the 2021-22 roster …

"I think we could upgrade every area, to be honest. Can we upgrade in every area? I am not so sure. But you are always looking to get better. I think two areas of concern; we have to figure out a way to generate more goals. How we do that? I am hopeful our younger players can generate a little bit more offense. I think with the players that have been here for a while, I expect them to score more than they did this year. So generating a little bit more offense and then at the deadline, the left side of our D, we traded two defensemen…we have one player under contract, Danny DeKeyser, and restricted free agent Dennis Cholowski who I anticipate getting signed. So we have holes on the left side of our D that we will need to address. What we need to continue to improve is to cut our goals-against down, that is through good goaltending, through better defensive play, five-on-five, and continued improvement with our penalty-killing unit. How we do all that? We have to address what we do with the left side of our D and continue to work on the way we play. Personnel wise, can Adam Erne generate a little bit more offense? Can Filip Zadina score a little bit more? Can Robby Fabbri and Dylan Larkin generate a little bit more offense? Collectively, we need to score more."

Video: DAL@DET: Cholowski snipes the corner from the circle

 

On the importance of improving the power play …

"I think we have to do something different with our power play, for sure. Our power play is 31st, collectively. It struggled the last few years. We need to add to our personnel to get the right fit, so our power play has a chance to be more successful and we need to do things a little bit differently than we have done. The spots players are put in and the way we bring the puck up the ice, it needs to be addressed. Who will be in charge of that? Who will we bring in to help it? We have to go to work and find that person."

 

On Dylan Larkin's status following the season-ending injury …

"He is recovering, and we expect him to make a full recovery from his injury. He is being monitored, they're very cautious in the approach, but right now, he is in a rest period in healing before he will get into training again. If we were playing today, he wouldn't be cleared to play, but we expect him to be ready to go once the season starts."

 

On Larkin's 2020-21 season …

"I think generating scoring chances and creating scoring chances for his linemates, I think he did an excellent job at that. I think he just missed a lot of chances, that happens. This year, playing so many games in a row, you get on a roll, things are great, you don't get on a roll, you are trying to catch up. You never got that pause, to get a few days of practice to regroup and kind of find it a little bit. Overall, I think Dylan had a good year. I don't think there is ever anyone that would question his work ethic, his competitiveness in any game that he played. I would never come home from a game thinking that Dylan didn't bring it tonight. He is a really good person; he really cares about the Red Wings. He is driven. Overall, his numbers, goals, statistically aren't great, but I think he played well, and I think he played hard. His leadership, his work ethic, his determination are very important, even when the numbers aren't there. As the talent level of our team improves, as we get more balanced, I am not too worried about the production. Ultimately, I see Dylan Larkin as an outstanding two-way player. I don't ever expect or think we need him to lead the League in scoring. I want him to be a good player at both ends of the rink and focus on that. Whatever the goal totals turn out to be, they will be good enough. My goal for him is to strive to be one of the best two-way players in the game. He has the skills, the strength, the skating ability and the work ethic to do that."

Video: Dylan Larkin | End of Season Media Availability

 

On Moritz Seider's future, and being named the 2021 SHL Defenseman of the Year …

"I know Moritz had a great year in Sweden. He made the decision (that) he wanted to go and play, and we supported that decision and it turned out well. He played a lot and in all situations on a very good team, and the Swedish League is a very good league. I want to temper the enthusiasm or the excitement. He is a great young player. His next move is to the NHL. We will see how training camp and the preseason goes. It is a huge step up from the American League or from the Swedish League to the National Hockey League, but he probably exceeded our expectations last year going to the American League. He did very well. I am not really surprised he did well in the Swedish League. He has a great head on his shoulders, I think he has good hockey sense, he is very competitive, obviously he has size, his skills are good. He has a lot of work to do, but I think there is a lot of potential for him. We are excited to have him over here next year and we will see. Our hope is that he is ready to play for the Red Wings at the start of the season."

  

On the possibility of Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond to both earn roster spots next season …

"Well I wouldn't be committing to these guys being on the roster yet, they have to make the team. If they make the team, we would be thrilled. They are young guys. I want them to make the team and have a positive impact. Our expectation and our hope is that Moritz is ready to go. We will see that next fall. Lucas [Raymond], I don't want to rule it out. Again, we will let the situation play itself out and if they prove they are ready to go, they will be on the team. We just have to wait. I am not going to force it or rush them. But if they are on the team and playing, we will be really happy. We have high expectations for them, is it next season or the season after? I am not sure. We would love them to play, but they are going to need to earn it."

 

On the possibility of Joe Veleno breaking Training Camp with the Red Wings …

"Joe had a great year last year in the American Hockey League. He didn't put up big numbers, but he played really well. And by the end of the season, was really good at both ends of the rink. Was having a positive impact in the game on the team. For a whole host of reasons, it was unfortunate that the season was canceled, and these kids didn't get to play in the Playoffs. But he had a really good year as a 19-year-old. Then he made the decision to go over and play in Sweden and he did real well. It is a different game, it's a bigger ice surface. He played a lot, but it further emphasized the point that these guys have to play. Regardless of whether you are in the NHL, the American League, Sweden, Finland, wherever, they are playing and playing a lot. It is a good thing for them. He came back here and played five games with the Red Wings and looked good. Finished off the season in Grand Rapids, I talked to him and he feels really good about it. He has a great attitude and works really hard; he is a really nice young man. Our message to him was you come in next year, it is the same with all our young guys, if you are ready to play on the team and play a role that helps us win and play significant minutes, you are going to be on the Red Wings and if you aren't beating out the other guys, you'll be in Grand Rapids playing there. We are very happy with his attitude, his progress and potential going forward. He is a real good young prospect with a great attitude and very driven."

Video: DET@CBJ: Veleno roofs PPG for first career goal

 

On Tyler Bertuzzi's recovery after back surgery …

"He is doing really well. I can't say I see him every day, but we are down here at Little Caesars (Arena). It is early since his surgery, so he is somewhat limited in what he is doing. He comes in, he seems to be doing well. Tyler, as you know, is pretty quiet, he doesn't say a lot, he is very upbeat and positive. We expect him to be full steam ahead in September, it is just a slow process initially after surgery and gradually ramp things up. Appears to be doing well and we don't expect any complications along the way. It is just a very deliberate and methodical rehab process."

Video: Tyler Bertuzzi | End of Season Media Availability

 

On Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Dennis Cholowski and Gustav Lindstrom

"We are very encouraged by all of those young players. They all somewhat transitioned into the NHL. Here at the end of the season, starting with Michael [Rasmussen] who was the first one to come up, then toward the deadline, Gus [Lindstrom] and Dennis [Cholowski] come in as well. We are hoping that they all continue at the start of next year to have the impact that they had. Certainly, their time in the American League was beneficial for them this year, playing a lot. They look like they are ready to play in the NHL. All three have work to do, but we are encouraged -- Givani Smith, as well. I am hopeful that they are on our team next year, I am hopeful they are in the lineup. The message to them was 'guys you are going to have to earn it. I can put you on the roster.' All those players need waivers if they are going to the American Hockey League next year. So, our first decision at the end of training camp is are they are on the roster or are we willing to risk putting any of them on waivers. I can't guarantee they are going to be in the lineup - that's up to them. It is an important summer for them all, an important preseason and training camp, but we are encouraged. Based on what I saw, I think they can all can have a positive impact for us next year."

 

On Adam Erne's standout season…

"Very encouraging for us. I feel good for Adam. I was there in Tampa when we drafted him, I have gotten to know him since he was 18 years of age. I have watched him work through his final years as a junior, go to the American Hockey League, follow me to Detroit, he is really driven. He really wants to be a good player in the NHL, he puts the time and work in and it was good for him to earn a bigger role on the team and to thrive in it. We have a real good player who is a different dimension for us. A big, thick kid who has good hands and can play in a lot of different situations. Honestly, I think there is a lot more there. I really like Adam's determination and drive. I think we all feel good for him, because I know he has put a lot of work into it and I know he has really wanted it. He has been waiting for his opportunity, he got a good opportunity and made the most of it."

Video: Adam Erne | End of Season Media Availability

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