DETROIT -- Five years to the day since rejoining the Detroit Red Wings as Executive Vice President and General Manager in 2019, Steve Yzerman addressed several topics during his annual end-of-season media session on Friday afternoon, reflecting on the 2023-24 season and looking ahead to the club’s offseason plans.

The Red Wings took significant steps forward this season, finishing fifth in the Atlantic Division with a 41-32-9 record, their most wins and points since 2015-16 and an 11-point improvement from the 2022-23 campaign. Detroit and the Washington Capitals finished the regular season tied with 91 points in the standings, but Washington earned the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot because it earned the tiebreaker with 32 regular season wins, five more than the Red Wings’ 27.

“Overall, I’m encouraged by the progress of the organization and the development of some of our younger players,” Yzerman said. “I’m kind of disappointed, as most people are, at the end of the season here because it was, particularly the last week of the season, incredibly exciting.”

Yzerman said it’s important the Red Wings continue their upward trajectory. Detroit went 17-49-5 (39 points) in Yzerman’s first full season at the helm in 2019-20, then ended the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign at 19-27-10 (48 points). After going 32-40-10 (74 points) in 2021-22, the Red Wings finished 35-37-10 (80 points) in 2022-23.

“Probably going to have to get more than 91 points next year to get in,” Yzerman said. “That’ll be a challenge for us. But again, I’m looking more so at the overall growth of the organization and all of our younger players, and I see that progressing. I hope that translates into more wins for us next year and actually getting into the playoffs.”

Steve Yzerman | End of Season Media Availability

One area of needed growth will be in team defense after Detroit ranked 24th in the NHL in goals against per game (3.33).

Yzerman said playing more efficiently away from the puck will be an area of emphasis in the 2024-25 campaign.

"I'm counting on our coaching staff to work with our players and our players to be determined to do that,” Yzerman said. “It's not necessarily the system. It's the basic fundamentals of defending that at times this year we struggled with, and we need to address that again."

Off-ice development is also important to Yzerman, who said head coach Derek Lalonde played a key role in the development and confidence-building of Detroit’s roster.  

“I thought there was a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of determination amongst the players,” Yzerman said. “Obviously, we weren't perfect, but the most important thing I feel from my vantage point is that our players are motivated, determined and there’s a good atmosphere within the locker room. Part of that is the coaching staff helps foster or create that.”

The Red Wings’ to-do list this offseason is multi-faceted, but it begins with roster decisions.

Goalie James Reimer, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and forwards Patrick Kane, David Perron, Daniel Sprong and Christian Fischer are all pending unrestricted free agents. Yzerman said he also must consider Detroit’s pending restricted free agents, including defenseman Moritz Seider, forwards Lucas Raymond and Joe Veleno, and prospects Jonatan Berggren, Albert Johansson and Jared McIsaac.

“It’s a bit of a puzzle,” Yzerman said. “We have some restricted free agents who have to sign too that are going to have a significant impact on our salary cap, regardless of whether we go short or long term. I have an interest in bringing back all those players to a certain level.”

Yzerman said the Red Wings could also look internally to fill some lineup holes.

“Looking at some of the younger players within our organization who aren’t in or didn’t finish the season in Detroit, I think there’s potential,” Yzerman said.