If you’re anything like me, odds are you may be having a “I don’t know what to do with my hands” moment. That’s exactly how I feel after one of the most exciting weeks of Detroit Red Wings hockey that we’ve had since Steve Yzerman was hired.
It all started with a solid draft: a home-run pick in Lucas Raymond, trading back to get a first-round talent in Theodor Neiderbach, and snatching up in total a dozen new prospects to the cupboard. Then came free agency — Steve Yzerman made a series of low-cost short-term deals with a handful of decent NHLers. Among them: Bobby Ryan, Troy Stecher, Thomas Greiss, Jon Merrill, Vladislav Namestnikov, etc. It took Yzerman a week to surge some talent back into this organization. We can’t forget making the big moves to set all of this up — stuff like moving on from veteran players, and buying out an albatross contract.
As I sit here and write this, it’s tough to really process what’s unfolding before us — a plan. Yzerman clearly has a plan, and you can see it in his pattern of transactions. He’s stocking up with low-term players that will help you be a better team, but can be easily moved when/if the time comes to recharge your draft stock.
A general manager with a plan? In this economy?
This, of course, is a sight for sore eyes among us Red Wings fans. We knew Steve Yzerman was going to improve this team, but it’s one of those situations where you don’t believe it until you see it.. and we’re finally starting to see it. I think most of us are still conditioned to the Ken Holland years: In his later years, it was difficult to see where Holland was taking his team. Detroit began their rebuild late, and that’s on Holland if you ask me. With Yzerman, the plan is clear, because he’s been pretty transparent about it. He wants to avoid long term contracts right now and focus on putting the right veteran pieces around his core players — and he wants to do it without breaking the bank.
Smart investments. That’s the name of the game in a new era of the NHL. Players like Bobby Ryan, Sam Garner, Jon Merrill, and so on are the type of players that can be moved in exchange for draft picks.. And that’s where Steve Yzerman wants to build this team: in the Draft.
But you really have to wonder, with Yzerman making the moves that he has, when could this team actually contend? It’s a better roster than it was this time last year, and while the team won’t be considered contenders yet, maybe there is a chance they could back into a wild card spot with the roster that has taken shape. Of course, that largely hinges on re-signing RFAs like Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, two players who are considered a critical part of the core. So yes, I could certainly see the team making a little noise, but I’m not sure I have the confidence in coaching to carry the rest of the weight.
We’re still early on into the Yzerman regime, so I’d call it cautious optimism for this fan. But optimism has been extremely hard to come by for Detroit sports, so this is has been a refreshing offseason so far. It shouldn’t be forgotten that there should still be patience among Red Wings fans. Steve Yzerman built a cup-winning team in Tampa, but it took time. Maybe that’s the case here in Detroit.