NHL

What Does Steve Yzerman Have To Work With?

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The Detroit Red Wings announced Steve Yzerman as the club’s new Executive Vice President and General Manager on Friday. Ken Holland, the team’s former General Manager, was promoted to Senior Vice President and given a multi-year extension. Speculation about Yzerman’s return began when he stepped aside as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in September. It reached a fever pitch early Friday morning when the Red Wings announced a press conference involving Yzerman, Holland, and owner Christopher Illitch.

Yzerman’s hiring ends Holland’s 22-year tenure as the team’s General Manager. During his nine-year run in Tampa, the Lightning became one of the National Hockey League’s model franchises. Since 2013-14, no team has won more games or scored more goals than Tampa Bay.

Since Yzerman’s first year with the organization, the Lightning rank 5th in wins in the NHL. The Lightning became perennial contenders under his leadership. This past season, the Lightning tied the record for most wins in a season (62) that was set by Yzerman’s 1995-96 Red Wings team.

The move was incredibly popular with the Detroit Red Wing fan base. The Red Wings have missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons. This recent tumultuous stretch comes after the team made the postseason 25 consecutive years. Yzerman was the captain for a majority of that streak, and led the Wings to three Stanley Cups during his tenure. At the time he was drafted in 1983, the Red Wings had missed the postseason in five consecutive seasons.

This will not be an easy task. When Yzerman went to Tampa Bay, they already had two franchise cornerstones in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. It wasn’t an easy job in Tampa, but there were pieces already in place that are not currently in place in Detroit. The Wings do have one potential cornerstone in Dylan Larkin, and there’s a potential supporting cast around him. Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Andreas Athanasiou complemented Larkin well last season. Athanasiou specifically was the only other Red Wing to score 30+ goals.

The Red Wings forward depth in their prospect pool is promising. Headlining this group is Joe Veleno, who played in juniors with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. Veleno was selected 30th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and broke out in the Q this season. He finished the regular season with 104 points and was named as a finalist for the Michel Brière Memorial Trophy as league MVP. Drummondville is currently in the semifinals of the President Cup Playoffs against the Halifax Mooseheads.

Another intriguing forward prospect is Filip Zadina. He surprisingly fell to the Red Wings in last year’s draft at #6 overall. Zadina struggled in his first professional season, netting 35 points with the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) and three points in nine games with Detroit. Overall, he has the potential to be a nice top line sniper alongside Larkin, but will need to bounce back next season.

Yzerman’s biggest task for rebuilding this team is on the blueline and in the blue paint of the goalie crease. Detroit doesn’t have a surefire potential top paring defenceman in their system. Dennis Cholowski could be that guy, however. He struggled at times in Detroit his rookie season, but netted 16 points in 52 games. Chowlowski was controversially demoted on his own bobblehead night, but he handled it well. He proceeded to net 12 points in 25 AHL games and helped anchor the Grand Rapids blueline into the Calder Cup Playoffs. Despite this, there isn’t much else in the way of quality defensive depth in the system.

In the net, the Wings have Filip Larsson, who they just signed to his entry level contract. Larsson was a sixth round pick in 2016, and had recently played college hockey at the University of Denver. He went 14-6-2 with a 1.94 goals against average, .932 save percentage, and four shutouts. Larsson could be the goalie of the future, but that is a big could. 

Yzerman has some pieces in place, but he will need time to gather everything in place. The Wings will not contend right away, and that’s fine. Great things take time, and this will be no exception. Yzerman has an opportunity to add to this farm system in June’s draft. The Red Wings are picking sixth overall once again, and have three second-round picks. This draft is vital to the Red Wings future success, and as Yzerman said in his press conference, it’s time to get to work.

Featured Image: Detroit Red Wings via Twitter

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