I wrote about all the moves made by Steve Yzerman and his staff during this pandemic-altered offseason right here. The reviews were quite positive. You see a lot of short-term upgrades and maneuvers to put this team in a better position for what we’ll call the “five-year playoff plan” -- make the playoffs in the next couple of years, win a playoff series, and then keep going further each season, adding and deleting pieces along the way, until ultimately competing for and winning the Stanley Cup. Simple enough.
Yzerman added power and depth to all areas of the team -- offense, defense and goaltending. This was your textbook team overhaul with the overarching theme of fostering a young corps by surrounding them with veteran stability in the short term. This included clearing cap space through a buyout (Abdelkader) and signing certain players to shorter deals (Bertuzzi) than some may have expected.
The idea is to ice a team that can help place value on younger players by not allowing them to get chased out of the arena on a nightly basis -- I.e.: this past season. Detroit needs to be a place where players want to play, want to grow and can see a future with better outcomes. When you look at it that way, I think we have to admit Yzerman was in no way “trying to tank” this past season, but because his hands were so tied by aging veteran contracts, it was what it was.
He didn’t try to force a square peg into a round hole last year, and that’s not the same as tanking, in my humble opinion. Instead, Yzerman’s 2019 offseason timidity represents the work of someone who wants to a build a new foundation, not paint over an existing one. Patience is a word that comes to mind. He sees the big picture and will continue to view it.
Father Time rewards patience, and so this time around Yzerman had options and he used them. I didn’t give his offseason moves a grade or any kind of relative comparison to seasons before, but theScore has done such in relation to the rest of the NHL, labeling Yzerman’s 2020 offseason a “B+.”
I’ve had a lot of respect for the writers at theScore for many years, specifically due to their focus on daily details -- here’s what they say:
“Several longtime regulars won’t be back with the Red Wings after Detroit took a few more offseason steps on its slow ascent back to contention.
With the old guard out, general manager Steve Yzerman shifted his attention to the team's young nucleus. Yzerman locked up goal-scorer Mantha to a four-year deal, gave Fabbri an extension, and inked Bertuzzi for one year to keep his RFA status intact next offseason.
The Red Wings also wisely landed a second-round pick for taking Staal's expiring contract from the Rangers. The 33-year-old won't necessarily improve Detroit's chances of winning, but his veteran presence could go a long way for the club's young core.
Bringing in Greiss to play alongside Jonathan Bernier gives Detroit a respectable tandem in goal, though it remains to be seen how successful the German puck-stopper will be without the Islanders' strong defensive system in front of him.
Overall, the Red Wings took care of their in-house talent and added some veteran pieces that should make the team more competitive than it was in 2019-20.”
As noted, making the team more competitive is key. You don’t want to watch Dylan Larkin suffer more 200-foot laps around the ice that ultimately result in the opposition scoring in spite of his determination to put the team on his back and make it work. It just won’t work like that, and it’s a terrible habit to see a young center such as Larkin fall into. We saw someone else suffer through this in the 1980s and 90s (Yzerman).
To be clear, I’m not necessarily comparing the abilities of Larkin and Hall of Famer Yzerman. I’m only pointing out that they may find themselves in a similar situation at similar points in their careers.
Yzerman knows the ramifications of losing -- in embarrassing fashions -- and what it can do to young players mentally and habitually. Now one of the goals from here on out has to be to avoid such utter failure.
Note about draft picks
Our friends at the theScore noted the following recent draft picks as possible additions to the lineup:
- Lucas Raymond -- RW -- 1st round (2020)
- Moritz Seider -- D -- 1st round (2019)
- Joe Veleno -- C -- 1st round (2018)
- Michael Rasmussen -- C/LW -- 1st round (2017)
Perhaps the most exciting player isn’t even on that list: Filip Zadina (LW -- 6th overall -- 2018). He’s barely cracked the lineup, but we should expect him to be a very important part of this team’s offense.
Here’s theScore’s grades for the rest of the Atlantic Division teams:
- Boston Bruins -- D+
- Buffalo Sabres -- A-
- Florida Panthers -- C-
- Montreal Canadiens -- A
- Ottawa Senators -- B
- Tampa Bay Lightning -- C
- Toronto Maple Leafs -- B+
Of course, whenever this new season starts (Jan. 1?) we are expecting very different divisions due to COVID travel restrictions. In fact, only the Florida teams are expected to remain in a division with Detroit.