The Detroit Red Wings aren’t going to contend for a Stanley Cup in the immediate future, but Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has made some intriguing comments over the past couple of days, suggesting that the team he’s building must play more competitive hockey this upcoming season for the sake of lifting a weight from the shoulders of Detroit’s core players.
For the sake of bolstering the Wings’ immediate stead, Detroit surrendered 2 draft picks, acquiring Nick Leddy and Alex Nedeljkovic in the process; on Friday and saturday, Detroit made a total of 5 more draft pick swaps in order to trade up and pick both Sebastian Cossa and Shai Buium.
As a result, the Wings ended up utilizing only 8 of an original set of 12 picks to take players in this year’s draft. Yzerman isn’t exactly thrilled with having to surrender draft picks, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes…
“I hate giving up draft picks,” Yzerman said. “I feel every draft pick, regardless of a first-rounder or seventh-rounder, is hope. It’s hope for a Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk or Sergei Fedorov or Nicklas Lidstrom or you name it. So I hate giving up picks. I love accumulating them and keeping them and using them.
“We still ended up with eight selections, and we did a lot of things with the picks that we had, so it does give you options.”
But the Wings’ GM made sure to emphasize the fact that he wants to make the Wings a more competitive team, both now and in the future, first after the Nedeljkovic trade, and then after Friday and Saturday’s picks:
Yzerman is balancing stoking the rebuild with improving the current team. He knows how hard it is to build a competitor — he waited 14 years as a player to lift the Stanley Cup, and that was eight years after a draft that yielded Lidstrom and Fedorov. He also knows how miserable it is to lose game after game, and doesn’t want his young core to be buried under such despair.
“I feel strongly that it’s important that we try to be competitive, so that cost us,” he said.
St. James continues (paywall), discussing the Wings’ latest draft picks, as well as the potential of the Wings’ 2019 and 2020 draft classes.
As for the Wings’ desire to improve its current lot in hockey life, the fan in me understands that being a little less competitive in terms of high draft picks is, in my opinion, the next necessary step in the rebuilding process.
For better or worse, the Wings haven’t been a very competitive team over the past two seasons, and that’s definitely worn upon the Wings’ current players. Their record doesn’t inspire the fan base, nor does it sell tickets, frankly.
There is something to be said to rounding the turn from draft lottery powerhouse toward somewhat competitive NHL team, for the players and fans’ sake, and it appears that the Wings’ GM is finally ready to shift the franchise out of neutral.
How will he and the Wings’ coaches and management accomplish said task? By balancing the necessary folding of prospects into the lineup with some aggressive work on the free agent front, both in terms of re-signing 8 restricted free agents and attempting to add to the roster on the unrestricted free agent front.