By: Will Burchfield
Fresh off back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins, Trevor Daley was a sought-after man entering free agency.
So it was a bit of a surprise that he chose to sign with the Red Wings, a team on the opposite end of the competitive spectrum. But in talking with GM Ken Holland and others in the Wings front office, the veteran blueliner got the impression that Detroit is headed in the right direction.
“After hearing where they thought their team was at and where they think it can get to, it was easy for me to make a decision,” said Daley, who spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Stars. “For a long time I’ve played against Detroit. With Dallas we had a pretty good rivalry with them and ever since I came into this league Detroit has set the mark of where a team should be.
“Their playoff history, their Stanley cups, the history of Detroit — for me it was a no-brainer to be a part of what they’re trying to do and trying to get back to. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The Red Wings saw their 25-year playoff streak come to an end last season. They finished in 14th place in the East with 79 points. Injuries were a hindrance nearly all season long — from Jimmy Howard to Brendan Smith to Justin Abdelkader — and many within the organization felt the Wings would have earnestly contended for a playoff spot had they stayed healthy.
Holland and head coach Jeff Blashill delivered this same sales pitch to Daley.
Asked if he feels the Red Wings are on the verge of getting back in the playoff picture, Daley said, “Absolutely.”
“After talking to both Kenny and Jeff, I feel like they suffered with a lot of injuries last year and they missed a lot of man-games. That is part of our sport, guys are gonna get injured, but you hope to try to stay as healthy as possible…When you lose guys, it’s tough to replace them. This league’s not easy and it’s not getting any easier, so health is gonna be a big part of it for our team,” he added.
Despite Detroit’s obvious downward trend in the standings, Holland has made it very clear he’s not going to strip things down and start from scratch. He intends to do everything he can to make the playoffs, with the belief being that anything can happen from there.
Daley is of the same mind.
“I definitely saw it first-hand for the last two years. You get in and you give yourself a chance. Getting in is part of it and once you get in, all doors open up because you get on the right roll and things get going for you,” he said. “The outcome is pretty exciting.”
The 33-year-old Daley was also drawn to Detroit for the opportunity to step into a leading role. The Wings think highly of his skating ability and puck-moving skills, and certainly seem ready to deploy him as a top-pair defenseman.
“I love to get up the ice and I love to play a lot, too, so that definitely factored into the equation. I still think I got lots of hockey left in me. This is a three-year deal, but I don’t plan on going anywhere for a while,” said Daley, a native of Torono. “I was excited what Jeff had to say about where he sees me playing, and he was honest with me. He said you come in just like everyone else and earn your ice time, and that’s the way I expect it.”
The Penguins acquired Daley in a trade with the Blackhawks midway through the 2015-16 season. Over 109 games with Pittsburgh, Daley posted 30 assists and 41 points. 22 of those points came on the power play.
“He’s really going to make our defense more mobile and deeper,” said Holland. “He can go back and get the puck, stop a pass, and at the same time he can transport it and join the rush.”
It’s no secret that the Red Wings’ free agent appeal has waned in recent years. Their acquisition of Daley proves that all is not lost.