Steve Yzerman is not making any promises about quickly being able to turn around the Detroit Red Wings.

That’s probably a good idea.

Yzerman, who earned a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame for his play in Detroit, is entering his first season as the general manager of a franchise plodding through a rebuilding project.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 22: (L-R) Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper of the Detroit Red Wings attends the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Red Wings have failed to make the playoffs for three straight years, following a run of 25 straight postseasons that included four Stanley Cup titles. Detroit’s drought is expected to extend through Yzerman’s debut season in charge of the front office Ken Holland led for two-plus decades.

“It just takes time, “Yzerman said. “I can’t tell you in three years we’re going to be this. In five years, we’re going to be this.”

TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 13: Steve Yzerman speaks with the media on the red carpet prior to the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Brookfield Place on November 13, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Red Wings appear to have a handful of promising players, including center Dylan Larkin, but they still seem to be at least another year away from being talented enough to earn a spot in the postseason.

“This is year two or three where we’re pegged to be a bottom-five team in the NHL,” Larkin said. “To me, that stings a little bit.”

TORONTO,ON – DECEMBER 6: Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings skates away with the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on December 6, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Red Wings defeated the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Detroit opens the season Oct. 5 at Nashville.

WHO’S HERE

Yzerman did not attempt to make a splash in free agency, figuring a high-priced free agent wouldn’t suddenly turn the team into a contender. Yzerman did add 35-year-old center Valtteri Filppula, who he signed away from the Red Wings in 2013 when he was leading Tampa Bay after the Finn was drafted and developed in Detroit. Yzerman acquired another familiar face in August, trading a fourth-round pick next year to the Lightning for 24-year-old winger Adam Erne. Patrik Nemeth, who has 250 games of NHL experience, was also signed to bolster the blue line.

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – MARCH 03: Valtteri Filppula #51 of the New York Islanders in action against the Philadelphia Flyers during their game at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on March 03, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

WHO’S NOT

Detroit lost some depth on the backend when Niklas Kronwall decided to retire. The team chose not to bring back 35-year-old winger Thomas Vanek, creating more opportunities for younger players.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – FEBRUARY 16: Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings clears the puck in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on February 16, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Detroit Red Wings 6-5 in overtime. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Holland agreed to step down as general manager to clear the way for Yzerman’s hire before leaving to lead Edmonton’s front office.

KEY PLAYERS

Detroit’s top two lines have to be spectacular for this to be a surprising season. Larkin is coming off a career-high, 73-point season. He is expected to center the top line with Anthony Mantha, who had a career-high 25 goals last season, and Tyler Bertuzzi, coming off a career-high, 47-point season. Andreas Athanasiou is back at wing after the speedy player was a center last year and the team needs him to make the transition smooth.

MONTREAL, QC – MARCH 12: Andreas Athanasiou #72 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 12, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The Red Wings are desperately hoping Mike Green, Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson can stay healthy to make up for the veteran presence lost when Kronwall decided to be an adviser for Yzerman instead of playing for him. They would be pleasantly surprised if 19-year-old winger Filip Zadina, drafted No. 6 overall last year, is ready to contribute on the third line.

Detroit decided to keep a standby in net, signing Jimmy Howard to a one-year contract extension. He has 244 victories since Detroit drafted him in 2003 and he gives the team its best chance to win this season.

OUTLOOK

Red Wings fans have been clamoring for Yzerman to come back to lead the franchise. They got what they wanted, but Yzerman isn’t going to be able to make miracles happen with a team that doesn’t have much offense after its top two lines and a defense that is average at best. Coach Jeff Blashill acknowledged the organization has to be surprised by many of its players to speed up the turnaround.

NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 27: Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill gives players direction during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Red WIngs 3-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

PREDICTION

Detroit seems destined to win a little more than 30 games for a fourth straight season. Yzerman retained Blashill, who was given a two-year contract last spring, but there may be a change on the bench by this time next year.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Comments