The resume of Steve Yzerman something to behold – to say the least.
As the long-time captain of the Detroit Red Wings, he forged a relationship with the city that lasts to this day as one of Detroit’s all-time legends. He then helped turn the Tampa Bay Lightning into an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Additionally, he achieved international success by building two gold-winning Canadian Olympic squads.
But his latest challenge began this past April when he took over from maligned GM Ken Holland – returning to the city almost in the same fashion as he did upon being drafted in 1983: as someone who will resurrect the team back to their former glory.
As the team gathers in Traverse City for their annual training camp, the players are fully aware that the pressure now lies on them to perform.
“I think Stevie coming in, you can see guys are really on their toes around here right now,” veteran forward Frans Nielsen said. “He brings a lot of respect. … You don’t know what he is thinking. You really have to show your best out there. It’s not his guys, so he has no issue moving guys. You have to bring it.”
Yzerman has already began to make his mark on the team, bringing back forward Valterri Filppula as well as inking defenseman Patrik Nemeth and depth goaltender Calvin Pickard. He also drafted German defenseman Moritz Seider with the 6th overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.
The team has missed the playoffs the past three seasons after 25 consecutive appearances, and the players gathering in Traverse City will have their chance to be part of the squad that returns to the postseason. Both Yzerman and head coach Jeff Blashill are counting on players to simply not just show up, but to prove they belong in the NHL.
“Both (with) myself and Steve, it doesn’t make sense to put guys on the team just to be on the team. We want guys that are going to help us win,” Blashill said. “So if those guys are ready to make us a better hockey team, then that’s awesome.
“Ultimately our growth has to come from that group. It’s how quick are they ready to do it and how good are they going to be. Those are two unknowns we can’t answer, but they get a chance to answer every time they play here in exhibition and every time they keep playing throughout the season.”