It hasn’t been the most pleasant of seasons for the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings.
Following a modest 2-2 start to the 2020-21 campaign, they’ve won just three additional games and currently sit at 5-12-3. Among their problems is a maddeningly inefficient powerplay and difficulty scoring goals.
However, their win-loss record isn’t how GM Steve Yzerman is assessing his team.
“Our first four games we played pretty well and then right away over the course of a week we lost five players (COVID),” Yzerman said. “The decision (by the NHL) was made to keep playing through it and unfortunately we lost every single game (0-6-2 during a two-week stretch). Many of our key players went through it. It’s difficult to win with a healthy squad; in the position we’re in, with a healthy squad it’s a challenge. So, we missed a lot of key guys and we paid for it.”
The Red Wings have lost several close games aside from a handful of blowouts, and Yzerman is pleased with the players’ efforts most nights.
“The guys are playing hard, they’re working at it; we’re in a lot of close games, which is a positive,” Yzerman said. “We played a close game on Saturday night and we won (2-1 over Florida). We didn’t self-destruct, we played disciplined, we played really hard. I was very encouraged by that.
“We all get emotional game to game; you win, you’re happy, you lose, you’re unhappy, but overall, for where we’ve been for the past month, I see a lot of positive things. Not necessarily showing up in goals and assists and wins and losses, but a lot of things we’re doing have been a significant step in the right direction. It’s based on playing hard and being competitive and being a more difficult team to play against.”
He’s also encouraged by the progress being made by younger players, such as the likes of Filip Zadina, despite it not necessarily showing on the scoresheet.
“The pucks are going to go in the net. I’m not worried,” Yzerman said. “I’ll use Filip Zadina as an example. He knows how to score. When he gets the puck in the slot, he knows what to do with it. Do all the other parts of the game really well, continue to get better in those things. Goals and assists will come. Learn to do the little things well that help us win games. It’s not all goals and assists.”
The wins are going to eventually start coming, but until then, Yzerman is pleased with the progression of the team, including being harder to play against.
“The progress I see from last year to this year, and it’s still relatively early, is we’re a harder team to play against, defensively we’re much better collectively. We’re not winning a lot of these games, but I go back to the last game, as that game went on, we didn’t make a lot of mistakes to hurt our chances of winning, we just hung around, hung around and eventually tied it up and scored a big goal and did a really good job after that in winning the game.”
– – Quotes via Ansar Khan of MLive Link – –