Four years later, Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is satisfied with how the rebuild is going. On Friday, when prompted, Yzerman said, ‘It’s gone ok’ but also noted that he’d love to be further along in the process.
The Detroit Red Wings finished the 2022-23 season with a near .500 record at 35-37-10 and have missed the postseason for seven consecutive years. This after making the playoffs for a record 25 straight seasons, albeit limping their way in over the last couple of years. On Friday, when Yzerman mentioned that he’d love to be further along in the rebuilding process, I couldn’t help but be reminded of those final few playoff appearances under the guidance of Ken Holland, who seemed content with just scratching and clawing to get into the postseason knowing they did not have the horses or makeup to make a serious run as they often did in years past.
I can’t help but believe Holland was getting pressure from ownership to ‘keep the steak alive.’ Trading young assets to acquire players near the end of their careers, like Erik Cole and David Legwand (among others), become a problematic theme that eventually backfired. Still, that streak became the main thing that hampered the organization from being ‘further along’ in the process, as Yzerman put it on Friday.
Yzerman surely does not blame his former boss, and I understand that he means that he’d like to be ahead of where he is right now since taking over the organization. Perhaps a playoff team right now, and not sellers ahead of this past trade deadline, but instead buyers. It became evident over the course of this past season that the Detroit Red Wings are still a couple of seasons away from making a deep postseason run.
Steve Yzerman continues to preach patience when it comes to the Detroit Red Wings rebuild process.
"“I started out four years ago saying it’s going to take time, we’re going to have to be patient. We are trying to draft well. We have been able to accumulate more draft picks. Time will tell if we have drafted well. It is just a slow process. I would love to sit here and say we are thrilled with where we are at, and how things have gone through four seasons. I have been been pleased with some of the development of our draft prospects, and others have taken longer, or haven’t quite turned out at this point to what we had hoped, but that’s OK.”"
Yzerman also spoke about free agency and the need for some of Detroit’s younger players to take a step forward.
"“We’ll look at the free agent market to potentially replace some of the offense,” Yzerman said. “I hope within our team that we get more production out of some of our younger players. If we can take a guy from eight or nine goals to 14 or 15, if younger guys play a little bit bigger role and also contribute a little bit more on the offensive side, that will help. We have to score more. We have to be a more physical team, a more competitive team. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have to go out and get somebody 6-6, 250, to go out and beat people up. You have to win puck battles, you have to block shots, win faceoffs. All those little things make a team more competitive and we have to improve in all those areas."
Yzerman also doesn’t appear to be overly optimistic about next season and continues to preach patience which leads me to believe he still assumes this organization is a couple of years away from being the team he envisions.
"“But the players that we moved at the deadline, I knew at that time there would be holes in our roster and I am prepared to deal with that. And truthfully, I might not be able to address all of those in this offseason. It might not be possible. Some of our young guys might not be ready and players in free agency might not be available, but it’s still things that had to be done, whether it was at the deadline or this coming offseason.”“I look at the group and I believe there are players that would help us and I would like to sign,” Yzerman said. “The issue is, there are 31 other teams, and the list isn’t really that long. That makes it challenging.“We’ll do the best we can to fill our roster. I still want to be a competitive team next year, I want guys that fit the position, the type of player, and maybe most importantly, the character of the person, that fits into our lineup. I’ll be active; how much I can accomplish, I don’t know. Last year there was a bigger group of players available in free agency. There’s not as big a group this year.”"
If the Detroit Red Wings hope to compete with the likes of Boston, Toronto, and Tampa Bay, the organization needs to see a significant boost in play from their younger developing players, such as Lucas Raymond, Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, and Michael Rasmussen.
A boost in play from that group will also take the pressure off some of the more inexperienced players that could see a significant role starting next season, like Marco Kasper, Simon Edvinsson, Elmer Soderblom, and Carter Mazur. Detroit needs to add some quality, consistent depth scoring, but I wouldn’t rule out that primarily coming within if everything goes as planned.