Yzerman’s already on the job of rebuilding the Red Wings
The jumbo screen on Comerica Park’s scoreboard delivers the news that Steve Yzerman is back in town.
After returning to the Red Wings on Friday, Steve Yzerman immediately began his quest of returning the Red Wings to becoming a Stanley Cup contender and, ultimately, a winner.
The team’s new executive vice-president and general manager said his first and most important order of business would be to begin preparing for the NHL draft, which will be held June 21-22 in Vancouver.
“The draft is the No. 1 priority. I’ll be spending some time with everyone I can in the organization,” Yzerman said on Friday.
Detroit has the sixth overall pick for the second straight year as well as nine more selections.
“How well we draft, how quickly these players develop into impact players in the NHL will determine” if the team can return to the league’s elite, he said. “The plan doesn’t change.”
Yzerman said he’ll start draft prep by attending the U18 World Championships in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, to scout many of this year’s draft-eligible players. The tournament began this past Wednesday and ends next Sunday.
“I’ll go to the U-18s, get a chance to spend some time with the amateur scouting staff over there. I’ll have a chance to come back and meet with (coach) Jeff Blashill,” he said. “I’ll meet with as many people as I can as soon as I can, to touch base. Whenever there’s changes made, there’s uncertainty, and it’s important to reach out.”
The Wings are confident they will get a good player with their first pick and a few more later on in Vancouver. But those players will need time to mature and develop.
“The kids, you’re drafting them 18-, 19-year-olds, it takes time for them to go from prospects to NHL players to NHL players who win,” Yzerman said.
But he thinks the Red Wings already have the beginning of a nucleus of good young players to build around.
“It takes a pretty good number of players to have that core,” Yzerman said. “I think we’re off to a tremendous start with the likes of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, (defenseman) Filip Hronek.”
Yzerman was asked about Larkin and his possibility of being named Detroit’s captain before the 1919-20 season.
“I’ll certainly discuss that with Jeff Blashill. I can’t say that’s my decision. I tend towards let the coach make that decision,” he said. “But I certainly would like to talk to him about it. Whoever that is, whenever that is, you make sure it’s the right player and he’s at the right stage of his career for that. That can come in time. To me, more so than wearing the ‘C’ on your jersey, is really how you conduct yourself, how you play, your attitude more so is what determines the leader of the team.”
Yzerman said he doesn’t know Blashill, whom Ken Holland signed to a two-year contract extension late in the season, but he has been impressed by his coaching abilities since 2013. That year Blashill led the Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, to a Calder Cup Championship win over the Tampa Bay Lightning’s affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, when Yzerman was Tampa Bay’s general manager.
He called Blashill an “excellent young coach.”
Despite all the preliminary work in his near future, Yzerman stays focused on his ultimate goal – returning the Red Wings to the top of the NHL. But he knows the work that must be done to get there.
“To be honest with you, I’m nervous,” he said. “I got a lot of work to do, and I got to do a good job.”