Yzerman sees positive signs in Red Wings struggles
GM Steve Yzerman: “I like the atmosphere within the locker room, within the coaching staff. I think it's very good."
The Red Wings might be tied for last in the NHL with 17 points (7-13-3), but their boss is staying positive.
"How much we're going to win and lose, where we're going to finish in the standings, I'm not going to predict that," first-year GM Steve Yzerman told NHL.com at the NHL general managers meetings in Toronto on Tuesday. "But I think (coach Jeff Blashill) and his staff are doing a really good job of preparing the players, of practicing. I like to think we're improving from training camp to the start of the regular season.
"As we speak here today, I think you're seeing good progress in our team."
Detroit is last in point percentage (.370), goals per game (2.35) and goals against per game (3.70) after Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Little Caesars Arena.
That loss snapped the Wings’ five-game point streak (3-0-2), which followed a dismal 1-11-1 stretch.
"Even during that stretch where we lost a lot and gave up a lot, I can't say it was because we weren't competing," Yzerman said. “I'm encouraged by the speed of play and the enthusiasm and the work ethic that the team has, and I think we're seeing progress. … I think collectively as a team, the team plays fast, the team plays hard, and it's a competitive group.
"So obviously we've got a long way to go, but I like the atmosphere within the locker room, within the coaching staff. I think it's very good."
The Red Wings have a severe lack of talent, and Yzerman has attempted to slowly address that situation by acquiring Brendan Perlini from the Chicago Blackhawks and Robby Fabbri from the St. Louis Blues. Both forwards were high first-round draft picks who haven’t quite panned out.
"We like to think they have some upside," Yzerman said. "How high that goes, time will tell. But they're young players, offensive-minded players, and we'll see if they can't kind of grow with our core of young players."
While Perlini has only an assist in 10 games, Fabbri is off to a great start in Detroit with three goals and four assists in six games after scoring a goal on Tuesday.
Of course, everyone is keeping an eye on Grand Rapids, where several Detroit first-round draft picks are playing – forwards Michael Rasmussen, Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno and defenseman Moritz Seider, Yzerman’s first draft pick for the Red Wings.
"The message to them all at the start of the season was, 'Go get a place in Grand Rapids. Get focused on playing, and don't worry about being called up. And having said that, doesn't mean you won't be called up,' " Yzerman said. "There's nothing set in stone. ...
"It's where we feel at the end of training camp or at this stage of the season where they're all best suited to play. We want all of those young kids playing in a league where they're improving, where they're playing, where they're having some success but it's hard for them. So, you kind of decide: Is that in junior? Is that in Europe? Is that in the American Hockey League? Or in the NHL, for that matter? So, I don't want to say it's by design. We're just trying to figure out, where's the best place for each of these players to play now and develop and get better."
Zadina has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 16 games, Rasmussen nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 10 games, Seider eight assists in 17 games and Veleno seven points (three goals, four assists) in 17 games.
"It's not easy, but they're all progressing and all improving and having varying degrees of success," Yzerman said. "I think they're all in a really good spot, because the league is a real challenge for them and most of all they've all kind of embraced it that, 'Hey, we understand this is a hard league, and there's good players, and I have to work hard.' So I think it's good for them."
Yzerman, the rest of the organization and Red Wings fans hope that, in the end. Those four will play a big part in returning the team to the NHL’s elite.