TRAVERSE CITY — New Detroit Red Wings forward Stephen Weiss says the franchise’s perpetual contender status was a big reason he decided to come to Detroit.
Detroit signed Daniel Alfredsson and Weiss and extended Pavel Datsyuk’s deal, giving the franchise a better chance to have success as it shifts to the Eastern Conference. The Wings also re-signed veteran forward Danny Cleary on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal for $1.75 million.
“It’s really refreshing,” Weiss said as the Red Wings began training camp Thursday in Traverse City. “Those were some of the things that the coach and Mr. Holland stressed in the summer. They try to win the Stanley Cup every year and they’re going to try and do what they have to do to make that happen. That’s awesome for me, coming here and try to do whatever I can to help out.”
With established veteran stars like Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg already in the fold and adding two proven vets in Alfredsson and Weiss, the Red Wings aim to improve their offense from a year ago, when they struggled to manufacture goals. At 2.54 goals per game, Detroit was 20th out 30 NHL squads.
“One of the things we wanted to accomplish in the off-season was secondary scoring,” general manager Ken Holland said. “Last year, we were fifth in the league in goals against. We needed to be a little better in the goal-scoring department. Injuries were a factor, but we also changed the personnel. We added Alfredsson and Weiss. Weiss has 48 points in five of his last seven seasons. Alfredsson is a guy that’s a shooter and gives us another dimension on the power play. We’re excited about the additions. Obviously, it’ll take some time for the chemistry and for Mike Babcock to decide on the line combinations.”
Johan Franzen paired with Alfredsson and Weiss in Thursday’s scrimmage, while Justin Abdelkader was on the Datsyuk and Zetterberg line.
“It was awesome,” Weiss said. “Mule (Franzen) is a big, strong guy and Daniel has been around forever and his intelligence is amazing. To play with those guys is special. I’m still learning as well. There’s some teaching points from the coach today. Just little things like when you get to the corner leave Franzen alone and let him get in there. He’s so big he’s going to get the puck and do his thing. As we go on, hopefully, it will just be second nature.”
Alfredsson, 40, had a slight drop-off in his numbers in last year’s shortened season, scoring 10 goals and 26 points in 47 games. In the previous 11 years, he was a 70-point scorer nine times, including a 103-point 2005-06 campaign. He inked a one-year, $5.5 million contract with Detroit in July.
Weiss, 30, has put up 394 points in 654 career NHL games, including 42 or more points in each of the last six non-shortened seasons. He signed a five-year, $24.5 million deal in July.
Alfredsson said the first day of Red Wings activity wasn’t that big of a change for him.
“It’s not too different,” Alfredsson said. “I see a lot of similarities. I don’t know if it’s because (Paul MacLean) in Ottawa was part of this organization for a long time and applied some of the ideas with some of his own. It’s not far off. ... It looks like I should have a pretty easy time adjusting.”
Both Weiss and Alfredsson said the camp being away from Detroit was great for their acclimation to their new teammates.
“For a new guy, this is the perfect environment,” Alfredsson said. “I feel bad for my wife, being at home with four kids by herself this week. But for me, this is great. A new guy on a new team. All my time is going to be spent with the guys. It’s something I’m going to try to make the most of to make the transition here a lot easier.”
“Anytime you’re together for this amount of time, you’re going to get to know everyone a little bit better. We’ve had a couple golf tournaments, a couple functions, so getting more comfortable every day with the guys. This is a beautiful place. It’s nice to get up here and get away from the city of Detroit a little bit and spend some time up here.”
Growing up in Toronto, Weiss saw Alfredsson play a lot when he was younger.
“I wouldn’t say he was my favorite player probably growing up, but I definitely respected him,” Weiss said. “That’s the main thing. He does a lot of the little things and he’s a great leader. When they were playing the Leafs in all those playoff series I might’ve thrown out a few boos for sure.”
Weiss’ entire NHL career had been with the Florida Panthers, who made him the fourth overall selection in the 2001 draft. He also played three years for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers.
“I came to a lot of Wings games when I was up there,” Weiss said. “You always imagine yourself playing for them one day, so to get that chance is pretty special. Playing in Joe Louis Arena is pretty special, and playing with players like Pavel and Henrik and guys like that that I was watching back then is exciting.”
Detroit starts the preseason Monday at the Pittsburgh Penguins and opens the regular season Oct. 2, hosting the Buffalo Sabres.