TRAVERSE CITY — The Detroit Red Wings have an eye toward the future.
The Red Wings Training Camp started Friday at Centre Ice Arena and excitement was abundant from fans, players, coaches and front office officials alike.
Plenty of changes happened over the off-season, and Friday was the first chance that fans and media got a chance to take a look at the 2019 hopefuls.
The organization made one of the biggest changes in the front office in franchise history and hired long-time captain and Hall of Fame member Steve Yzerman as the club’s new general manager, as well as the departure of Ken Holland. Holland spent the last 22 years as GM, even managing Yzerman when he was still wearing the Winged Wheel.
However, after three consecutive seasons where the Red Wings finished in the bottom six teams in the NHL, the organization decided it was time for a big change. The team has gotten younger, long-time veterans have stepped away from the game and head coach Jeff Blashill enters his fifth season with the team.
Here are some other notes from day one of Red Wings Training Camp:
Red Wings to go another year with four Alternate Captains
Many fans were looking forward to ‘The Captain’ naming a new captain for the 2019-20 season after the Red Wings decided not to name one following Henrik Zetterberg’s departure in 2018. Instead, Yzerman and head coach Jeff Blashill met over the summer and decided it was best to retain the four alternate captain format that has been in place since.
Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader will be permanent alternate captains and Frans Neilsen and Luke Glendening will rotate for home and away games. Larkin, Abdelkader and Neilsen donned the ‘A’ last season with Niklas Kronwall, who announced his retirement weeks ago.
Glendening was chosen by Yzerman and Blashill to take over for Kronwall and Blashill hopes it brings out the best in him.
“I wanted Glendening a part of that group,” Blashill said. “He is somebody who leads by example and I think he has a bigger voice and this will help his voice come out.”
Larkin said he was not disappointed after having a conversation with Yzerman about the team’s leadership over the summer, instead he came out of the meeting encouraged to continue his role.
“In our locker room I can assure you that leadership is not a problem,” Larkin said. “I am happy for Luke and it is well deserved but you could look at 10 guys that could wear A’s on our team or even wear C’s.”
As for the front office, Yzerman is just getting to know the guys on the team and Blashill and he felt that he needed some time to make such a big decision and are looking for the right man.
“I don’t think you need to wear a ‘C’ to be a leader on a hockey team, or any team,” Yzerman said. “Not only Dylan (Larkin) but the rest of the guys, I am looking for them to be leaders on and off of the ice and to set the tone of the way we will play and conduct ourselves.
“When we eventually name a captain we intend that person to be the captain for a long time.”
Old faces resurface
Yzerman was announced as the new GM on April 19 and he has spent the last five months getting to know the new parts of his old organization. Yzerman enters during the first rebuild since he was drafted in 1983 and sees it as an opportunity to bring the organization back to where it was when he was a player.
“It’s an exciting opportunity and a great challenge,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done. It’s a fantastic opportunity for myself to come back to the Red Wings organization.
“When I came in 1983, we went through a rebuild and to eventually win a Stanley Cup was really gratifying. I am hoping we can do that again at some point in the future.”
Yzerman steps in mid-rebuild, taking on a team that already has a stable of quality prospects in the pipeline. He also has brought in some veterans to help the youth-laden squad adjust to the professional ranks.
The Red Wings traded for Adam Erne only a month ago, who played for Yzerman with the Tampa Bay Lightning last year, and signed 35-year old center and former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula to a two-year deal this off-season.
Filppula played for the Red Wings for eight seasons following being drafted by the club in 2002. He won the Stanley Cup with the organization in 2008 and was brought back to help lead the young squad.
Prospects have real shot at roster
The Red Wings have had back-to-back sixth overall picks in the NHL Entry Draft and have rounded out their roster with a ton of young prospects looking to get their shot at the National Hockey league.
They selected forward Filip Zadina in 2018 and bolstered their defensive prospects with Moritz Seider on June 21. Zadina, 19, and Seider, 18, join a stable of prospects that the Red Wings have been developing over the past three years.
Forward Givani Smith and defenseman Filip Hronek, who were both second-round picks in 2016, have developed into NHL-caliber players in their time with the organization. Hronek played 46 games for the Red Wings in 2018-19 and Smith spent the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Joe Veleno, a first round pick in 2018 and the top scoring forward in this year’s NHL Prospect Tournament, spent the summer working on his defense and becoming a 200-foot player. Dennis Cholowski, the top pick for the Red Wings in 2016, spent a little time with the parent club last season and is one of many young guys who have a shot at making the 2019-20 roster.
“They definitely have a chance, there are spots on the roster and ice time available,” Yzerman said of his prospects’ shot at making the NHL roster. “The younger players are pushing to make the team and there are several of them who can make it.”
The Red Wings are looking to find the most intelligent, hard working and competitive players out of the 67 that were invited to training camp, according to Yzerman. The opening night roster only has 23 spots.
“We had a chance last week to see the youngest kids in game situations but now they are a step up,” Yzerman said. “Now you are into practices and you can see if they can keep up with the NHL guys.”
The Red Wings won their second NHL Prospect Tournament title on Tuesday and Yzerman and the rest of the front office see that as the ultimate starting block.
“I think they are the next wave,” Larkin said. “There is still great veteran leadership and veteran players on our team and they know how to win so we are going to rely on them big time and continue to learn from them. I think throughout the season you will see another young wave coming in and we are excited to see that and show the fans we can be good know while it’s coming along.”