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Playoffs? Are We Really Talking About Red Wings And Playoffs?

The Detroit Red Wings haven’t been an NHL playoff team since the 2015-16 season

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Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings GM
GM Steve Yzerman is optimistic about what the Red Wings might achieve this season.

Detroit Red Wings fans haven’t been this excited about the dawning of a new NHL season in over a decade.

Playoffs? Yes, Red Wings fans have visions of postseason play dancing in their heads.

“They should be excited,” Detroit captain Dylan Larkin said. “I’m excited. It means something that we went out and acquired so many players.”

At the same time, members of the Red Wings braintrust are doing their utmost to downplay such excitement with harsh doses of reality.

It’s not that they don’t want to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, or that they aren’t going to strive with every fiber of their being to make it so.

It’s just that they know how rugged a path it’s going to be in order to complete the journey to the desired destination.

The offseason additions of goalie Ville Husso, defensemen Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta and Robert Hagg, and forwards David Perron, Dominik Kubalik and Andrew Copp is giving the Red Wings their deepest lineup in years.

“I hope things are trending in the right direction,” Detroit GM Steve Yzerman said. “I expect them to. Being able to add some free agents to address some needs, I think that makes us a deeper team. I think it makes us a better team.”

Does it make the Red Wings a playoff team? While they’re plotting a determined bid to get there, the Red Wings won’t go there in discussions about what will make the 2022-23 campaign ultimately successful for the team.

Red Wings Seeking Improvement

Instead of the P-word, Detroit is emphasizing the I-word when speaking about goals for this season.

“I think certainly an improvement from last year,” was Larkin’s assessment of a 2022-23 success story.

New coach Derek Lalonde is also seeking team improvement first and foremost.

“A successful season would look like us improving our team defense,” Lalonde said. “Keeping it out of our net and playing meaningful, significant games late in the season.

“Not far off from where these guys were in the middle of last year. We’d like to extend that to later in the year.”

Playoffs, though? Lalonde sees that being a tall order for his club.

“I don’t mean to be pessimistic on the word playoffs,” Lalonde said. “It’s more of a credit to the Eastern Conference, (that) 100 points was (needed) to make the playoffs last year.”

The Red Wings would require a 26-point increase for a year ago to get to 100 points this season.

Larkin envisions the team growing into a role as a playoff contending squad.

“I hope, I expect that we’re in the fight all the way,” Larkin said. “That we’re not getting to the trade deadline and looking to send guys out. We’re trying to stick with what we got, or even and some and be right there and be in the hunt.

“You get hot at the right time, you never know what could happen.”

Yzerman Offering Voice Of Caution

From the outset of his 2019 arrival as Red Wings GM, Yzerman has been preaching patience to the faithful. Even as excitement is reaching a fever pitch, he’s staying his slow and steady course.

“I think we’re seeing some progress,” Yzerman said. “I believe in the way we’re doing it and I think we’re gonna improve. I’m hopeful that we are a better team this year.

“I say that very cautiously, because we all make these moves with the idea to be better. Sometimes it’s just not a linear path. But I expect us to be better.”

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Playoffs, though? No, Yzerman doesn’t think at this stage it’s a carrot that he should be dangling in front of the team, or the faithful.

“As we were talking about our division, today, not knowing what’s going to happen, you’d say probably Toronto, Tampa and Florida, there’s the three teams in our division we expect to make the playoffs,” Yzerman suggested. “Pick whichever three in the Metro. Then the rest of us are competing for two Wild Card spots. That’s a real challenge.

“I’m hoping we’re there, but time will tell.”

The clock starts ticking tonight at Little Caesars Arena, as the Red Wings play host to the Montreal Canadiens in their season opener.

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