The Detroit Red Wings will be one of 11 teams hoping for luck in the NHL Lottery next Monday. With just a five percent chance to win the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, it’s fans jobs to hope while it’s general manager Steve Yzerman job to prepare for whatever happens.
In this edition of Detroit Red Wings two truths and a lie, DHN will look at how week’s draft and how it may–or many not–affect offseason plans.
Truth: Regardless of Draft Position, Yzerman Will Make an Eye Popping Move
There are many examples of Yzerman’s ability to shock when it comes to transactions. His first big one was drafting Moritz Seider in 2019 with a slew of forwards still on the board. Another was dealing Anthony Mantha to Washington only months after signing him to an extension. Trading Filip Hronek to Vancouver was another one.
A review of what was said as Yzerman, Lalonde, and the players answered end-of-the-year media sounds exactly as it should. The rebuild, unofficially is over. No one will declare it so. But reading between the lines, it sure seems like anything but a playoff spot next year will be seen as a disappointing failure.
Captain Dylan Larkin noted the youth injection and how it will help Detroit going forward.
“As much as you think about next year you think with the young players coming into our lineup, it’s a much better environment for them to succeed with support that we’ve had in the past,” Larkin said. “That’s what I’m really excited about.”
But there was this gem from Lalonde, who offered praise first for his team’s effort before laying down the truth.
“I think I was realistic with what my expectations were with this team. I did not have this team – I have no problem saying it now, and I never would have said this to this group all year – I didn’t see this as a playoff team.”
It’s a very blunt assessment, one that follows Lalonde talking about how the team didn’t have the horses to compete with the elite teams. It’s absolutely true, and any viewer or fan of the team knows that, too.
Only Larkin had more than 30 goals. David Perron notched 24 and Dominik Kubalik potted 20 on the nose. It’s not enough. So a team that is inching closer but needs that big scorer or two to have a more balanced attack, it seems only logical that Yzerman will look to acquire it.
Alex DeBrincat was profiled by DHN’s Bob Duff, who wrote a pros/cons list of acquiring him. Maybe they’ll target someone else. But Yzerman knows the team needs more skill. Don’t be surprised if he swings the big deal to acquire it.
Truth: Lalonde is Better than Many Realize
Several Red Wings players lauded the staff in its ability to communicate and teach. Communication is one thing, but being able to take the complex, break it down effectively, and watching your pupils execute is a whole other.
“First of all, all the coaches, they’re great teachers,” forward Michael Rasmussen said. “Whether it was practice or video, they did a really good job of teaching us, whether it’s a system, or something to do with special teams. Just different scenarios. I think how they explained things and how they structured practice was really beneficial for the group.”
Veteran Andrew Copp appreciated the optimism Lalonde brings.
“I don’t think he ever missed a mark by any means,” Copp said. “I felt like his positive, he’s got a good staff around him that balances him out but he’s definitely a very positive voice and was able to help instill some confidence in us when maybe we didn’t have as much as we need to that night.”
Beyond the players, analysts and fans outside of Detroit are taking notice–right down to the obligatory Gru comparison.
Derek Lalonde is excellent on @Sportsnet intermissions. Great analysis on little things the average fan doesn't see. Looks like a super villain too ! Lol …
— Jason York (@jasonyork33) April 23, 2023
Surely, next season will bear out whether or not the trajectory is correct. But it sure seems as if Yzerman chose wisely with his first pick for bench boss.
Lie: Winning the Lottery Eases the Offseason To-Do List
Make no mistake about it, if the Red Wings finally hit the jackpot and earn the right to choose first, it will ease the problem down the middle for Detroit. Connor Bedard would give Detroit the one-two punch they haven’t had down the middle in nearly a decade. But it would hardly solve all of their problems.
If anything, it would give Yzerman pause as to what his next move would be. Echoing the first truth of him making an eye popping move, it would alleviate the need to use the other first round pick they have, perhaps using that as a way to bundle someone or another pick to grab an impact player elsewhere.
Bedard would accelerate things, but there are still pressing needs–whether they pick first or eleventh. Although Yzerman didn’t expect a playoff run, he’s expecting things to continue going the right way.
“I’ve seen improvement in our team and I’ve seen improvement in our young players going forward,” Yzerman said. “I expect improvement in these same players for next year. Does it translate into us going from 35 into more wins? I’m not sure. But I expect our guys to be better.”
Lottery luck will help, but it won’t ease Yzerman’s workload. If anything, he’ll likely make a bigger deal to keep the momentum going so the improvement continues.