Steve Yzerman: “I'm okay with where we're at”

Detroit is on the outside looking in for the 7th straight year.



The Detroit Red Wings have completed the fourth year of what they like to refer to as the "Yzerplan", named for beloved former team captain and current general manager Steve Yzerman. And while the good news is that the team did make progress in the recently completed 2022-23 NHL season, the bad news is that they once again finished outside of the postseason, making it seven straight years of being unable to compete for the Stanley Cup. 

It was Yzerman who cautioned fans upon his return to Hockeytown in April of 2019 that it wasn't going to be a quick transition from rebuilders to Cup contenders, and we're seeing that first hand. Yzerman said as much that it was obvious that they weren't ready to compete in the postseason after back to back embarrassing losses to the Atlantic Division rival Ottawa Senators by a combined 12-3 score in late February, and made the decision to sell off assets at the Trade Deadline in the form of Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek, Oskar Sundqvist, Filip Hronek and Jakub Vrana.

Yzerman met with media members this afternoon at Little Caesars Arena, and stated that while he does wish that things could be farther along in the rebuilding process, that he's "okay" with his team's current standing in the NHL. 

"It's gone okay," he said when asked to review his first four years on the job. "I would love to be further ahead in the process, but again, I started out four years ago saying that it would take time and that we need to be patient. We're trying to draft well and accumulate more draft picks, and time will tell if we've drafted well, that's the reality. It's a slow process, and I would love to sit here and say I"m thrilled with where we're at and how things have gone the last four seasons. I've been pleased with some of the development of our draft prospects, and others are taking longer or haven't quite turned out to this point what we hoped, but that's okay. I fully believe in where we sit here today from four years ago." 

Detroit was dealt two serious blows almost immediately right off the bat this season, with Tyler Bertuzzi breaking his hand in the second game of the year and then subsequently breaking his other hand after missing six weeks with the initial injury. And of course, fans won't soon forget the saga involving Vrana in which he entered the NHLPA Player Assistance Program for an undisclosed personal matter and then playing sparingly with the Red Wings upon his reinstatement. 

But for now, it sounds as though Yzerman is going to continue to stay the course, regardless of how long it takes while also noting the progress of the young players on the team. 

"I'm not disappointed at where we're at, I guess I'm okay with it. But I intend to stick with the process and the plan. Nothing is going to dramatically change, we're going to continue looking for opportunities to expedite the process. That's difficult to do, but we'll continue to do it. I guess four years in, I'm okay with where we're at. I'm hoping to see more improvement and we started to see some of it. Last year we had Lucas and Moritz come in, and this year we got games from Berggren and Michael Rasmussen who was drafted prior to me getting here. Joe Veleno is slowly increasing his role and having a bigger impact. We're gradually moving some of the younger players in." 

"I'm okay where we're at. Like all of you, I wish we were further ahead as well." 

When asked how he intends to replace the lost offense of Bertuzzi and Vrana heading into next season, Yzerman acknowledged that while he'll be taking a look at the free agent market, he's also looking for additional contributions from the players already on the roster." 

"Again, we'll look at the free-agent market to potentially replace some of the offense. I hope within our own team, we get more production out of some of our younger players that will be taking on a bigger role. 

"Going back to the players we moved at the deadline, I obviously knew at that time there were going to be holes in our roster, and are prepared to deal with that. Truthfully, I may not be able to address all of those in the offseason, it may not be possible. Some of our young guys may not be ready and players in free agency might not be available. But it was still something that had to be done, whether it was at the deadline or this offseason."