With one of the most unusual off-seasons in recent years winding down, teams across the entire league are preparing to open their respective training camps in a few weeks and they’ll each be aiming to open this 56-game season on a positive note.
For the Detroit Red Wings, they’ll soon be able to hold their first official team practice for the first time in nearly a year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented them from coming together as an entire group since March. Set to open camp on Dec. 31, the coaching staff will be doing their best to make sure every skater is fully prepared for this sprint to the finish line, which could prove to be extremely difficult without any preseason games.
Even though the Red Wings will be limited to scrimmages until the regular season opens, players shouldn’t have any excuses for showing up out of shape, as each of them had a much longer off-season than usual to prepare for the upcoming campaign. With that in mind, general manager Steve Yzerman isn’t expecting anyone to be in mid-season form just yet, but he’s very confident every skater will be ready to compete for a job when camp opens.
“I expect them to be energetic and enthusiastic,” Yzerman discussed. “We’ve got a lot of changes in our lineup, I’m expecting them all to be in excellent physical condition. It’ll be interesting to see who plays with whom and how we do right off the bat.”
“I’m just anxious to get going, but I expect the players to be in top physical condition – the best condition you can be in not playing games. Playing games is a whole different level or type of conditioning and I don’t know that there’s any way you can replicate that from playing games.”
Making several notable moves after a disappointing 2019-20 campaign, Detroit added veterans Marc Staal, Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill, and Thomas Greiss over the off-season. Paired alongside the club’s encouraging young core, the front office is hopeful this group will find a way to improve the overall product on the ice and help them take a positive step forward in this current rebuilding process.
Considering the Red Wings finished last season at the bottom of the standings, as they performed to a league-worst 17-49-5 record, it’d certainly be a nice change of pace for the team to enjoy a strong start when the regular season opens on Jan. 13. While a winning record isn’t the only form of success for a young club, Yzerman admitted he’d be extremely pleased to open this season on a winning streak, although he’s just very excited for the action to begin following this extended layoff.
“When the puck drops, roughly the 13th or 14th, [I’m] anxious to watch the team play and we’ll see how we do,” Yzerman explained. “We’d love to get off to a good start, we all probably have a different opinion what a good start for the Red Wings will be this year. But nonetheless, I’m excited and I really don’t know what to predict for us.”
Though training camp is just around the corner, the Red Wings still have one open spot left on their active roster and also have approximately $9.5 million in cap space as well, according to CapFriendly.com. Since Yzerman and his staff are always open to the idea of improving the roster, as they should be, it’s still possible management could make another significant move before the regular season opens.
“You’re always looking at ways to get ahead or improve and we’ll continue to do that right up until the regular starts,” Yzerman detailed. “So is the roster set? No. [If] one or two of these young kids come in and do really well, that’s a good thing and it forces us to make a decision.”