Following a near 10-month hiatus, the Detroit Red Wings are set to open training camp on New Year’s Eve and will finally be able to hold their first full-team practice since March, which is certainly long overdue.
Since the Red Wings finished at the bottom of the standings last season, sorry for the reminder, they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive campaign. As a result, the organization was forced to take an extremely long off-season and the majority of their roster hasn’t participated in a single game since Mar. 10.
But with the 2020-21 campaign scheduled to begin on Jan. 14, everyone involved is just very excited to turn the page on a new chapter and improve off their disappointing season. After being off for an extended period of time, coach Jeff Blashill now owns a new appreciation for his job and couldn’t be happier to be back at Little Caesars Arena.
“Sometimes when you can’t do it for 10 months, your appreciation of it can only grow, and it certainly has grown,” Blashill explained. “Just to make sure we’re enjoying the everyday of the NHL, we’re enjoying the competition, we’re enjoying trying to beat the very best in the world. I think we’re excited about that. From our players’ perspective, there’s a hunger there. The slate is totally clean. We’ve got a clean slate, and let’s bring that hunger to the rink every single day.”
Without any preseason games along with a much shorter training camp than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this process is expected to feel a little differently for the Red Wings, especially since it’s taking place so late in the year. That being said, Blashill isn’t planning to allow these obstacles to derail his upcoming goals, as he’ll be attempting to prepare his players for a shortened 56-game season in just two weeks.
“It’s certainly going to be a little bit different than other years,” Blashill detailed. “We’re basically serving two purposes here at camp once we get started. No. 1 is to get ourselves as ready as humanly possible as a team, and No. 2 is figuring out which guys are earning what ice time.”
Despite an extended layoff, the Red Wings were still able to conduct plenty of business this off-season, as the front office made a flurry of significant moves. Along with extending core players Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha, the club also acquired Bobby Ryan, Marc Staal, Vladislav Namestnikov, Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill, and Thomas Greiss this summer.
While it’s not an ideal situation, the coaching staff will need to evaluate their entire roster by judging them through just practices and intra-squad scrimmages, which won’t be an easy task. Though accomplishing this feat will become even more challenging based on the shortened timeframe, Blashill believes his team is ready to compete for playing time and the sixth-year head coach can’t wait to get started.
“We have a whole bunch of fresh faces, so we have to make sure we value practices,” Blashill discussed. “We’re going to have internal scrimmages and we’re going to have to place great evaluation on those to make decisions on who’s earning power-play ice time, who’s earning five-on-five ice time, who’s earning spots on the team. All those things have to be figured out in that two-week period.
“We’ve got a plan going into it. Honestly, I just think we’re all looking forward to it. I don’t care how much time they give us. I want to coach, and our guys want to play.”