With training officially underway, the Detroit Red Wings were finally able to hold their first team practice in nearly 10 months and they’ll now have just two weeks to prepare for the upcoming season.
After finishing with the worst record (17-49-5) in the league last season, the goal is simple for the Red Wings in 2021: They must display significant signs of progression and take a positive step forward in their rebuilding process. But with this season shortened to just 56 games, the club will have little room for error during this sprint to the finish line.
Entering his sixth season in the league, forward Anthony Mantha is coming off yet another injury-riddled campaign, which limited him to just 43 games in 2019-20. Along with aiming to remain healthy throughout this season, the 26-year old is also hoping his team can move on from last season and get off to a good start when the regular season opens on Jan. 14.
“We need to kind of forget about last year,” Mantha discussed. “This is a quick new season, the tempo is going to be really high starting in camp. So I think we need to bring that intensity, that will of playing hockey to the start of the season.”
As of right now, it’d be extremely difficult for the Red Wings to qualify for the playoffs this season, especially with just four postseason spots up for grabs in each division. That being said, Mantha is determined to prove those critics wrong and is hopeful his team can prove they deserve to be considered playoff contenders moving forward.
“We want to prove people wrong, like it’s been the message for two years now,” Mantha explained. “Yes, we’re in a rebuild mode but we want to take it to the next step. We don’t want to be [in] a rebuild mode for five more years, we want to finish it this year. This is our chance, we had a great start last year.
“So hopefully we could get a great start, build off that, and then it’s going to be half[way through] the season just like that. Then at that point, it’s kind of keep things going for a playoff push.”
Over his 43 games last season, Mantha averaged a career-high 18:54 minutes of ice time per game, producing 16 goals, 38 points, nine power-play points, 0.37 goals per game, 0.88 points per game, 137 shots on net, 49 hits, 25 blocks, 22 takeaways, and a 42.1% faceoff percentage.
Based on the current divisional realignment that’ll occur this season, the Red Wings will see a lot of familiar faces in the “central” division throughout the course of the regular season, including the two teams who faced off against one another in the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Finals (Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars). With that in mind, Mantha believes each game could prove to be extremely physical and is also certain there’ll be several new rivalries created as well.
“They’re going to be intense,” Mantha mentioned. “At the same time, we’re playing so many games in such a tight schedule that maybe the physicality is going to kind of wear off a little bit. So it’s either one or the other, it’s hard to tell right now. We’re going to probably see after a couple [of] games how it goes, but there’s going to be new rivalries that are going to get created over this season.”