The Grind Line: Yzerman’s Cup Contending Plan for the Red Wings

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Steve Yzerman’s return to the Detroit Red Wings organization became a recognized holiday in Michigan. The rumors and suspicions surrounding his seemingly sudden departure from the Tampa Bay Lightning finally were quelled in the best sense.

The Grind Line has discussed in the pastwhat the return of Yzerman would yield for the struggling team. Looking at the framework set by his endeavors in Tampa, we decided to take a look at what kind approach he’d take to make the Red Wings cup contenders once more. Will he adopt what Ken Holland has left or will he employ a bolder, more aggressive approach? How long will it be till we see the winged wheel in the playoffs again?

Steve Yzerman, Christopher Ilitch
Steve Yzerman and Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. after Yzerman is introduced as the new executive vice president and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Rachel Anderson: Contenders in Two

Yzerman holds an aggressive approach but isn’t so flippant as to pull the rug out from under the establishment. Holland, recently signing with the Edmonton Oilers, left him with a good batch of picks for the upcoming draft and a decent structure to build on which I’m confident he’s already digging into.

In his press conference following the announcement of his new position with Detroit, Yzerman expounded a great deal on the process and the lengths Holland had to go to in order to make the 1996-97 championship even possible. He sees the value in patiently planning and developing your players while maintaining a firm plan.

Incidentally, this is also where the more aggressive approach will come into play. Yzerman possesses a true understanding of the developmental leagues and will utilize the tools available at the AHL level by tapping into them sooner – pushing the players harder. He has a high standard for himself and that will translate into the standards he has for the players who wish to make the NHL jump.

It could realistically be two to three seasons till Detroit is even close to being a playoff contender. However, with his understanding of not only the player’s mind but the backend grit, I think he can get the ball rolling on some serious progress.

Tony Wolak: Contenders in 3-5 Seasons

It may be a new era in Hockeytown, but the rebuild plan may not be changing much. In fact, I believe that the “Yzerplan” won’t differ much from Holland’s recent strategy – be patient, acquire draft picks, and build from within.

Steve Yzerman's approach for Detroit will center around speed and high hockey IQ.
Steve Yzerman (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Red Wings of the future will be built on speed, high hockey IQ, and with high-character players. From Dylan Larkin to Filip Zadina, that’s always been the plan. But now, Yzerman can bring insights to the table from Tampa Bay’s rebuild.

Related – Red Wings Rebuild: Grading the Young Guns

His previous contract negotiations, in particular, will serve as good lessons for Red Wings’ management. Yzerman was able to sign key players, including Steven Stamkos, to team-friendly deals. In a similar vein, Yzerman was masterful in handling Jonathan Drouin and Martin St. Louis’ trade demands, should anything of that nature arise.

As far as Stanley Cup contention is concerned, the team is still about three-to-five seasons away from becoming a legitimate postseason threat. They still need to add a difference-maker up front and on the blue line, plus give the young roster time to gel.

As we’ve seen with so many teams over the past few postseasons, just because you have a good team, it’s not a given you’ll go far in the playoffs. Teams need to learn how to win the big games once they actually get good. The Red Wings still need to learn how to win consistently, let alone win those big games.