Abel to Yzerman

Abel to Yzerman

A2Y- When Does The Rebuild End?

03/05/2023 at 8:29am EST

from Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press,

At some point in the future, perhaps after Simon Edvinsson’s jersey retirement ceremony, Steve Yzerman will have dealt enough players and acquired enough draft picks that he will finally declare the Detroit Red Wings rebuild to be over and keep himself from sending so many players packing at the NHL trade deadline.

That time is not now. And it probably won’t be next year, either, if you apply Yzerman’s view of what he needs to see from the team in order to keep himself from dealing valuable assets and contributors like Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek, Jakub Vrana and Oskar Sundqvist, as he did this week.

Basically, Yzerman needs to be convinced the Wings are not only a likely playoff team, but also one that’s primed for a deep run.

“But do I think we're a Stanley Cup contender this year? No,” the Wings general manager said Friday. “Did I think we had a chance to make the playoffs? Yes.

continued ($)

Below, Ansar Khan of Mlive with an excellent breakdown of Friday's press conference.

Yzerman touched on several other topics:

On the season: “Overall, I think it’s been a positive season to date. I think our younger players have continued for the most part to develop. The veteran players I think have provided leadership and experience on the ice that we were hoping they would. I think our team has improved in general. I think we’re going in the right direction. Are we ahead, are we behind, wish it were faster – we can debate that. I’m not going to debate that. I believe we’re moving in the right direction.”

On potentially adding players at the trade deadline: “I was not going to be a buyer under any circumstances. Not this year. If I was buying, so to speak, it was going to be for players that were going to be here, younger guys that fit the time frame.”

On why Vrana didn’t pan out: “I don’t think I can really go into details on a lot of the things that have gone on. I would just say I wish Jakub the best of luck in his hockey career, on and off the ice. It was time for both parties to move on.”

On whether he actively shopped Hronek: “I don’t want to elaborate on how things necessarily come to fruition on a trade. No, we weren’t actively shopping Filip. You call around to teams to see players that we like, we see as a fit, we talk to each other, and if the answer is maybe or yes, then you talk about it further. Ultimately, I felt with where we’re at and the return we were getting that it was a good decision for the future.”



“But do I think we're a Stanley Cup contender this year? No,” the Wings

general manager said Friday. “Did I think we had a chance to make the

playoffs? Yes."

This was Stevie re asserting his authority. Nice run boys. Nevertheless, we shall continue the "Neverending Remodel" until I say different. I signed Larkin, now leave me alone... (Que the sound of hammering and skill saws!)


The first thing Stevie said when he was announced barely 4 years ago, was "Be patient". Some people haven't taken that to heart. 

And if you're bitching that the rebuild is taking too long, read up on the Dead Things era and get some perspective.


The rebuild is STARTING to take to long. It is fair for reporters to begin asking these questions. This is the 32 team cap era--unlike the dead Wings (and similar pre-cap) days when you could keep a player for their careers and not think about the cap. You don't get time to slowly stew the right ingredients and keep getting better incrementally--because by then the salary cap bites you. Even the rebuilding Wings saw this in action with 'lil Bert who left because of the salary cap.

Beyond that reason: the rebuild pre-dated SY coming to town. That's right. The rebuild started late February 2017 with the trades of Jurco and Brendan Smith--then continued with moving Vanek and Ott. They were moved for picks. The same thing happened in Feb 2018 when it was Mrazek and Tatar's turns. In Feb 2019: it was Jensen's and Nyquist's turn.

This is why SY didn't start from scratch and it's fair to begin criticizing in 2023. In fact SY is getting extra time from (criticism like) another GM because of his history in this town. He started with assets: extra draft picks plus young players like Larkin, Bertuzzi, Mantha, Athanasiou, Hronek, Givani Smith, Ras, Lindstrom, Zadina, Veleno, Berggren, McIsaac, Regula, 2019 Round 2 pick #35 (became Robert Mastrosimone), and the 2019 Round 2 pick #60 (became Albert Johansson). In addition, in 2019 SY was left with high selections in each round--premium picks like 6 and 35 in the draft.

SY came to town and preached patients: and that was what he got ('19-20, '20-21, '21-22, and '22-23). 4 complete years before articles appearing stating it was taking too long. Those articles extrapolated  the Wings chances the next 2 years (which means no one is expecting a team that competes for at least 6 years--which means a 8+ years rebuild). For perspective, 4 years is about the exact amount of time Tiger's GM Al Avila had before he got his extension (which was heavily criticized by fans both vocally and through the lack of attendance at the stadium). 7 years got him fired. SY has got a history to the organization beyond Avila that will get him more time (fairly or not)--but so did Joe Dumars (yet, he was still let go).

So, SY has got a critical year coming up (this off-season plus next trade deadline) that may well determine not only his future, but that of the Wings for the next 5 years. As the Wings aren't expected to keep getting the higher draft picks they've had recently. So their prospect pool won't keep getting rated among the league's best. Their club-controlled and cost-effective ELC's and RFA's will become more expensive (or possibly UFA's that leave). And all that is just the natural order of things that has discounted thesalary cap advantage the Wings have had because of the COVID escrow, which limited other GM's options and forced cap dumps that cost them assets.

So the criticism isn't going to lessen. It's going to ramp up. It's completely fair and goes along with the job--and even SY knows it.


Stevie inherited a HUGE mess. Contracts that busted the caps, NTCs for everyone, terrible contracts for mediocre players... And how many of the players you listed are even in the NHL, let alone on the Wings? The team didn't bottom out until two years ago. Notice how nobody (except the captain) gets any kind of term, or NTCs? That's how you run a team that's rebuilding. 

In the Dead Wings era, there were 5 teams in each division, and the top 4 made the playoffs. The Wings missed the playoffs a LOT more often then not, even in that system. That's how bad they were for a very long time. And this was during the Cup drought that had gone on since 1954. It took a long time for even Stevie to pull the team out of that decades-long funk -- to the point of talk of trading him. He's always been a cerebral guy, so he noticed what was going on in the org while he was playing, and how to build a team the right way.

Criticize all you want, that's your right as a fan. But patience is what has been preached since the first sentence out of SY's mouth as GM. Three years to field a playoff team is not a long time.


The dead Wings era was pre- SALARY CAP. It has nothing to do with today's game.

Hell, 2002 has absolutely nothing to do with today's game. You can't simply outspend a team to a championship anymore.

Bad contracts to clear is perfectly fair criticism (and why I was calling on KH getting fired in 2011). But those young players were assets--if they make the NHL or not--they were recent high round picks and could have been traded for picks OR current NHL players still.


I'm aware of that. Everyone is. There are 32 teams going for the same Cup now, so there's more competition, not just for playoff spots, but for players. You're complaining that SY hasn't fielded a playoff team in his 3 year run as GM. That's ludicrous, and I'm comparing it to the Dead Wings era because THAT was a drought. THAT was a reason to question and be angry with the organization. Saying Stevie is on thin ice as GM in Detroit is ridiculous.

DL and SY said the goal for the year was to improve, D and structure-wise, and play meaningful games in Feb and March. We did that, but it's clear that this is not a playoff team. So flip assets and keep moving forward. This year is a positive, not a disaster, as the nay-sayers seem to think.


No one is saying "thin ice" or holding a FIRE MILLEN style march to the game. No one has paper bags over their heads in the arena.

They (at least some) are STARTING to question what is the time-frame and plan as the Wings aren't competitive to teams that are on that same upward trajectory.

Again approx 4 years ('19-20, '20-'21, '21-'22, and now '22-'23--see I count 62 of 82 games played and sitting as over 7 points behind as an all but official conclusion) not 3 years. And again, the rebuild PRE-DATED SY. You don't get to throw those years out as not counting as they produced significant assets that SY had and in cases still has at his disposal (Larkin and Seider being the two most significant).

Furthermore, there are ways to dump contracts (look at the Vrana return and retention cost and tell me otherwise).

It is ludicrous to compare PRE-CAP with CAP era's. The cap is meant to help bottom feeders and punish success. Just like the draft. So the Wings should be (and are) getting a huge assist from both.

SY is trying to exploit that advantage for as many years as he can by trading away players that won't fit the structure or timing. That is smart. However, you can't slowly simmer the mixture as that same cap will become a detriment as ELC's and RFA's need non-club controlled contracts. Maybe Wings fans don't realize, but that change begins for this team in 2024-25 when Raymond and Seider have to be re-upped.

You're arguing a completely different point.

I've said everywhere else that this year was a success (https://kuklaskorner.com/abel-...). However, SY made moves that reset the team's timeline. I see a deep floor raised--but very ceiling limited prospect pool. If they aren't going to tank the rest of the season, nor throw prospects into the deep end, and there isn't a difference making UFA--then there is only so much improvement they can make via the slow and steady course.

I wouldn't count on finding the next Z or Pavel on pick 10, 11, or 12 let alone in the high rounds of the draft. So the only other choice is trading multiple picks for a superstar. Okay then, this off-season before the draft (when they have a 1st, a conditional 1st, 3x 2nd rounders, a 1st + a conditional 1st next year and a 2nd seems like the most optimal time to do so). That is why the questioning must occur.


So, you don't want to improve incrementally, you want to all of a sudden be Cup competitors. If you have a plan to do that, I'm sure SY and 31 other GMs would love to hear it.

You have, once again, missed (or ignored) the point of my bringing up the Dead Wings era, so I won't bother explaining that again.


Agree. They’ve also had bad lottery luck. SY was around when Zadina was drafted but I don’t think you can put it on him. True though that other teams have been faster in their rebuilds (NYR) and slower (BUF). BUF looks like they’re turning a corner, at least. Can’t really say that about Detroit. 


Zadina was drafted in 2018 and SY didn't come back until April of 2019.

My point on those young players was they were assets that could be moved if you didn't believe in them (like a Mantha, AA, Regula) or could be moved if you believed but didn't think they fit the cap structure/ timeline (like a Hronek, Jensen, or 'lil Bert).

I understand what you are saying....you can blame lottery luck--for other teams turning a corner faster (NJD and NYR) but the Wings still had top 10 picks (mostly 6 and above) and assets to move for 2nd picks in a round (that was taken on goaltending--which is notorious for having 1st round misses instead of a centre in your backyard with over 120 points in the OHL: Wyatt Johnston out of Windsor). They traded away assets for 2nd chance guys (like they did with Regula). My point was they weren't picking mid-round or worse.And they also got cap squeeze/dumps like Fabbri and Walman because of where they were in the standings (other GM's knew those players wouldn't be hurting them come playoff time) and the salary space they had. So there are advantages SY had. He wasn't left with a barren cupboard and the picks traded away.


Forgot SY wasn’t an AGM in 2018 because he was still in Tampa. 

I do feel that to truly contend, you need that high end talent outperforming their cap hit. The Wings haven’t had much of that in recent memory and I’m not sure there’s really anyone to blame. Watching this team tread water futilely every season is for sure getting old, though.


4 complete years before articles appearing stating it was taking too long.

I disagree. 2 of those years are not full seasons. The first 2 Yzerman years were interrupted by the pandemic.


Dunno how much credence I give to COVID as an excuse. All 32 teams had to deal with that, after all. 


You're right of course. However we aren't talking about all 32 teams, only Detroit, right at the onset of a teardown/rebuild. I'm not suggesting that it put us back another year or two, but it definitely had an adverse effect on scouting and player development.


As far as scouting....

With where Detroit picked in the draft those years (near the top), I think the effects were minimized. They might not have been able to find the diamond in the rough gem in the late rounds.

But the higher the pick the more probability of success in the draft--and the Wings picked high those years. The first year they got Raymond, the 2nd they got Edvinsson and Cossa (1st round goalies are always high risk picks), and the 3rd year of COVID impacts they got Marco Kasper. I seriously doubt COVID affected these picks.

As far as player development...
It has been the Wings philosophy for quite some time to let their players over-ripen/stew in the minors and overseas. So the missing development time is much less important than the clubs that bring up their players to the NHL level after minimal time in the minors.


The top end of the 1st round of the draft is ALWAYS pretty set, with few exceptions, so not being able to scout anybody for a year+ hurts, and those players also lost a year+ of play time and development.

The over-ripen thing was a KH strategy, not Stevie's Berggren is the arguable exception, but he was probly better off playing in a competitive GR team than languishing on the horrid Wings teams of the last several years.


Of concern during the presser Steve acknowledged that the competition is not Toronto, Tampa, and Boston, but rather Ottawa and Buffalo (and to a lesser extent, Montreal). Consider Buffalo has 5 forwards with over 20 goals (Tage Thompson at 42). Ottawa has nearly 5 forwards at north of 20 goals (Batherson at 19). Wings: Larkin is the only forward at over 20 goals. To compete next year with these teams and move up in the standings, it will take a major effort on his part to parlay some of those picks into top 6 forwards who can score 25-35 goals if they even have a chance of competing for a playoff spot. And that doesn't even address the need for RH depth on D and a second, reliable tender who can spell Husso from overwork.


He’s focused on the future. It took 9? years for Tampa to win the Cup. It’s not all done through the draft,(although using the picks for bonafide D) so I’m expecting some(2) above average gets by training camp and beyond. And yes, a goaltender, for jeebuz sake.


They just signed MSU’s old goalie ( John Lethemon) who has posted good numbers in the ECHL and AHL and could be worth a late season look. The issue is that he turns 27 in Aug.

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