Detroit Red Wings hope to get back to winning ways as training camp opens in Traverse City

·4 min read

Sep. 23—TRAVERSE CITY — As the weather starts to cool down in Traverse City, it could only mean one thing. It's almost fall and hockey season is around the corner for the Detroit Red Wings.

After months of anticipation of what this new Red Wings team will look like, fans rolled into Traverse City's Centre Ice Arena on Thursday morning with a glimmer of hope. The Red Wings not only made several roster moves, but the front office hired head coach Derek Lalonde — a move many fans seem excited about. Lalonde won back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with the Tampa Bay Lightings from 2020-21.

General Manager Steve Yzerman is aware that it will take some time for the players to buy into what Lalonde is selling, but Yzerman is optimistic that there will be a winning team on the ice.

Yzerman didn't hold back this offseason in filling the pieces the team needed to snap being below .500 for six straight seasons. One of those big signees was Michigan native Andrew Copp who signed a five-year contract. Although Copp wasn't present on the ice on Monday, Yzerman said he is expected to be ready for the season.

"We signed some free agents in the offseason with the idea that it will improve our team, and we're hopeful that all our young players continue to take a step forward," Yzerman said. "I believe we will be a better hockey team this year, and I expect us to be."

"Having said that," Yzerman continued, "changes can take some time for things to settle in, including a new coaching staff, and will take some time for everybody to get familiar with one another."

Another of the offseason signees was veteran scoring wing David Perron. Perron played and helped lead the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup in 51 years. He's aware that coming into a new team takes time to build chemistry with the players. Perron joked that coaches were eager to get started days before.

"All the coaches I'm sure had many opportunities but picked to come here. They are excited to help this team take the next step, and the same thing for me," Perron said.

After signing with Detroit, Perron kept an eye to see which players the Red Wings had on the roster, but he didn't expect to be with old teammates from St. Louis.

"It makes the transition easier when I saw who got traded and signed a few days before, and I saw there was an opportunity for me," Perron said. "At the end of the day, I've been in different situations throughout my career where I did not know anyone or I knew some guys, but I am excited to join a group and hearing Steve talk all that stuff.

"Hopefully the dog days are over."

Yzerman hopes those days are over too. Players during camp on Thursday played with an energy that had fans excited for what's to come. Some were in awe of the players who would crash each other into the boards this early.

"You can tell in today's practice how there is a lot of energy, and there's been a lot of buzz — even at the rink for the last two weeks," goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic said. "Very intense practice. Very high pace and high energy. I think that's what you are going to see throughout the year."

For most of the practice, the Red Wings worked on a lot of one-on-one defense drills because last season because the Red Wings were at the bottom in almost every defensive category. Yzerman made moves in the offseason to fix that issue as well.

Yzerman signed defensemen Ben Chiarot to a four-year contract. Chiarot blended well with the Red Wings after the first day of training camp, especially in the one-on-one defensive drills.

The fans at the rink have been hoping to return to the days when the Red Wings weren't an easy win for opponents. Yzerman notes that there're some competition for ice time that'll be monitored for this upcoming season, but he noted having those battles can bring out the best in the players.

"It's going to push guys to perform, and I do believe mentally strong athletes enjoy that challenge," Yzerman said. "They recognized that, and some of the players have to recognize I got to perform here because I might lose my spot on this line or lineup."

That goes for the Grand Rapids Griffins as well, Yzerman said.

"We have some depth at a lot of positions now, and hopefully that translates into being a better team as well," the GM said.

For the new players, it's been an unreal moment for them to suit up as a Red Wing. Perron called it a "pretty cool moment" to be a part of one of the Original Six hockey franchises.

"I've never had the chance through all the teams throughout my career so far, but I think that is exciting for me too," he said. "Just getting to know the Detroit area, it's has been fun so far."