NHL

Yzerman uses the lessons above to try to rebuild the Red Wings as a winner again

Yzerman uses the lessons above to try to rebuild the Red Wings as a winner again

DETROIT — Steve Yzerman stood at center ice in front of the Stanley Cup, a shining symbol of past glory and a goal for the future.

The Detroit Red Wings celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1997 championship before a 3-1 win against the Washington Capitals on Thursday and the 1998 championship before a 3-0 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Yzerman, the captain of his 1997, 1998 and 2002 championship teams and an executive on his 2008 championship team, once again donned his red No. 19 jersey. While speaking to fans at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday, he returned in the year the Ilitch family bought the franchise.

“This is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the process of getting from 1982 to 1997,” Yzerman said.

Yzerman, of course, became the general manager of the Red Wings on April 19, 2019. He’s applying the lessons he learned and the mindset he used as a player as he tries to rebuild his old team, and he’s doing it with many former teammates.

“He’s still working like he did as a player,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, whose No. 5 hangs in the rafters next to Yzerman’s No. 19. “He’s working to find ways to be successful again. I’ve seen it from him as a player, and now I see it as a GM.”

Video: Yzerman, Konstantinov perform a ceremonial disc throw

Lidstrom is vice president of hockey operations, Kris Draper director of amateur scouting and Kirk Maltby a professional scout. Each played on the last four championship teams.

Jiri Fischer, associate director of player personnel, played on the 2002 team. Niklas Kronwall, who works in European player development, and Dan Cleary, assistant director of player development, all played with Yzerman before retiring- se as a player in 2006 and to be part of the 2008 team.

Darren McCarty, a member of the last four championship teams, said other alumni don’t see them much, because “these guys are all busy, trying to get this organization going.”

The other alumni are rooting for Yzerman and company.

“I know he has the biggest task, to take the team to the glory days with other guys to build the team and share some experience,” said Igor Larionov, a member of the 1997, 1998 and 2002 teams, who he trains in the Continental Hockey League. “I just wish him the best of luck for success in today’s game in Hockeytown.”

It’s easy to forget what led up to 1997, and it’s important to remember now that the Red Wings have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs the past six seasons.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs 15 times in 17 seasons before selecting Yzerman with the No. 3 pick in the 1983 NHL Draft. It still took them 14 years to build the roster and endure playoff failures until, finally, they won the Cup.

Lidstrom brought up two playoff failures in particular. In 1995, the Red Wings went 12-2 through the first three rounds, then were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals. In 1996, they lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals after winning an NHL record 62 regular season games and scoring 131 points, one shy of the NHL record set by the Montreal Canadiens from 1976-77.

“I think we learned a lot from the disappointments that had to set us up to be successful, and that’s something we can carry over to the team we have now,” Lidstrom said.

Draper said the experience teaches them to identify players who could overcome the same gauntlet they did. They look for skill and hockey sense, of course, but also character and work ethic. Which talented players can follow the process in difficult times? Who can face the adversity of a championship?

“I think all the guys that are in the front office that were a part of the success of the Detroit Red Wings, we all want to get that success back,” Draper said. “The Red Wing logo, the winged wheel, means a lot to us and we’re very proud of it. We want to bring it back.

“The players that we have in that locker room, we want them to have the opportunities that we had. The prospects that we raise, we want them to have the opportunities that we had. And that motivates us a lot.

“The work ethic is defined by Steve Yzerman, how he works, and it’s only from there.”

Draper is usually not at home on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, because he is searching somewhere. He said that before allowing himself to be at the birthday celebrations, he cleared that up with Yzerman.

When he got a phone call from his boss on Thursday, he thought it would be about everything that happened that night or over the weekend. It wasn’t.

“It was work,” Draper said, laughing. “So I said, ‘OK.’ It ended up being a good 20 or 25 minute conversation, not what I thought it would be.

“That’s the way he is. He’s always going. He’s always thinking. He’s always challenging you. He did that as a player, and now as a boss, he does the same.”





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