Two straight seasons without playoff action tends to impact the overall job security on an NHL roster. To that end, Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill opted to take a different approach with the club’s recently-completed training camp.
“We wanted to make sure it was ultra-competitive,” Blashill told Mlive.com. “In the past we’ve focused on systems and things like that and instead of that, we broke it down more into components.
“Day 1 was a lot of puck battles and instead of talking about O-zone, we figured we’d break it down into puck battles, because if you don’t win puck battles you don’t have O-zone. So we tried to break it down more into the components of it and make sure it ultra-competitive and make sure a little bit every day it was about winning battles and being heavy on the puck.”
The reason behind the change in philosophy is obvious. All jobs are on the line for a team that has floundered the past two seasons, and the opportunity to push a veteran aside is a realistic notion.
“Yeah, I think it’s clear as day jobs are available based on where we’ve been the last two years, and also based on the push we have coming from some young guys,” Blashill said. “If you don’t have that push, you can talk all you want - it’s not real. They know it’s real this year because they can see there’s guys that are pushing for jobs.
“I’d also say some guys that are coming back, they look like they want more ice time. Some guys looked very, very good. I noticed marked improvement in certain areas with certain guys coming back. I think that’s great. We want to be as competitive as possible.”
Above Average Joe
One player who has impressed and will get more chance to do so as the Wings open preseason play is center Joe Veleno.
“He’s been excellent for most of camp,” Blashill said. “Let’s keep watching him and see how he does, get the best feel we can.”
Taken 30th overall in last spring’s NHL entry draft, Veleno would be a tremendous longshot to stick with the big club, but since the departure of Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit’s short and long-term scenario in the middle has been dramatically altered.
“My question is, what is going to be the elite skill that will be transferable, and for me watching him on his edges he has elite edges,” Blashill said. “He knows how to control the puck, because he controls space with his edges and he can make a lot plays in tight. I think Veleno has showed very well.”
QB Or Not QB?
Two of the defensemen battling for spots, both Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek will be chances to run Detroit’s powerplay during early preseason action.
“We want to see how good they are at it,” Blashill said. “We talked about using the exhibition season to get some of these young guys and see if they’re great, and if they’re great then they’re bumping somebody out of a spot. If they’re not, then they’re not. So we’ll see.”
Ten players were moved out as the team departed camp in Traverse City to set up shop in Detroit.
Forwards Zach Gallant and Brady Gilmour and defensemen Cole Fraser, Jared McIsaac, Alec Regula and Reilly Webb were returned to their respective major junior teams. Additionally, the Red Wings released forwards Pavel Gogolev, Maxim Golod and Nicolas Guay and goaltender Justin Fazio from their amateur tryouts.
The moves left 61 players in camp.
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