Wings’ Sheahan looks to step up his offense

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Riley Sheahan isn’t suddenly going to be a full-out gambler on the ice, looking to break open a game or play, looking to make an offensive play at whatever cost.

That wouldn’t be his style at all.

But while tending to the defensive side of the ice maybe a bit too much his first two seasons in the NHL, Sheahan might be looking to be more daring offensively this season.

Most coaches and scouts feel there’s more to his offensive game than Sheahan has shown thus far.

Sheahan tends to agree.

“I think I held back a little,” said Sheahan, who had 13 goals and 23 asssists in 79 games. “Maybe I can be a little more assertive when it comes to taking the puck to the net and maybe shooting first, rather than passing.

“Things like that, and little things I tried to work on over the summer, like get a little stronger so I can be heavy in the corners and things like that.”

At 23, Sheahan is still learning what the NHL is about, and one thing in particular he’s learned is how difficult it is to be a consistent professional.

It’s been a knock since Sheahan turned pro out of Notre Dame — the tag was with him in college as well — that Sheahan was consistenly inconsistent.

Having been in the NHL for a period of time now, Sheahan believes he has a better handle on how to handle the long grind of the schedule.

“Definitely last year I felt I was a little inconsistent,” Sheahan said. “That just comes with confidence and I think I know that now and put mistakes behind me and focus on playing a little more confidently and consistently.

“For sure you so play so many games and travel a lot and guys want to make excuses but the best players in the NHL are the ones who come every game and that’s something I have to do a better job of.”

Coach Jeff Blashill has coached Sheahan in Grand Rapids (AHL) and feels the 6-foot-3, 222-pound center can be an important two-way force for the Red Wings.

“Riley is an extremely good, two-way center,” Blashill said . “He’s extremely good defensively, and just continuing to get better at adding the offensive elements to his game. He’s got it in him.

“He has the ability to be strong on the puck, make passes in small areas and he’s just going to have to continue to do that.

“Hopefully his arc continues to go up.”

Like Blashill, the offensive end is where Sheahan feels there’s more to improve upon and where there’s room for growth.

But Sheahan doesn’t want to stray too far from the defensive aspects of the game.

“I want to provide a little more offense for us and I can do that,” Sheahan said. “But at the same time, playing structured and being responsible and making simple plays to break out.

“It’s just kind of been my game, where I’ve thought of protecting our own zone first and that’s the right thing to do in many cases. But I can take a few more chances if I know it’s the right time, rather than hold back.”