Detroit — Beginning a sixth season without Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings still do not have a No. 1 defenseman.
Last season, their defensemen repeatedly failed to defend their zone, launch their offense or contribute much to the power play, beyond Mike Green doubling his goals from the previous season.
So, what can adding Trevor Daley, who turns 34 Monday, do to help the Wings play better this season?
There is some chance it adds up to more than just Daley’s contribution.
A powerful skater, good defender, fine passer and occasional goal scorer, he could solidify things along the blue line. The Red Wings hope Daley bolsters others, while providing more reliable defense and better movement of the puck on his own.
The guy with the easy-going manner who had a bit of a hardscrabble childhood in one of the tougher areas of Toronto, says he will not bring a significant transformation on his own.
It will take some help.
If he gets it, it could be a considerable boost.
“I don’t think one individual is going to get it done,” Daley said. “It’s going to take all of us being better.
“I think it’s going to take all six of us, every night.”
But it is clear from the Wings’ performance last season that Daley could make a significant contribution.
“I think when you add a piece like that, it lessens the responsibility on the other D, especially when you don’t have a quote unquote number one that plays 28, 30 minutes,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.
Two of Daley’s best attributes, skating and passing, were hallmarks of the Red Wings’ 25-year stint in the playoffs, which ended last April.
“He plays the way we want to play,” Blashill said.
“He’s real active with his feet to defend, gapping up. And he’s real active up on the rush.”
Rollerblades and skates
Daley said his game proceeds from prioritizing defensive coverage.
“I’ve got to be good in my own end,” said Daley who played at forward until junior hockey.
But when the moment arrives to drive the offense or take control of the puck, Daley embraces it and brings some skill.
And he passes well.
“We’ve got some world-class forwards on this team,” he said. “The quicker we can get pucks up to them and let them do their job, it’s going to make our job a lot easier.”
Growing up in Toronto, Daley often got around on rollerblades. Between that and an especially formative coach, his skating developed into one of his best weapons as a player.
“I rollerbladed to school every day and spent just a ton of time on them, around the city,” he said
“And my coach in novice, Spence Kirton, was a great skater and he always just taught skating.”
Kirton, who is black, helped in other ways, too, Daley said.
Before he reached the age of nine, Daley dealt with some issues about being mixed race.
His father, Trevor is Jamaican. His mom, Trudy, a white Canadian.
It can still produce some interesting moments, like when a media scrum gathered at his dressing stall during the controversy over the national anthem in the NHL.
But in third and fourth grade?
“Back then, I wasn’t really too sure,” Daley said. “A lot of my friends growing up were playing basketball and doing different stuff.
“No one was really doing hockey. And me being half black, you know, you’d have my black friends: ‘Why are you playing hockey?’
(Daley said he made a joke out of it.)
“And sometimes it’d be like, ‘Well, I am half-white. So, I’m allowed to play hockey.’”
At a formative time in his life, learning the game from a black coach affirmed his passion, Daley said.
“And that was just part of growing up in the inner city in Toronto. There was a lot of diversity down there.
“I wouldn’t regret any bit of it.”
Daley also credits his commitment to hockey to his uncle Donald Harris, who played some youth hockey and lived with Daley in a crowded house full of extended family.
His mom also encouraged him. Eventually her concern about how he used his time playing three sports and heading into high school, sealed his fate.
He chose hockey.
She lived near the Regent Park housing project, where some drugs and gangs complicated lives, and gave birth to Trevor at age 19.
“My mom was a girl who didn’t know much about hockey and didn’t want to know anything about hockey,” Daley said. “She just wanted to give her kids the opportunity to excel and to be good at something.
“And, basically, growing up in the inner city it was a lot to do to stay off the streets and stay out of trouble. So that’s why she put me in hockey.”
His Jamaican father “has not a clue about hockey,” Daley said.
“I think that is a big part of who I am today and where I am today: Them not pushing me.”
Daley eventually played major junior hockey for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, including as captain, and in the NHL with the Stars, the Blackhawks and the Penguins in the NHL.
“Detroit is always an organization that has been on top of the chain, ever since I came in the league,” he said.
“So, to come be part of it is pretty cool.
“I’m excited about the opportunity.”