‘Next season’: Red Wings confident of quick return to playoffs

The Detroit News

Detroit — It was a great event Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena as 500 second-graders were surprised with new bicycles, courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings and Chevrolet.

There were many smiles, a lot of laughter and cheers, a great morning all the way around.

But, for Danny DeKeyser, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, who took part in the event, they would have loved to combine it with some hockey.

If only the Red Wings could still be in the playoffs, at this point of the spring.

“It’s not fun,” said DeKeyser, of watching the playoffs without his team taking part. “Especially when you watch other teams, watch them play for the Stanley Cup. 

“Our goal is to try to get back there next year. Give ourselves a chance to get back to the playoffs.”

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Not too long ago, it was the Wings battling this time of year to get a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It’s frustrating,” said Helm, of watching of the playoffs. “I do get down sometimes watching it, knowing that we’ve been in that situation. We have to find ways to get better. 

“We could be in that situation again.”

The Wings missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season, this time by a staggering 24 points.

They’ll pick sixth next month in the Entry Draft, have seven selections in the first three rounds, and appear in a full-fledged rebuild.

But in today’s NHL, where parity is such a common theme — heck, an expansion team is the Stanley Cup Final — Abdelkader believes the Wings can make a dramatic jump in the standings.

“Next season,” said Abdelkader, of how quickly the Wings can re-enter the playoff picture. “We’re real close as a team. We’re going to have some young players who’ll get an opportunity to play on the team. We’ll have growth from within, (if) veteran guys maintain their levels (of production), young players will an opportunity to play and help the team,”

“It’s a league that’s so tight.”

The Wings lost 27 of 37 one-goal games (10-14-13) this past season, an indication they were certainly close in a lot of contests.

“There’s not a lot of difference,” DeKeyser said. “If you swing some of those one-goal games, just score a few extra goals here or there, your special teams improve a little bit, that all can make a big difference and add up points, for sure.”

All three Wings were excited about the potential of young players on the roster, and entering the organization, that could strengthen the team.

In particular, Michael Rasmussen (2017 first-round), who was impressive in September’s training camp, is expected to make the Wings’ lineup next season.

“You’re seeing a lot of young guys coming into the league and being successful,” Abdelkader said. “He’s a player that’s big (6-foot-5) and strong, can play center or wing — I’m not sure where he’d start with us — but he can help right away.”

Nice surprise

The 500 students who received bikes, along with helmets, locks and bells, came from 10 schools within the Detroit Public Schools Community District, in conjunction with the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

The students completed the Road & Bicycle Safety Program, and were surprised with the bikes after a presentation at Little Caesars Arena.

“Seeing the smiles and excitement on the faces of the students when we revealed their brand-new bikes was absolutely priceless,” said Chris Granger, Ilitch Holdings, group president for sports and entertainment.