'It was hard': Red Wings' Dylan Larkin anxious to erase memory of last season
Detroit — Nothing about last season was easy for the Red Wings.
They had the NHL’s worst record (17-49-5), and were last in nearly every major statistical category. In some ways, the pandemic provided a merciful quicker end to the season.
In all, it was a season Dylan Larkin would like to forget and make sure the Wings organization never has to go through again.
Larkin — who most figure will be the Wings’ next captain — spoke with the media Saturday for the first time this training camp.
An overriding theme was never to go through a season like that again.
“It was hard, one of the hardest years of my life,” Larkin said. “Then you add to it sitting at home 10 months and thinking about it and all the things going on around the world.
“It definitely made it worse. We couldn’t have a short summer and work as hard as possible and come back in September. But it gave us extra time to regroup and put in extra work and hopefully come back and not be in that position again.”
Larkin skated often with many of his teammates the last several months, and the message was the same in conversations.
“Let’s make sure to put the work in and make sure what happened doesn’t happen again on our watch,” Larkin said. “It stops now.”
This will be a different type of NHL season, given the still raging pandemic.
It will be a shortened, 56-game regular season, with teams only playing other teams in their division, and in the majority of arenas, no fans in attendance.
The Wings have yet to play in such an atmosphere, and Larkin acknowledges it’ll be difficult without hearing fans at Little Caesars Arena.
But the anticipation of playing hockey again excites Larkin.
“For me, you put a puck out there and put a Red Wings jersey on, and we’ll be playing games, it doesn’t matter or when,” Larkin said. “There’s going to hard circumstances all year from what we’re used to. We can use it to an advantage.
“We can get in a groove at home and then be a great road team and find a groove there. There’s a positive to it. But it will be different not having our great fans here. But there’s only so much you can do right now.”
Forward Mathias Brome was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Wings during the offseason.
Brome is 6-foot, 183-pounds, and had 20 points (four goals) in 23 games in Orebro in the Swedish Elite League, before hopping on a plane to start the NHL season.
At 26, Brome isn’t necessarily a prospect anymore. He felt it was the right time to leave Sweden and try the NHL.
“I felt like I’m more ready,” Brome said. “I’ve grown as a player and developed a lot back home in Sweden. At this point in my career, I really think there’s a good chance to come over here and fight for a spot on the team."
“It’s the time to do this.”
Coach Jeff Blashill saw Brome on video, but never live, before these first couple days of camp.
“No doubt he’s smart and he has good skill,” Blashill said. “Two things that should help him in the NHL level is he seems to be a little thicker and stronger on his skates than what I saw on tape, and he has good tenacity.”
Finding his way
Forward Frans Nielsen had a difficult last season, with only nine points (four goals) in 60 games.
Nielsen, 36, appears to be on the outside of the projected starting lineup and may have to wait for an opportunity to get back in.
Blashill feels there will be a chance for Nielsen.
“He worked hard over the summer, changed his training camp, to make sure his body is in the best possible shape,” Blashill said. “There were times he played fine defensively, but we needed more out of him creating. He has to find that way of creating offense without giving up defensively.
“He’ll have an impact on our year. When it is, I don’t know. But he’ll have an impact. He’ll have to keep grinding and be ready as possible.”