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Red Wings optimistic in new team leadership and solid defensive core

Posted at 8:27 AM, Oct 15, 2021

The Red Wings host the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in their season opener and Jeff Blashill is confident in the veteran leadership in place to support Captain Dylan Larkin.

Blashill named Danny DeKeyser and Marc Staal as the alternate captains for the 2021-22 season. DeKeyser is in his tenth year with the Red Wings, while Staal is in his second season, after spending his entire career with the New York Rangers.

"Danny and Marc are very worthy of it. Both guys have been in this league for a long time," said Blashill. "We're really happy with both those guys to support Dylan Larkin. Ultimately, it won't be one, two, or three guys. It'll be a whole bunch of guys leading the way. We've got a lot of guys who have the right intention to do it right on a daily basis."

DeKeyser is returning from back surgery and spent the offseason rehabbing and getting himself back to playing shape for the 2021 season. He says he is in full health and is honored to wear an alternate captain jersey.

"It's a team that I've grown up watching my whole life," DeKeyser. "I had a dream growing up as a kid to play here so it's pretty awesome and pretty special to me. Especially even more so now being named an assistant captain."

Blashill commended the way DeKeyser was able to come back from such an intense surgery and says it speaks volumes of the type of player he is. The head coach added that DeKeyser has been a "really good Red Wing for a long time."

"His work ethic was exemplified by the work he put in to come back from a major back surgery," said Blashill. "From where he was at the beginning of last season to where he is now, he definitely has led by example."

As for the other alternate captain, Staal hasn’t been with the Wings for nearly as long as DeKeyser. Staal came to Detroit during the 2020 season. However, Staal says he feels like he has been with the Red Wings organization for much longer.

"It means a lot," said Staal. "It's a big honor and one that I don't take lightly. I am excited to be a part of this leadership group and this team. It is a great organization to join and I'm trying to represent it the best I can."

An advantage the Red Wings will have this season is having two alternate captains who are at the very center of the team’s defense. DeKeyser believes this defensive core is stronger than years in the past and Blashill echoed just how important that can be for a team.

"We have more depth than we've had in the back end, so that will definitely help from a night to night experience," said Blashill.

As far as the team leadership goes, Blashill said ultimately he is the one who makes the decision, although he talked to Steve Yzerman, the staff, and other members of the team. The Red Wings are at home for the first four games of the season.