It’s hard to finish with a goal difference of minus 122 and 23 points less than another team. Larkin said it was embarrassing to be part of the first Red Wings team to finish last in the standings in 34 years.
But your support system – your parents, your agent, your friends, the people you ask for advice – tells you it will make you stronger, that things will change quickly, Larkin says. When you’re lost every night and no one is good personally, you feel like it never ends and there’s no way out.
Larkin thought his C.E.O., Steve Yzerman, had a plan. The offseason was very long, as Detroit was one of seven teams not invited to the return tournament this summer. In August, Larkin said a handful of players had returned to Detroit for elective training, and more in September. Then free agency came in October, and Yzerman signed five veterans – goalie Thomas Greiss, attackers Vladislav Namestnikov and Bobby Ryan, and defenders John Merrill and Troy Stecher – followed by a lengthy trade for New York Rangers defenseman Mark Staal.
Larkin was in a texting chain with his two accomplices, Anthony Manta and Tyler Bertuzzi. It was like, another great player, another great player, Larkin says. And then Ty wrote: Red Wings is a car now?
Detroit is probably a long way from coach status, but there is a noticeable difference in the Red Wings this season. They split their first four games, but were stopped with five players on COVID’s 19-minute roster and spent the weekend without action in Chicago (where they lost both games). But the Red Wings have a new life. Detroit’s goalies have improved significantly (Jonathan Bernier and Greiss combined for a save percentage of .904, a significant improvement over last season (.886)), and there is more determination (after a shutout in the first game, Detroit beat a talented Hurricanes team 4-2 in the second game).
The blue line – these guys are always screaming for the puck, they want the puck, Larkin says. They come to the bank and let me and the others know we need to talk. It makes life easier for everyone, and I think we really missed that last year. The veterans of the other teams made it a point to talk and want the puck, and that made a big difference.
Larkin, 24, was named captain before the start of the season. The native of Waterford, Michigan was a rookie in 2015/16, the final season of the Red Wings’ record-setting 25-year playoff run. We had guys like Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, guys who were great natural leaders, Larkin said. I observed Henrik Zetterberg every day – how he prepares, how he handles situations in the locker rooms, how he presents himself on the road – I was grateful to have this experience and to be able to observe and study him. I still talk to him, but not as much. In the first game, I think I took it too seriously. I had a free evening and I caught myself looking at my shirt. But I realized that I have to stay true to myself and I hope the boys will tell me that I haven’t changed much.
One of Detroit’s best stories is that of Ryan, a 13-year veteran with a one-year, one-million dollar contract. Last season, Ryan took a leave of absence from Ottawa to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. Ryan’s honesty in his struggle and recovery earned him the Bill Masterson Award for perseverance. In Detroit, Ryan became the first player in franchise history to score four goals in his first three appearances for the team.
Bobby is one of the guys who came to Detroit in August, he’s been here a long time, Larkin said. He deserves credit for coming to a new city earlier – there was a lot of uncertainty about the season at the time – but he was here and training more than ever. He’s very experienced, but he’s a great guy, a first division player. He likes to help young people, of which we have many. Me, Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Manta, Philip Zadina, he likes to give us a little wisdom, push us up, tweet sometimes. He was an important asset to us.
This is the young core that the Red Wings are trying to build around, and it took a change of attitude to keep it from getting out of hand.
I think the guys from last year took all of this to heart, Larkin said. During the summer we all went home and trained as hard as we could to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. It makes us confused. We have the chance to play for the Red Wings, who are the winged wheel behind the whole story. We didn’t want to get to the point of losing, and we accepted that.
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As for his personal goals for this season?
I wanted to take a step in my career that would help our team take a step forward, he said. I wanted to be at the end of the year – not to win the Selke trophy, but to be in the conversation for him, or in the conversation as one of the underrated guys in this league.
After my conversation with Larkin, it was hard not to draw comparisons to my conversation last week with Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskom and the possible similarities between the Colorado’s climb and what Detroit hopes to become. In 2016-17, Landeskog is part of an Avs team with fewer than 48 NHL points, but drops to fourth in the draw (despite landing in the Macar de Calais). Then things started to fall into place. Colorado hasn’t missed the playoffs since and opened the season as a favorite for the Stanley Cup.
The Red Wings also dropped to fourth in the 2020 draft lottery (they selected Swedish winger Lucas Raymond). Can they build as fast as they did with the turnaround?
Yzerman was careful not to tie the schedule to the Red Wings’ rebuilding efforts, but I asked Larkin how far he thought his team was from being competitive.
The line between winning and losing is so thin in our league, Larkin said. I can’t tell you where we are, but it’s exciting to see the first games we’re involved in. The first four games we had a positive feeling, even after the defeat, that we were in it. Last year we didn’t have that feeling, it was a desperate feeling. So, if you start well, you never know what might happen.
We’re lucky to be playing for the Red Wings, who are the winged wheel behind the whole thing, Dylan Larkin said. We didn’t want to get to the point of losing, and we accepted that. Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images
Empty the notebook
Daniel Carcillo’s post-game activities are well documented, but his new project may be the most exciting of his life: CEO and founder of a psychedelic drug company. Some background information:
Carcillo, a former NHL player, resigned in 2015 after suffering seven diagnosed concussions (though he believes there were many more). When the 35-year-old Carcillo became the face of a lawsuit filed by former NHL players for brain injuries, he had a tough time. His symptoms – sensitivity to light, slurred speech, insomnia and pressure on the head – were very severe. The same goes for his anxiety and depression. Despair is starting to set in, he says. At that moment suicide thoughts come over me and I have the feeling that I hurt everyone around me and I start to lose hope.
No matter how many doctors he visited, his blood tests and QEEG scans continued to show abnormalities. Nothing has been confirmed yet, Carcillo says. And nothing has brought me any significant results in my recovery.
Carcillo spoke about his struggles on social media. In 2019, a former teammate invited him to the farm to learn more about CBD and psilocybin. At the end of the trip, Carcillo was surprised by the psilocybin ceremony. It changed my life, he says. It stimulated my brain. He did everything concussions should do to me. And it was a form of natural medicine.
Carcillo went home on a maintenance dose and noticed that all of his symptoms began to improve or completely disappear. He slept better. He had better impulse control. And blood tests showed that his testosterone levels stabilized, while his stress levels were completely normal.
Six months later he stopped all other treatments and now only takes microdoses of psilocybin mushrooms. Then he had his first clean brain scan in five years. It’s not a panacea, but it can help you create good habits that you can maintain as long as you get the job done, Carcillo says. I threw myself into the work, started helping out and met a few people in the clinical field.
After his retirement, former NHL player Daniel Carcillo became one of the best advocates on player health. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Which brings us to the present moment: Carcillo is the founder and CEO of Wesana Health, a medical company based on patient empowerment and psilocybin. (The name of the company connects us to Sana, which means healing in Latin).
Last week, Vesana announced the closing of a $4 million financing. Next steps: Regulatory filings with the Office of Investigational New Drugs (IND), the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the Medicines Investigator Dossier Division (IMPD), and Health Canada.
Carcillo said Friday that he had a great conversation with the NHLPA Alumni Association. I know it can help former players, Carcillo said. And I know there’s something we can do now that will benefit them. I think these conversations are going very well.
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Given his platform, Carcillo hopes to involve other professional athletes in clinical trials in the spring. But it also wants to collect as much demographic data as possible and is trying to reach veterans and victims of domestic violence, or anyone with a brain injury (BBI) or who has survived trauma. He knows it’s not always easy to sell.
It’s a brand-name drug, Carcillo says. Because of where he intends to be, because of the war on drugs that the government has started.
But Vesana is betting on social change. I think we’re going to see a big shift in market perception over the next two to three years, said Chad Bronstein, executive chairman of Spring. And I don’t think we’ll confuse it with magic mushrooms, I think we’ll confuse it with drugs.
How will the NHL community perceive his plan?
Hockey is interesting because it’s the last league to acknowledge a problem, Carcillo says. Will they be part of the solution? So far I have had excellent conversations with NHLPA alumni and I will be presenting the science, data and my story that I have gathered. Then I’ll let them decide.
Three star week
Tyler Toffoli, RW, Montreal Canadiens.
Few teams are better off than the Canadiens, as offseason measures taken by GM Mark Bergevin appear to be taking a beating. One of them is Toffoli, who scored five goals and three assists in three games against the Canucks last week. Thanks to the NHL 2021’s slow schedule, we also get crazy statistics like this: Toffoli is the first player in NHL history to score each of his first five franchise goals against his previous team (in his case, the Canucks).
Semyon Varlamov, G, New Yorker.
While it’s easy for the blue Ilya Sorokin to get excited, it’s clear that Varlamov still has a slight movement advantage. The 32-year-old has had some sensational performances this season, including shutouts in his first two games. In two wins this week, he stopped 57 of 58 shots (a save percentage of 0.983).
Marc-André Fleury, G., Golden Knights of Las Vegas.
To no one’s surprise, the Knights are currently flying over the Western Division with a 5-1-0 record. Fleury won all three games with a goal-against average of 1.00 and a save percentage of .951, including a 5-2 win over Arizona on Wednesday and a shutout against the Yotes (16) on Sunday.
What we liked this week..
1. I love the question Chris Versteeg asked about Instagram: Who will stay in Columbus longer, John Tortorella or Patrick Lane? (The contracts of the coach and the winger expire this summer). The Blue Jackets and the Jets traded disgruntled stars – probably the closest thing to a blockbuster like in the NBA – and it’s a deal that I think strongly favors the Blue Jackets.
We already know Lane is an elite goal scorer (since his debut at the age of 22 in the 2016/17 season, only eight players have scored more goals than his 140). Pierre-Luc Dubois should be seen as a future No. 1 center and he gives Winnipeg some much-needed depth at the position, but he has yet to prove it. Columbus also got their hands on a homegrown player, Jack Roslovic, who could be a tricky player for a team always looking for strikers. If Jarmo Kekalainen can contract Lane after this season, it would be a home run for the Jackets.
2. I appreciated the candor of Captain Blake Wheeler from Winnipeg when he explained why it didn’t work out with Lane. Looking back, as a young player, I definitely had a lot of habits and things to overcome. So maybe I can communicate a little better instead of just being frustrated. … I’ve never been hard on Patty, quite the opposite. I was even very respectful and praised the teenager and the 20-year-old. I don’t regret it, but sometimes instead of my instinct to get angry and maybe say nothing, I wish I could communicate better, maybe that would make things better.
3. Again, to emphasize: It’s fun to watch the Minnesota Wild again.
Kirill Kaprizov goes between his legs for a body shot. What a gem. pic.twitter.com/diDhkXD4NZ
– Ryan Quigley (@TheRyanQuigley) 23. January 2021
4. For example, the Dallas Stars start their season 10 days later than the others because of an outbreak of COWID-19 on the team. They will be without Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop for several months. Other than that, they’re in the same group again, but it’s the same team that got off to a terrible start last season at 1-7-1. I expected them to look sloppy in their first game Friday night against the Predators.
Instead? A dominant 7-0 win in which Dallas went 5 for 8 on the power play. But the star of the match for me was the beloved hero of the 2020 qualifier, Anton Khudobin, who scored a shutout of 34 goals.
He gave us a good chance in the beginning, Alexander Radulov said. That’s why the score was 0-0 in the first period. They came out pretty strong and we felt like they had already played a few games. That was the difference. Dobby had done his job and deserved to keep his mouth shut. He was with us tonight. After five goals on the power play and an opposing goal, Joe Pavelski just wanted to talk about the goalie: The best today on special teams was probably Dobbie,” Pawelski said. It was huge.
5. What’s better than scoring your first NHL goal? Score 2 and 3 in the same game. Pius Suter is the top scorer in the Swiss league and could be the Blackhawks’ next success in Europe (after Dominik Kubalik, Artemij Panarin, Erik Gustafsson, Dominik Cahoon, Jan Rutta and Michal Kempny).
Congratulations to Pius Suter on his first NHL HAT TRICK! pic.twitter.com/kNqnHrEPq8
– Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 24, 2021
What we didn’t like this week
1. Take the situation in the capital city of Washington, D.C., where the team was fined $100,000 for violating COVID-19 protocols. In addition, four players (led by Alex Ovechkin) had to miss at least four games for speaking without a mask in a hotel room. Speaking to some people in the league, one veteran player summed up the prevailing sentiment: I think it’s understandable that the league wants to use the caps as an example. They say everyone should be on their guard.
Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya, pointed out some inconsistencies. It’s kind of absurd that we allow players to sit next to each other on the bench, kiss each other after goals, and meet in the locker rooms, but we’re not allowed to spend time in other players’ hotel rooms when they’re traveling (while also requiring teams to stay in the same hotel for NHL quality control purposes). The players talked about the isolation they felt during the bubble last summer and how it affected their mental health – and I want us to think about how these restrictions might affect some players during the season. It’s a story I’ll definitely be following.
– Who will be the best choice this summer?
– Top 32 top 32 in category
prospects – How COVID-19 will affect rankings.
However, most League members will argue that the 2021 protocols were set by mutual agreement between the League and the Players’ Union. It may sound authoritarian – and the protocols are far more restrictive than those with which, say, the NBA began the season – but the rules are the rules, and all the players who agreed to play this season have essentially agreed to it. I loved the way Peter Laviolette, in his first year as Capitals coach, approached the situation. We want to be accommodating and we made a mistake and we have to do better, the coach told reporters the day after the penalty. Honestly, even I made a mistake. I dropped the mask. It was at the end of the celebration [of the last game]. I have to try harder, too. It’s a lesson for everyone, because these are real things we’re talking about here. We don’t take it lightly. We try to be 100% compliant, but a mistake can be costly.
2. As much as I wanted to support Jack Johnson when he signed a $1.15 million contract with the New York Rangers last October, I almost saw the error of my ways. His interaction with Tony DiAngelo has been a disaster so far. After Friday’s overtime loss to the Penguins, the Rangers were outscored 4-0 to 5-5 with Johnson and DeAngelo on the ice. When did they leave? New York outscored its opponent 7-1 by a tie.
3. It’s been a rough week for Blake Coleman. He was on the COVID-19 list for two days (he only missed practice, not games), scored a goal against the Blue Jackets on Thursday, and was late for the team meeting on Saturday. Blake is an A+ kid, and I don’t know if he had a problem waking up or what happened, coach John Cooper said. We have some pretty strict rules that have been in place since I’ve been here. No one feels worse than the poor guy, because he gave everything for us, and that’s not his style, but he understood everything and we’ll be back at training on Monday.
The best cassette games of this week
Message: All Eastern Times
Tuesday the 26th. January: St. Louis Blues vs. Vegas Golden Knights, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN+).
Two western heavyweights start a two-match series, and I’ll be excited. It’s nice to see Torey Krug score his first goal for the Blues last week, and it’s also the first game with Golden Knights blueliner Alex Pietrangelo on the team he captains. Another defender is Zach Whitecloud. The 24-year-old looks confident and can be said to have been the Golden Knights’ best defender this season. Look at that ridiculous save Whitecloud made last week:
Whitecloud is better in goal than San Jose’s goalie. #GoKnightsGo#VegasBorn#[email protected] pic.twitter.com/rjjbhdcDRz
– Golden Jester (@TheGildedJester) January 21, 2021.
Thursday the 28th. January: Columbus Blue Jackets to the Florida Panthers, 7 p.m.
Some amusing lines of intrigue in this one. Sergei Bobrovsky against his old team. More Patrick Lane against his good friend Alexander Barkov. When the series begins Tuesday (two days earlier), it will be Florida’s first game in a week, thanks to postponement of COVID-19.
Sam. 30. January: The Boston Bruins to Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. (ESPN+).
Let’s go. The first of eight games between Zdenon Chara and his former team. Playing against him will be crazy, it will be very strange to see him on the other side, Charlie McEvoy, Chara’s former defense partner, told me recently. But I’ll be the first to meet him after the game and give him a hug.
Social media of the week
According to Zach Hill, the Flyers’ public relations guru, Oscar Lindblom has asked if he can wear a crab button sticker on his helmet tonight and for the rest of the season. The union granted his request. Very cool. pic.twitter.com/X7Uv4ARsqo
– Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) 24. January 2021