The past two seasons have ended in pain for Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin, and not just because of the team’s performance.
But while a neck injury in late 2020-21 greatly affected his off-season preparations, core muscle surgery with six games remaining in 2021-22 hasn’t changed his routine significantly.
“I think the timing of the surgery was a tough decision, but it was something we sort of set out where I could spend an entire summer,” Larkin said Thursday after the first day of training camp in Traverse City. “I went back to the gym right away. I was back on the ice after eight weeks. It just feels great not to skate with pain.”
He’ll feel better after he signs a long-term extension. Larkin is entering the final year of a five-year, $30.5 million deal he signed in 2018 ($6.1 million). He said there was nothing to report on this front.
“I think it’s very important to do this before next season so that I can play hockey,” Larkin joked. “I don’t see myself playing anywhere else. It’s great to be back on the ice, and great to be back in Traverse City with the players so I can focus on our team.”
Not having an extension in place when the season starts won’t be a distraction for him.
“You get caught up in the daily grind, matches, training, recovering and getting ready for the next game,” Larkin said. “Something I take very seriously is how I recover, how I prepare. It’s pretty much everything I do all season. I plan to stick with that and play for the fans and my teammates.”
Larkin has been excited about the wave of acquisitions by general manager Steve Yzerman, which includes free agents Andrew Cobb, David Peron, Dominic Kopalek, Ben Shearoot, Ole Mata and goalkeeper Phil Hosseau, who have been picked up by trade. But he cautioned that the team must be rocking the ice, especially with a new coaching staff headed by Derek Lalonde.
We have to be a hungry team,” Larkin said. “We can’t look at our roster and the acquisitions we’ve had this summer and think we’re going to make the playoffs, or think we’re a great team, because we haven’t proven anything. I think we’re in the toughest division in the NHL. We’re going to have to be on our toes, and play fast. It is very difficult to play against her.
“We have to go out, we have to go to a great camp… New systems, new coaching staff. We all have to get to the same page very quickly and be ready on October 14 (season opener vs Montreal).”
Byron said Larkin called him immediately after he signed it.
“We talked for a while, about some of the things the team wants to achieve going forward this year,” Peron said. “He is ready to see this team going in the right direction. I am impressed with how much he cares about everyone, not just in the team but in the organization. He talks to everyone, he is very nice, and he tries to engage everyone. This is something a leader needs.”
Lalonde said he spoke with Lizerman about being cautious with expectations.
“We are a long way from being where we think this could be,” Lalonde said. “But I think there’s some excitement and some optimism and (Larkin) feels that too. He wants to win. He’s been through everything here for the past seven years. Just like everyone else, we want to take that natural progression, whatever it takes, in becoming better “.