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Yzerman Still Going Strong


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Yzerman still going strong

By Phil Coffey | April 1, 2001

Age is a state of mind.

Just ask Steve Yzerman, 36-years-old. And Yzerman certainly does't play like he is one of the NHL's elder statesmen. If you require proof about that, simply check out the initial selections for the 2002 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team, where a Mr. Wayne Gretzky and some of the top talent evaluators around saw fit to include the Detroit Red Wings captain in the first group of players.

And, please keep in mind that Yzerman is the current holder of the Selke Trophy as the League's top defensive forward. "Old" guys normally don't win that kind of award.

"I don't know why he doesn't get mentioned for the Selke more often," teammate Brendan Shanahan said of Yzerman. "Here's a guy who plays against the other team's top lines night in and night out. He's among the top in the League in plus-minus, and he chips in with goals. What more do you have to do?"

Not much, as Yzerman has been the total package for much of his NHL career. As a youngster, he was an elite sniper, but over the years, he has refined and altered his games to fit the system espoused by coach Scotty Bowman. Since that system has helped the Wings to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1996-97 and 1997-98, the last one you'll hear complaining about more modest personal achievements is Yzerman.

"Age isn't all that important," Yzerman said. "It's about your (physical) condition and attitude and whether the hunger is still there and you're willing to pay the price to be a good player. The older guys on this team are in good shape and they're hungry."

Age was the state of mind of many experts who looked at the Red Wings roster prior to the 2000-2001 season. Admittedly a veteran team, there were questions about Detroit's ability to keep up with the young turks of the Western Conference.

As the season entered its final weeks, the Red Wings had emphatically answered those critics by posting a 45-18-9-4 record that saw them overtake the St. Louis Blues to win the Central Division title and the home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

For his part, Yzerman has rebounded admirably from an early season injury, and has averaged a point-per-game with 17 goals and 32 assists in 49 games. But that's part for the course for Yzerman, who has averaged well over a point-per-game in his NHL career.

"We were considered old before we won the Stanley Cup," Yzerman told reporters as training camp opened for the 2000-2001 season.

Which isn't to say Yzerman was adverse to the idea of the Red Wings' younger players grabbing a fair measure of the responsibility for the club's success.

"We can ask for more from those guys," he said. "We can demand more from them and see what they can handle. They're skilled players, and they can produce given the opportunity."

Heading into the post-season, the Red Wings are eager for another kick at the can. In the past two springs, Detroit's season has ended in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs at the hands of their bitter rivals from Colorado. In Detroit, nothing would be more welcome than vexing the Avalanche for a change.

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