How Adam Erne’s 2nd Chance with the Detroit Red Wings paid off
Early in his career with the Detroit Red Wings, Adam Erne was in a unique position.
Like the wings reunited for training camp in the fall of 2019, he was one of the few players to be recruited by Steve Yzerman, who was appointed chief executive in April. While Erne’s first year with Detroit has disappointed, his second year has placed him in a position that will likely lead to a longer term stint.
Erne, 26, is a restricted free agent, but only has one year of unrestricted status. Given this, Yzerman is likely to sign Erne on a multi-year contract.
“I think we have a really good player who is a bit of a different dimension to us,” Yzerman said in May, days after the 2020-21 season ended for the Wings. “He’s a big guy who has really good hands and can play in a lot of different situations. I think there is a lot more out there. But I really like Adam’s determination and his dynamism.
“He’s really motivated, he wants to be a good player in the NHL, he devotes time, work. It was good to see that he gained a bigger role in the team and flourished there.
Erne maximized the opportunity he had – especially on the power play – following Tyler Bertuzzi’s loss to a back injury on January 30. Erne recorded a personal best 11 goals – nine more than he scored in 2019-2020 – and nine assists in 56 games.
“We all feel good for him,” Yzerman said.
Yzerman drafted Erne in the second round, ranked 33rd overall, in 2013, when he was general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Four months after taking the job at Detroit, Yzerman acquired Erne for a 2020 fourth-round pick. The Wings needed courage, and as Erne’s game developed, he grew more. that validated Yzerman’s decision.
“Steve is a great guy,” Erne said. “He’s very honest. Don’t tell you what you want to hear; tells you what you need to hear. I respect that a lot. He doesn’t give you anything that isn’t true. I always take what he says to heart and I just try to work on what he thinks I need to work on and always follow his advice. He is not at the top either. He stays behind the scenes a lot, so when he says something, be sure to listen.
Erne spent the extended offseason of last year’s pandemic working to be better in goal and playing a 200-foot game.
“I just tried to build on the areas of the game that I played the most,” Erne said. “I’m going to try to bring this to next season, to do it regularly throughout the year.”
Erne tied Anthony Mantha for lead in goals and Filip Zadina with six points on the power play. While other lines often changed due to the large number of injuries, Erne spent most of the season on a line with Luke Glendening and Darren Helm.
“These are two really hard working guys,” Erne said. “A lot of nights we played against the best lines of other teams and we were proud not to give them much. We tried to keep it simple, to put pucks behind their Ds, to kind of frustrate them, to get them to play in their zone.
The teammates noticed.
“He, Glenny and Helmer had identities on their line,” said team captain Dylan Larkin. “They played hard, they were physical, they spent time in zone O crushing him and using each other. To see him have a good year, we were all happy for him.
Erne appears to be able to be a solid complementary piece in the reconstruction. He’s in the same age group as Larkin, Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, and Jakub Vrana, and he fits right into Yzerman’s plan as a low-risk investment.
Contact Helene St. James at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Learn more about the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings Bulletin. His book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books of triumph. Custom copies available via email.