Dylan Larkin was on pace for career-best numbers this year, before core surgery ended his season two weeks early.
Reflecting on his year on Tuesday, the Red Wings captain thought 2021-22 was his best NHL season so far. He said he made it a goal to be able to control the pace and drive the play, getting back to the player he knew he could be.
Larkin's biggest goal remains getting the Red Wings back to where he knows they can be. Surgery was successful, and he confirmed he will be ready for training camp.
"We're in a better spot today than we were a couple years ago," he said during a media session with reporters. "To now finally see the Lucas Raymonds and Mo Seiders come into our lineup, it gives me hope."
Larkin bounced back from injuries the last two offseasons. He had 31 goals and 38 assists in 71 games. His 69 points were the most since his 73-point season in 2018-19. A lot has changed since then, with Steve Yzerman driving a rebuild that has consistently left the Red Wings as sellers at the trade deadline.
"It felt good to get back to the way I know can play," he said. "There was a lot of adversity: Some things in my control, some things not in my control that happened. I was proud of myself with how I tried to stay consistent."
Larkin is frustrated with the losing, but understands Yzerman's plan and end goal: a Stanley Cup.
"I believe in that. I'm excited for the future," he said. "I love the passion that our fans brought to the rink this year."
He is hopeful and optimistic about the Red Wings future, after losing teammates like Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and a heavy handful of others to acquire draft picks. Those draft picks are finally arriving in Detroit. He commended Seider and Raymond as smart, talented players. He admired goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic's approach every day, after wins and losses. He gave him a ton of credit for his steady demeanor.
"As the captain of the team, my message to guys was 'You got your feet wet, but next year it's time to take this thing over.'"
Larkin has one year left on his contract. Yzerman said earlier this year he wants to get a contract extension finished. Larkin does too. The seven-year NHL veteran said he can't envision himself anywhere else.
"I really love being a Red Wing, and I love being the captain of the team, and I think this team is going to do special things in the near future," he said.
Yzerman spent a lot of time on Monday speaking about the team's defensive issues under Jeff Blashill. Larkin echoed Yzerman in sharing his respect for the only NHL head coach he's known, but also agreed the defensive lapses were a problem. He looks at the 16 playoff teams and sees teams that communicate a lot better than the young Red Wings did this year.