The Detroit Red Wings won only 17 games in the 2019-2020 season before it was paused due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The team struggled on the defensive side of the puck and the roster needed to be rebuilt by general manager Steve Yzerman.
It is expected that Dylan Larkin, a Waterford, Michigan native, will be named captain of the Red Wings before the 2021 season begins. Larkin is the leader of the team not only statistically, but also in the dressing room. Larkin has talked in the past about leadership as far back as when he was playing for the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "I think the experiences with Team USA have helped me grow as a player and as a leader in the dressing room because we usually have young guys and I try to find myself as a leader of the young core at USA Hockey," Larkin said.
Yzerman added many free agents in order to put a team on the ice of Little Caesars Arena that would not necessarily be competitive, but not unwatchable. Paul McPherson wrote that these acquisitions put pressure on the head coach Jeff Blashill. Blashill, also a Detroit, Michigan native, is preparing to coach the Red Wings for his sixth season. Other than his first season as head coach, in 2015-2016, the team has not made the playoffs under Blashill.
Larkin led the Red Wings in the 2019-2020 season with 19 goals and 34 assists for a total of 53 points. This was five points better than Tyler Bertuzzi. The two played on the same line as Anthony Mantha that was far and away the most successful line for the 2019-2020 Red Wings. The three of them accounted for 40% of the team’s offense during the season.
Will there be a New Detroit Red Wings Captain in 2021?
The Red Wings and all other NHL teams will play a 56-game regular season. The team’s first game will be played at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Which players will be the leaders on the Red Wings in 2021? Paul McPherson has already given his thoughts as to who he thinks will propel the Red Wings forward during the 56-game season in 2021. Now I will break down the top scorer, breakout star, biggest impact signing, and team MVP on the Red Wings roster in a season following one that saw the team eliminated from playoff contention before the trade deadline.
Mantha has all the talent in the world at 6’5" and 234 pounds. Injuries have always been the only concern when it comes to the amount of offensive output that Mantha can amass. The 26-year-old has a high of 25 goals in five seasons.
The most controversial of these injuries happened when Mantha was slew-footed by Jake Muzzin of the Toronto Maple Leafs roughly a year ago. It did not come out until later when Mantha revealed that he also had a punctured lung after falling to the ice. At the time of the injury Blashill said, "He was our best offensive player at the beginning of the year. He can be an elite player in this league."
Moritz Seider is a young defenseman who has a chance to make a mark on the Red Wings’ team that has lacked a young standout defenseman since Danny DeKeyser was signed out of Western Michigan University. Seider is a physical defenseman who has done nothing to show that he did not deserve to be drafted sixth overall in 2019. Seider said that he was skipping the World Junior tournament that begins on Christmas day in order to prepare for the upcoming NHL season.
Seider has been playing for Rögle BK of the Swedish Hockey League during the coronavirus shutdown. In 14 games, Seider had two goals and eight assists in early December for Rögle BK.
DeKeyser was unable to play for most of the 2019-2020 season due to a back injury. "I trained hard all summer, get through a training camp, play a few games and boom! All that work for nothing," DeKeyser said in May. "That was the hardest part, coming to the rink every day and having to watch the games on TV and not be able to get on the ice."
Biggest Impact Signing
One of the most important positions that the Red Wings team needs to address moving forward is that of the starting goaltender. Jimmy Howard was not offered a contract extension after the 2019-2020 season by Yzerman. It could be argued that with halfway decent goaltending during this season, the Red Wings may have been in the fight for a playoff spot even though they were eliminated in late February 2020. Ironically enough, this was in Uniondale, New York against the New York Islanders.
To replace Howard the team signed Thomas Greiss during the offseason to a two-year, $7.2 million deal. Greiss is coming off of a season with the Islanders that saw the 34-year-old have a record of 16-9-4 with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in the 2019-2020 season. The Islanders were eliminated from the playoffs in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the eastern conference finals.
Larkin is looking to improve his standing not only in the league but also in the Red Wings organization. It is expected that he will be named team captain as the first captain since Henrik Zetterberg was forced to retire due to a back injury in 2018. During the team’s rebuild, Larkin’s leadership has been invaluable not only on the ice but also off it.
Larkin has always been a workhorse for Detroit, only missing a total of 10 regular-season games during his career. He has scored an average of 21.4 goals per season. If Larkin wants to truly earn the captain’s C for an organization as historic as the Detroit Red Wings, he will have to do more than just put up offensive numbers during this shortened NHL season.
Whatever the outcome of this shortened NHL season, the Red Wings will more than likely not be a playoff team. They will be a "spoiler" for other teams in the division they will play in to limit the amount of travel that teams have to do during the coronavirus pandemic. The Detroit Red Wings will look to rekindle the rivalries they had with teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators.
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