The Detroit Red Wings are out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break during the 2021-22 NHL season. But the team has punched above its weight during the 2021-22 NHL season. This is in no small part due to the two players from the Detroit, Michigan area. Dylan Larkin and Jordan Oesterle are both from the metro-Detroit area and as such grew up watching the Red Wings when they had their most recent run of success.
Larkin was honored as captain of the Red Wings before the opening night game of this season against the Tampa Bay Lightning, in front of the fans at Little Caesars Arena. He was named the 37th captain in franchise history but because of the COVID-19 pandemic did not get to play any games for the Red Wings in front of fans. This game will go down as being remembered for entirely different reasons involving Larkin, but it was an honor for the Waterford, Michigan native. As the best player on the Red Wings roster and a leader in the locker room, this was always going to happen. However, general manager Steve Yzerman knew it needed to happen at the right time as he knew what it was like to be captain of an NHL team at a young age. Yzerman was told by his then head coach Scotty Bowman that he needed to change his playing style to focus more on the defensive side of the game.
After attending the University of Michigan, Larkin would be drafted by the Red Wings 15th overall in the 2014 NHL entry draft. This was certainly a special moment for a hockey player growing up in a city that is known as Hockeytown. For every Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers in this draft who is obviously a superstar that plays alongside another superstar in Connor McDavid, there is also a Larkin who has begun to prove that he can be a player named in the company of superstars like these. What needs to happen for the team in Hockeytown is to one day hopefully have another player on the Red Wings roster that is near the level of Draisaitl to play alongside Larkin.
Dylan Larkin is Red Wings lone All-Star representative
As the lone representative of the Red Wings in the upcoming All-Star game in Las Vegas, Larkin will again compete in the fastest skater competition. He previously set the record in this competition as a rookie for the Red Wings in 2016 with a time of 13.172 seconds, a record that still stands today. Larkin was named an all-star on the one-year anniversary of his being named captain of the Red Wings.
Larkin has certainly bounced back from a season in which he missed nearly half of the 2020-21 season with a neck injury that was the result of a crosscheck by Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. He has already played in almost as many games this season as he did last season. He currently leads the team with 44 points in 42 games played. Larkin is certainly beginning to put to bed the narrative that he is not a first-line center. The Red Wings do not have a superstar on the roster as the Oilers have with McDavid. If they want to not only make the playoffs but contend for a Stanley Cup, they will need to find that kind of player.
The next time Larkin and the Red Wings will face the Lightning is actually on the 25th anniversary of the fight between Darren McCarty and Claude Lemuix of the Colorado Avalanche, March 26th, 2022. This was in response to Lemuix’s cheap shot on Kris Draper. What spawned from this fight was arguably the greatest rivalry in professional sports for the next decade. It is unlikely that this type of melee will happen the next time the Red Wings and Lightning face off as there is too much of a disincentive in today’s game from a monetary standpoint. McCarty was part of the “grind line” during the heyday of the Red Wings vs Avalanche rivalry. While these kinds of players are no longer part of the NHL, arguably for the better, the mentality of playing for your teammates is something that the 2021-22 Red Wings have certainly embodied.
Larkin will be able to showoff Hockeytown mentality at 2022 All-Star game
Larkin will be able to showcase the Hockeytown mentality on the national stage during this All-Star weekend. It could be argued that he is not the only Red Wing that deserves a shot at playing in the All-Star game. Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond have also played well for the Red Wings during the first half of this season, the difference is that they are both rookies who I have previously written that are potential Calder Trophy winners. The last Calder Trophy winner for the Red Wings was goaltender Roger Crozier in 1964-65. Artemi Panarin then of the Chicago Blackhawks won the Calder Trophy during Larkin’s rookie season while Larkin received five first-place votes.
Main image credit