What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson, Jacob Messing, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
The All-Star Game is right around the corner and as such, rosters are being released for each division. From the years of Sergei Fedorov, Teemu Selanne, Mats Sundin and Pierre Turgeon ’til now, it’s morphed into more family entertainment than anything else. Regardless, getting the nod to participate in the All-Star Game is an honor to many. It provides a break for those not participating and it’s a fun way for the players involved in a non-regulation contest.
Every team’s fanbase has a different idea of who would have been their selection – just so with The Grind Line. Jimmy Howard was selected from the Detroit Red Wings to represent the Atlantic Division. Though Howard has earned his place this season, The Grind Line decided to pick a candidate we would have chosen to represent the Red Wings.
Rachel Anderson – Andreas Athanasiou
Andreas Athanasiou has been incredible in clutch moments for Detroit this season and in seasons past. Following the arbitration debacle at the beginning of the season, he’s proven that it wasn’t in vain. The All-Star rosters are loaded with top talent, hence the name. His abilities make a strong case for his fitting in with that crowd. Having 15 goals and 10 assists so far this season, he’s on track to surpass his best season with the Red Wings by a landslide.
He’s a fast skater and has the on-ice poise to emphasize his skills. Athanasiou owns an overtime goal this season and has several breakaways to his name already. Though there are many high-level skaters like Steven Stamkos and Auston Matthews representing the Atlantic, Athanasiou’s silky hands and ability to read opening pockets in the net would fit right in.
Not only would he be a worthy representation of skill coming out of Detroit, he’d also be extremely entertaining to watch in the skills competition. There are few in the league who could beat Dylan Larkin’s 13.172 second record, but I think Athanasiou could get pretty close.
Tony Wolak – Mike Green
Before diving into the validity of Mike Green’s All-Star Game selection, there are a couple of notes to cover. First, Howard fully deserves the nod – he’s been Detroit’s backbone and has given them a chance to win every night regardless of how the team plays in front of him. And second, while Dylan Larkin rightfully deserves some consideration, there are just too many All-Star caliber forwards in the Atlantic Division. Just look at who he’s up against for the “Last Man In” vote:
— NHL (@NHL) January 3, 2019
And that vote doesn’t include Brad Marchand, Mitch Marner and Jonathan Huberdeau, who all deserve consideration as well.
Okay, now onto Green. While the blueliner is presently injured, he’s been an offensive force from the back end during his time in the lineup. With 16 points in 23 games, only two of those points occurred on the power play. At five-on-five, Green has a 62 percent goals for rate. Only Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser are above 50 percent, and just barely.
Compared to the rest of the Atlantic Division, Green’s .70 points-per-game rate ranks seventh. In addition, his even-strength points rank seventh in the division, despite the players above Green playing twice as many games as the Red Wings blueliner.
Simply put, the stats are there to back up a Green party nomination for the All-Star Game. The eye test agrees as well – Green’s skating is still superb and would benefit him greatly in the three-on-three format. He scored both of the Atlantic Division’s goals in the championship game last season and is a great talent for the Skills Competition.
Jacob Messing – Dylan Larkin
The NHL’s All-Star Game ballot system is broken and because of that, the Red Wings’ true all-star won’t be attending this season. Don’t get me wrong, Howard has had a strong season, but when it comes down to it, Larkin has been the never-ending fuel in Detroit this season.
The 22-year-old has been electric, consistent and exciting across the board. Larkin has 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points in 43 games. He’s fourth in the NHL in shots on goal (166) and fourth in faceoff percentage (54.4 percent) for those who have taken at least 800 draws.
Larkin also leads the NHL with four overtime goals. Add in his 50 takeaways, which are fifth in the league, and it’s clear he was built for the three-on-three all-star format with his elusiveness and top-tier speed.
In the end, Larkin is likely to return to All-Star Weekend in 2020, likely donning a ‘C’ on his chest and an even-better game as he continues to evolve into the game-changer the Red Wings desperately need. It’s then that he’ll have the opportunity to defend his NHL Fastest Lap record and potentially go head-to-head with Connor McDavid.