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.
It’s easy to get caught up in the prospects, the future and the failures of a team. The Red Wings, like other franchises, give ample ammunition for such things. We love to focus on the future and our teams’ inadequacies sometimes that we fail to give credit where it’s due.
The Red Wings have a roster full of talent that can often times get overlooked when they’re not playing as well as we’d like. Fans like to make fun of “old guys” like Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader whenever they falter. That’s not who we are. So The Grind Line decided to dig in a little differently this week. Instead of diving into Filip Zadina’s history or talking about how awful management can be, we are going to tip our hat to the current Red Wings who are holding down the fort and are underrated.
Rachel Anderson – Niklas Kronwall
Kronwall is likely playing his last season of hockey and will soon follow fellow Swede, Henrik Zetterberg, to the retiring ranks. Though succumbing to injury and fighting time haven’t always been good to Kronwall, he is continually trying to improve even on his way out.
His biggest underrated asset is his wisdom. The man is a workhorse and is constantly dishing out big hits and making small, but important plays. He’s “Kronwalling” less these days, but the other small board moves and strategic passes makes him a necessity on the ice. Joining the Red Wings in 2003, Kronwall has been a producer since then – amassing over 415 points, including 14 game-winning goals to date.
Since Zetterberg’s departure, there is much talk of new versus old leadership. Kronwall is happily situated in between. He’s one of the foundational leaders in the locker room, demonstrating years of experience, poise and teamwork. On the ice, he creates opportunities for the youngsters to step up. He has helped create a team-focused atmosphere, drawing from the old and molding the new.
Though Kronwall admits, jokingly perhaps, that he may be getting too old to play, he still plays with the same vigor as if he were a rookie vying for a roster spot. He’s a respected player for his skill and leadership which is often lost in the youth movement.
Jacob Messing – Trevor Daley
There were a lot of mixed emotions when the Red Wings signed Trevor Daley to a three-year, $9.5 million contract in 2017. He joined Detroit after winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and offered leadership and a winning attitude to a declining Red Wings team.
Daley was turning 34 years old at the beginning of the 2017-18 season and only added to an aging blue line with plenty of problems. He’s never been a stud offensive defenseman, save for an outlying 16-goal, 38-point campaign in 2014-15 in just 68 games, too. But he has been a steady presence on the blue line throughout his career.
Albeit an often ridiculed stat, Daley is sixth on the team this season with a plus-three rating. That’s notable given the Red Wings’ minus-13 goal differential. While he has been an underrated part of the team, his career resume could prove handy come the trade deadline. Teams could have interest in a two-time Stanley Cup champion for a playoff push, should Daley waive his No-Trade Clause (NTC). But that scenario is more likely next season as he has one year remaining on his contract and a modified NTC in 2018-19.
Tony Wolak – Luke Glendening
Probably Detroit’s most unappreciated player, Luke Glendening has been valuable for the Red Wings this season as their checking line center. Among Red Wings forwards, the hard-working pivot actually has the best five-on-five goals for differential this season, tying Gustav Nyquist at plus-seven.
In addition, Glendening has already registered five even-strength goals on the campaign, the same amount as Nyquist and just one tally behind Dylan Larkin. His possession stats aren’t great, but that’s to be expected when the purpose of his line is to prevent others from scoring. So if his line is scoring more than they’re allowing, the gritty center is fulfilling his duties.
Even though Glendening is better suited for a fourth-line center role, the fact that he’s excelling on the third line is great news for the Red Wings. If they want to dangle him as a trade chip, a contender may be willing to pay a premium price to have him man their fourth line and top penalty-killing unit. You can bet Mike Babcock would love to have “Glenny” join the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the meantime, expect to see more of Glendening on Detroit’s checking line. Apart from Larkin and Frans Nielsen, the Red Wings really don’t have another center for the second or third line. Jeff Blashill has tried Andreas Athanasiou in that role but seems to prefer him on the wing.