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 that time of year again – time to create New Year’s resolutions last minute to show 2019 who’s boss. Whether that’s a gym membership, a new diet, or to read more books, this is the new you (at least for a few weeks).
In the spirit of the season, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team came up with their New Year’s resolutions for the rebuilding organization. This calendar year could be a pivotal one for the franchise – the team is generally playing better and has stockpiled an enviable prospect pipeline. Could 2019 be the year that the Red Wings return to their old winning ways?
Tony Wolak: Re-establish ‘60 Minutes of Hell’ Motto
Too often, the Red Wings do not play a complete game. Whether it’s starting late, not giving 100 percent effort, or faltering late, something always prevents the team from following through on their “60 Minutes of Hell” motto that was established during the preseason.
As a rebuilding team, it’s a rare occurrence for the Red Wings to win on talent alone. In the absence of talent, effort needs to be there. And to this point, it hasn’t. So in the New Year, Jeff Blashill needs to re-establish complete effort and buy-in.
If the Red Wings are competing hard every night, then Blashill will likely get a contract extension at the end of the year regardless of the team record. Growth is more important to the franchise right now – wins will be the priority later on.
It’s not just Blashill who stands to benefit – Detroit’s young players will improve if they follow their coach’s game plan. Executing on the same page always bodes well for the players involved – just look at last year’s Vegas Golden Knights team. Once the season kicked off, 23 “golden misfits” rallied around coach Gerard Gallant’s style of play and reached the Stanley Cup Final through 100 percent commitment and effort.
Rachel Anderson: Utilize Available AHL Talent
For more than 20 seasons now, the Red Wings have had the luxury of having an in-state affiliate in Grand Rapids. With an entire roster at their beck and call, Detroit has seen substantial benefit from a healthy farm team. Existing key skaters like Luke Glendening, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Filip Hronek and Tyler Bertuzzi all spent several seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins getting primed for NHL duty.
As Detroit heads into the next season, it will be imperative for them to not only maintain the development of existing youngsters on the Red Wings roster as Jacob talks about below, but also using the resources at the AHL level. There are log jams with Detroit contracts currently, but if they can free up some roster space, they have a host of talent ready to go in Grand Rapids.
Under head coach Ben Simon, Grand Rapids has seen points in 21 of the last 27 games and continues to improve in their division. The development of the prospects and entry-level contract players like Joe Hicketts and Dominic Turgeon has been a key concern of his, which has resulted in plenty of ready talent. As contracts come to a close and ideally some heftier ones get traded, Detroit needs to make better use of the players who are ready in Grand Rapids.
Many are coming up on the last half of their final entry-level contract season and will be looking for an NHL contract long term – even if it’s not with Detroit. They need to find a way to find a place for those players who have been working tirelessly to meet the Red Wings’ demands.
Jacob Messing: Keep Kids Moving
The Red Wings’ spotty success this season has largely fallen on the shoulders of the next generation. With the season halfway over coach Jeff Blashill should focus on the youth continuing to be driving forces, win or lose.
The season has consistently flowed through 22-year-old Dylan Larkin, who has emerged as the obvious future captain of the team. Rookie Dennis Cholowski has started to show some growing pains (partially due to decreased usage) after a strong start to the year, but he’ll only continue to develop at just 20 years old.
Andreas Athanasiou, 24, has gone ice cold after a promising surge and Anthony Mantha, also 24, is currently healing from a broken hand. Both are in the first year of two-year bridge deals as they argue their potential ahead of anticipatory long-term contracts.
The Red Wings could certainly use another strong draft with a high pick and the ability to sell off assets at the deadline, but with a reasonable eye on a playoff spot, Blashill could start to lean on veterans for the stretch run. But it’s all about the future and as organizational changes could be brewing come summer, that future should mean the team goal is the kids’ growth.