The Grind Line: No Captain a Misstep for the Red Wings?

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, Raymond Harrison, and Devin Little are the muckers who THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

Detroit Red Wings fans knew that when Steve Yzerman took over, there’d be times not everyone agreed with him. Unfortunately, that disagreement happened much sooner than anticipated. Detroit announced during training camp, that there would be four alternates but no captain for the 2019-20 season. Beyond Niklas Kronwall, now retired, Yzerman has no particular loyalty or experience with any of the current Red Wings – making the decision not to name a captain yet, fairly easy.

Justin Abdelkader, Frans Nielson, Dylan Larkin, and Luke Glendening will all be donning the “A” on their sweaters this season – to the frustration of many fans. Social media erupted after the announcement accusing the organization of misstepping by not naming fan-favorite, Larkin as captain.

Dylan Larkin - Red Wings
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings – Dec. 18, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Yzerman stifled the riot in an 18-minute press conference following a training camp session saying that he believed it was the right decision and he reserves the right to change his mind. He went on further to explain that since he doesn’t know the capacity of each player well enough, it’s too soon to give someone a main leadership position – essentially affirming that Blashill was right in making the decision.

Riding the wake of the drama, The Grind Line decided to weigh in on the organization’s decision. Is it smart to enter yet another season, leaderless? Will this impact the lockerroom mentality?

Rachel Anderson – No Big Deal

Dylan Larkin is the obvious choice for captaincy when the time comes however, the logic behind not naming him as one yet makes sense long-term. Yzerman has only just been reintroduced to the Red Wings organization – he and the staff need to time not only assess the current players but nail down what direction and culture they’re looking to create long-term.

Choosing to name four alternates instead of a captain is no big deal. The vast majority of the frustrations spawning from the decision seemed to be based on the general fanbase thinking that it’d offend Larkin – possibly cause him to seek other teams. That is unlikely. Larkin plays like a leader and has since his debut. Yzerman trusts his ability to continue playing to the caliber he has and learn what he can – and Larkin agrees.

Red Wings center Dylan Larkin
Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The locker room suffered last season due to the lack of overall confidence in the team as a whole – not the leadership core. The team failed to produce, the team failed to find chemistry, and as a result, the team failed in general. Closing out training camp, it’s evident that there is a strong belief in this group. All are playing competitively and are encouraged by the team’s future. Not having a captain won’t hurt the team they are becoming.

Raymond Harrison – A Blessing in Disguise

At first glance, I was quite perturbed by the decision. Larkin is the unquestioned leader of the team in the present, and for the foreseeable future. At 23 years old, he is already the face of the franchise and is the only realistic choice for captain. Although, after my initial chagrin with the organization’s decision, I looked at the situation in a new light.

The Red Wings are going to be near the bottom of the standings in the 2019-20 season. While the rebuild is starting to progress, it seems as though the team is due for another season of misery.

With that in mind, thrusting Larkin into the captain’s role during another year congested with losing may have had detrimental effects. Larkin is a passionate player that was born and raised in Michigan. His first season as the captain of a storied franchise should be full of exhilaration and excitement, not defeated post-game interviews after another loss.

Dylan Larkin Red Wings
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings, December 20, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Larkin will get the “C” very soon, and he has undoubtedly earned it. Nevertheless, it was a fortunate decision by Yzerman and Co. to postpone the announcement for another season. Larkin’s debut as the captain should come ahead of the 2020-21 season when the Red Wings are (hopefully!) on the rise and full of hope.

Devin Little – There’s No Rush in A Rebuild

Here’s the thing: the Red Wings don’t need a captain quite yet. Sure, it’d be nice to start ordering a Larkin jersey with the “C” on it right now, but that day will come.

Today, the Red Wings are still building. This coming season is likely to be filled with many more losses, and that’s fine because that’s more or less the expectation nowadays. Why trouble someone like Larkin with answering for the state of the team when there’s obviously still work to be done?

We’re in a league where the Vegas Golden Knights don’t have a “C” on their team, and they’re poised to be contenders for the third-straight season. That team, as well as the Red Wings, has a leadership committee they lean into more than just a single individual.

As long as the decision doesn’t bother Larkin or any others in the locker room to not have a captain, why rush it? Let’s be honest here: we know who’s leading the charge for the Red Wings.