The Grind Line: Red Wings’ Top Line Creating Sustainable Energy?

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

The Detroit Red Wings’ top line consisting of Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin has been almost single-handedly responsible for the team’s recent success. Following several seasons of disappointment in terms of production, Red Wings fans are grappling at the shred of hope that this line represents. 

Though encouraging to see the progression and chemistry, the top-line carrying the weight of the team, even early in the season, could be a detriment long-term. The individual accomplishments are obvious signs of growth, but will that growth and energy trickle down throughout the team? Is this momentum Bertuzzi, Larkin and Mantha have created sustainable?

Detroit Red Wings Anthony Mantha
Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Paul Sancya)

The Grind Line wanted to take a look at these three stars and their recent resurgence to the hockey highlight reels. We analyze the pros and cons of such a line and how their play could impact the team throughout the 2019-20 season. 

Rachel Anderson – Encouraging Start but Not Sustainable

The tremendous contribution that Larkin, Bertuzzi, and Mantha have had been a boost to the morale of the team and fans, to say the least. With a combined 20 points in 5 games, they clearly know how to put the puck in the net.

The energy, though positive isn’t enough to carry the team through the season. If the Red Wings are to be successful, the entire team needs to follow suit. Scotty Bowman once quipped during the 1997-98 Stanley Cup finals essentially saying that in order to be a Cup-winning team, the fourth line has to produce as much as the top. Though that may seem an obvious conclusion, it serves as a reminder, that the Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha line shouldn’t be the only one stepping up.

The momentum that has been created could be sustainable if all lines answered the call – but as it stands – they are not. Among the remaining team members, Luke Glendening is the only one making a visible and viable effort. Though only having three points thus far, Glendening has been one of the driving forces behind the second line making any impact. 

Detroit Red Wings Luke Glendening
Detroit Red Wings center Luke Glendening (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

All that to say, the top line is exciting to watch and merits excitement. The future of the Red Wings seems solidified in Larkin’s leadership. However, fans should be cautioned to hold their applause. 

Jake Rivard – Stay Excited, But Tamper Your Expectations

The Red Wings’ top line of Bertuzzi, Larkin, and Mantha leads the NHL with over 50 points through 11 games leading back to last season. The team’s top line is one of the deadliest in the league, providing the team with a veritable Swiss Army knife of shooting, passing, and scoring opportunities every time they’re on the ice.

While this line has been a deadly threat, the potential for the team to rely on this line could spell big trouble down the line. Teams that generate the majority of their offense from a single line often suffer when the line isn’t able to stand up to a hot goalie or is shut down by another team’s defensive pairings. The top line can only bear the brunt of an offense for so long. If one or more of the players sustain an injury, who will step up in their stead?

If the other lines can’t generate enough threat on their own, the team will stagnate offensively, causing burnout and a loss of motivation within the team. As the season continues, rookies and prospects will likely get their shot in the league to try and earn a full-time roster spot. Likewise, players like Andreas Athanasiou and Taro Hirose will begin to pick up some momentum by generating secondary scoring threats. In a best-case scenario, the secondary scoring helps to lift some of the burdens from the Larkin line. In the scenario, over-dependence and mid-season burnout will cause the team to suffer.

Remaining realistic with this impressive production is key — but it still causes some excitement. There’s a lot to look forward to in the future. This is just a taste of things to come for Hockeytown.

Devin Little – Ride the Wave, But Don’t Buy the Hype

Call me a pessimist, but I still firmly believe that the Red Wings will be a lottery team this season. There are too many teams ahead of them to believe this year’s Wings squad will obtain any success in the standings.

That’s not to say that the early play of the Red Wings’ top line isn’t a lot of fun. Mantha is playing as the winner fans envisioned from the moment he was drafted. Bertuzzi’s play demonstrates that last season wasn’t a fluke for him. Larkin is Larkin – the fans are already on board here.

Montreal Canadiens Carey Price Detroit Red Wings Tyler Bertuzzi
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stops Detroit Red Wings left wing Tyler Bertuzzi (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

However, what should stand out like a sore thumb is the play of the other three lines. Lately, the fourth line featuring Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Jacob de la Rose has been the Red Wings’ second-best line when it comes to sustaining pressure. That’s not a formula for success.

It’s far too early to make judgment calls on this year’s team. So much can happen over the course of an 82-game season. However, there is every reason to believe that the weight the first line is carrying right now will stay the same throughout the season. That they can handle it is great, but true contenders don’t ride a single line to the top. 

There’s still more work to do here, but it’s ok to enjoy the fun moments along the way.