For the second season in a row, the Detroit Red Wings will need to name at least two new alternate captains to support captain Dylan Larkin. Last year’s alternates, Marc Staal and Danny DeKeyser, are both no longer with the team. This shift towards a new leadership group is just another way that the Red Wings’ are receiving a makeover after a disappointing 2021-22 season.
Despite the fact that the Red Wings will feature a lot of new faces this season, the team is not without its share of worthy candidates to wear the ‘A’ on their sweaters. The direction that the team goes with this decision will ultimately say a lot about what the dynamic in the locker room is going to be like this season. Will Detroit put their faith in young leaders, or will they lean on veteran leadership like they have in years past?
Let’s take a look at which players have the best shot at becoming recognized leaders for the Red Wings this season.
In his first time addressing the media after signing a five-year deal with Detroit in free agency, Andrew Copp was quick to mention the opportunity to take on a leadership role with the up and coming Red Wings.
“I like the opportunity to continue to grow, have a leadership role and have a good opportunity paired with the influx of talent and the trajectory this organization is on,” Copp said.
Taking on a leadership role is not unfamiliar territory for the 28-year-old. After all, he was Larkin’s captain at the University of Michigan during the 2014-15 season, Larkin’s only collegiate season. And while Copp never wore a letter for the Winnipeg Jets, the team that drafted him, he became an integral part of their lineup before they dealt him to the New York Rangers at the 2022 trade deadline. He’s been to two conference finals through his seven seasons in the league, so he knows a thing or two about playoff heartbreak and what it takes to become a truly great team.
The deal Copp signed is the longest that general manager Steve Yzerman has given out since he re-joined the Red Wings in 2019. Given Copp’s experience, two-way play, and overall versatility, he is expected to be an important part of Detroit’s lineup this season and beyond. As someone that was born and raised in Michigan, he knows quite well what it means to be a Red Wing.
Put all of that together and you’ve got a player that seems like a near-lock to wear an ‘A’ for the Red Wings this season and beyond.
Given his youth and overall lack of experience, Moritz Seider may be the most unlikely name on this list. However, if you’ve been following along with his career since being drafted by the Red Wings in 2019, then you know that the German defender is a leader in the making – if he isn’t one already.
According to an article written by Max Bultman of The Athletic, Seider’s competitive spirit was one of his biggest standout traits during his time in the Swedish Hockey League during the 2020-21 season.
But as Abbott and the 19-year-old defenseman talked, Seider started asking about something he had noticed in the gym: a leaderboard for one of the team’s internal challenges on the assault bike — a stationary air bike that adds resistance the harder the user pedals.(From “Inside Moritz Seider’s season with Rögle, where saunas, dancing and hard hits reigned”, The Athletic, 9/22/21)
Seider’s interest was piqued.
“He jumped on the assault bike,” Abbott said, “and put himself in first place there on the board.”
But just as Seider had that competitive fire in him that made him need to reach the top of the leaderboard, he was also perhaps the goofiest member of the team, keeping a tub of candy at his locker, and putting on a show when his team went out for karaoke night. There’s also a popular video out there of him singing along to a certain Eminem song as he led Team Germany out on the ice at the 2019 World Juniors. If you’ve ever watched “The MoJoe Show”, a web series produced by the Red Wings, then you know how infectious of a personality he has.
But when the puck drops, it’s all business for Seider. He ran away with the Calder Trophy last season, becoming the Red Wings’ first Rookie of the Year in the Expansion Era. He quickly became the Red Wings’ top defender last season, and there’s an argument to be made that he’s already the team’s best player.
A lot of teams like to split their alternate captains so that they have one ‘A’ among the forwards and another among the defensemen. If the Red Wings go this route, there is no other defender on their roster that deserves it more than Seider. You want your leaders to set an example and establish a good culture in the locker room, and that’s exactly what he is capable of doing (if he’s not doing it already.) He may be young at just 21 years old, but nothing would signal a new era in “Hockeytown” like naming him one of the team’s alternate captains.
Like Copp, it is very easy to see why the Red Wings were keen on adding David Perron to the mix. Perron is a Stanley Cup champion, having been a part of the St. Louis Blues’ championship run in 2019 (he was also part of the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights team that went to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.) He is also a veteran of over 1,000 games (regular season and playoff) in the NHL. He’s been there, done that, and then done it again throughout his 15 years in the NHL.
The 34-year-old is the oldest player signed to the Red Wings’ roster, signaling that he’s going to take on the “team dad” distinction that Staal and Sam Gagner held last season. What distinguishes Perron from those two players is that not only is he still productive at this stage of his career (he had 57 points in 67 games last season), but he’s also known around the league for being somewhat of a pest on the ice. While he won’t be mistaken for a fighter, he’s not afraid to engage in the uglier side of the game, and that will come in handy as opposing teams try to take liberties on the Red Wings’ younger players.
Given that he is only signed for two years, Perron’s stay in Detroit likely isn’t meant to be a long-term arrangement. While he’s here, though, his voice will be one that every other player in the locker room listens to. The Red Wings could recognize that by giving him an ‘A’ this season, and letting him take on those responsibilities instead of a younger player like Seider. Once Perron moves on, one way or another, it may then be time to stitch an ‘A’ on Seider’s sweater, if that hasn’t happened already.
There will be people who vehemently disagree with this choice, and there will be others who think Tyler Bertuzzi should already be one of the captains of the team. What is not debatable is his status as one of the most revered members of the Red Wings’ locker room.
“Tyler’s very popular in our room,” Larkin said as training camp began last year, addressing questions about Bertuzzi’s vaccination status. “He’s a very big part of our locker room.”
Like Seider, Bertuzzi is known for being a bit of a character off the ice, but all business on the ice. Whenever opposing players tried to mess with Larkin or Lucas Raymond last season, Bertuzzi would come flying in to defend his linemates. He is a fierce competitor, and he isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to help his team on the ice. He blocks shots, he grinds along the boards, and he can even make finesse plays that highlight his underrated skill. In a lot of ways, he’s exactly what you want from any hockey player.
Behind Larkin, Bertuzzi is the second-longest tenured player on this year’s Red Wings team. After winning a Calder Cup championship with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2017, he has yet to play in the playoffs with Detroit. If there’s anybody on this team that wants to see the Red Wings take the next step, it’s Bertuzzi. His teammates care about him, and he cares about his teammates. That sounds like leadership material to me.
Red Wings Are Changing Their Locker Room Culture
The Red Wings have the second-longest playoff drought in the NHL, behind only the Buffalo Sabres. The thing about stringing together so many losing seasons is that it has a detrimental effect on a team’s culture. There’s a reason why some Michiganders have given up on the Detroit Lions of the National Football League: once you’re known as a losing team, it is really hard to shake that label. The challenge facing the Red Wings is to foster a winning culture, even as the rebuild continues to chug along.
Entering his third season as the team’s captain, Larkin has been entrusted by Yzerman and his coaches to be a big part of ensuring the Red Wings’ locker room culture never becomes toxic or antithetical to winning – but he can’t do it on his own. The leaders of the 2022-23 Red Wings will be tasked with shepherding in the team’s youngest players and prospects while also building a winning culture that will continue on when this team is competing for championships. It is no easy task, and that’s why it is so important that the right players are chosen.
So what do you think? Who are the right players to lead the Red Wings this season?