The Grind Line: Red Wings Early Surprises & Disappointments

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. This week Devin Little and Kyle Knopp are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

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The Detroit Red Wings are now a little over the quarter mark of the season. With a record of 10-9-3, this year’s team is undeniably better than the Red Wings teams of the last few seasons. In fact, if the season were to end today, Detroit would finish just outside of a wildcard spot, though their points percentage paints a bit of a different picture.

Regardless, the Red Wings find themselves where they are due to the play of each individual player on the team. Some players have really put this team on their backs and helped propel this team forward. Other players look like dead weight, holding the team back from making even more noise in the Eastern Conference. Which players have caught our eyes for the right and wrong reasons? Our panel shares their picks:

Devin Little: Focus on the Red Wings’ Youth

While I absolutely must give a shout-out to Lucas Raymond for putting the NHL on notice through the first quarter of the season, the player I’ve been most impressed with is fellow rookie Moritz Seider. I felt very confident in the idea of him making the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp (as did pretty much anybody who followed his season in the Swedish Hockey League last season), but even I had some reservations about how much success he would have in the early going of his rookie campaign. I figured he would announce himself as the Red Wings’ top defenseman by the end of the season, not two weeks into it. He plays with a poise beyond his years, and even when he makes a mistake, he seems to quickly right his wrong by doing something good, and even spectacular. He is, by far, this team’s top defender, and I’m not really sure that it’s close.

Related: Moritz Seider is Already the Red Wings’ Top Defenseman

On the other side of the coin, another young player has caught my eye for the wrong reasons. This was the season that Givani Smith was supposed to lock down a roster spot, at least for the foreseeable future. Instead, the gritty forward has been in and out of the lineup, and his two points through 16 games suggests that the offense he showed during his days in the Ontario Hockey League simply isn’t going to translate at the NHL level. At this point, I can’t help but wonder if he’s only with the team because general manager Steve Yzerman doesn’t want to risk putting him on waivers and then losing him for nothing. There’s still plenty of time for Smith to turn things around, but I’m not holding my breathe.

Kyle Knopp: Two Kids and A Goat

No, this isn’t a reference to the Pavel Datsyuk, Boyd Devereaux, and Brett Hull line in 2002, but rather about Seider, Raymond, and Danny DeKeyser. The kids are the obvious, Seider and Raymond have lived up to and exceeded expectations this season. While fans had high hopes the pair would play well at the NHL level, almost everyone was cautious to assume they would be doing as well as they are. Now, both rookies are in conversations as legitimate Calder Trophy candidates

Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings
Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

DeKeyser, on the other hand, isn’t a goat in the acronym sense, but more in the old age and “scape” definition. As much as I commend and applaud the years he has served us fans in the winged wheel, it is time to usher in the new era and see this guard off into the sunset. Thank you for your years of service to Wings’ nation, Danny, now please enjoy your new role of scout/player advisor.

Which players have stood out to you for the right and wrong reasons? Share your answers in the comments section down below!

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