The Grind Line: Red Wings’ New Alternate Captains

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 Tony Wolak, Devin Little, Patrick Brown, Kyle Knopp, and Jeff Middleton are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

Last week, Detroit bought out veteran Frans Nielsen. Coupled with the departure of Luke Glendening, the Red Wings have exactly zero alternate captains left on the roster. Luckily, we’re here to fix that.

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, THW’s Red Wings coverage team identifies which players should wear the ‘A’ next season. Make sure to share your picks in the comments section below.

Related: Grading Steve Yzerman’s Tenure as Red Wings GM

Tony Wolak: Tyler Bertuzzi, Sam Gagner & Danny DeKeyser

Three alternates?! You bet.

This isn’t a cop out – the Red Wings have rotated three alternates several times in the salary cap era. When Steve Yzerman retired in 2006, Nicklas Lidstrom was given the ‘C’, while Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Kris Draper rotated wearing an ‘A’.

Detroit Red Wings players Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.
The good old days in Hockeytown. (Icon SMI)

Tyler Bertuzzi has been a vocal, heart-and-soul player the past couple seasons and has the respect of the players in the locker room. Sam Gagner is the same way, though teammates see him more as a mentor than a highly talented player giving it his all.

And finally, Danny DeKeyser is now the longest tenured Red Wing. Crazy, right? Plus, Jeff Blashill has known DeKeyser since his freshman year at Western Michigan. While these don’t necessarily qualify someone for a letter, it’s hard to ignore these factors, especially when you know DeKeyser is entering a contract year ready to prove he deserves another NHL deal. 

These three are likeliest to don an ‘A’ next season, in my opinion. A case could be made for others – I’ll let my teammates dive into those.

Devin Little: Marc Staal & Sam Gagner

If you’re looking for the sexiest picks, you’re reading the wrong entry. I believe that Yzerman and Blashill are still waiting for the young leaders of this team to emerge. I know a lot of people are going to throw out Bertuzzi’s name, but I can’t imagine 80 games (mostly from the 2019-20 season) is enough to win over the GM. Furthermore, Hockeytown was JUST considering the merits of trading him away. That doesn’t sound like captain material to me. 

Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Bertuzzi – not ready to be an alternate captain, according to Devin. Agree or disagree? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After Larkin was knocked out for the rest of the 2020-21 campaign, both Staal and Gagner wore an ‘A’ on their sweater at one point or another. Given how much both Yzerman and Blashill have complimented both of these veteran guys for buying into their roles and committing to a rebuilding team, I have to think that both are on the shortlist for this honor. In Staal’s case, he wore an ‘A’ for the New York Rangers from 2010 to 2020 before he was sent to Detroit. I feel like I may be wrong about Gagner, but I think Staal is a LOCK for a vacant ‘A’.

Patrick Brown: Marc Staal & Tyler Bertuzzi

OK Devin, I’ll bite! When Hockey Hall of Fame media honoree Kevin Allen was on our weekly show, he said something that truly resonated with me: Tyler Bertuzzi is the Red Wings’ courage.

Truer words were never spoken.

Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi.
Tyler Bertuzzi – ready to be an alternate captain, according to Pat. Agree or disagree? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

First off, to me, Staal is a given, and the right choice for all of the reasons Devin outlined – no need to rehash what he said. As for Bertuzzi, when he’s on the ice, the Red Wings are an exponentially better team, and not just from a statistical perspective. Not only are they more confident, but they’re a heck of a lot tougher, too. I’d be willing to bet that Jamie Benn doesn’t get away with that cheap-shot cross-check on Larkin, let alone score the overtime winner later in that very same game, if Bertuzzi had been in the lineup. Simply put, he brings a scrappiness to a team that is otherwise lacking it, and is a clear-cut leader.

He’s not Detroit’s most skilled forward, but he’s a teammate that’ll always have your back, and someone the team can always count on in crunch time. Courage, accountability, and leadership take the cake, and Bertuzzi is one of only a few Red Wings  who set those standards amongst his teammates.

Kyle Knopp: Staal, Gagner, Bertuzzi… Seider? 

It’s hard to argue with any of the names that my teammates have thrown out there. Devin mentioned the two players, Staal and Gagner, who filled in last year when Larkin was injured and were very serviceable in that role over the course of the season. Tony and Pat also mention adding Bertuzzi as an option—even potentially as the third alternate in a rotating system—which would make sense as Bertuzzi has been seen as the heart and soul of this Detroit Team. 

Suffice to say, any of those options will be optimal replacements to take over now that Nielsen and Glendening have moved on. However, there is one name that I would like to throw out there as a potential name that Yzerman and/or Blashill could add into the mix. 

That would be Moritz Seider. 

Of course, it is very unlikely that the Wings will select their next alternate to be a player who has zero NHL games under his belt — but this kid is mature beyond his years

Do I honestly think that he will be chosen as an alternate captain this season? No, but if the Detroit brass wants to really give the reins of this team to the kids and let them take control of the future of the organization, what better way than to give one of them a leadership role? 

Final Votes

With Jeff Middleton’s votes for Bertuzzi and Gagner, our final tally comes to:

  • Tyler Bertuzzi: 4 votes
  • Sam Gagner: 4 votes
  • Marc Staal: 3 votes
  • Danny DeKeyser: 1 vote
  • Moritz Seider: 1 vote

And with that, Bertuzzi, Gagner, and—why not—Staal are your new alternate captains.

Which Red Wings should get the ‘A’ next season? Comment below.