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.
Now a fews games into their preseason schedule, the Red Wings are getting closer and closer to regular season action. Detroit opens the year Oct. 14, taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at home.
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their predictions for the 2021-22 season, plus a few other Hockeytown-related takes.
Red Wings’ 2021-22 Record
Tony Wolak: 33-37-12 – 78 points
With injuries to key players already popping up, I’m feeling conservative about Detroit’s 2021-22 fortunes. They’ll improve upon last year’s .429 points percentage, but still lack the dynamic talent to push for a playoff spot. That said, this year’s team will be a more consistent match for opponents – keeping the score and shot attempts even night-after-night. Plus, Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss will steal a few more wins this season.
Devin Little: 31-42-9 – 71 points
In my mind, the Red Wings were set for around 33 wins entering this season. That was before they lost Jakub Vrana. While they have some interesting candidates to fill that hole in the lineup (hello, Lucas Raymond), I can’t help but think that this is going to set them back a bit. Add in a couple of ill-timed injuries here and there, and this team’s season could be derailed in a big way.
However, the biggest reason I don’t see this team drawing closer to .500 is because of the division they’re in. Tampa Bay, Toronto, Florida, Boston, Montreal, and even Ottawa are going to be the Red Wings’ most frequent opponents this season, and none of those teams present easy wins. Add in the fact that the Wings will have to face the rest of the NHL this season, and I can’t help but think that if they do improve their points percentage this season, it will be marginally at best.
Patrick Brown: 33-35-14 – 80 points
I initially had the Red Wings with a few more regulation losses, but at the end of the day, I think the defense will be improved enough to help win one or two more of those one-goal games that the team has dropped in recent years. It’s going to be fun to watch to see if the team’s chemistry can finally start to click, and we may get our first glimpse of some lines that will help usher in a new era in Hockeytown. The team is still a few years away from being a serious contender, but this year will feel like a step in the right direction.
Kyle Knopp: 35-37-10 – 80 points
Detroit will finally be close to a .500 team. Although it will still be a tough year in terms of goal production, the defense has improved dramatically since last season. This team will still be on the outside of any playoff consideration, but they are trending in the right direction and we will start to see that more this season.
Jeff Middleton: 32-42-8 – 72 points
The Red Wings are still in a rebuild phase, and considering the division they’re in, it’s going to push them down in the standings. I think the record is less telling than that
Place in the Atlantic Division Standings
Tony Wolak: 6th – by a hair
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, they play in a competitive division, so sixth is about the best they can do right now. Detroit will be neck-and-neck with the surprisingly decent Ottawa Senators for most of the year, before finally pulling ahead near the end of the season.
Devin Little: What Tony said
Literally all of it.
Patrick Brown: Tony’s right – 6th
There’s really no way around it, though Detroit is almost decidedly better than both Ottawa and Buffalo, it’s a tall order to potentially surpass the Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, or Tampa Bay Lightning. Just an absolute brutal division, and it’ll be tough on the still-rebuilding Red Wings.
Kyle Knopp: Tied for 5th
Buffalo is a bad team in a worse situation, Ottawa is on the up, but isn’t quite there yet, and Montreal will be this year’s Dallas Stars—a Stanley Cup finalist missing the playoffs the following year. Three teams that Detroit should easily compete with and hopefully finish higher than this season.
Jeff Middleton: 6th – Tony hit the nail on the head
The Atlantic Division is ridiculously good. It’s that simple. The Red Wings are doing everything right, but that doesn’t mean they’ll move up in the standings.
Red Wings’ Theme Song
Tony Wolak: “Careful What You Wish For” by Eminem
The parallels of this song to Detroit’s current state warranted the selection. In Eminem’s case, he’s looking back on an illustrious career that eventually led to his demise. It’s also a stepping stone to possibly his greatest work, the Recovery album. The Red Wings are in a similar place – climbing out of rock bottom and searching for an identity. And like Eminem, success is on the horizon – just look at their prospect pipeline. That, and wanting a bad season for better draft lottery odds.
Devin Little: “Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves
“I’m alright with a slow burn,” Kacey Musgraves sings on the opening song of her 2018 album Golden Hour. Like the Grammy-winning country star, the Red Wings need to be alright with taking things slow this season. Things are getting exciting with the addition of guys like Moritz Seider and Pius Suter, but success is not right around the corner. This is a team that is still in a rebuild and likely has a couple more years of building up before they really take off. Time is not the enemy of the Red Wings at this point; sit back and enjoy the slow burn.
Patrick Brown: “The Waiting” by Tom Petty
Yes, indeed, the waiting is the hardest part. Red Wings fans have been remarkably patient as the painful rebuild has slowly progressed, and this year it’s going to really start to feel close. The pieces are starting to fall into place, and the fact that Mortiz Seider will likely find his spot as an NHL regular this season is just going to make the anticipation even more intense. It’s important to remember the foundation is there, but there’s still a lot of work ahead, so patience must persist.
Kyle Knopp: “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer
Red Wings fans are in for another long season of mediocrity, but the good news is we are more than half way through the tunnel. Try to remember that this is a process—some teams never get out of the rebuild—and the Red Wings are heading in the right direction. Although there may be times this season when things feel like they are trending the other way, we all just need to keep our heads up and trust the Yzerplan.
Jeff Middleton: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
It’s a cliche song, but it’s one that works in this instance. The Red Wings faithful are going to have another long and most likely losing season. Fear not, because as Kyle pointed out, the Yzerplan is in effect. There’s a lot to like about what the team has in store for the future, and everything starts with Seider and possibly Raymond making the NHL roster.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.