The Grind Line: Red Wings’ Team Awards

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. Raymond Harrison, Tony Wolak, Devin Little, and Rachel Anderson are the muckers who form THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

The future of the 2019-20 NHL season remains unclear due to ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the lull is a perfect opportunity to take a retrospective look at the Red Wings’ season and dish out some individual awards.

Related: 7 Red Wings’ Prospects That Busted

Believe it or not, despite their 17-49-5 record, the team managed to have a few bright spots. Our Red Wings’ writing staff made their picks for several team awards and explained their choices. Enjoy!

Red Wings Team Awards

Team MVP – Gordie Howe Award

Tony Wolak – Jonathan Bernier

Plain and simple, Bernier gave the Red Wings a chance to win every night. The guy saw more rubber than I-75 and stood on his head. With Jimmy Howard struggling to stay healthy and unable to play to the best of his abilities, Bernier saved the Red Wings from historic lows.

Jonathan Bernier Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Bernier was a stalwart in net for Detroit Red Wings during the 2019-20 season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Alas, their record could be the worst of the salary-cap era once this season eventually wraps up.

Devin Little – Jonathan Bernier

Bernier put together a campaign worthy of Vezina votes during a season where almost everybody else on the Red Wings’ roster underperformed. He kept his team in games on most nights and now stands as the main man in net going forward. He deserved a better fate than the results from this season.

Rachel Anderson – Jonathan Bernier

I think Bernier is the obvious choice here. The entire team struggled this season and lacked an overall collective effort, but he was the steadiest player when they needed him. Howard has been faltering the past few seasons, and Bernier has stepped up to fill the starting goaltender role well — giving the team confidence to keep playing in many situations.

Raymond Harrison – Jonathan Bernier

A clean sweep for Bernier! In reality, it is not a surprising result as nobody else on the roster truly factored into the equation. If Anthony Mantha could have avoided injury, perhaps he would have been a candidate after tallying 23 points in his first 25 games.

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No matter, Bernier was by far the team’s best player. Across his past 27 starts, he tallied a .919 save percentage playing behind the worst defensive core in hockey. That is a herculean effort and makes him more than deserving of Team MVP.

Unsung Hero – Kris Draper Award

Tony Wolak – Alex Biega

After joining the Red Wings, Biega carved out a role as a depth defenseman who could be trusted in the defensive zone. He also became a regular on the penalty kill, but I nominated him for this award because of his effort.

Alex Biega Detroit Red Wings
Alex Biega, aptly nicknamed “the bulldog,” was a pleasant surprise for the Detroit Red Wings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Night after night, he gave the Red Wings 110 percent. He didn’t show up on the scoresheet much, but he did the little things right — similar to Nick Jensen a couple of seasons ago. The Red Wings noticed, too, and signed Biega to a one-year contract extension.

Devin Little – Tyler Bertuzzi

Darren Helm deserves some credit here for holding the team’s best plus/minus rate at minus-6, but the team’s All-Star gets a nod here. Underappreciated around the league despite his All-Star status, Bertuzzi continues to be a warrior for the Red Wings.

Tyler Bertuzzi Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Bertuzzi continued his ascent for the Detroit Red Wings during the 2019-20 season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He doesn’t gather attention like the Dylan Larkin’s and Filip Hronek’s, but Bertuzzi has been an exceptional forward for the Red Wings since joining the team in 2017.

Rachel Anderson – Luke Glendening

I’ve always been partial to Glendening. He’s not a huge point producer, but he is a grinder and a workhorse every single shift. He catches a lot of static for mistakes every player makes, but it hasn’t gotten to him. He’s the guy that you know will work from end-to-end non-stop.

He doesn’t get a lot of credit for his board work and getting the pucks set up in plays, which is a shame. He may be a third or fourth-line forward, but I believe it is because he’s trusted to guide the younger more inexperienced players. He’s a developer not a spotlight guy and I think that makes him an Unsung Hero.

Raymond Harrison – Robby Fabbri

Now, Fabbri is not a prototypical unsung hero. He is not a physical foot soldier that battles with reckless abandon every night, nor is he some penalty-killing maestro. Alas, he is an unsung hero, because he remains underappreciated by the majority of hockey media outlets for his efforts this season.

Robby Fabbri Detroit Red Wings
Robby Fabbri proved that he can be a part of the Detroit Red Wings core moving forward. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After joining the Red Wings on Nov. 8, he tallied 31 points in 52 games despite playing sizable minutes alongside players not named Larkin, Bertuzzi, or Mantha. Fabbri became the only true secondary scoring option the team had, and he deserves more praise for the success he found.

Best Defenseman – Nicklas Lidstrom Trophy

Tony Wolak – Filip Hronek

Patrik Nemeth deserves some credit for his steady defensive-zone play and jumping up to the top pairing, but Hronek is the winner here. His offensive production — at such a young age, no less — was a bright spot this season and provides hope for the future. He was trusted in all situations and played upwards of 24 minutes most nights. That’s a lot for a 22-year-old.

Devin Little – Filip Hronek

Like Tony did, I want to give a special shoutout to Nemeth for being much better than anticipated for the Red Wings.

Related: Red Wings’ Defense Fails to Make the Grade

That being said, Hronek was possibly the only member of the defensive unit that inspired hope for the team’s future — an important thing during a, particularly bleak season.

Rachel Anderson – Filip Hronek

Hands down, Hronek. He not only set the bar high in his rookie season but has continued to improve on that in the seasons following.

Filip Hronek Detroit Red Wings
Filip Hronek has become a massive piece of the future for the Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He’s proven to be reliable in any situation. He has a firm grasp on the defensive side of his game but contributes even more often in the offensive end. Hronek is a keeper.

Raymond Harrison – Filip Hronek

Another clean sweep. The loss of Danny DeKeyser was a death blow to the Red Wings, as his absence was one of the main reasons why the team was so porous defensively. Regardless, Hronek was by far the best defenseman on the roster.

He led the team’s blue line in goals, assists, shots, points, takeaways, Corsi For (CF), and Fenwick For (FF). His progression is one of the brightest parts of the Red Wings’ roster, and he figures to be a key contributor moving forward.

Top Rookie – Glenn Hall Award

Tony Wolak – Filip Zadina

Once he joined the team full-time, Zadina played like a top-six forward, scoring at a 47-point pace across an 82-game season.

Filip Zadina Detroit Red Wings
How many points will Filip Zadina have next season for the Detroit Red Wings? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

No offense to the fine people in Grand Rapids, but Zadina shouldn’t suit up for the Griffins again. He’s ready to be a Red Wing.

Devin Little – Filip Zadina

Zadina’s rookie season was filled with interruptions. Despite his initial assignment in Grand Rapids, injuries, and now the season suspension, he got better and better with every game he played for the Red Wings. He has inspired hope that the rebuild is heading in the right direction.

Rachel Anderson – Filip Zadina and Gustav Lindstrom

Zadina produced a lot of good opportunities and seemed to adapt pretty well to the NHL. Overall, he is my choice for the Glenn Hall, but I believe rookie defenseman Gustav Lindstrom deserves a tip of the hat as well.

Related: Red Wings’ Call-Ups Earning Roster Spots

Lindstrom came on to the scene and instantly had enormous expectations. He had no nine-game trial in his contract, so it was a make-or-break scenario for both he and the Red Wings, which I believe he managed well.

Raymond Harrison – Filip Zadina

As Rachel mentioned, Lindstrom’s NHL stint was promising. Likewise, Givani Smith debuted his patented blend of forechecking and physicality across 21 games. All things considered, it is hard to argue for anybody other than Zadina here.

Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina’s future looks bright after a productive 2019-20 season for the Detroit Red Wings. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Czech sniper proved he belonged in the NHL. By all accounts, he was arguably the team’s fourth-best forward based on underlying metrics. Zadina was third on the team in individual Corsi For per sixty minutes, third in shooting percentage, fourth in individual Fenwick For per sixty minutes, and fifth in even-strength offense goals above replacement.

These advanced rates show that despite only playing 28 games, he was capable of driving play on his own and was a positive-possession player. It seems as though bright things are ahead for Zadina.

Top Goalie – Terry Sawchuk Trophy

Tony Wolak – Jonathan Bernier

Who else?

Devin Little – Jonathan Bernier

Check out Bernier’s stats and then look at Howard’s. I rest my case.

Rachel Anderson – Jonathan Bernier

It bears repeating, he kept the team in it most nights.

Raymond Harrison – Jonathan Bernier

I am pretty sure the current, 47-year-old version of Chris Osgood could have strapped on the pads and beaten out Howard for this award. Thankfully, Bernier did not win it by default, he was phenomenal.

Best Defensive Forward – Pavel Datsyuk Trophy

Tony Wolak – The Mantha-Larkin-Bertuzzi Line

Sorry, I’m not choosing one player. When Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi were on the ice together, they typically played against opposing teams’ top lines and dominated possession.

Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin is likely the best two-way player the Detroit Red Wings have to offer. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The trio finished with the three best PDO numbers (all within .005 of each other) among Detroit’s regular forwards. Mantha had the best individual possession numbers, but all three deserve credit.

Devin Little – Dylan Larkin

I believe that Larkin will have this award locked up for a while. He received Frank J. Selke Trophy votes last season, and even though this season wasn’t as successful for the team or player, Larkin continues to be adept at both ends of the ice.

Rachel Anderson – Dylan Larkin

Larkin was the only member of the Red Wings to earn Selke Trophy votes in the 2018-19 season, and that likely remains the case this year. He gets my vote for the Datsyuk Trophy.

Raymond Harrison – Dylan Larkin

I wish this was a tougher decision to make, but the bottom-six group of forwards was abysmal for the Red Wings this season. Even if Frans Nielsen or Valterri Filppula aren’t scoring, you’d still hope they’d provide responsible defensive play.

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No matter, Larkin was his typical self and set the standard for the team at both ends of the ice. His speed allows him to take certain risks in the offensive zone without risking his defensive positioning.

Comeback Player of the Year – Darren McCarty Award

Tony Wolak – Jonathan Bernier

From struggling backup to team MVP, no one transitioned from zero to hero better than Bernier. Generally speaking, he was able to stay healthy, which certainly helped him achieve some level of consistency along with playing more often.

Related: Red Wings’ Complete Offseason Blueprint

Bernier deserves all the credit and will more than likely have a stronger team in front of him next season — his contract year — so a repeat performance could be in the cards. 

Devin Little – Jonathan Bernier

Last season, Bernier struggled to get acquainted with his new team. He had just 9 wins in 35 games played, with a save percentage just north of .900. This season, Bernier was arguably the sole reason the Red Wings won as many games as they did, even though that total isn’t a lot.

Rachel Anderson – Anthony Mantha

Mantha’s overall improvement season by season has been one of the most encouraging stories to come out of Detroit. Having struggled with consistency in past seasons, he came out swinging this time.

Detroit Red Wings Anthony Mantha
Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha is the best pure goal-scorer on the team. Now he just has to stay healthy! (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Paul Sancya)

He battled injury and setbacks but has learned to mentally battle back. His praises have been sung, but given his evolution, I don’t think nearly enough. The massive progression of Mantha earns him the Comeback Player award. 

Raymond Harrison – Robby Fabbri

Bernier is a deserving candidate for this award, but for the sake of being different, I will plead Fabbri’s case. Fabbri had 6 points in 32 games with the St. Louis Blues in 2018-19, and he was running out of chances at the NHL level.

As I mentioned previously, Fabbri thrived upon joining the Red Wings this season and solidified himself again as a legitimate top-six forward. His return to productivity earns him the McCarty Award in my books.

In Closing

While there is hope that the NHL season will eventually resume, the final 11 games for the Red Wings likely would not sway our award voting much. Let us know in the comments below which players earned your votes for each category.

All player statistics provided by