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, and Kyle Knopp are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
Thanksgiving week is upon us in the US, and despite the Detroit Red Wings‘ recent losing streak, there’s still plenty for the Hockeytown faithful to be thankful for. Let’s face it — it’s been a long rebuild to this point, and the work is far from over. Still, the club appears to be more competitive this season than in years past, and has three rookies — Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, and Alex Nedeljkovic — in the thick of the early-season Calder Trophy discussions.
So, what is our team of writers thankful for as the holiday season ramps up? Let’s dive in.
Tony Wolak: Red Wings’ Heritage
When Ken Holland and Marian Hossa were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last week, the significance was a bit muted. Why? Because so many Red Wings have received the Hall-of-Fame nod over the last 10 years. Even more join them if you go back further in time.
The Red Wings have a rich heritage of success and culture, filled with some of the greatest NHLers of all time. Think about it. You have the star-studded 2002 Stanley Cup team led by a Hall-of-Fame coach and general manager. There’s also the glory days of the Production Line and the Red Wings icons of the 1950s. And don’t forget about The Russian Five, Hall-of-Famers who only had cameos in Hockeytown (Paul Coffey, Johnny Bucyk, Glenn Hall, and Brad Park to name a few), and our namesake, The Grind Line. Clearly, the road to greatness leads through Detroit.
Not many teams have this history. Very few, in fact. That’s something I’m thankful for. Not to gloat about or hold over other people’s heads. But something to be proud of and hope that the future continues to honor this legacy and strive for even more greatness.
Devin Little: Lucas Raymond
In 2002, I was introduced to a slender but skilled Swedish forward in his debut season for the Red Wings. That player was Henrik Zetterberg, and I was amazed at how effortless he made the little things look. Even in his prime, he was never as flashy as Pavel Datsyuk, but he was undeniably skilled, and his two-way game was among the best of the best in the NHL.
In 2020, during my research and scouting of the 2020 draft class, I was introduced to another Swedish forward of small stature but incredible skill. That player was Lucas Raymond, and it didn’t take too long for me to be sold that he needed to be the Red Wings’ pick at fourth overall. To this day, I believe Detroit got the third-best player in that draft with the fourth pick – and even that may be selling him a little short.
In short, watching Raymond play for the Red Wings this season not only makes me feel vindicated as a talent evaluator, but it genuinely brings me back to when I was eight years old and latching on to my favorite player of all time. I am excited to watch Raymond develop over the next few years, and am so thankful that he was the choice at fourth overall 13 months ago.
Kyle Knopp: The Yzerplan
Adding on to what Tony and Devin mentioned above, I am most thankful for Steve Yzerman and the Yzerplan coming together. For the first time in the Jeff Blashill era, the Detroit Red Wings are fun to watch. Mo Seider and Raymond have added the much needed shot of youth and energy to what had become an aging and stale roster. Add in Joe Veleno and Filip Zadina, and it’s easy to see why the excitement around this team will continue to grow in the near future.
However, that’s only half of what I’m thankful for. Without Yzerman, there would be no Yzerplan to be excited about. Here we are, a little more than 31 months since Yzerman returned from the Tampa Bay Lightning to take over for Holland and completely turned around the direction of the franchise. For the second time in his career, the Captain has rode into Detroit ready to bring a once proud franchise back from the depths of mediocrity. Hopefully history repeats itself and the journey will have a couple of Stanley Cup parades along the route.
Pat Brown: The Prospect Pipeline
To Kyle’s point, the Yzerplan offers plenty for fans to be thankful for, especially when you look at the talent that has yet to reach the NHL level. Names like Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, and Donovan Sebrango (defensemen), Jonatan Berggren, Theodor Niederbach, and Elmer Soderblom (forwards), as well as goalie Sebastian Cossa will all likely crack the NHL lineup at some point in the future, and all have the potential to elevate the Red Wings to the next level.
Berggren is likely the most NHL-ready of the bunch, and will likely get a look at some point this season after putting up 10 points in 14 games to this point. The 19-year-old Sebrango may also get a look, though his game likely needs a little more refinement before moving him to the next level. Soderblom, Johansson, Niederbach, and Edvinsson are all battling it out in the
Red Wings Hockey League Swedish Hockey League (SHL), while Cossa continues to stand on his head for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
These pieces are all complimentary to what Detroit already has in place, and despite the team’s recent struggles, the Red Wings are already through the worst of their rebuilding years. There are still plenty of pieces to round out the proverbial completed puzzle, but with the stockpile of talent that remains in the club’s system, that may not be as far off as it feels.
What are you thankful for? Sound off in the comments section below!
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.