The Grind Line: Red Wings’ 2019-20 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. Rachel Anderson, Raymond Harrison, Jake Rivard, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

The push to name Dylan Larkin as captain of the Red Wings has certainly gained steam since the 2018-19 season ended. Larkin, of course, stepped in admirably to replace Henrik Zetterberg as Detroit’s leader and clear go-to player on the ice.

But is the time right? The Red Wings are still rebuilding and Zetterberg is technically under contract through the 2020-21 season. Perhaps they’ll continue rotating alternate—yes, alternate, not assistant—captains until “Z” is off the books as a sign of respect toward their former chief.

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their predictions for Detroit’s 2019-20 captains. Is the time now for Larkin or, possibly, someone else?

Related: The Grind Line: Predicting Yzerman’s First Red Wings Trade

Tony Wolak

C – Dylan Larkin

A – Frans Nielsen

A – Justin Abdelkader

Like Captain America passing off his iconic vibranium shield to Sam Wilson, it’s time for the Red Wings to pass the torch from Zetterberg to Larkin. Ever since rumors began circulating about Zetterberg’s impending retirement, the choice for his successor has always been clear. And now, it’s time for Larkin to don the “C”.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings.
It’s only a matter of time until a “C” is sewn on Dylan Larkin’s jersey.

Detroit’s budding star has earned the designation after producing career highs in just about every offensive category and assuming a leadership role on a young team. He’s a franchise cornerstone who gives it his all on and off the ice – the perfect captain for the Red Wings.

With Niklas Kronwall likely retiring, the Red Wings should simply shift to two permanent alternate captains: Frans Nielsen and Justin Abdelkader. The latter experienced a trying 2018-19 campaign, but has the respect of the team and is due for a bounce back season.

But if Steve Yzerman opts to make a splashy move before the season begins and the Red Wings are down an alternate captain, Valtteri Filppula would be a solid candidate to fill the role. He’s sported an “A” with all three teams he skated for after his first Hockeytown stint and is familiar with Yzerman and Jeff Blashill’s style of play.

Rachel Anderson

C – Dylan Larkin

A – Luke Glendening

A – Mike Green

Everyone expects Larkin to be the next captain of the Red Wings – with good reason. Being as young as he is, he’s taken on a large amount of responsibility in the locker room and on the ice. He has shown a maturity beyond his years when it comes to situations during the game all the way to the reactions following a game. 

Not only is he mentally mature enough for the role, but his performance each shift is testament to a tireless work ethic. His style of play is reminiscent of Yzerman’s younger years, which is encouraging to fans.

Assuming Kronwall doesn’t return to the Red Wings—he’s not listed on their current roster—the alternate roles should go to Luke Glendening and Mike Green. 

Luke Glendening of the Detroit Red Wings
Luke Glendening’s work ethic makes him a solid candidate for an “A”. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Glendening and Larkin have been roommates and friends for several seasons and share a bond that is beneficial to the team. Glendening has been described as a work horse in many instances and is often heralded as being so focused and determined that he’ll play through any level of pain to get the job done. That kind of grit and example would build up a young captain.

Green, on the other hand, presents a veteran structure on my theoretical trio. As a defenseman, he’d offer a different perspective. Also, being several years older than both, he’s had experience as a leader, serving as an alternate captain with the Washington Capitals. As long as he can stay healthy, Green would be a good choice. 

Related: Red Wings Prospect Rankings: Summer 2019

Jake Rivard

C – Dylan Larkin

A – Frans Nielsen

A – Valtteri Filppula

A – Danny DeKeyser

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Larkin has worked to establish himself as a leader on and off the ice. He’s taken numerous post-game interviews, shouldered the responsibility when the going got tough, and tried his best to fill in where Zetterberg once did.

While Larkin has some large shoes to fill in the absence of Zetterberg, he’s shown that he can step up to the plate during the lowest of lows in the regular season. Larkin’s ability to boost the effectiveness of his fellow linemates, as well as his ability to stay strong during rough spurts of the season, showcase his ability to work wonders as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings.

As far as Larkin’s supporting leadership should go, barring the potential return of Kronwall, expect Nielsen to return to his role as a veteran presence on the ice. Abdelkader’s rough season last year may warrant general manager Steve Yzerman to reconsider his role on the ice. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a shock to see someone like Filppula fill in as a responsible veteran leader.

Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings.
Back with the Red Wings again, Valtteri Filppula is a respected leader around the NHL. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Both Nielsen and Filppula are strong two-way players who prioritize defensive awareness with their play style. The lessons the two players learned will be a boon for future players on the Red Wings for years to come.

If the Red Wings decide to roll with a third alternate captain, it would be a welcome surprise to see Michigan native Danny DeKeyser seize the reins on the defensive leadership. With a fresh crop of defensemen coming in, from Filip Hronek to Moritz Seider, it would do the Red Wings a wealth of good to receive direct tutelage from a responsible player like DeKeyser. As a mainstay on the Red Wings’ roster for the last seven seasons, DeKeyser is familiar with Blashill’s system and can help the future stars of the Red Wings adjust to the new scenery.

Who should the Detroit Red Wings appoint as their captains? Share your thoughts below.