It’s well known that Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are part of the core of the Detroit Red Wings. No different than the tandem of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, or Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov, the two former first round picks are the critical backbone of the Red Wings’ rebuild.
Though it is debated by many Red Wings fans, Detroit is a better team and will be a better team with both Mantha and Larkin in the lineup for years to come. Thursday’s 6-4 victory over the Lightning shows that when they have support offensively, it takes a significant chunk of pressure off of them having to be the only source of scoring on the team. Something that Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Yzerman and Fedorov had was a litany of other scorers around them along with role players who allowed them to carry the team when they needed to. Though all four came up under different circumstances as Red Wings, only Yzerman was in a true rebuild–albeit during a league structure that saw 16 of the 21 teams make the playoffs. Now, the mountain is even steeper in its ascent.
Larkin, Mantha, and the Pressure they Face
As the slow escape from the doldrums of a rebuild continues, both Larkin and Mantha find themselves at the epicenter of how it progresses forward. Mantha’s inconsistency throughout the season has been well chronicled–going as far as having trade rumors buzzing around his name. Larkin fought through injuries and some lean stretches with little production that had some fans wondering if Larkin’s elite potential was already met two seasons ago. It seems unfair to shackle them with such expectations, especially in a league built on parity. This Red Wings team doesn’t have the talent to compete with the best every night, and it’s just part of the rebuilding process Yzerman cautioned everyone on.
But in that same breath, expectations must be met for this process to go forward into what is hopefully contention in a few years. It really boils down to what expectations are more reasonable.
The Red Wings Core Needs the Right Additions
When Tyler Bertuzzi returns, he’ll add another critical component to the core of Larkin, Mantha, and Filip Zadina. While help is on the way in the likes of Moritz Seider, Jonathan Berggren, and Lucas Raymond just to name a few, Yzerman’s real work will come this summer as roster spots and financial relief open up. It will present the first real opportunity for him to find those important pieces to complement, and boost the team’s core.
And if there’s anyone up to that task, it’s the guy who won three Stanley Cups as a player and then built a Stanley Cup champion in Tampa as its architect.