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.
That’s a wrap.
The Detroit Red Wings concluded the 2021-22 season with a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday, closing an up-and-down season at 32-40-10. They finished sixth in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the Buffalo Sabres, after posting an 9-16-4 record since March 1.
Sure, it wasn’t the storybook ending that Detroit fans were hoping for, but there’s still some good to reflect on — though none of it was enough to save former coach Jeff Blashill’s job. So, today, we’re asking our esteemed panel of Red Wings writers: Who was the club’s Most Valuable Player this season?
Let’s dive in.
Tony Wolak: Dylan Larkin
It all goes back to the first game of the season – Dylan Larkin made it clear that the Red Wings would no longer be messed with. Beyond the fisticuffs, Detroit’s captain led by example every night and was on pace for a career year before shutting it down early for core muscle surgery.
Larkin was Detroit’s most valuable player. Others had above-average years, but Larkin was the most vital player to Detroit’s success. He established himself as a true, two-way 1C and was the main driver of the Red Wings’ most dangerous line. In fact, Larkin’s line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond accounted for 37 percent of Detroit’s total goals.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Larkin was Detroit’s MVP this season. His leadership, offensive output, and defensive acumen contributed more to the Red Wings flirting with a playoff berth for most of the season than anyone else.
Devin Little: Red Wings’ New Top Defeseman
For me, this comes down to two players: Moritz Seider and Larkin. The Red Wings’ offensive numbers went up this season, and a lot of that has to do with Larkin experiencing a bounce-back season in which he represented the Red Wings at the All-Star Game for the second time of his career.
However, despite the Red Wings’ defensive numbers taking a big hit this season, it cannot be understated how much Seider has transformed the perception of Detroit’s blue line and team as a whole. Not only should the German defenseman win the Calder Trophy, but I also think he should receive some votes for the Norris Trophy based on what he’s done this season.
Seider, along with fellow rookie Lucas Raymond, has provided proof — and further hope — that brighter days are coming in Hockeytown.
Kyle Knopp: Seider Season
Without a doubt, Seider. I was excited for this kid to make his debut after stellar seasons in Grand Rapids and with Rögle BK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), and he did not disappoint. We witnessed his growth and maturity throughout the season, likely earning him the Wings’ first Calder Trophy since the 1964-65 season (Roger Crozier) and cementing himself as a building block for the future.
The season Seider has had as a 20-year-old, playing against the opponent’s best lines night in and night out would be impressive on any team. His ability to do this on a rebuilding team, which often found itself in over its head, is a testament to his natural ability. While Lucas Raymond makes the case to deserve this award, the Wings would have regressed had it not been for Seider.
Pat Brown: The Wings’ Captain Carried the Load
You know, it’s funny — In addition to the Seider considerations listed above, I also had one player in mind that was in my mix of Red Wings MVP: Tyler Bertuzzi. It just seemed to me that when Bert was out of the lineup, the team struggled to show any sort of resilience.
In the end, though, Larkin’s leadership and admirable bounce-back season were just too much to ignore.
Larkin silenced all of the preseason chatter regarding him not being a top-line center by leading the team in points (69), goals (31), and faceoff percentage (52.5), and likely would have reached career-highs in both goals and points had his season not been cut short. Detroit’s captain led by example all season long, and — as always — faced the media and answered all of the tough questions as the wheels started to come off after the All-Star break.
Cheers to Seider and Bertuzzi, who enjoyed incredible seasons, but if you remove Larkin from the club, to me, the team loses its identity, and that’s the earmark of a true MVP.
Who do you think was Detroit’s MVP this season? Sound off in the comments section below!
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.