Larkin & DeBrincat Could Be Detroit Red Wings’ Next Dynamic Duo

The Hockey Writers

Long ago, the names Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay were ubiquitous with the Detroit Red Wings. After that, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov defined a generation that most fans nowadays refer to as “the glory days.” That era’s end made way for the “EuroTwins” era, headlined by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Their final season together was the 2015-16 campaign, and the Red Wings have been searching for their next dynamic duo ever since.

Thanks to the Red Wings’ biggest offseason move, that search may finally be at its end.

Detroit Red Wings' Next Dynamic Duo Dylan Larkin & Alex DeBrincat
Dylan Larkin & Alex DeBrincat (The Hockey Writers)

On July 10, Yzerman, now the general manager of the Red Wings, struck a deal with the Ottawa Senators to acquire Alex DeBrincat, a scoring winger who grew up cheering for Datsyuk and Zetterberg as a lifelong Red Wings fan. DeBrincat arrives with two 40-goal seasons under his belt despite being just 25 years old. Upon signing a four-year deal with the Red Wings, he instantly became the team’s best scorer with a shot at becoming the franchise’s first 40-goal scorer since Marian Hossa scored 40 during the 2008-09 season.

The biggest reason why DeBrincat could score 40 this season besides his own talents is that he will likely skate on the team’s top line alongside Dylan Larkin, the team’s captain and top center. With DeBrincat’s innate ability to put the puck in the net and Larkin’s playmaking abilities, the Red Wings may very well be entering a new era defined by two Michigan kids who grew up cheering for the hometown team.

Larkin Gets His Scorer

With all due respect to the likes of Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, and Lucas Raymond among others, Larkin has simply never had a bona fide goal-scorer to feed the puck to. In fact, when Bertuzzi scored 30 goals during the 2021-22 season, it marked the first time one of Larkin’s primary linemates hit the 30-goal plateau during a season. Looking at last season alone, David Perron was Larkin’s most-frequent linemate, and the 35-year-old veteran notched 24 goals over the course of the season.

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Due, in part, to the overall lack of firepower on his line over his eight seasons in the league, Larkin has never recorded 50 assists or 80 points in a season (he finished with 79 points in 80 games last season.) Despite being 27 years old, it is fair to suggest that we still have yet to see what his offensive ceiling is simply due to the circumstances he has had to navigate since joining the Red Wings at the end of their 25-year playoff streak.

That’s why the addition of DeBrincat is so monumental for the Red Wings and their captain. Playmakers have a way of creating goals and scoring chances no matter who they’re lined up with, but elite playmakers often need elite scorers to maximize their offensive output. With DeBrincat entering the lineup this season, Larkin has an opportunity to silence any lingering sentiments that he isn’t deserving of the eight-year, $69.6 million contract he signed back in March.

DeBrincat Should Thrive on Home Cooking

As you may or may not know, DeBrincat was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2016 draft. Over his five seasons with the team across Lake Michigan, he had a goals per-game rate of .43, which translates to approximately 35 goals over an 82-game season. But after the Blackhawks committed to tanking and rebuilding prior to last season, he was dealt to Canada’s Capital ahead of the 2022 draft. Though many expected the trade, along with the their addition of Claude Giroux in free agency, to vault the Senators into playoff contention, the end result was less than ideal.

Primarily skating alongside Shane Pinto and Drake Batherson on the Senators’ second line, DeBrincat experienced a “down” season by his standards, putting up just 27 goals and 66 points, as well as a concerning plus/minus rating of minus-31. Together with Pinto and Batherson, the Senators’ second line was outscored 27-15 at even strength despite outshooting their opponents 264 to 241. As for Pinto and Batherson, both enjoyed career-best seasons; Batherson, specifically, had 40 assists and 62 points while helping Pinto secure his first 20-goal season.

Just like Larkin’s previous linemates, DeBrincat’s linemates from last season simply are not at the same level as his presumptive linemate this season. During his time with the Blackhawks, DeBrincat flourished while playing on the opposite wing of Patrick Kane, one of his generation’s best playmakers. While Larkin’s playmaking abilities aren’t quite at the same level as Kane, he has proven more than capable of elevating his teammates and creating prime scoring opportunities. If DeBrincat still managed to put up 27 goals last season despite playing with lesser talent, what is he capable of doing with the Red Wings’ best all-around forward?

Furthermore, just as Larkin became a star in Detroit due, in part, to his ties to the community and the state of Michigan, DeBrincat is on the precipice of becoming a hometown hero. Since it was announced that he would wear the number 93 with the Red Wings, people have taken to social media to share pictures of their new jerseys that feature his name and number on the back – and that’s before he’s played a single game in the winged wheel.

When DeBrincat indicated to the Senators that he wanted out of Ottawa, Detroit was his most-preferred destination. When the deal was finalized and he met with the media for the first time, he wore a Detroit Pistons hat that featured their logo from the mid-to-late 90s. His name is already well-known across the league due to his ability to score goals, but he now finds himself in a place and on a team where superstardom feels like a foregone conclusion.

It has been a long time since any player arrived in Detroit with that level of hype and promise. But just like the great Red Wings teams of the past, this season’s team won’t be defined by a single player.

Larkin & DeBrincat Set to Turn the Page on the Red Wings’ Rebuild

When DeBrincat and Larkin watched the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup back in 2008, Detroit’s top line featured Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Tomas “The Garbage Man” Holmstrom. Together, those three players formed a line that could score goals in a multitude of ways while also being able to protect the puck and maintain possession. That trio was one of the most dominant lines in hockey, and their names on the Stanley Cup etched that fact into history forever.

The challenge facing Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde is figuring out who would bet compliment Larkin and DeBrincat. Could it be Raymond, the team’s top pick in the 2020 draft and arguably the team’s best forward aside from Larkin and DeBrincat? What about Perron, who can play in a scrappy role alongside the team’s top offensive weapons. A couple of dark horse candidates could be Klim Kostin or Michael Rasmussen, both of which would bring size and physicality to the top line while also being willing to park themselves in front of the net, just like Holmstrom did years ago.

Regardless of what the lineup ultimately looks like, the Red Wings seem to be ready to turn the page and enter a new phase of their ongoing rebuild. Lead by Larkin, who grew up in Waterford, and DeBrincat, who hails from Farmington Hills, this era of Red Wings hockey may very well be remembered as the era where the franchise was led out of the darkness by its fans, both on the ice and in the seats throughout Little Caesars Arena.

Make no mistake: Raymond, Moritz Seider, and the rest of the Red Wings’ youth will definitely play a huge role in changing the narrative across Hockeytown. But this is the moment in time that Larkin and DeBrincat have been dreaming of since they first learned how to lace up their skates.

Like the many great dynamic duos scattered throughout Red Wings lore, this is Larkin and DeBrincat’s team now. How we remember this era is entirely up to them.

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