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Detroit Red Wings: The Forwards: Wishful Line Combinations

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The Detroit Red Wings have a number of forwards & a few tough decisions to make in the coming weeks.  This will be a pre, preseason look at the roster and some line combinations we would love to see.

I expect a “Blashill” line-up to look somewhat different than what we want to see.  Blashill tends to lean more towards a safe, conservative line up rather than a rebuilding team full of youth.  Let’s look at what we can hope for, against what Blashill will do with the roster Ken Holland provides.

The first line should look like this; Thomas Vanek, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha.  This is a line that features two of Detroit’s brightest young stars.  Dylan Larkin is Detroit’s number one center now, last season Larkin led all of Detroit’s forwards in ice time.  The speedy center can create opportunities with his speed and skill.

Two scoring threats flanking Larkin could propel Detroit’s goal-scoring production in a positive direction.  Thomas Vanek & Anthony Mantha both scored 24 goals last season, this allows  Dylan Larkin to defer to either wing for a scoring opportunity.
The second line we would love to see would consist of Andreas Athanasiou, Henrik Zetterberg, Filip Zadina.  AA we feel needs consistent top 6 minutes this up and coming season.  Last season Andreas at times would play 10 minutes a night and other nights 17.  More consistency and playing with Zetterberg may build his confidence.  His breakaway speed creates chances.  Zetterberg has lost a step now nearing the end of his career, having young legs flanking Z may benefit the captain this season.

Zetterberg still a valuable 2-way center can be relied upon defensively on a line with a speedster and a young rookie sniper. Filip Zadina could go to school night in, and night out learning on a line with Henrik Zetterberg it would be a great developmental season for the young rookie to be able to learn from one of the all-time greats.

The third line The Detroit Red Wings should consider to start the season should be Michael Rasmussen, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist.  Nyquist is a 20 goal scorer that Detroit could plug into a third line to add depth down the line-up.  Frans Neilson a valuable 3rd center is exceptionally reliable in all three zones.

Nielsen, although paid like a 2nd center, hasn’t lived up to scoring expectations of his 5.25AAV contract.  Part of the problem is not having scoring wingers night in and night out on his line.  Nielsen only contributed 33 points last season, but he’s a better player than those numbers suggest. Nyquist could help Nielsen produce on more of a regular basis offensively.

Michael Rasmussen would benefit from playing as a top 9 forward rather than limited minutes buried on a 4th line.  It would be nice to see Rasmussen playing with two veteran reliable skaters.  Similar to what Zadina could learn from Zetterberg, Rasmussen could learn from Nielsen.  The big 6’6 Rasmussen brings scoring touch and a big frame to the line-up.

The fourth line gets interesting.  Detroit has options, but Tyler Bertuzzi is a must.  Luke Glendening is the most consistent face-off man and penalty killer.  Justin Abdelkader brings double-digit scoring to the 4th line.

This is a line we would like to see as an energy line, they all can go out and bang the body, be tough to play against every night and all three can score 10-12 goals.  Abdelkader a bit more proven scorer thus far in his career could pot 15 if he’s going right.

This leaves Darren Helm,  Martin Frk & Evgeny Svechnikov scratched.  Injuries occur every season it’s not a severe problem to have these guys in waiting and mix them in and out of the line-up when needed.  Although as we will discuss further in a minute Svechnikov will benefit more in Grand Rapids rather than the press box if being a regular in the line-up isn’t an option.

Jeff Blashill & Ken Holland will have another agenda, unfortunately.  I have a gut feeling the brass will start Zadina in Grand Rapids; I don’t agree with that at all.  Zadina could learn more alongside the captain.  The reasoning will be Zadina has the option to be sent down to Grand Rapids without clearing waivers of course & does not need to be sent back to Junior.  That’s not a good enough excuse.

Detroit will then play Nyquist with Zetterberg because Blashill can’t seem to split them up.  Nyquist has often followed Henrik around the line-up where ever he is playing.  Blashill will then insert Helm into the line-up in favor of Svechnikov reason being Helm is more “reliable”.  Again we would rather see the scoring upside of Svechnikov over Darren Helm.

Detroit will likely start Svechnikov in Grand Rapids because they can, instead of having him sitting in the press box. If it’s press box or Grand Rapids it’s a pretty obvious choice.  The issue here is not having the Detroit line up as an option.  That’s the Red Wing way instead of fielding a young line-up Detroit will defer Svechnikov & Zadina to Grand Rapids and we won’t be happy about it.

When the Red Wings were perennial contenders, it made some sense, or you could at least make an argument for it.  With the rebuild underway, Detroit has enough veteran players; it would be in their best interest to mix in these young players.

Nyquist & Vanek are both trade candidates this season which will open up two spots to finish the year,  we would rather have the young players grow and gain experience throughout the entire season not just from the end of February to the completion of the season.

Luke Glendening may again draw interest from playoff teams looking for a reliable bottom six forward.  Very stable in the faceoff circle and effective killing penalties will be a desired piece at the deadline.  Glendening is under contract for three more seasons at 1.8AAV per.  A tradeable contract the Detroit Red Wings will likely field phone calls on.

Martin Frk was an RFA Detroit decided not to “Qualify” this July but eventually re-signed a bit later for one year, just a touch over 1 million. Next summer Frk again will be an RFA.  If Frk catches fire this season, Detroit may decide to keep him.  If Frk finds himself often a healthy scratch, Detroit could choose to find a trade partner where Frk would have an opportunity to play on a more regular basis.

I would like to mention Givani Smith,  a power forward who loves to rattle the boards, mix it up and join in when things get a little nasty.  Smith will be a Red Wing sooner than later, and it won’t be long before he becomes a fan favorite.

Smith likely will be a regular bottom-six forward in 2019/20 rather than this up and coming season.  A guy we are excited about & anticipating his debut. There is a chance Smith has a spectacular camp and preseason, and Detroit can’t send him down, that would be an excellent problem to have.

Detroit Red Wings: What to expect from Tyler Bertuzzi

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The Detroit Red Wings inserted a some “sandpaper” into their line up last season with prospect Tyler Bertuzzi.  Bertuzzi has played a total of 55 NHL games over parts of the previous two seasons.

Tyler often skated alongside captain Henrik Zetterberg last season on the opposite wing of Anthony Mantha or Gustav Nyquist depending whom head coach Jeff Blashill decided to plug in that particular game.

Bertuzzi accumulated 24 points last season, 7 goals and 17 assists in 48 games.  Bertuzzi is 23 years old considered a grinder, a pest with his willingness to be a physical net presence on a nightly basis.  Bertuzzi was effective working in the corners retrieving the puck for his linemates down low in the offensive zone.

While the Detroit Red Wings had the puck in the offensive zone, Bertuzzi was regularly found near the front of the net causing havoc.  A large percentage of Bertuzzi’s goals will be those ugly “muck it up” in front of the net type goals.  Every team needs players willing to go into the tough, physical, dirty areas on the ice and chip in with some deflection or rebound goals.  The worst case scenario would be Bertuzzi setting a screen and being a distraction for opposing goaltenders.   If he doesn’t get the goal himself, he can contribute in other ways without being on the score sheet.
Although Bertuzzi played with Hank a lot last season, Bertuzzi may be better suited down on a fourth line grinding away.  Bertuzzi averaged 14:24 minutes of ice time per game last season.

If you remember; at times last season Detroit dressed seven defensemen and eleven forwards rotating three center’s throughout the line up playing with four sets of wingers.  This won’t be the case this season.  Detroit has too many forwards chomping at the bit to get into the game, and amongst the extra forwards there will be a couple of young rookies working hard for a spot in the lineup.

Tyler Bertuzzi can be a productive energy guy who in the future will have LCA rocking nightly with Givani Smith on his opposite wing who also loves to punish opponents with his physical play. Until Smith cracks the line-up (which could happen sometime this season)  Blashill should have Bertuzzi skating with Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader.  That gives Blashill three players on his fourth line who are capable of killing penalties along with being able to create some scoring chances which is a bonus for any teams fourth line.

Tyler Bertuzzi will kick the term “prospect” this season as he will be a staple in Detroit’s line up moving forward.  Bertuzzi set to play every day for Detroit should also see a boost in his offensive production.  Bertuzzi should produce similar statistics to “Abby.”

Detroit Red Wings: Athanasiou Needs to Remain with Detroit

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The Detroit Red Wings who at the moment have a plethora of forwards will be entertaining offers on a handful of players to create roster space in the near future.  Andreas Athanasiou’s name has been brought up in a couple of different media outlets as a player Detroit could have on the trading block.

It would be in the Detroit Red Wings best interest to keep Athanasiou along with granting him enough regular ice time to generate more offense consistently.  Jeff Blashill similar to Ken Holland, has been loyal to a fault with his inability to rely on younger players to contribute by allowing lesser skilled players who have been in the league longer to play more minutes.

This is the year Andreas Athanasiou should see a significant boost in ice time.  Last season playing on average 15:19 minutes a game was able to score 16 goals and add 17 assists in 71 games.  Jeff Blashill needs to commit to playing Athanasiou 17-18 minutes a night or more moving forward.

The game has gotten quicker over the years, speedy players like AA are desired throughout the league in today’s game.  These skilled players mixed with world-class skating ability have the opportunity to provide dynamic scoring chances if the proper ice time is allocated.

Granted the return for Athanasiou via trade would be more significant than other Red Wings rumored to be on the block, examples being Luke Glendening & Thomas Vanek (when the time comes).  Gustav Nyquist may fetch a similar return but only as a rental. Detroit should demand more for AA if trading is what they begrudgingly decide to do. He is under contract control for two more seasons at a team friendly cap hit along with only being 24 years old.

It wouldn’t be in Detroit’s best interest to trade Athanasiou, especially with Henrik Zetterberg‘s future in question.  There is no reason we shouldn’t expect Athanasiou to be a 20 plus goal scorer in the immediate future.

Detroit who has struggled at times to find regular goal scoring shouldn’t decide now that they would like to trade a soon to be 24-year-old skilled scorer that has yet to reach his full potential. It would be a foolish move by management and ill-favored among those who follow the franchise regularly.

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