Detroit Red Wings: The Forwards: Wishful Line Combinations

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 07: Assistant coach Doug Houda talks with Red Wing players during a timeout during the third period of a regular season NHL hockey game between the New York Islanders and the Detroit Red Wings on April 7, 2018, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. New York defeated Detroit 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - APRIL 07: Assistant coach Doug Houda talks with Red Wing players during a timeout during the third period of a regular season NHL hockey game between the New York Islanders and the Detroit Red Wings on April 7, 2018, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. New York defeated Detroit 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Detroit Red Wings have franchise impacting decisions to make this summer.  It will be very intriguing to see some of the decisions that will be considered regarding younger players and what happens to some older more established players.

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.

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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.

Next: Detroit Red Wings: Chris Osgood Waits for Call to the Hall

It’s time for Ken Holland, Jeff Blashill & the Detroit Red Wings brass to fully embrace that a rebuild is well underway and allow their young prospects to have growing pains and work through them in the show rather than immediately assuming they are not ready for this level of competition.