Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill announced today that captain Dylan Larkin would miss the final seven games of the season, thereby ending his 2021 campaign. While this is certainly disappointing, it’s best to find the silver lining.
It opens up opportunities for the younger Red Wings looking to make a final statement before the season wraps up. After Detroit’s 7-3 victory over Dallas, the Red Wings showed that without Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, or Robby Fabbri they could hold their own just fine. It allowed Jakub Vrana to emerge a bit more in his short time with Detroit while Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen generated a lot of offense in Larkin’s absence.
With Frans Nielsen also shelved (and probably playing his final game as a Red Wing), now is the time for those on the bubble to go full out and prove they belong in the fold.
Players like Evgeni Svechnikov are being shopped and running out of time to show they can fit into the Yzerplan. There’s more ice time to go around and “Svech” has the chance to step up and not only grab the minutes, but be productive doing so.
Players like Givani Smith, Matthias Brome, or Taro Hirose are also other players who might get another look in the final seven games. Smith has generated offense in his little time in Detroit while Brome was snakebitten for the first few weeks of the season when it came to goal scoring. His play fell off a bit and he found himself on the outside of the starters. He’s currently on the taxi squad and could be an option to try and work back into Blashill’s good graces.
It’s puzzling that Hirose hasn’t gotten more of a look but it may say more about what the front office and coaching staff consider they have than anything else. A point-per-game player in the AHL, Hirose hasn’t really been given an opportunity in Detroit this season. Might things change?
The best bet is on Joe Veleno grabbing a spot for an end of the season audition, though it’ll have to wait as he’s still not cleared by the team to play in a game.
There are a variety of options for the Red Wings to slot in for the captain. All that is left to ask is who will inevitably get that ice time?