With the weeks leading up to the season, Octopus Thrower will be profiling a different Detroit Red Wings player. We start with the captain, Dylan Larkin.
7th season with the Red Wings
(Advanced stats courtesy of Evolving Hockey)
Last Season with the Red Wings
It’s almost the same story for most of Detroit’s best players but Larkin was one of many Red Wings sidelined by injury in 2021. Larkin’s came courtesy of a Jamie Benn cross check, something a very vocal segment of the fanbase would like to see avenged this season. The cheap shot ended Larkin’s season–and was far worse than originally thought.
Larkin’s numbers saw a dip, but some of that could be attributed to a wonky year that saw a marginally decent team committed all out to defense while never really having any sense of stability. There was considerable debate by segments of the fanbase if Larkin was truly the first line center he’s penciled in as. Regardless, this season should answer some of those questions if he can stay healthy along with the other players brought in to move the needle.
Best Case Scenario for the season
If Larkin’s health isn’t an issue and with a full season featuring a lineup boasting more talent than it has in almost four seasons, the captain should see at least 20 goals and possibly flirt with 30 again.
Worst Case Scenario
Larkin isn’t fully healthy and while he continues to valiantly battle through, struggles to put up the numbers expected of him. This causes consternation with many in the fanbase who declare Larkin is no better than a second line center and perhaps peaked with the Red Wings.
The Prediction Part
From the eye test alone, Larkin sure looked like he was trying to carry the team on his back a lot last season. He appeared injured prior to a four-game break he took in mid March and returned looking rejuvenated after the layoff. His comments regarding the extent of injury following the Benn hit after the season make it fair to adjust expectations–especially if he was prevented from doing any exercise or hockey related activity for nearly a month. That’s significant.
The analytics favor a bounce back season for Larkin. He should see a bump with more talented players around him and the burden of carrying the team reduced.
It should be cautioned that the Red Wings will most likely be a bottom ten team again–but there should be some improvement in the overall product. That stands to reason that Larkin, along with other Red Wings forwards, should see his numbers rise.
Trade Deadline Target Possibility Prediction: Slim to None
I know it’s never say never with Steve Yzerman running the show, but in this case it’s the captain, and seems pretty slim–barring an unbelievable offer that nets the Wings a huge return. There have been certainly been plenty of speculation about Larkin’s long term time frame with the team, and his name has come up from time to time as a target for other teams.
I’d bet against it, but again if Yzerman gets a deal he can’t refuse, it’s not far fetched to see him pull the trigger.
The Bottom Line
Larkin is considered the heart and soul of the team and it’s fair to be disappointed if he has another down season. Much of that was due to injury and one can hardly blame a player for going through it.
The problem becomes if it alters the hope that Larkin could be a 1-2 center and the injury or decline in performance impacts the movement of the rebuild. This season–which is a theme you’ll read from me all season long–seems the one that really puts the spotlight on specific players and staff members.
The lowest point of the rebuild seems like it was two seasons ago, and entering the third season of Yzerman’s tenure, there will be a lot of critical assessment of the players considered major components of the core. Larkin certainly is one and much of the team’s success will be tied to him.