The 2015-16 NHL regular season is officially underway, and the optimism in Detroit is higher than it's been in a long time.
Between Dylan Larkin making the opening night roster and Dan Cleary being put on waivers, the Jeff Blashill era is off to a roaring start. For the first time in a long time, the Red Wings seem to be worried about icing the best possible lineup, and the transition to the new generation of players is getting closer to completion.
One of my favorite things about the NHL season is the return of Elliotte Friedman's "30 Thoughts" column. It is one of the few must-reads for me, and I eagerly anticipate it being posted.
The Red Wings aren't always featured in a given week, but when they are, I enjoy the insight from Friedman and the various individuals he speaks to (some anonymous, some not). This week, in his first column of the new season, 3 thoughts concern the Wings, and we'll break them down here.
We'll go in reverse order, because the last note is kind of a "we knew that already" while the first note is an interesting thought.
19. Detroit looks like it has another keeper in 2012 fourth-rounder Andreas Athanasiou. Impressive preseason performance. Did not go unnoticed by opponents.
In 5 preseason games, Athanasiou had 4 goals and 3 assists, tying for 4th in points. It's possible to read too much into preseason performances (Anton Lander led the league in goals), but for anyone who has watched AA in Grand Rapids (hi Michelle!) they indicate that he is a guy who is very likely going to be an NHL player sooner rather than later. Some thought he might be ready this year, but it's important to remember that he's only 21 years old and has only 1 full AHL season under his belt. If he can improve upon his performance from last year and this preseason, we could be talking about AA in a Red Wing uniform next year.
18. In retrospect, the smartest decision Detroit made with Dylan Larkin was putting him on the wing during last year’s AHL playoffs. Don’t know if Jeff Blashill was foreshadowing what would happen, but it’s unlikely the Red Wings keep him now if Larkin is playing centre behind Henrik Zetterberg and Brad Richards. Instead, he can open aside Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader in a scoring role, not a checking one.
A little play that stood out during exhibition season came when Larkin was on a two-on-one with Zetterberg and looked to shoot, instead of simply giving it up to his more-experienced teammate. A small thing, but a big thing, because many young players would defer.
There's no question that the most exciting storyline entering the season is Larkin's inclusion on the opening night roster. We've talked at length about what a big deal this is, but Friedman goes the extra mile in noting one small play that provides further evidence that Larkin may be a little different than your typical 19 year old prospect.
17. Think there are some teams curious to see what, if any, waiver choices Detroit makes when everyone gets healthy.
- Dylan Larkin is sent to Grand Rapids
- Another player is moved in some fashion