With so many centers on the roster this season, who’s going to actually play center, and who’s going to be moved to the wing? Coach Blashill addressed this topic a little bit today in training camp, talking about what position Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, and Steve Ott may end up playing.
Here are the players listed as centers currently on the roster: Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, and Steve Ott. That’s six centers for four lines, and that list doesn’t even include Andreas Athanasiou, and I believe it should.
So who’s going to play center this season?
Blashill said he’s going to play Helm as a center through at least the pre-season and see how it goes.
“Helm hasn’t played center full time in, I think, four years so it’s impossible for he or I to know if that’s the best thing for him or the team… We’ll look at him 4 games or so and see if we think that’s the best option for the team and for him. I think he’s happy at center or wing but we’re going to see if that speed and transporting ability can help us at the center position”
So plan to see Helm back in the middle, at least in the preseason games.
What about Riley Sheahan then? Is there room for him as a center as well? It sounds like we’ll be seeing more of Sheahan on the wing to start the season.
“I’m going to play Sheahan at both center and wing here in camp, then put him at center in exhibition. [Playing wing] does free him up to not necessarily have to cover the whole length of the ice. He’s so responsible defensively that sometimes getting a guy [like him] on wing, frees him up offensively and also to be a real good forechecker.”
We’ll likely see Sheahan as a center in pre-season games, but that’s largely because we use twice as many centers as usual, since there are essentially two pre-season teams. I thought it was interesting that Blashill brought up the idea that a player can be so defensively responsibly, that their offense suffers, and that’s something he’s trying to keep from happening to Sheahan. The concept makes perfect sense, and I think it’s something we as fans have noticed and discussed many times, however this may be the first time I’ve heard a coach say so.
Is Steve Ott a candidate to play center too?
“Ott’s another one who can play center or wing, and if he is playing wing there’s a good chance he’s taking faceoffs on the left side; because he’s a really good faceoff guy on the left side. We’re going to have multiple guys in those spots and sometimes when you’re starting in your D zone it might be the winger starting at center just because he’s taking the faceoff.”
What I gather from these comments, is that even the coach isn’t sure yet who’s going to play center, but that he’s currently searching for the best people to fill that role. I appreciate the open minded approach he’s taking, rather than going with the legacy approach and doing things they way they’ve been done before, simply because that’s the way they were done. I don’t want to read too much into Blashill’s comments, because they were very brief, but if we gather that Sheahan and Ott are top candidates to be moved to wing, then that would leave us with Nielsen, Larkin, Helm, and Glendening down the middle; again, not figuring Athanasiou into the equation yet.
So, what you y’all think? Who would you like to see down the middle for the Wings this season?
Coach Blashill addressed many other issues in his interview, so if you’d like to listen to the entire thing, here it is.