WN Roundtable: Who was the Wings best player this season?

Who was the Red Wings best player this season? It’s pretty hard to tell.

In one of the less impressive Wings seasons in years, there was few “standout” performances. 

Dylan Larkin was selected to the All-Star Game, but perhaps that was more due to his hype rather than being the best player on the team. Henrik Zetterberg led the team with 50 points, but it was 50 points, not 80. Petr Mrazek was probably the team’s best goalie. Pavel Datsyuk had one of his worst offensive seasons in years, but he’s still Pavel Datsyuk and if you can’t handle him at his worst, you probably don’t deserve him at his best.

With that said, we debate who the Wings best player was this season. 

Brad Krysko

Wings best player? Easy, Petr Mrazek. He slipped down the stretch but there’s a strong possibility that was injury related more than anything else. He was fantastic in the playoffs. During the first half of the season The Wings were barely scored yet they were fighting for first in the division all the way into February. That is almost solely because of Mrazek. At one point just before his injury he was leading the league in GAA and save percentage, had it not been for his injury he very well might have got a Vezina nomination. Take out his last three weeks and it’s not even close. On top of that, in his three playoff games he allowed only one 5v5 goal against.

Kyle Krische 

My personal choice for best player this season is more of a symbolic one. I have to cast my vote for the D-Boss himself, Dylan Larkin. First off, he led a team desperate for scoring in goals at 24. He was one of only three players to break the 20-goal mark this year and one of only four to break the 45-point plateau. Besides the basic point totals though, the fact he was able to put up the numbers and drive the play like he did as a 19-year-old hopefully opened the eyes of the management to what the skilled youth in the system can do. Is he an important player? For sure, but, what’s encouraging is right now he’s not entirely that special. That’s not a put down at all, take a look at his draft year and ask yourself about the guys who went before Larkin. There are only maybe two guys I don’t take before him again. But that’s a positive because it means it’s possible to fill out this roster with more like him and in no way is that saying he doesn’t have the potential to be a franchise guy. His success leads to Athanasiou maybe playing in the top 6 next year. AA put up the numbers to prove it himself but slowly, with the departure of Babcock and the success of the kids, maybe we’re seeing the departure of the old saying in Detroit “tie goes to the vet”. He slipped at times, he hit a wall down the stretch but he’s one of the few players on this roster still getting better and one of maybe three who we believe have barely scratched the surface of what they can do in the league. While he was the boost to the offence the team wanted, he was also the breakout story it needed. MVP for me goes to Larkin and hopefully next year we see another three like him on the ice.

Sam Blazer 

Oddly, in a down year, Henrik Zetterberg was probably the best player on the Wings. He led the team in points and was the captain of the team. It doesn’t make a lot of sense but on a weak team, he still was somehow the top player on the team. His underlying metrics leave a lot to be desired (link to my YIR), yet it doesn’t mean that his output deserves to be downplayed.

Nick Seguin 

In my opinion, the best player in the Wings 2015-16 season was their leading goal scorer Dylan Larkin. As the first teenager to crack the Red Wings lineup since 2000, Larkin came out hot, scoring his first NHL goal 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first NHL game. Statistically, he was one of the best players on the team, ranking third in points with 45, first in +/- at a plus-11, and seventh on the team in CF% at 52.5% (forwards who played more than 40 games). 

What impressed me most about D-Boss was not his statistics, but his style of play on the ice. Using his speed, Larkin was all over the opposing team whenever he was on the ice. His forechecking and backchecking on opposing players always ensured pressure was being put on the puck holder and often resulted in a turnover. He was hungry, he was persistent, he was calm and collected, and it resulted in good things for him. 
Larkin definitely cooled off offensively in the latter half of the season, but his spirit and persistence 
remained. It’s hard to explain, but watching him play gave me a sense of hope. Early in the season, Bob MacKenzie compared him to Jonathan Toews. As a Red Wings fan, this excites me because we haven’t had a Jonathan Toews since we had Steve Yzerman. And I loved Steve Yzerman. 

If there’s one thing I criticize Larkin for, it’s the amount of penalties he took this season. His 34 PIMs ranked him 9th on the team. Not terrible, but it’s result of a young player making mistakes. This will get better as he matures as a player and a person. 
Overall, I may be a little too optimistic when it comes to Dylan Larkin, but there’s a reason my girlfriend bought me a t-shirt with him on it for my birthday. He is leading the young guns who are pushing the Red Wings to be a better team. I can’t wait to watch him for years to come.

Adam Laskaris

For me, the best player of the Wings this season was probably the same it’s been for most of the past ten years – Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk led the team in points per game with 0.74, average time-on-ice for forwards with 19:39 per game, and finished second on the team (one behind Zetterberg) in total points despite missing 16 games, while Zetterberg played all 82. Datsyuk finished 13th in the league amongst with a 57.4 Corsi at even strength. It’s not flashy, and maybe it wasn’t a “classic Datsyuk” season, but even in a mediocre year, the Wings best player was well, their best player.