It appears as though Dylan Larkin will be moved back to his natural position this season.
In an interview with Dan Rosen at NHL.com, Ken Holland spoke about where he sees Dylan Larkin and Henrik Zetterberg lining up this season:
“The plan is to give Larkin a chance down the middle, and certainly Nielsen is one of our top two center icemen. We’re thinking Zetterberg is going to play with Nielsen, so obviously if Nielsen is down the middle, Zetterberg is on the wing. Now, we have to also consider that Zetterberg and Larkin played real well together [last season]. Training camp is going to be a short window of opportunity for us to explore those different options because of the World Cup, but as you and I talk today in August, the plan is that Nielsen will be in the middle centering Zetterberg and Larkin is going to center another one of our lines.”
Personally, I like this move for two reasons:
It takes a load of pressure off of Zetterberg having to push himself at both ends of the ice.
It puts a little more responsibility on Larkin and eases him into a position of leadership.
Frans Nielsen is a responsible 2-way centre and will mesh well with Zetterberg. In the offensive zone, they are both smart players with good instincts and Nielsen has the strength and power to hustle back and shut down teams defensively.
As for Larkin, he’ll continue to get top-6 minutes, but without having to be the guy who carries the team and is always looked to for offense. Plus, Larkin’s got the speed that’s needed to play at both ends of the ice. This will be a good opportunity for him to develop his 2-way game while continuing to improve his offensive prowess.
Based on these comments, I’m thinking an opening day lineup looks like this:
Zetterberg – Nielsen – Abdelkader
Nyquist – Larkin – Tatar
Helm – Sheahan – Vanek
Miller – Glendening – Ott/Athanasiou
Other highlights from Kenny’s surprisingly honest interview:
Holland knows that the Red Wings are not a Cup contender right now and goes as far as saying that the playoffs are not guaranteed with the roster they have. However, his expectations are high of the players and he’s hoping they slide in as a 7th or 8th seed.
Kronwall’s injuries were a real pain last year, but he’s also getting up there in age and coaching will have to better manage his minutes. That being said, Kronwall’s been working hard this offseason and his knee feels good. Still, expect for him to get less minutes this season vs last.
Wings coaching staff and lack of ice time contributed to Tatar and Nyquist’s goal regression last season. Holland thinks that with more minutes and some tweaks to their game, Blashill will be able to work with Goose and Tats to bring their performances back to where they should be.
Holland’s a big believer in experience and he thinks Blashill will only improve.
I think he’s a tremendous coach and I think he’s going to be in the League a long time. He’s had a lot of success at every level he’s been at except the NHL. He did guide us to a playoff spot in a League when it’s hard to qualify for the playoffs, but I also think as you looked at our team last year, there were lots of decisions to be made and I think the experiences of last year are going to be important for Jeff.”
I’m hoping Blashill finally finds some consistency in the lines this season. For me, that was the most frustrating part of last year. How are players supposed to build chemistry with each other if they’re playing with new linemates every night?
While it was nice to hear Ken Holland say some of these things, I can’t help but think about how many things Ken Holland actually says and how few of them he follows up on. This is a nice offseason interview to break the monotony, but so many of these decisions hinge on players’ performance in training camp. I wouldn’t put any weight into lineup decisions just yet.
It’s still nice to hear though, isn’t it?