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Stay Together For The Kids – The FML Line

Your Detroit Red Wings have started this season a very surprising 4-1-0 and Jeff Blashill is already up to his old tricks. Not just his serious thinking faces but how often he loves to mix up the lines and mostly to no avail.

Blashill messed up when he decided to place Justin Abdelkader in Martin Frk’s spot on the “FML” line. Not only did he hinder the performance of his team, but “LAM” is a horrible name for a line.

Shot Rates

Line Shot Rates chart by Sean Tierney

What a difference one single over-paid player makes. It may only be ten days into the 2017-18 season, but this is a big move for Blashill to make that can affect the next six months.

The “FML” line should stay together for as long as they produce shot attempts this well. No matter hot or cold, if this line is attempting shots at this (or anywhere near) this rate, it will show up on not just charts but the boxscore as well.

If Abdelkader stays with Larkin and Mantha – as seen on Sean Tierney’s chart – the line will no doubt produce less than it would with Frk being involved. Both Frk and Abdelkader have been on the line for enough even-strength time to judge both of their performances.

Martin Frk WOWY Chart by Micah Blake McCurdy

Martin is out of Frkin’ control with his shot production this season. In the five games so far, he has had a positive effect to every teammate’s shot rates he shares the ice with. Most noticeably, both Larkin’s and Mantha’s offensive numbers grow considerately when they are with Frk.

Justin Abdelkader WOWY Chart by Micah Blake McCurdy

While the 4.25 Million Dollar Man does most of the opposite for his teammates on the ice. The most meaningful is how Larkin and Mantha perform with him sharing the ice. As visually-demonstrated above, there is an extreme difference to their on-ice performances when Abdelkader is on that line.

It may only be the beginning of the season and a small sample size to work with, but the shot rates difference is enough to justify a change.

Eye Test

On-ice performance is really all that matters when you want to win hockey games. But they are not watchable when you see two young players – that will hopefully be a part of this franchise for a long time – be on the same line as a player that signed one of the worst contracts Holland has given out. We want to have a good time watching these games, right?

If Red Wings fans have to hear about how their team is in such a terrible position for the future and they can only look back on the past to see glory – then there might as well be a little glimmer of exciting hockey on this team. Frk, Mantha and Larkin together play that exciting hockey that makes you want to watch the game. Maybe even catch the attention of neutral fans of this sport and have them appreciate the on-ice product of this franchise.

That short rush play against Minnesota during the season opener is just a small sample of how the “FML” line could look if they are put back together. You want each player to touch the puck and see what they can do and by not having an offensive black hole on the wing – each of them can show up on the scoresheet.

The Stories

Not only will this line perform well on the ice, but these three young Red Wings playing on the same line will bring some of the most interesting players on this roster together.

Martin Frk has had a long journey to the NHL and as a rookie this year, his dream is becoming a reality. From having the best slap shot in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads, to being waived twice just last season and being claimed back to the team that originally drafted him. Also the first player to play in the NHL with no vowels in his last name will be a great trivia answer in a couple decades.

Dylan Larkin was destined to be written about countless times before he even played his first game for the Red Wings. The Michigan boy that played for Michigan State and is now on the Detroit Red Wings. So many stories just from being a good hometown boy. He is making a huge impact on the team this season and he only just turned twenty-one less than three months ago.

In 2013, Anthony Mantha was the Red Wing’s highest draft pick taken since Jakub Kindl in 2005. The high expectations that came with that made the fanbase and even the management wanting more from him. Especially when Jim Devellano comes out and says how disappointed he is in Mantha and his game. That must have given Mantha a chip on his shoulder and that story alone can give a fan like me so much love for what Mantha does on the ice.

These three players give fans something to look forward to when they step out on the ice and give the media something to write about and it would only benefit the story if they were linemates. It would be a damn shame if we never saw this line again during this season.

This is a plea from someone that just wants to watch some entertaining hockey. No one wants to constantly think of how much certain players are getting paid and for how long. Please Blashill, let the fans say “FML” more this season.