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Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

I Just Saw the New Lines and My Head Hurts

The Red Wings new lines look like the coaching staff printed out all the player head shots, mixed them all up on a table, and turned them over one-by-one in groups of three.

When the Wings took to the ice for practice today ahead of their seventh game of the season tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Lightning, these new lines were tweeted out for all to see.

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There’s a lot to dissect here, so let’s go through it line-by-line:

Helm-Larkin-Nyquist

The Red Wings have a fourth line grinder on their top-line. If this isn’t a statement on the state of the 2018-19 season right now, I don’t know what is.

While Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist have been playing together pretty consistently, it appears as though Darren Helm has held onto his position as first line winger after Monday’s massacre in Montreal. Helm has always been a workhorse and his energy has definitely stood out among his slow-moving teammates. The underlying stats don’t necessarily support his promotion (45.53 5v5 on-ice CF% and 39.09 5v5 on-ice SF%), but I think the idea is that he can grind it out in the corners, fetch the puck, and feed it to one of Larkin or Nyquist.

Bertuzzi-Nielsen-Athanasiou

Andreas Athanasiou finally scored his first two goals of the season on Monday, so his reward punishment is being moved onto a line with Frans Nielsen.

Nielsen has been bad this season. Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi have not. My assumption is that Nielsen’s defensive tendencies are supposed to balance out Athanasiou’s offensive instincts here? I’m not sure, but I do know that he can’t keep up with AA’s speed and it’s going to result in neutral zone turnovers.

Athanasiou had a great preseason down the middle. He should be given the proper chance to build on that. As for Bertuzzi, it doesn’t matter what line he’s on, he always plays with a spark. I like him paired with AA.

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Vanek-Ehn-Mantha

I’m not even sure where to start with this one. Christopher Ehn is really being thrown into the deep-end here. “Hey kid, you can hustle. Here are two established players who are playing terribly. Maybe you can get them going?”

Anthony Mantha‘s demotion must be a gut punch for him, but frankly, it’s deserved. I just don’t see how Thomas Vanek is the guy who’s going to turn him around when Vanek’s been equally as bad, if not worse. I guess the best option for this line is to deploy them offensively, have Ehn win the draw, and then just hope they can hold onto the puck because if this line has to play defensively, they are in big trouble.

Abdelkader-Glendening-Rasmussen

My first thought was that I was happy to see Michael Rasmussen back in the line-up. Then I looked at his line mates and thought he’s probably better off in the press box.

Justin Abdelkader has been one of the worst players on the roster this year. What are we expecting from him with Luke Glendening, a serviceable fourth liner, and a rookie with six games of NHL experience? Less than eight minutes of ice time, that’s what.

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This line has the potential to do so much damage to whoever is playing net for the Red Wings. Rasmussen needs to find a sense of direction on the ice, but he’ll just be chasing the puck around the defensive zone. This is likely one of his last games as a Red Wing this year anyways, as Jacob De La Rose was just claimed off the waiver wire.

The Defense

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The D-lines make way more sense to me, with all of the rookies being paired off with a veteran player. It looks like Trevor Daley is ready to make his return. This will add some stability to the back-end where it started to feel like chaos with the four young players running rampant. It was definitely fun hockey, but Daley’s re-inclusion will really help.

Conclusion

I’m not saying these lines won’t work. In trying times such as these, bold, outside-of-the-box thinking is a good thing. Frankly, I think it’s the roster itself that is the bigger concern, more so than Blashill’s organization of it.

The other thing to remember is that Blashill changes his lines all. The. Time. Sometimes even before the game starts! Whatever it is we’re seeing on Thursday, I’m sure it will be interesting, even if it does have us scratching our heads.