The 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings has been rough to watch from the fan perspective. With losing The Magic Man himself in Pavel Datsyuk prior to it, bad contracts piling up and other injuries, not many would have agreed that the season was going to be a very successful one coming into it. Maybe, just maybe the team backs themselves into the playoffs yet again, only to get demolished in a first round exit and continue a playoff streak that covers up its glaring needs on the roster.
One of the bright thoughts coming into the season was Dylan Larkin, the then 19-year-old kid who wowed hockey fans around the world with his speed at All Star Weekend last year, and exceeded expectations in his first season for the Wings.
Larkin led the team in goals tallying 23 in 80 games, and finished the season tied third in points with 45 only to finish behind team leaders Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. It’s also important to note that his season included a +/- of 11, the highest on the team.
To put it in perspective, at this time last season, Larkin scored his 20th goal of the season in a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 10, 2016. The Waterford native has just 13 goals and nine assists in 65 games this season.
The 13 goals still ranks in the top six on the team and I think most teams around the league would appreciate having a 20-year-old who can chip in those types of numbers in a single season. It should be known that he hasn’t been able to hold his position as a first line or even a second line forward, finishing games with little ice time – though who knows if that has more to do with his production or Jeff Blashill. I mean the guy paired up Larkin with Steve Ott and/or Drew Miller more than just once.
The most alarming stat of Larkin’s sophomore slate is the +/- of -22, the worst on the team and the 10th worst in the entire league. His time on ice per game is under 16 minutes, whereas he hovered around 16:30 in his rookie season.
It is worth nothing that Larkin was held out of two games in late January due to an upper-body injury. It’s possible the injury is still affecting his play on the ice as the season wears on. At the time of the injury, Larkin was tied for the team lead with 12 goals. He’s had just four points in 15 games since coming back from a two-game hiatus on January 31st.
Larkin’s last goal was on March 4th in a 4-3 loss at Edmonton, ending a nine-game drought without recording a single point, and a 15-game scoreless drought (what’s sad is that isn’t even the longest drought on the team this season). His time on ice has dwindled over the last two months as he averages the fourth lowest time on ice for players who have played in at least 45 games this season for the Red Wings. Those players behind him? Riley Sheahan, Andreas Athanasiou, and Luke Glendening.
On the other end of the spectrum, Larkin is behind only Zetterberg for shots on goal this season and currently sits at seventh in points with 22. We may have been spoiled by his rookie season and its quite possible we held our expectations way too high coming into this season.
Things may be different if the puck continues to go in the net, but until then, its a waiting game to see how he progresses. Its no question that he absolutely has the tools to be a centerpiece in Detroit for a long, long time.