'Great Leader' Dylan Larkin Remains Right Choice To Captain Red Wings

It sounds like Yzerman got the answers he needed.

Will Burchfield
May 27, 2020 - 4:21 pm

Henrik Zetterberg's presence lingers over the Red Wings organization, in the form of an absence. The team hasn't named a new captain since the old one retired in the 2018 offseason.

That will change next season, whenever it comes. GM Steve Yzerman said Wednesday he intends to appoint a captain before the puck drops on 2020-21. When he does, it's a good bet that Dylan Larkin will be his choice. 

That felt like a foregone conclusion when Yzerman took over after last season. Larkin is at once the Wings' best player and their hope for the future, a hometown star who understands what a good hockey team means to Detroit. He yearns to lead the organization back where it belongs. He was an alternate captain in 2018-19. The next step was a given. 

Then Yzerman chose to wait, then Larkin had a frustrating season beneath a pile of losses, and then it wasn't so clear. Maybe the 23-year-old was too young to take the wheel. Maybe Yzerman didn't think he was ready for the responsibility. Maybe he didn't think he was ready for the burden. If a captain is the face of a team, Larkin would have represented franchise lows. 

That remains a risk moving forward. The Wings aren't positioned to win anytime soon, and Larkin will have to wear it. But this is already his duty. He's plenty prepared to take on more in his sixth NHL season.

Yzerman tabbed Steven Stamkos captain of the Lightning at age 24, midway through his sixth season, after the team traded Martin St. Louis. It was time for Stamkos to take over for a franchise icon. Now it's Larkin's time in Detroit. From what Yzerman said Wednesday, after a year of observing Larkin behing the scenes, he's reached the same conclusion. 

"I’m very impressed with him," Yzerman said. "I think being a member of the Red Wings and improving this team is very, very important to him, and he takes it seriously. He’s an excellent player for us, a very important player. He's a great leader. He’s dedicated and mentally strong and committed. I’ve been very impressed getting to know him over the course of the year." 

Ultimately, that was the biggest question mark for Yzerman. He only knew Larkin as a hockey player, and only then as an opponent. The sturdiest link in the team's legendary line of captains, Yzerman needed to see for himself whether Larkin had the makeup for a job only three players have held in the last 34 years. Again, it sounds like the GM got the answers he needed. 

"He’s a dedicated professional," Yzerman said. "He’s a hard worker. He’s very competitive. I’ve enjoyed my conversations and discussions with him about hockey and about our team throughout the course of the season." 

You have to think those conversations were about where the Wings are, where they're going, and how Larkin can help them get there. You have to think Yzerman pressed Larkin on what it will take. It took Yzerman a long time to find out for himself, after he was named captain of a team coming off a last-place finish in 1985 and eight losing seasons in a row. And you have to think Larkin assured Yzerman he's steeled for the road ahead. 

If Larkin needs an endorsement from Jeff Blashill, there's no doubt he'll get it. Blashill, who will return for a sixth season behind the Red Wings' bench, talks glowingly of Larkin at every turn. He praises his work ethic and inner drive and all the other intangibles captains are known for. Larkin's worn an 'A' for Blashill and Team USA at the World Championships, twice. 

It's time he wears the 'C' for Detroit, once and for all.