C&B: Dylan Larkin has made the Red Wings as a teenager, something that usually doesn’t happen around Detroit. What gave him the edge over anyone else?
WIIM: Pavel Datsyuk's injury combined with Dylan Larkin's production. Datsyuk being out until November left a large hole in the top-6, and Ken Holland said all along that if Larkin was to make the Red Wings, it would be as a forward playing on one of the top lines. Larkin had a strong season last year at every level he played at, and in camp and the preseason was a very noticeable player. It's hard to pinpoint one specific thing that Larkin did that ultimately earned him his spot. He's a fantastic skater, has good hands, and is praised by teammates for his work ethic, something I'm sure the coaches noticed. I think that the coaches realized that he was good enough to at least earn an audition early in the season while Datsyuk recovered, and it allows the Wings to ice a deeper lineup at forward.
C&B: I had thought the loss of Mike Babcock would have been a major one. How has Jeff Blashill done so far?
WIIM: So far so good. The Wings have had a weird schedule to start the season, opening with 2 sets of back-to-backs in the first 2 weeks of the season with at least 2-3 days in between games at other times, so it's hard to see any sort of flow going. They looked dominant against Toronto and played a strong game against Tampa Bay, but they were severely outplayed twice by Carolina and against Montreal. The major concern right now is how many shots the Wings are giving up, and how few they are taking themselves (28th and 30th in the NHL, respectively), which is not a recipe for success. Many Wing fans are waiting for the 20 game mark as the benchmark to begin really assessing Blashill's impact.
C&B: The team has come out to a 3-2 start. Do you see the team ending up with a playoff spot come the time?
WIIM: Yes, I do. The Wings have had an uneven start to the season, but they were missing 2 key players early in Datsyuk and Danny DeKeyser. DeKeyser is back and Datsyuk is getting closer to returning, and they will make a pretty talented lineup even better. There are still some issues to sort out (getting outshot, production from 2nd and 3rd lines, defensive mistakes), but in a mediocre Eastern Conference, they should be able to secure a playoff spot for the 25th straight season.