from Max Bultman of The Athletic,
After Bobby Ryan’s first official practice as Dylan Larkin’s teammate, the 13-year NHL veteran made a joking comment that actually said quite a lot.
He was talking about competing with Larkin in informal skates during the offseason, from the perspective of a player who had only ever previously been on the opposing bench. Now, he was seeing Larkin in his day-to-day.
“I knew he was a little jerk to play against,” Ryan said, cracking into a laugh, “but the compete level that he has in every drill, every 3-on-3 game that we’ve been playing — his intensity, I guess, it’s overwhelming.”
Ryan asked for his language to be excused in referring to Larkin as a “jerk” to play against. But in reality, that’s exactly how the Red Wings should want opponents to view their No. 1 center: as a frustration. An obstacle. A problem.
Because while the Red Wings are still a long way from even making the playoffs, the overwhelming recent history shows that teams who win in the NHL tend to be led by centers who make life hard on their opponents at both ends.