The Detroit Red Wings have a slew of choices coming this offseason, but none of which are bigger on fans’ minds than the future of Jeff Blashill. Detroit’s bench boss since 2015, Blashill certainly brings out strong opinions on both sides of the fanbase.
This is the first of two pieces: one that examines the reasons why the Red Wings should rehire Blashill and the second looking at why it would be best to move on and hire a new coach.
Reason 1: Why did Mike Babcock Leave? The End was Near
Call it as it is, especially since the opinions on Babcock have shifted since he’s been gone for half a decade now: Babs left Blashill holding the bag. The 2015-16 was the last Red Wings squad that made the playoffs and it was running on fumes. They backed into the playoffs for a number of reasons–mostly that the talent and aging core just couldn’t get it done like they used to. From there, it went downhill.
Former general manager Ken Holland never gave Blashill the horses to ride to contention. By 2017, Holland was dealing players away to grab draft picks–which was the right move. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t help Blashill as the team would sink lower.
Blashill never had a chance to begin with.
Reason 2: The Wings have improved this season–in spite of still losing
It hasn’t been pretty at times. It’s been downright boring to watch as well. But the truth is that with the team keeping games closer this season and playing a defensive system that allows for Detroit to remain in games, it’s a marked improvement from the God awful 17-49-5 record last season that saw a number of lopsided games zapping fan interest. They were dead last in goals for and goals against, and while things haven’t improved that much (more on that in the next
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article), it’s better than what the 2019-20 season was. Steve Yzerman gave Blashill some more talented players and for his part, Blash showed improvement.
Reason 3: A fair judgement can’t be made until it’s an NHL team
This is the one that is argued most for retaining Blashill–you have to give him the opportunity to succeed. Though it’s been an improved roster, this isn’t one that really has much of a chance to hang with the mid to upper tier teams in the league. It’s a team still transitioning out of the Holland era of grinders and role players paid like marquee ones. Yzerman is starting to address that, with his deal to send Mantha in a move that spoke more for positioning into the future. I don’t mean to insult or besmirch the players on this team. But many, between the eye test and the statistics, cannot perform on a level that will help the Red Wings get into the playoffs and beyond. Hence, why the rebuild has been going on for nearly five years now.
How can Blashill be given a fair shake without seeing what he can do with legitimate talent? It can be argued he’s gone heavier on a defensive system to cover the warts of a team that will struggle to score goals or be competitive game in and game out.
Then again–though these three reasons exist, there are three others that speak to the conclusion of moving on and finding a new coach.
Those will be examined in the next piece.