Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill continues to have more decisions to make as the preseason creeps closer. Beyond deciding his lineup for the first exhibition tilt against Chicago tomorrow, Blashill needs to determine how the preseason will affect his roster decisions should Jakub Vrana miss significant time while also having to fill the leadership void with assigning a couple alternate captains.
Red Wings will have voids to fill
Blashill’s decisions are certainly a lightning rod for the fanbase and this year will be one that reveals what he can do with a talent infusion. No, the Red Wings won’t be much better than last season, which was somewhat of a mirage with a shorter season and a completely different divisional setup. There won’t be much relief from a much tougher Atlantic, and the Red Wings could find themselves on the wrong side of the standings for stretches of time.
The lineup construction has been methodical by Yzerman. He’s brought in some proven vets (Leddy) to help Moritz Seider along the way, who will presumably make the roster. He got a steal of a deal on Alex Nedeljkovic who will tandem with Thomas Greiss and hopefully continue the decent run they’ve had in net. Pius Suter solidifies the second center spot and gives Detroit a chance generate some more offense.
Now it’s up to Blashill to pick the right players to fill in the remainder of the lineup. One player the majority of Red Wings fans want to see make the roster is Lucas Raymond. Blash provided a unique quote on the issue:
Dylan Larkin made the team in 2015 following a season at the University of Michigan. Quoted then by St. James, here’s what Blashill said about Larkin:
“As I have said before,” Blashill said, “if a young guy makes our team better and is going to play enough minutes to make our team better, then he was going to be on the team. Whether it was him or someone else.
“We feel like he has earned a chance to play in the top nine, which is going to be the type of role which is going to give him the minutes to be successful. As a result of that, we made the decision to put him on the team.”
That preseason, Larkin had three goals in four games. That team was also the final one to make the playoffs in the decade. Larkin also had more talent around him–so Raymond’s work will be cut out for him. In the same breath, he also has a great chance to lead the team with his offensive skillset.
Watching his poise in the Red & White game, prospects tournament, and in the SHL last season, it’s not a bad bet that Raymond could be wearing the Winged Wheel opening night.
Who else could wear the A for the Red Wings?
With Frans Nielsen and Luke Glendening both gone, Blashill will need to determine the other leaders on the ice. General manager Steve Yzerman is leaving that up to the head coach and he certainly has a slew of options.
Certainly we have some ideas:
Marc Staal and Sam Gagner seem the likely choices as both provide a veteran presence and the organization thinks highly of both, especially Staal. But an outside shot–why not FIlip Zadina? He’s transformed himself into more of a playmaker and has certainly endeared himself to Blashill and Yzerman with his work ethic and willingness to get better. If not this season, perhaps next as Staal and Gagner are on one-year deals and may give way to what feels like an offseason that Yzerman gets more aggressive.
Blashill certainly has some bigger decisions to make. It’ll be interesting to see what direction he chooses to take.