Red Wings Preview: Expectations for Jeff Blashill in 2021-22

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The Detroit Red Wings re-signed Head Coach Jeff Blashill in the off-season, making him on of the longest tenured coaches in the NHL. An impressive feat, especially considering he has a losing record with the team. After helping Detroit limp through a rebuild, Blashill will finally be given the opportunity to guide a Red Wings roster that is trending upwards – which means there are expectations attached to the 2021-22 season.

Overall Record as Head Coach of the Red Wings: 172-221-62
Record Last Year: 19-27-10
Seventh Season as Head Coach of the Red Wings

His Tenure Thus Fair

After spending a few years in the organization (as an assistant coach with the Wins and Head Coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins), Blashill was given the difficult task of guiding the Red Wings through an arduous rebuild, taking over just as Detroit really started transitioning from playoff contender to basement dweller.

Some fans weren’t too happy with the decision to bring back Blashill because of his record with the team (and some roster decisions), but to be fair, the organization has not yet given him a competitive roster to ice.

Blashill has a very specific game plan and scheme: “low-event” hockey; not much risk, defensively minded even on offense with the goal of controlling the pace of play. But again, this good just be a result of Detroit’s roster; it’s hard to argue that a riskier offensive style would’ve worked better with such roster limitations. Overall, Blashill’s time as head coach has been pretty terrible on paper – but is it really his fault?

Expectations This Season

The expectation’s for Detroit this season are higher than they’ve been in years. Playoffs aren’t in the picture just yet, but after a busy off-season.  the organization expects more than just improvements on paper: they want a better team on the ice.

Firstly, the team has to improve on special teams. Namely, on the man advantage. The Red Wings finished with the second worst power play in the league with a success rate of 11.4 percent. With just the preseason as a sample, the power play already looks better this season, helped along by some new looks thanks to new Assistant Coach Alex Tanguay and an improved roster. The penalty kill wasn’t terrible last season, finishing at 22nd, but Blashill will need to find some replacements for pk stalwarts Luke Glendening and Darren Helm.

Next, the offense needs to take major strides. Last season was pretty terrible offensively, as nearly every member of Detroit’s top-six was either injured, regressed or stalled in their progression. It didn’t help that Blashill deployed an extremely conservative offensive scheme last year, mostly based on two-way play and letting your opponent mess up first (that good ‘ol low-event hockey). It’ll be interesting to see if Blashill changes up his schemes with an improved and (hopefully) healthy forward group in 2021. Even if he sticks with his old system, the unit will need to step up in ‘21-‘22 if the team has any hope of becoming more competitive.

The defense also needs to continue trending upwards. The unit was heavily improved in 2020-21 and looks to be in even better shape this year with the additions of Seider and Nick Leddy. Blashill’s system is predicated on great defensive play, so the blue line needs to continue to improve.

Perhaps most importantly, the young players need to progress. The future of the organization is not based on some great scoring from Adam Erne or good defense from Marc Staal/Troy Stecher. It’s based on the development of Detroit’s prospects, some of which will be making their debut with the Red Wings this season. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are two key pieces in the Wings rebuild; if Blashill wants to ensure some job security, he can oversee progression in prospects and rookies like these two. If the youth struggles under Blashill and his system, he’s going to be under major pressure.

Blashill is entering his seventh season as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings and it’ll be his most important (and scrutinized) one yet. With the moves made in the off-season, it’s clear Steve Yzerman and the organization expects the team to start taking steps towards improvement this year. Blashill hasn’t really been given much to work with in Detroit – let’s see what he does with some talent.

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