Jeff Blashill’s Detroit Red Wings saw a nice start to the season, and just three games ago, were sitting 8-6-2 with your humble author wondering if maybe, just maybe, they would turn the corner.
But losses to Columbus, Dallas, and Vegas place them at 8-9-2 heading into what Bally Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels chalked up as an early must win against Arizona tonight. Though many thought Detroit would be a bottom ten team, their surprise start along with the success of Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider injected a hope in the fan base that has been absent for some time.
But the latest snap of losing has a familiar target and that would be head coach Jeff Blashill.
Red Wings Fans Divided on Blashill
On one side, you have those who sit back and wait to see what happens. This is where I fall in. I’ve written and also spoken on the subject with The Hockey Writers’ Grind Line that this year would be the one where the first bit of true judgement could be made on Blashill. It hasn’t been legitimate to make a true call on Blashill since only one team, the first one he coached, had a real opportunity to make the playoffs. Be that as it may, they barely made it in, and were bounced in just five games. After that, Ken Holland would begin selling pieces off and Blashill would be tasked with guiding Detroit through a purgatory period before it would become a full blown rebuild after the 2018 draft. So cumulatively:
2015 – 16: Made Playoffs – Lost in first round
2016 – 2021: Missed playoffs
The argument, as I’ve proposed, is that the horses haven’t been there for Blashill to run. Until those players find their way to Detroit, it’s fools gold to believe they’ll do anything but make incremental gains.
The other side of it is that there isn’t much more to see. Looking at that first and only playoff team in Blashill’s tenure, they barely made it and they still had Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the team. Dylan Larkin was rising and made the team while Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist were now embedded into the culture. Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou were beginning to made headway, too.
And it would be their only playoff appearance. Fair to point out would be Datysuk retiring that offseason and Holland signing players that were far below his replacement value. Even with younger talent rising, it just wasn’t enough and Detroit has yet to make the playoffs since.
This is what sticks in the craw of most fans who want to see Blashill served his walking papers. What have you done for us lately?
Red Wings Have been Up and Down
Winning streaks and losing streaks have all but neutralized the momentum Detroit experienced earlier this season. But it’s hardly lost. Nearly 20 games in, there’s just as much good to look at is the not so good. Raymond and Seider are flourishing. Alex Nedeljkovic has been everything the Red Wings could have hoped for. Vladislav Namestnikov has been a revelation, and Tyler Bertuzzi along with Larkin have made the top line lethal.
There are concerns, too. Michael Rasmussen hasn’t emerged beyond a third line center. Secondary scoring continues to be a trouble spot. Filip Zadina seems to still be stuck in neutral. The loss to Columbus was a troubling one where they coughed up a lead while the Vegas game saw a team that seemingly was buried by familiar mistakes that have dogged the team for years.
How much of this is on Blashill? It still might be just too early in the season to tell. But tonight’s game against Arizona will provide another clue. Though it may not all be on Blashill, there may come a point where a new voice is needed in the room.
Or maybe this is just another bump in the road for what will become a successful tenure.
Regardless, it won’t stop the debate as to how Blashill helps–or hurts–the Red Wings’ chances this season.