Jeff Blashill drew a comparison familiar to anyone with kids as he explained how the Detroit Red Wings approach developing players.
The question that prompted his answer focused on defensemen Filip Hronek and Gustav Lindstrom, who are struggling. Hronek was on the ice for four of the Wings’ most recent goals allowed, and Lindstrom was serving a penalty when the New York Rangers tied the game late in regulation Wednesday. That led to a 5-4 overtime loss which left the Wings (26-32-9) winless in four straight games entering Friday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators.
“We have conversations with people when we think it’s appropriate,” Blashill said. “My job is to tell them when they’re on the path of doing it right and when they’re on the path of not doing it right. I guess it’s like parenting, some times you have to harp, harp, harp, and sometimes you know they know they made a mistake, and you leave them alone like that. Coaching is a ton like parenting.”
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Hronek, 24 and signed through 2023-24 at a $4.4 million salary cap hit, has 32 points and a minus-26 rating in 63 games. He flubbed a chance to clear the puck on the Rangers’ first goal, and was outmuscled by Mika Zibanejad on the third goal. Lindstrom, 23 and signed through 2022-23 at a $850,000 cap hit, has 12 points in 49 games, and a minus-10 rating torpedoed by his minus-5 night in March 8’s 9-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Lindstrom took two penalties against the Rangers.
Those kind of performances can lead to a seat in the press box. The Wings have Jordan Oesterle and Olli Juolevi available, and while they both shoot left, and Hronek and Lindstrom are righties, lefties can play on the right side.
Blashill said he considers two things when making lineup decisions: “Who is giving you the best chance to win that night, and also, looking at each guy’s development.
“I don’t look at birth certificates when I make the decision on who’s playing. Certainly in certain young guys’ cases, they might get a little bit — you know, when you’re out of it, at this time of year, they might get a little edge in playing just because we understand we’re trying to figure what they are and maybe help develop them as players. But in the end, some guys build enough in their arsenal that even if they have a tough game, they’re going to go back in because they’ve built that trust or confidence. They’ve earned that. Some guys are always on that edge of, if you have a good game, you’re in, and if you don’t, you might not be.
“There’s always a balance between confidence and accountability in terms of when you take guys out; sometimes it’s good for them, but you also have to recognize there’s a chance it may really hurt their confidence and it might take a while for them to get it back.”
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Hronek was, by default, cast as the Wings’ top defenseman the past few seasons and seemed to relish being a workhorse. But with the arrival of Moritz Seider, Hronek’s role changed. He hasn’t played with the same grit and has been noticeably involved in mistakes that have led to goals.
“I don’t think any of us want to be minus-26,” Blashill said. “Ultimately, that’s an ‘while on the ice’ stat. It’s not meaningless at all, I’m not saying that, but like any ‘while on the ice’ stat — and there’s a lot of them out there — it does have a dependence on other people, both who you’re playing against and who is on the ice with you. I think Fil has played to a level where he’ll be back in the game against Ottawa.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.