Jeff Blashill Is Getting Too Much Hate

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This just in: the Red Wings are having a really tough end to this season.

The Detroit Red Wings, having now missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season, are in a tough situation.

The Red Wings have not made the playoffs in six seasons. Therefore, it has been hard to really root for them. That thought seems to create a lot of hatred towards the organization from the fan base. I mean, in this six season drought, we have become quite familiar with losing, but for some reason, it seems to sting a little more this year.

We were all reminded how refreshing success can feel early on, only to have that hope smashed by the unmitigated disaster of the last several weeks.

That sudden change of fortune, coupled with the last several years of ugly hockey, has many fans zeroing in on Head Coach Jeff Blashill as public enemy #1. And I have a confession to make – I don’t get the hate. I think the fanbase (yes, you) has gotten impatient, and jumped on an illogical bandwagon hoping (shouting) that a coaching change is what we need to kick this thing into Playoff Mode.

Well, I have some bad news. This team, while vastly improved in the last 3 years, still needs a lot more than a coaching change. This still isn’t a very good hockey team, as much as we want to believe it is.

That means no matter how good (or bad) the coach is, that is never going to be the biggest issue. So if you’re one of those fans foaming at the mouth to kick this guy out, you’re missing the point.

In particular, if you’ve watched the team, you know that goaltending has been the real issue. Since the beginning of March, it has been a real Jekyll and Hyde story – in their 7 wins, Red Wings goaltenders have saved on average 1.7 goals above expected; in their 22 losses, they have saved on average -1.2 goals above expected, same as saying they allowed 1.2 more than expected each game (stats per Evolving Hockey as of 4/20/22).

When they get above average goaltending they win, and when they get below average goaltending they lose. The ultimate “Duh” statement.

You probably also noticed that this slump really started after the trade deadline. Since trading away Leddy, the typical defensemen in the lineup are Dekeyser, Hronek, Staal, Seider, Walman, then take your pick of Juolevi, Lindström, or Oesterle. This wasn’t a strong group with Leddy, and it hasn’t gotten better without him.

In fact, only Seider and Hronek have a positive Game Score Value Added (GSVA), a metric that accounts for how each individual player contributes to the actual game score, per Dom Luszczyszyn and Shayna Goldman of The Athletic. This means 4 of the 6 defensemen are actually actively hurting the team every game.

Now don’t get it twisted, this is not some passionate Jeff Blashill defense. Just like I can say it isn’t his fault that pucks keep going in the net, I can say that it is his fault that our special teams have been awful the last few years. Just like with everything else, there hasn’t been enough talent on the roster for the team to be truly good, but there’s no reason they should be as bad as they have.

In fact, since the start of the 2019 season, the Red Wings are dead last in the league in expected goal differential per 60 minutes of special teams time (expected PPG differential/60 + expected SHG differential/60), per Evolving Hockey. Special teams is always a reflection of the head coach, and regardless of who the assistants have been, special teams have been truly awful. That’s a problem.

So let’s just all be honest with each other about what this is really about: we’re all sick of losing. Watching dreadful, minor league level hockey. Jeff Blashill has never had a talented team to work with here. Maybe he’ll be a good coach when he gets one, or maybe not. But firing this guy just to have another coach come in, then get upset when they also have trouble with a sub-par roster, isn’t going to have solved anything. Coaches coach, but it’s still only players that play.

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