It’s become more clear than ever that the Detroit Red Wings are simply not a playoff team. A 2-6-2 record in their past 10 games has seen them fall even further out of the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and it’s led to a response in the form of a harsh reality check from captain Henrik Zetterberg.
“There’s too much poke-and-hope on a lot of players,” he said. “If you want to be a solid good player in this league, and if you want to win something, you have to learn to play the right way.”
“Poke-and-hope might get you 25-30 goals, but you will never win anything.”
Before yet another setback on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, both Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha responded to Zetterberg’s criticism and acknowledged the need to be better if the team is going to have any success moving forward after yet another trying season without the playoffs.
“He’s talking to us as a group,” Athanasiou said. “Any time you have someone like that speaking out, it’s a little bit of a message to make sure you’re ready for the next one. If there’s one play where you can bear down a little more, it’s going to make a huge difference.”
Head coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t blame Zetterberg for his rare outburst. A veteran who isn’t accustomed to losing can weigh heavily on even the most battle-hardened of players, especially one who is trying to pass the tradition of winning on to the next wave of Red Wings forwards.
“He was the best player on the ice, so when you are the best player on the ice, you can say things like that,” Blashill said. “From his perspective, he knows what it takes to be great, he knows what it takes to win. It doesn’t surprise me he spoke up to make sure that message was loud and clear.”
Mantha has endured public criticism before, and he knows he needs to work on the consistency issues that have plagued him so far in his young career.
“I need to keep learning,” he said. “No one is perfect. As a young guy, there is so much to learn about and to bring your ‘A’ game every night.”
“(Dylan) Larkin and I talked about it, AA also, we want to be better. We want to be good.”