Benching an alternate captain is not something any NHL head coach ever wants to have to do but that is exactly what Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill did to Justin Abdelkader.
Abdelkader was a healthy scratch on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, something found out prior to the morning skate.
On Thursday, Abdelkader spoke to reporters and he said that though he is disappointed, he is doing whatever he can to get better each time he gets on the ice.
“You’re disappointed, but hey listen, I just want to go out and be better and try to maximize each time I’m on the ice,” Abdelkader said Thursday. “When things aren’t going well, it’s tough and you’re going to see different lineups, different things happen. I just have to be ready and work to make sure when my number is called again, I am ready to go.”
Blashill said the benching is all about Abdelkader having to play better.
“First of all, I think Justin is a great person, a great pro, has been a really good Red Wing, cares a ton about being a Red Wing,” Blashill said. “I don’t even like to put him in a position where we have to talk about this, because he works hard. He competes hard.
“What’s the message? He’s just got to play a little bit better. At the end of the day, he’s in a group of guys that different guys could sit at different times. We made the decision to sit him the other night. Whether that moves forward or not, we’ll see. I’ll decide the lineup on Saturday. But I expect him to do a couple of things – one is to work like crazy to get back in and I know he will, and one is to be a great mentor in how he handles this adversity, and I know he will do that as well.”
“The hard part is certainly, any time you work your way to where you’re kind of a bubble guy, which there are a few different guys on the team that are in that spot, you’re not getting many minutes and you’re not getting prime minutes,” Blashill said. “It’s hard to do a lot in that time.”
“What I would say is, him and I had this conversation prior to the Anaheim game, Game 3 of the season, and I thought that game, when we walked off the bench, he was one of our better forwards,” Blashill said. “So in 12 minutes or whatever, he had created lots of opportunities. He did it by being really good down low.
“Unfortunately, I thought he went through a stretch where he was playing good hockey and then he’s been hurt twice in a row now. And it’s hard – when you get hurt, you fall out of rhythm. When you get a little bit older, it gets harder and he’s just kind of fighting his way back in. This is not a knock on him as a competitor or person, he’s just fighting his way back in to where he, with his play in those 10-12 minutes, can say, you’re not going to take me out. And it’s hard to do that, for sure.”
— Quotes courtesy of Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press — Link