No, the team was not supposed to be any good this year. We knew that coming in to the season. Their 2-0 start may have pulled the wool over some of our eyes for a bit, but if that was the case, the 2-11-1 record in their last 14 games has shown us what reality actually looks like.
Although the expectations were low for the Red Wings coming into the season, the expectation was for the team to be competitive, at the very least. Last season, they played in more one-goal games (whether in a win or a loss) than any other team in the league. Through 16 games this season, the team has been anything but competitive, losing by three or more goals in exactly half of the games that they have played.
Though it’s been tough for Detroit to build any consistency with so many holes in different parts of the lineup, one thing that has been consistent is the first line. Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Anthony Mantha have combined for 40 points in 16 games, which is exactly what you want to see from a first line. If there is any one thing that you’d like to see a rebuilding team find a way to establish, a legitimately threatening first line is a great step. Unfortunately, head coach Jeff Blashill has not kept the line together through the struggles of the season, instead opting to throw all of the lines into a blender in an attempt to create more offense.
The question here isn’t whether or not the team can consistently win games, because the answer to the question is a loud, resounding “no”. It’s whether or not they can remain competitive, while also allowing the younger players on the team to continue progressing. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of Blashill. Youngsters who factor into the franchise’s future such as Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, and Taro Hirose need to be allowed every opportunity to see the ice in high leverage situations, while the Mantha/Bertuzzi/Larkin line needs to be together for as long as possible. No more breaking up that line to spread the offense around.
The above reasons are simply the beginning of my list of reasons that the team should move on from Blashill. I had been going back and forth on the topic in my head for the last couple weeks. It was during last night’s game against the Nashville Predators when my mind was officially made up.
Watching the team drop a 6-1 decision didn’t help anything, but that wasn’t the final straw for me either. It was the way that the team played while surrendering those six consecutive goals. Sure, included in those goals were a shot that Jimmy Howard definitely should have stopped, and a couple of particularly bad bounces that he simply had no chance on.
But the way the team responded to the adversity presented to them showed that Blashill is 100% no longer capable of leading this team. The unfortunate part is that this is how the team has played all season long. When the going gets tough, this team simply does not respond well, as they do not know how to do so. This is a direct of reflection of leadership.
The Red Wings are going to ride out this entire season towards the bottom of the standings, ensuring themselves another good draft pick. The problem is that if the team’s leadership on the ice is going to learn how to play through adversity, they need someone at the reigns who can teach them how to do so, and that person is most definitely not Jeff Blashill.