The Detroit Red Wings dropped a disappointing pre-Thanksgiving matchup against the struggling Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night, losing by a 6-2 final score at Little Caesars Arena.
Following the game, head coach Jeff Blashill put his players on notice.
“I thought we had some guys in the last couple games that are important pieces to us that are passengers,” Blashill said afterwards. “They can’t be passengers. With minutes comes responsibility, and so you have to make sure you are getting the job done.”
While it didn’t sound like he was calling out anyone in particular, he soon did just that, zeroing in on Anthony Mantha.
“Anthony Mantha has got to be way better. Way better. It’s not OK to just be a passenger when you are given the opportunity to be an impact player. He’s not alone, but certainly he is a guy who — I said to him at the beginning of the year, ‘for us to be great, you’ve got to be great.’ He’s gone through large stretches of being great, but he hasn’t been great the last two games.”
“I know a lot of these guys very well and will try to push the right buttons,” Blashill continued. “You’ve got to make sure you don’t lose your culture and work ethic and accountability.
“Any young player has to learn how hard it is every night, especially as you start to go from being kind of a complimentary guy and kind of a 14-minute guy and now you want to move into the 18-19-20 minute range. It’s a learning process for certain. The great ones learn it, and the good ones don’t. And the good ones are good. The great ones are great for a reason — because they are there every single shift, every single night.”
Mantha wasn’t exactly thrilled that he was being called out, but understood that it was because of his own performance, and acknowledged that he needed to be better.
“I mean obviously it’s not fun hearing,” Mantha said. “But I know that my game is not really where I want it to be the last three games. I think my last good game was against Calgary and after that I am just floating around a little bit too much.
“He talked to me this morning and he did tell me I was an OK player the last two games and that’s exactly why we didn’t come out with a win. Through his eyes, I think if I show up every night we are going to be a winning team and it is the same for other guys like Larkin and AA – if we come out every game, our team gets so much better. Like he told me again this morning, he is giving me a chance and I need to step in and take that chance and be the best player I can be.”
Through 22 games, Mantha has scored 10 goals with nine assists, and is a minus-2.