Detroit Red Wings: Jeff Blashill’s coaching transformation arrived too late

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

It’s time for plenty of changes in the Detroit Red Wings organization; most are generally pointing their finger at management.  That’s been addressed by bringing back Wings legend Steve Yzerman to continue what is expected to be a lengthy rebuild.

The next order of business for the Detroit Red Wings organization will be moving on from head coach Jeff Blashill.  We’ve been very critical of Blashill since taking over for Mike Babcock, but when you think about it, Blashill can only deploy the players he’s been given onto the ice. Over the last three years, in particular, the talent level has been sparse.

Sure, Blashill has failed in other aspects of coaching, most notably in regards to player development.  Blashill hasn’t been able to elevate the young prospects at the NHL level.  Some of the players that come to the forefront of our minds should be Evgeny Svechnikov, Dennis Cholowski, and Michael Rasmussen.

Some players need more time than others to develop into premier NHL players, that being said, the young players who are projected to be top-six forwards or top-four defensemen need proper ice-time allocated to develop.

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It also helps the talented players get into the groove of the game.  It’s much different for a grinding fourth line player that hops over the boards and is primarily focused on rattling the glass with thunderous hits trying to engage the crowd positively or negatively or simply just trying to change the momentum of the hockey game.

A fourth line player isn’t necessarily expected to score.  Sure chipping in on the scoreboard is nice, but that’s not their primary focus.  A player like Adam Erne or Givani Smith can serve a purpose and excel in their role-playing 10 or 12 minutes per night.

It’s different when you bury a young scoring-type player on the fourth line averaging similar minutes.  Before this season, Blashill usually plugged his young scoring prospects on a fourth line alongside the Christoffer Ehn‘s of the world.

How can you expect the Anthony Mantha‘s and Filip Zadina‘s of the world to produce or impress anyone with Ehn as their primary center?  Don’t forget; it took many games of skating on the fourth line, trying to get out of Blashill’s doghouse before Mantha was allowed to transform into the player he is today.  Some will argue, ‘well then it worked, didn’t it?’ Perhaps, but it doesn’t seem like the proper way to bring young players along in 2020.

The repercussions of this usually landing Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm skating on the team’s top line.  The idea was to have a young player earning his keep, working his way up the lineup rather than immediately being placed on one of the top two lines without proving themself at the NHL level.

It’s an ‘old fashioned’ way of thinking.  In today’s NHL, young players are allowed to make an immediate impact at the professional level.  Things seemed to change this season after Yzerman joined the organization.  Although the Detroit Red Wings lacked success, the younger players were giving much more ice-time in 2019-20.

The organization allowed Filip Hronek to play nearly 24-minutes per game.  We’ve seen a heavy dose of Robby Fabbri, rather than Frans Nielsen.  It seems the philosophy changed when Ken Holland flew the coop, but it’s much to late to save Blashill.

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I expect Blashill has coached his last game with the Detroit Red Wings, look for Yzerman to weigh his options this summer and bring in one of ‘his’ guys to be Detroit’s new bench boss.