It’s been a brutal run as of late for the Detroit Red Wings. Between losing goalies to injury, getting shelled by opponents, and a schedule filled with one tough opponent after another, things aren’t getting any easier.
With Detroit in a spiral, the focus on what Steve Yzerman will do–or not do–takes center stage.
Here are a couple truths–and a lie–as the Red Wings finish out the final 15 games of their season.
Truth: Yzerman Has Seen Enough to Make a Decision on Blashill
Be it the 114 goals they’ve given up since January 26 (8-5 loss to Chicago), or the nine games giving up 7+ goals, it’s been a brutal stretch for the Red Wings.
If fans and pundits feel that, how can the architect of the team not be thinking it?
A comparison of Yzerman’s trade deadline statements regarding Blashill certainly look different a year later.
2021 when asked about Blashill’s future with the team:
“Jeff and I will sit down very quickly after the season, and discuss that.”
“The last six weeks of the season have been disappointing for all of us, give or take the last six weeks. Jeff and I will sit down at some point and talk about our team and where we’re going with our team and what we need to do. But I don’t think this is the time to discuss our coaching staff or our coach.”
Some similarities to 2021, but what precedes and follows isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
One other quote–from the press conference where Yzerman explained why he signed Blashill to an extension:
“I feel our team was collectively very competitive. Whether we played well every night or not, we played hard and I think that’s a reflection of the coaching staff. The coaching staff has the respect of the players.”
If you read Bob’s column from the other day, he highlighted the point that the Detroit Red Wings have not only been blown out often this season, but also slow to the answer the bell. He followed up with a piece that zeroed in on the Red Wings struggling to stay with the better teams in the league.
Collective competitiveness hasn’t been as relevant this season. On some nights, it’s been absent.
That’s what turns the heat up on Blashill’s seat.
Truth: Yzerman is Quietly Rooting on the Losses for Better Draft Position
He can’t come out and say it, but this team needs another good shot in the lottery. Losing more achieves this goal. So that takes some sting out of the latest stretch of losing.
Yzerman has been unbelievable picking in the first round, coming away with Moritz Seider (2019) and Lucas Raymond (2020) before adding Simon Edvinsson and Sebastian Cossa (2021). If Edvinsson is even half as good as Seider’s been this season, next year’s defense is already improved.
But this team still has too many holes in it. Another high pick gives Yzerman a chance to find another impact player.
Under the current structure, a lottery team can only fall a maximum of two spots while jumping a maximum of ten. The Red Wings currently sit ninth. They’re within two points of Chicago and Buffalo but it’s not as likely they can leapfrog other teams.
At best, maybe a shot at sixth seems likeliest–a position Detroit knows all to well. But one that has been very kind to the Red Wings, netting them Seider and Edvinsson.
Lie: This Offseason is the Most Crucial of Yzerman’s Tenure
I would have argued it is just a month and a half ago. But the last month–coupled with a modest trade deadline shows that maybe that statement should be pushed to next year.
While it still will be important, it doesn’t hold nearly the weight it once could have.
The Red Wings forwards lines are still a work in progress and the defensive pairings are in need of a massive upgrade–sans Seider. Gone are the days where critical pieces could be added via free agency. Yzerman will have to get creative via trade while waiting for their prospects to arrive.
Help may be on the way in the form of Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, William Wallinder and Elmer Soderblom. But that’s still speculation until they’ve been tested on North American ice.
Jonatan Berggren is waiting in Grand Rapids, but like Joe Veleno, it’s likely he’ll need some time to acclimate to the NHL.
In order to acquire the talent Detroit needs to go from rebuild to playoff push, they’ll need to give up assets. That would also involve picks and prospects–something Yzerman won’t do unless it’s something he can’t pass up.
So this offseason is surely feeling similar to the last one–gains here and there to keep the forward momentum going.
But the hopes that next season could bring a playoff opportunity is premature.
The first half of the season surely gave more hope. The latter half brought a sobering reality.
The Detroit Red Wings still have a long way to go.