The Detroit Red Wings are a week from the end of the regular season and the attention turns from what is happening to what could happen. Red Wings insiders and Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen and Bob Duff answer five questions that range from Jeff Blashill’s job security to how much longer it’ll take for Detroit to make the playoffs.
1. Will Jeff Blashill still be the Red Wings coach next season?
Duff: In a word, no. His time is up. Considering the manner in which this team has sunk like a rock in the second half of the season, combined with their absolutely horrid defensive play and dismal special teams performance, there’s just no way that Blashill will be back behind the Red Wings bench next season.
We’re continually hearing the same message – the team needs to be better defensively, the club must adopt a shot mentality and go to the net with gusto, yet these problems are never solved. Can a new coach with a different message get through to this bunch? It’s time to find out. And if that doesn’t improve matters, then the next step is to begin changing the players.
Allen: No. We’ve been hearing for a while that Yzerman is angered over some of the embarrassing losses. He knows this team isn’t talented enough to be a playoff team. But he does expect his team to be ready to play every night. They weren’t ready on many nights this, especially after the All-Star break.
Blashill will pay the price for that.
I’m already hearing Yzerman will look at some tough, demanding coaching candidates if he replaces Blashill. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Yzerman offers Blashill another job in the organization. He doesn’t think this is all Blashill’s fault and Yzerman is also displeased with several players, too.
But Blashill will still want to coach–so if offered another job within the organization, he might not take it.
2. Filip Zadina: Will it be a bridge deal or will he be part of a deal?
Allen: Yzerman has not completely given up on Zadina. However, I believe Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek and Zadina are players who could be moved if Yzerman makes a significant trade or two. Zadina still has trade value. He could be part of the package to acquire a veteran defenseman.
But Yzerman isn’t going to deal Zadina just to move him. The Red Wings appreciate that Zadina wants to be a better player and continues to works at it. Even if Zadina goes from 10 to 15 goals next season, he still has value to this team. Maybe a new coach can help him pull his talent together.
Duff: Zadina is clearly on a bridge – or is that a plank? These last five games may determine his Red Wings future, if his fate isn’t already sealed. Detroit does contain an overabundance of top-six wingers – Zadina, Jakub Vrana, Tyler Bertuzzi, Lucas Raymond, Robby Fabbri. They can afford to deal one of them for sure.
The likely trade candidates are Zadina and Bertuzzi. Zadina is up for a new contract. In another year, Bertuzzi is a potential UFA. If the Red WIngs don’t see either of these players in their long-range plans, now is the opportune time to move on from one or both of them.
3. Will Moritz Seider win the Calder?
Duff: If he doesn’t, it will be a crime against hockey but that doesn’t mean that Seider will win the Calder. Plenty of deserving candidates have been overlooked in previous years. Defense is absolutely the toughest position to step in and play in the NHL. Seider has come into the league and instantly become the No. 1 defenseman for the Red Wings, playing at a borderline all-star level. That’s Bobby Orr/Denis Potvin/Ray Bourque territory. This just doesn’t happen and when it does, those guys win the Calder.
Allen: I believe he will win the Calder because he is hockey’s version of a five-tool player. He can skate, score, pass, hit and defend. He stepped into Detroit’s lineup and instantly became the No. 1 defenseman. Seider is the rock on which a contending team will be built. In the second half of the season, he has continually shown how polished he is for such a young player. He is far more valuable to his team than the other Calder candidates.
Voters will see that, won’t they?
4. What’s the biggest priority for Steve Yzerman this offseason?
Allen: Yzerman’s top priority has to be landing a true No. 2 center and a proven second-pairing defenseman. With Simon Edvinsson joining Seider on the blue line next season, Yzerman will want a veteran on the second pairing to help them continue to develop.
He also doesn’t want a repeat of this season when his team led the NHL in surrendering dangerous scoring chances. His free agent center options are limited. Michigan native Andrew Copp and Vince Trocheck, who played his OHL hockey in Michigan, are possibilities. But the Rangers are going to push hard to keep the Rangers.
Duff: There’s lots of scuttlebutt in NHL circles that Yzerman is ready to make major changes this offseason, both through free agency and trades. He has to find the club a No. 2 center, either via trade or through free agency. Pius Suter isn’t the answer there.
Two names that I hear frequently linked to the Red Wings at forward are left wing Filip Forsberg and center Vincent Trocheck. Forsberg could be a tough sell. He figures to gain a lot of suitors as a UFA. Trocheck has connections to the Detroit area but he’s not the biggest guy and a lack of size at forward has proven to be an issue for this club.
5. Yzerman won’t give a timeline, but you can. Where do you think the rebuild is at?
Duff: It’s further away than I would’ve figured at the start of this season. The regression this team has taken in defensive play from last season is frightening. But at least the Red Wings have some defensive prospects in the pipeline. It’s the lack of forward prospects that is most alarming.
The situation grows even more grim if Zadina and Joe Veleno don’t pan out. The Wings need Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Soderblom to be home runs. But it’s wise to remember that rookies fitting into the NHL as seamlessly as Seider and Raymond did this season are the exception and not the rule. I don’t see playoff hockey on the horizon for at least two more years at minimum.
Allen: The Red Wings probably will miss playoffs next season, unless Yzerman pulls a rabbit out of his hat with a trade and free agent signing. The Red Wings have some pieces in place with Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, Vrana, Bertuzzi, and Seider. Might Edvinsson step in and help right away?
If they can’t get Bertuzzi signed to a reasonable extension, they will get back a player or two via trade who will be part of the rebuild. That’s a guarantee. Bertuzzi’s value is high. My guess is that Yzerman would be extremely disappointed if the Red Wings are not a playoff team by 2023-24.