When Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was asked to explain why the team lost its way this season, he couldn’t boil it down to a short answer.
“Like anything in life, there’s tons of factors,” Blashill said. “It’s probably not one thing.”
It may not be his concern anymore because the Red Wings play their final game of the 2021-22 season tonight in New Jersey (7 p.m.). General manager Steve Yzerman said he will talk to Blashill about his future immediately after the season. But with the Red Wings piling up embarrassing losses in the second half of the season, it seems likely Blashill will not be back for an eighth season as coach.
“Strength of schedule probably played into some of that,” Blashill said about the team’s second-half struggles. “I do think the mental effect of being in it for a long time, having hope, probably the most hope we’ve had in the last couple of years of being a playoff team, I think our guys really believed that we could be one. And went it became clear we weren’t, it took the life out of us for a little bit and we didn’t play with that same extraordinary passion that I thought we’d played with at the beginning of the season.”
Blashill said he hasn’t been thinking about whether he is at the end of his tenure as Detroit’s coach because he is been concentrating on his job.
Red Wings Played Better Early
The other issue going into tonight’s game is whether the Red wings will finally give Swedish goalie Magnus Hellberg a start in net. The Red Wings signed him earlier this month with the idea that they could look at him as a possible goalie for next season. He has been the team’s backup, but still hasn’t played.
The Red Wings played well at home early in the season, leading to some optimism. The Red Wings stayed within striking distance of the Bruins. However, the Bruins had several games in hand.
“For us to be good for where we’re at, until some of these young guys continue to develop, until we continue to add some players, we had to play with that real extraordinary passion, that real extraordinary commitment,” Blashill said. “We lost that for a stretch.”
He added: “Again, some of that’s the human element of realizing you’re out. When we don’t play like that, we’re not a good enough hockey team. When we played like that, we were a real good team. Certainly, our chances against were too high throughout the season, probably even when we won. We won by being a good attack team, being on the puck and playing in the O-zone when we played our best. When we had to defend a lot, we struggled to defend most of the season and that caught up to us in the second half when we didn’t have quite the same energy and when we played against better teams. “