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Jeff Blashill Shows that Timing Truly is Everything

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Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings coach

On June 9, 2015, the Detroit Red Wings and Jeff Blashill agreed on terms to take over as coach for Mike Babcock, who bolted for Toronto. At the time, it was the natural evolution for Blashill’s trajectory. Blocked by the Red Wings to interview with other teams, Holland inked the then Grand Rapids coach to continue the success in Detroit.

For one season, Blashill would get to experience winning in Hockeytown. A five-game loss to Tampa in the 2016 playoffs would be the first–and last time–Blashill would lead a team in the NHL postseason.

The coach who experienced success at every level–including a 2013 Calder Cup Championship with many of the players he’d see in Detroit–had little of it with the big club.

Missing the playoffs in 2016-17 would hasten a rebuild that Detroit is still in the midst of. While this season would see an improved roster, Blashill would be unable to keep things together from February on.

And now, general manager Steve Yzerman is on to hiring a new coach.

The Timing Wasn’t There for the Red Wings or Blashill

The rebuild was inevitable. Holland struggled to maintain success–due to some bad trades and even poorer decisions with roster construction. Band-aids brought in via free agency only exacerbated the problem.

Blashill was simply caught in the mess, watching the roster skill evaporate year after year.  By the time Yzerman arrived and Holland exited to Edmonton, the writing was on the wall.

Yzerman let everything hit rock bottom. Not even the great Scotty Bowman could have mustered much from a roster that struggled night in and night out. There was slight improvement during the pandemic-shortened 2021 season. But as Yzerman added more in the way of Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, the fortunes remained the same in 2021-22.

It was better, but not good enough.

Blowout losses coupled with some poor starts would spell doom for Blashill.

The timing it appeared was just off. This wasn’t the Indiana Ice, Western Michigan, or the Grand Rapids Griffins. The success that followed Blashill on his hockey journey didn’t continue to Detroit after 2016.

The timing was just off.

Time Simply Ran Out on Blashill and the Red Wings

It wasn’t as if the chances weren’t there. Detroit was still in playoff talk as late as January, but as DHN’s Kevin Allen wrote earlier in the week, much of the early season success was described by an NHL exec as “fools gold.” It can’t be argued. The Red Wings had their moments and dazzled the fanbase despite a 7-6 season-opening loss to Tampa Bay on October 14. Sure, they potted six goals. But they still lost and gave up seven goals in the process.

It would be foreshadowing for what would eventually cost Blashill his job.

Lopsided losses would become common place in late February and beyond.  By the trade deadline, how Yzerman answered a question during a press conference all but told everyone the answer:

The lack of an answer was the answer. And a few more lousy losses for the Red Wings sealed the bench boss’ fate as the season wound down.

A Fresh Start for Both

Jeff Blashill will certainly coach in the NHL again. While Red Wings fans grew tired of Blashill’s time in Motown, a chance with a team in a better position could change his fortunes. His past successes were hardly flukes. But the time to win in Detroit had simply run out.

As for the Red Wings, a new, fresh voice was overdue. Though Seider and Raymond have been revelations, while Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi registered thirty goals, there’s the porous defense and disappointing special teams that need a fresh pair of eyes.

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Yzerman will make his first coaching hire in Detroit–and his work in Tampa in that department was successful. When Guy Bouchard’s time ran out, he promoted Jon Cooper. Hired at the right moment, Cooper has flourished and the Bolts have enjoyed back-to-back titles.

Who will Yzerman pick? Could it be former teammate Sergei Fedorov, fresh off of a KHL Title? Maybe friend Lane Lambert, a long time assistant coach seemingly ready for his first job. Or maybe a veteran coach like Paul Maurice or John Tortorella?

Time will tell if he’s right again.

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