What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson and Jake Rivard are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings and their fans are frustrated. Dead last in the league and struggling non-stop with injuries, Detroit is looking for a miracle. Though it’s understood that development takes time, people are beginning to wonder if head coach Jeff Blashill is holding back that development.
Since taking over in the wake of Mike Babcock in 2015, Blashill has had the unfortunate credit laid on him of the team not making the playoffs and becoming the worst in the league. Much to his chagrin most likely. The Red Wings under Blashill’s care seem to be quickly waning in the standings and the precious franchise is limping through each game. With a losing record on his heels, he is facing a very angry fanbase.
Many have called for his firing in seasons past – but now that the franchise is under general manager Steve Yzerman’s watchful eye, is that closer to happening than people think? Should Yzerman pursue a coaching swap and if so, who? The Grind Line wanted to tackle this difficult subject this week. We’ll take a look at not only if Blashill should be relieved of his duties, but if so, when and who should fill the role? The team needs a spark but is this the proper next step in the process?
Rachel Anderson – Yes, But Not Yet
Blashill may not be the coach the team needs for the future, but I don’t think Yzerman will pull the plug yet. Blashill’s record has been a losing one, however, that responsibility doesn’t fully fall on him. The team understands the gravity of the situation and must execute every night – and they haven’t been as of late.
However, I do think that Blashill’s days are numbered as the head coach. Though it is a team effort, the creativity behind the bench has been stifled. The use of existing new talent in the system hasn’t seemed to be a major focus. Michael Rasmussen, Filip Zadina, and Filip Hronek have been refreshing additions to the team – but those opportunities have a very temporary feel. Conversely, there is an overtaxing of players like Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi Anthony Mantha which has been the top-performing line.
With a very sad losing record of 136-146-47 so far throughout his NHL career, Blashill’s tenure as head coach appears to be heading towards its end. There should be more of a focus on spreading the responsibility throughout the team and using the prospects to their capacity – and winning. Yzerman may not cut the cord this season, but very soon after.
Jake Rivard – Wait and See
Blashill hasn’t lost the room just yet. Recently, players like Larkin and Bertuzzi have spoken up about his role in the locker room and how much trust they’ve put in him. (from ‘Detroit Red Wings players defend Jeff Blashill’s job after ugly loss’, Detroit Free Press – 9/5/19). Despite frustrations both in and out of the locker room, Blashill still appears to maintain respect with his team.
Personally, I don’t think he’s the coach that will win this team a Stanley Cup. He’s served as an excellent backstop to help our rebuilding team develop, but has yet to show that he’s strategic enough to win games within the one-goal reach.
Unfortunately, any backup plans available are far and few between. Dan Bylsma, the Red Wings’ assistant coach, has been fired from a stacked Pittsburgh Penguins team and a Buffalo Sabres team that managed to bottom out multiple years in a row. Controversies surrounding Babcock make him an absolute no as well.
In an ideal scenario, Blashill fights through one last season before Yzerman decides what to do with the situation. If Blashill shows he’s capable of working with his team, he may remain for another year, but if Yzerman decides another route is possible, expect to see a fresh face join the organization.
Let us know what you think! Should Blashill pack his bags or should he get a bit more time?
I am a Detroit Red Wings prospect journalist for Access Hockey MI covering the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye prospect development. Draft analyst for USHL hockey with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.