Earlier today, the diggers tweeted out that forward Teemu Pulkkinen would be sitting tonight. Instead of making room for Riley Sheahan's return by removing Joakim Andersson, Pulkkinen got the short end of the stick. Why? Here is what Blashill had to say in Ansar Khan's article yesterday:
"I actually thought Teemu played well (Wednesday)," Blashill said. "I want that line to have a certain identity and he doesn't necessarily fit in the identity of that line. So he's got to beat out guys in the lines above him. The guys above him have – Nyquist, Tats – all those wingers have scored at a much greater rate in the NHL. Part of that's because of a lack of opportunity with Teemu, which I recognize, and him and I had a good conversation. He understands that, too. We can't have too many of the same type of players in the lineup -- small, skilled guys, especially against a Florida team that we had a real hard time getting to the inside on last time.
"If (Pulkkinen) is not going to be on our power play, which we debated and decided that we were going to put (Brendan Smith) in that spot tonight, then we'd like to have that spot filled by a penalty killer, which is Andy."
There's a lot to digest here. First, if Teemu played well yesterday, then he surely has earned his way into tonight's lineup, right? When Blash says "I want that line to have a certain identity and he doesn't necessarily fit the identity of that line," he is essentially saying that the fourth line is reserved for the sandpaper, the grit, the crease-grease. That mantra makes me roll my eyes so hard that I can see back in time. What's wrong with a 4th line that consists of skill players?
Next up, Blashill says that he has to "beat out guys in the lines above him." He then uses Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar as examples of players he needs to surpass. He leaves out guys like Darren Helm, because you simply cannot move him from the top-six, as he has been lighting up the scoresheet as of late*. What Blashill is saying is that Pulkkinen isn't getting a good opportunity to score, or play the role that he should play. I wonder why. Certainly it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that he's been misused on the power-play, where a guy with a shot like his should flourish. Hell, he's not even seeing the power-play. This is a monstrous blunder.
Branching out a little bit here - What the hell is it with this standing on top of a mountain and singing praises for dimensional players because they are so "reliable" as a penalty killer? I call bull.
The Red Wings are coming off of two embarrassing losses to the Florida teams. One which they couldn't seem to score, and the other where they couldn't seem to stop being scored on. Maybe the game against the Panthers turns out differently if Jimmy Howard, the guy who's confidence has been beaten into paste hadn't started. The issue remains that the Red Wings have a serious problem with scoring with consistency. If you take away Dylan Larkin's two magnificent goals last night, how does that game look? Pretty bad, huh? The fact of the matter is that coaching is making sacrifices in the wrong way. They are sacrificing a player who can be utilized as a sheltered power-play weapon in favor of a guy who is barely on par with NHL caliber just because he is an effective penalty-killer.
Brad Richards - 1.41 points per 60 minutes
Darren Helm - 1.09 points per 60 minutes
Teemu Pulkkinen - 2.06 points per 60 minutes
Call it what you want, but Red Wings coaching really needs to reassess their priorities. If you're valuing a player for his ability to play well when you're on the wrong side of the puck, then you're playing this game all wrong. Look, I'm not saying that Teemu Pulkkinen is some sort of prolific goal-scorer at the NHL level, but he has a true weapon with the shot he has. From what I've seen in his tenure so far has been a misuse of what he is. I will agree that if Pulkkinen isn't going to be used on the power-play, then his usage in a fourth line role isn't ideal. It just goes to show that the Red Wings seriously need to shake things up, and in more ways than one.
Bob Duff had a similar post to Khan's, but was a bit more blunt in his analysis:
No one is counting on Pulkkinen to be a 50-goal man, but if he can’t be a regular contributor, then he can’t be an NHL regular. It’s as simple as that.
How can we expect Pulkkinen to be a regular contributor when we don't give him an actual chance? You cannot sit there and tell me that Pulkkinen is getting a comparable role that Nyquist or Tatar were given when they finally reached the NHL. You can argue, but it's just not the same. I don't need numbers to tell you that. From usage, to linemates, down to ice-time. It's not even remotely close.
Brad Richards - 53.69%
Darren Helm - 52.12%
Teemu Pulkkinen - 58.82%
Look, I'm not saying they need to reinvent the wheel here. All I'm saying is that the Detroit Red Wings need to evaluate their players differently if they are looking to find success. Mike Babcock did a wonderful job while he was here, but the finals years in his tenure showed that valuing your 4th line players as grinders doesn't exactly work. What the team needs is a change. What the fans need is a change. Let's not wait until it's too late.
(Data provided by war-on-ice.com)