Every team needs an inspirational/motivational slogan to rally around. During the 1997-98 NHL season, the Red Wings and their fans untied under the simple mantra of “Believe” en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cups for Vladimir Konstantinov.
Now, as the 2018-19 regular season gets set to commence, head coach Jeff Blashill is preaching the phrase “60 Minutes of Hell” to light a fire under his player’s skate blades.
“We have to be harder to play against on a nightly basis,” Blashill said. “We have to make sure we’re not a tweener team – kind of skilled but not winning the skill game and kind of hard but not really hard enough. We have to be miserable to play against every night.
Borrowed from former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson, who used “40 Minutes of Hell” during the 1990’s, Blashill’s hockey take on the slogan is certainly all well and good but “60 Minutes of Hell” could easily summarize a majority of Detroit’s contests last season, and could also be very applicable in 2018-19.
If you combine the Wings current rebuild status with the retirement of Henrik Zetterberg, the hockey world “experts” predicting another low finish in the standings, and the amount of other more well-rounded/competitive teams in the league, let alone the Atlantic Division, it could be another less than ideal season in Hockeytown.
But this piece isn’t intended to be a doom and gloom work fueled by cynicism, because I do believe there is a lot to look forward as the Wings prepare to take the ice at Little Caesars Arena for its sophomore season. Young blue-liners such as Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek and Libor Sulak have fared well during the preseason while forwards, Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen have shown glimpses of an exciting offensive future.
Most of the aforementioned names, likely minus Rasmussen, will still require some additional development in their respective junior clubs or the AHL before joining the Wings as the team will look for younger-veterans such as Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou to take the next steps in becoming the leaders of an organization currently in transition.
Detroit finished much closer to the bottom, rather than the top, in nearly every team stat in 2017-18 and despite my fandom, it’s hard to imagine them finishing much better this season —once again, without Henrik Zetterberg.
But according to Gustav Nyquist, Blashill’s challenge to play a full and competitive 60 minutes is noticeably pushing the team in the right direction:
“You can feel the intensity level,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “The skates have been real hard here. It’s good – it keeps everyone on their toes. We’re competing for jobs out here. With Hank (Henrik Zetterberg) not here, there’s a lot of ice time up for grabs and it’s going to be competitive.
It’ll make our team better.
If the team hopes to take strides in the right direction, without their bearded leader, it is certainly going to require giving their opponents “60 Minutes of Hell” night in and night out, all season long. If not, it could be very long and less than desirable outcome once again.