Jeff Blashill won’t be fired during this season. That much was made abundantly clear when he still had his job after the Red Wings allowed 11 goals on Sunday; the most the NHL has seen any team allow in a game since “Lose Yourself” by Eminem was topping the Billboard charts. As the team continues to struggle at the tail end of this season, it’s becoming blatantly obvious that Steve Yzerman can not retain the Red Wings head coach following the 2021-22 season.
Following their 5-4 overtime defeat to the New York Rangers on Wednesday, the Red Wings are now allowing a whopping 3.82 goals per game. This would tie the worst mark by an NHL team in the last 25 years (1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers) and be the absolute worst by a non-expansion team in that time frame. The regression of this team defensively has been massive as they’ve allowed 4.52 goals per game over their last 27 games dating back to January 21st.
To be this bad defensively would be a firable offence on its own. To be this bad defensively in Blashill’s seventh season with the team is completely unacceptable. The fact that this version of the Red Wings is even worse defensively than the 2019-20 team that had the worst point percentage by a non-expansion team in the overtime loss era should guarantee that Blashill is shown the door following this season.
The thing is, it’s far more than just the bad defensive play that’s costing the Red Wings game after game. How a team performs in the third period is one of the biggest signs of coaching. This team plays with complete passiveness when they have the lead in the third period. This was on display once again on Wednesday. Following Adam Erne’s go-ahead goal with 14:04 remaining, they had just three shots on goal for the remainder of regulation with the only even-strength shot on goal coming with 11 seconds remaining.
This is more than just a one-time incident as well. Just four days prior against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Red Wings had 11 shots on goal in the first 8:41 of the third period alone when Oskar Sundqvist scored to give them the 1-0 lead. They were then outshot 11-1 over the next 6:41 of game time before the Lightning tied the game and eventually won it in overtime.
This passive play has created an inability to close out games. Out of their league-leading 20 games that went to overtime this season, they held the lead in the third period in 14 of them. As it stands, the Red Wings have allowed a league-leading 102 goals in the third period this season and have a -36 goal differential.
One of the other biggest signs of coaching is how a team performs on special teams. As it stands, the Red Wings are dead last in the NHL in PK% at just 72.1%. This would be the worst mark for any team ever in an 82-game season and would be the second-worst in any season since the 1985-86 Red Wings (71.0%). Their power play is only marginally better at 18.2% which is good for 27th in the NHL.
All of this combined has been a big reason why the Red Wings are once again going to be among the bottom ten teams in the NHL. In fact, if they were to continue their point percentage from the last 26 games (.296) for the remainder of the season, the Red Wings would end the season with a worse point percentage (.421) than they did last season (.429).
To regress with a team that is significantly more talented than last season would be an absolute failure by Jeff Blashill. Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi are both having the best seasons of their career. Moritz Seider should be the clear Calder winner on defense while Lucas Raymond has been having a rookie season better than any Red Wings forward since Sergei Fedorov. And yet, this team could be worse than last year.
The Red Wings progress in this rebuild has stalled and it’s time for Steve Yzerman to pull the plug on his head coach. He most likely won’t do it until the season is over, but it’s a move he needs to make for the future of this team. If he brings Jeff Blashill back, it would be by far the biggest mistake he has made as a GM so far in Detroit and would absolutely bring the ire of the Hockeytown faithful.