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Sisyphus and the Blashill: This Better be Rock-Bottom

Whether or not the current coach survives that Coyotes loss, it’s crucial the Wings improve from here.

Arizona Coyotes v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

I’m going to briefly set the stage so when I revisit having written this post sometime in the future I’m immediately reminded of my frame of mind: The 2021-22 Red Wings came into their season with the only expectations being that we’d see how much they had improved since last season and how long the kids could hang.

For the most part, in this fan’s mind, they’ve done very well in building successes despite many drawbacks preventing them from being a contender to this point. Rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond have helped the team make up a lot of ground on the difference between previous teams that had to rely too much on their limited talent pool and the real heavy-hitters in the league.

I don’t want to paint the picture too bright nor to admonish fans (myself included) for being hopeful. We knew that teams were throwing their backups at us early on and that the strength of schedule down the stretch would create a murderer’s row that could easily snuff out any ember of dream that the postseason could happen this soon.

In general, regardless of easy schedule or hard schedule, what I wanted to see is the team continue to play the kind of hockey that I got used to seeing again throughout the first half: not a perfectly consistent and well-executed ballet to rival the teams of old, but a never-say-die attitude and a general path of improvement.

We got that for a long time this season. Inconsistencies can be accepted for a young team. Pucks bouncing the wrong way on a razor’s edge or empty-netters putting away games that may be won in later circumstances thanks to the experience they bring were finally allowing me to once again trust the process [shudder].

The Wings of late have shaken that. I was prepared for the seven-game horror show that started on Valentine’s Day as the first of a tough stretch against all contenders and finishing with back-to-back nights in Florida. I was happy with the response the team gave down 7-2 going into the third period against Toronto in what ultimately became a mess of a 10-7 loss.

I could even bear the collapse of a tired and outmatched team perhaps looking homeward while the Panthers gave them their second consecutive Saturday facewashing.

what I saw in the team’s response at their first game home against a bottom-feeding Coyotes team is why we’re here.

We Don’t Talk about Blashill

Enough fan ink has been spilled of late on this man that I want to focus on what exactly it is that I want to see out of the Red Wings for the remaining 25 games this season, regardless of who is behind the bench. I don’t have any control over these decisions in the first place and until I hear somebody having asked GM Steve Yzerman what it’s going to take to have Jeff Blashill removed, I’ll just assume that it doesn’t matter what any random bald guy behind the bench is doing as long as he’s upholding the tenets of what makes this a successful season for Detroit:

  1. The team doesn’t quit
  2. The kids develop good habits

That’s it. That’s all I want. The reason we’re debating right now is because this particular loss to the Coyotes scares me. We’ve had ugly losses this season. I’ve done my fair share of using the “eh shit happens” excuse. What has consistently happened throughout those games is that I have yet to have that same sense of impending dread given to me by watching a nervous and terribly outmatched Red Wings team in previous years trying not to lose games rather than fighting to win them.

That’s what this game returned in me. I hated it.

Detroit not starting on time is always going to be a concern. It was a concern when they were a contender. It’ll be a concern again when they are a contender. Detroit not making the perfect adjustments to consistently win the line battles will always annoy me. Detroit looking like a parliament of owls while random spin-o-rama shots from the edges of the play find their way into their net is not a concern nor a nuisance; it’s a problem. Watching it happen four times in eight games is a collapse.

I have no idea what Steve Yzerman’s trigger for pulling in an interim coach to finish out the year in an attempt to stop the team from drowning in quicksand and undoing so much of what the team had been working toward. I’m still mad enough today that I’d put Larry Murphy behind the bench just to see what happens (just in case you were starting to worry about whether or not I should be the GM, I guess)

I don’t know what’s been said in the locker room since Tuesday night. I don’t know if the GM has addressed the team or if the captain has given an impassioned speech about not looking like a bunch of animatronic turnstiles.

All I know is that regardless of what gets said between now and then, the team’s behavior against Minnesota will tell fans everything they need to know about whether the Red Wings at a crucial moment for their team’s development are listening.

If you Find Yourself Going through Shell, Keep Going

What I don’t want to see against Minnesota, or at any point in the remaining games for the Wings in this stretch is to react by reverting into uncreative defensive shell hockey. While I appreciate that learning how to win games 2-1 is a key component of developing a successful team, I don’t think it’s the right strategy right now.

I’ll grant that intentionally slogging the game down into a low-even careful snoozefest might work to help stabilize things and let the team branch out from a solid foundation, but I also think that it reinforces a habit meant to rely largely on the luck of the bounces. The team definitely needs to turn down the recklessness they’ve exhibited of late, but this can’t be a pendulum swing. We already know the team has a glaring weakness at the LD position. The rest of the league knows it too. The most effective solution isn’t to involve the LD more in the play; it’s to keep the play as far away from that position’s responsibility as possible.