After Detroit’s heartbreaking loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champions, it felt like the perfect time to shine a little light on Jeff Blashill. Obviously, there’s no denying that many Wings fans are calling for their club to move on from the Detroit-born coach, but as we all know, Steve Yzerman has always kept his cards close to his chest. Therefore, we have to assume that even amidst a rough year, the Wings are going to keep Blashill at the helm. So, we might as well get to know the man.
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Jeff Blashill was born in Hockeytown in 1973, but grew up in Sault Ste. Marie. After playing three years for the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL, Blashill spent four years between-the pipes for Ferris State University. The Michigan goalie earned Rookie of the Year in 1994, and after four years, immediately made the jump behind his Alma matter’s bench. This is when he started building his extensive coaching resume. Blashill spent 10 years coaching amongst the University ranks, which included three years at Ferris State University and six years at Miami University as an assistant coach. That’s when he got his first head coaching job for the Indiana Ice in the USHL, and defied the odds by leading his squad to the Clark Cup in his inaugural season with the club. After a second-round loss the following year, Blashill returned to the University level as head coach of the Western Michigan University. And although he was unable to lead the Broncos to the playoffs, he placed himself on the Wings radar.
Blashill joined the Wings as an assistant coach for the 2011-12 season and the Wings finished 5th overall in the West, but suffered a 1st round exit to the Nashville Predators. Clearly, Blashill impressed the Wings’ brass, because he was awarded the head coaching position for the Grand Rapids Griffins the following season. Blashill continued to build his resume by leading their AHL affiliate to a Calder Cup win in his first season in charge. This dream season was followed up by two straight playoff appearances, and while the Griffins fell short, he solidified himself on the Wings potential head coach list.
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Then it happened…Prior to the 2015-16 season, Mike Babcock decided he needed a new challenge and took the head coaching job in Ontario’s capital (I’m pretttttttttty sure the 50 million dollar contract didn’t hurt). So, with Babcock in Toronto, Ken Holland needed a replacement. That’s when Blashill got the tap for his first NHL head coaching job. While Blashill was unable to maintain his streak of leading his squad to a championship in his inaugural season, he did manage to keep Detroit’s 25-year playoff streak alive. But to quote a proverb that dates back to 1374, “All good things must come to an end.”
This is when the inevitable rebuild began. After 33, 30, and 32 win seasons, Blashill and the Wings finished dead-last in the league and earned the the unfavorable distinction of the franchise’s third-worst record all-time. Fast-forward to the 2020-21 season, and the Wings currently sit a point ahead of the lowly Sabres for the title of the worst team in the league. So one has to ask, what’s the plan?
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In last night’s loss, Brayden Point’s 1st-period power-play goal displayed a real lack of a proper penalty-killing scheme. Of course, this doesn’t fall directly on Blashill’s shoulders, but the fact that Point was wide-open in the slot suggests a lack of preparation. It’s frustrating for the players, but also for fans, because anyone who has played hockey knows the box is designed to constantly be collapsing, expanding, and doing its best to eliminate the high-percentage shots. The Wings didn’t do this and it cost them the lead.
This was followed up by some atrocious defending on the game-tying goal. As you can see, all five Wings were caught on one side of the ice. This gave the Lightning the safe option to play the puck along the boards back to the near-side defenseman to maintain possession, but also the opportunity to fire it far-side to a wide-open Erik Černák. The reason the Lightning are the defending champions is because if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. The Wings made that mistake, and the Slovak D-man punished the Wings’ poor defending by burying the game-tying goal on Greiss.
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Then after a shocking line-change in overtime, the Wings were left on a 2-on-1 that resulted in yet another loss for Thomas Greiss and the Detroit Red Wings. There has to be blame put on the players, but as an observer, the decision-making of the Red Wings clearly need improvement. Would a new coach change the results? Maybe. But it’s clear that if Blashill intends to remain as the Wings’ bench-boss, these sorts of mental lapses needed to be corrected. Otherwise, he could hold the distinction of leading the Wings to not only their third-worst record history, but potentially the worst-ever. Fingers-crossed they can right the course, but if not, I think it’s safe to say the writing’s on the wall for Jeff Blashill’s tenure as head coach.
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