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Abel to Yzerman

It’s Bad

Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on all the losing with the Detroit teams but I am just going to try to highlight the Wings.

We knew it’d be bad. We signed up for bad. But at some point, a pointed question: How long before it’s bad enough to do something about it?

The Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons have been in various stages of rebuilds for about four years....

If you happen to coach in Detroit right now, you can’t win. Also, you can’t lose. Because the Wings and Tigers are in full teardowns, Jeff Blashill and Ron Gardenhire get some slack, despite historically awful records....

The Wings have the worst record in the NHL, by far, and will have the best shot at the No. 1 pick. Blashill is 148-178-51 in five seasons, incredibly the third-longest-tenured coach in the ax-happy NHL. He’s on the thinnest ice, pun intended, although Steve Yzerman has strongly supported him. It’s not just that the Wings’ well-compensated veterans — Frans Nielsen, Jimmy Howard, Mike Green, Justin Abdelkader, etc. — have failed, it’s that the touted young players — Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou — have either been hurt or stagnant. Gerard Gallant, recently fired by Las Vegas, could be the next guy in charge, whenever that is....

The lack of urgency to fire coaches here is not about management being lazy, detached or cheap (although we can revisit those charges). It’s about owners — Chris Ilitch, Tom Gores, Martha Ford — who have mapped out plans of patience and aren’t ready to blow their covers with showy firings....

Would Scotty Bowman or Mike Babcock win more games with these Wings, who have lots of injuries, no defensemen and no goaltending? Not before their heads exploded (literally!)....

’m not letting the coaches off the hook. (Yes you are!) (No I’m not!) I’m suggesting talent acquisition is a much larger issue than talent development....

That’s where Blashill, 46, has to show more, and you wonder if a few young players have stopped getting the message. It wouldn’t be a surprise, considering they’ve heard his voice since he coached some of them in Grand Rapids.


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Would Scotty Bowman or Mike Babcock win more games with these Wings, who have lots of injuries, no defensemen and no goaltending?

Yes, without a doubt.

Posted by Ventr on 01/20/20 at 04:39 AM ET


Blashill, is supposed to be way above average in player development. Not feeling it, but I will give him the benefit of doubt in some instances. Now consistency is the problem consistently. Teams are always going to have an off night now and then, because of travel etc. Jeff has had over four years to correct bad habits and hasn’t:
Offensively: passing pucks to covered players resulting in turnovers, dumpins that result in turnovers, immediate return to defensive zone conceding the first 100 +/- feet of ice more often than not.
Defensively, CANNOT win puck battles along the boards and not sure where to play the puck in tightly contested areas of the ice. Screen their own goaltender rather than forechecking point players and keeping them from freely moving.
I’m sorry but when the team makes the same mistakes using the same bad habits that points to the coach. This team has no offense because this team doesn’t play offensive hockey. It’s not compete level it’s being lost out there, unsure of what to do or go. Jeff is learning himself at the expense of the team. There’s roughly 30 games left to let a new coach familiarize himself with the players and rest of coaching staff rather than start a season and to iron this out before you can start to coach.

Posted by stateofmifan on 01/20/20 at 09:11 AM ET


Blashill is so great at development that he’s managed to develop one forward line and one defenseman in four+ years.

Posted by BaromirBragr on 01/20/20 at 09:39 AM ET


I’m more willing to believe Stevie Y than a talking head in the media.  Blame Kenny’s awesome drafts of the last 5 years where half the first rounds picks were suspect or haven’t panned out so far (too many injuries). Late rounds gems? Hronek and Bert are the only players since 13 that have played and made an impact on the team who were not first round picks. AA was in 12. Sheahan was in 10. Tatar and Jensen were in 09. That’s it for draft picks out of the last decade that have really helped there team.That is some terrible drafting. The team is buried under terrible contracts to borderline players. I find it hard to blame Blashill for the losing.
He’s supposed to be a great developer of young players. Just because everyone doesn’t develop doesn’t mean it’s Blashill’s fault. It could have been spotty drafting. And the fact not everyone turns out like you hope. I’m going to blame terrible drafting and hideous roster management for the losing.

Posted by teldar on 01/20/20 at 10:09 AM ET


This roster is so thin.

Even after the positive additions Yzerman has been able to make
at low risk/cost.

The fact Blashill has lasted as long as he has says some things:

Sure, one could be unwarranted loyalty
Another could be a team obviously nowhere close to the playoffs where with a better team, a change to an underperforming team might help them salvage their season.

But while it’s mindnumbing to us and I’m sure to some degree the players it’s not like he’s inspired a mutiny. This team with the injuries added is that weak at every position. He seems to mix being fairly blunt with trying to stay positive (e.g. showing players what they did right). That one reason I don’t mind him finishing the season (but not being given the option for next season. Unless Yzerman thinks he’ll miss his guy if he waits.

Imagine what roster we’d have had without Fabbri or Nemeth or even Filppula.

The drafting in the past several seasons has been disappointing. And I’m not trying to be unrealistic and think we’d have somehow drafted every gem picked later if we’d had a different GM and head of scouting, etc.

Blashill got hired at about the worst point in a team’s cycle a coach can be.
He’s not made magic out of it but he hasn’t had much to work with.

Posted by lefty.30 on 01/20/20 at 10:31 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Would Scotty Bowman or Mike Babcock win more games with these Wings, who have lots of injuries, no defensemen and no goaltending?

Yes, without a doubt.

Posted by Ventr on 01/20/20 at 03:39 AM ET

Yes but is making that change to win 2 or 3 more games a season worth it?  Because that’s the margin we’re talking here.

Because if you think Bowman or Babcock is winning 10 more games or something like that with this group…. you haven’t been paying very close attention.

Babcock in particular…  look at what he had in Toronto, and he still could only just make the playoffs and not go anywhere with the team.

Posted by Primis on 01/20/20 at 10:56 AM ET


There’s a difference between being a losing team and being ... whatever it is the Red Wings are this year.

Even after four years, I don’t think anyone should have necessarily expected Blashill to guide this team back into the playoffs. The roster is just too terrible. Cleansing the bad contracts and getting fresh talent in the system and up to speed takes time.

I even would have been fine with the Red Wings taking a small step backward from the 74 points they racked up last year. Last year’s squad had Nyquist and Jensen for most of the year—two legitimately solid NHLers—plus Kronwall and Vanek in supporting roles. The vets who more or less replaced them (Bowey, Nemeth, Erne, Filppula) were a clearly a downgrade, so it was going to take some amount of improvement from the young players in the system just to get this team back to where it was last year.

Friends, the Wings are on pace for 47 points—rounded up. If that holds it would be the worst finish in the entire shootout era (2005-06 season) and the second worst since the NHL started handing out points for losing in OT (1999-00 Thrashers, which was their inaugural season). If you exclude expansion teams within a couple years of their first season of play, I think you could make a solid case that the 2019-20 Wings are the worst team in 30 years, since the 1989-90 Nordiques.

I know there have been injuries but there is no reason the team should be THIS bad. Assuming the second worst team in the NHL right now (Los Angeles) continues to pick up points at a 0.82 ppg pace, the Wings would have to win 10 games in a row just to catch up with them. For second last place. Out of 31 teams.

I don’t think Blashill is a particularly good coach, and my expectations for him were not high. But despite that he has still failed to meet them by a wide margin. He’s four seasons in and the team has gone from being a “bottom-5” NHL team to being a “worst non-expansion team in three decades.” A lot of that is on him.

Probably no coach in the NHL could make this team a winner but under Blashill it’s an embarrassment.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/20/20 at 11:22 AM ET


This team is an embarrassment
Again. Look at the draft history under Holland and think about how thin the entire organization is. Half the people on the internet seen to think this roster is great and they should be in the playoffs, almost almost as many think it’s all on coaching. I think it’s in roster mismanagement leaving the thinnest organization in professional sports. And if you don’t want to go by the draft, remember kicking tires and that trades are hard. Then remember signing Abdelkader for 6 years and Nielsen for 5. Helm’s deal that so many complained about looks inspired compared to most of what Holland did his last 5 years.

Posted by teldar on 01/20/20 at 12:17 PM ET


Posted by teldar on 01/20/20 at 11:17 AM ET

I’m ... not disagreeing with you?

No one is arguing that Holland’s roster management wasn’t abysmal. It was. The roster is a mess and that’s 100% on him. I have been critical of Holland’s management of the team since well before the playoff streak ended.

I am arguing that the coaching has also been abysmal. That is why this team is historically awful, rather than just being regular awful.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/20/20 at 12:22 PM ET

Primis's avatar

But despite that he has still failed to meet them by a wide margin. He’s four seasons in and the team has gone from being a “bottom-5” NHL team to being a “worst non-expansion team in three decades.” A lot of that is on him.

Probably no coach in the NHL could make this team a winner but under Blashill it’s an embarrassment.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/20/20 at 10:22 AM ET

Do you honestly look at the roster and think that THAT group of guys should be performing better?  When your #2 and #3 C’s are Filppula and Nielsen?  With this defense corps?  With a goalie group that is slowly slipping in caliber?

You yourself noted that the team lost guys last year that contributed some, and that they’ve basically been replaced with sheer dead weight, your own word was “downgrade”.  So if we’re admitting the team wasn’t good last year, and that they then downgraded in personnel, how can there be any other result than this abysmal-ness?

I just don’t get what people are expecting here.  The team was fairly bad.  The team got worse this offseason.  And now suddenly people are wondering how they can be THIS bad.


Posted by Primis on 01/20/20 at 01:08 PM ET


I remember watching Cooper coach circles around his friend in Blashills first year playoffs.  The next year (going from memory,  and I’m old…and cranky), we had an okay start but then floundered into Thanksgiving and on into December.  As far back as that I doubted this guy and recall posting as much here. 

My frustration is that the signs have been here from the beginning and yet he is still here, still defended, despite what is going on with the wings now. 

Following that abysmal fall noted above the team rallied and had a good spring.  I fear now that he’ll get the group playing well, back to preseason expectations and be applauded as if he shouldn’t have been there all along, and I’ll need to see the doc about my blood pressure.

It was hinted at in that first playoff series and has been made clear since and that is what is so frustrating!

Posted by Ventr on 01/20/20 at 01:24 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

No depth and missing AA/MO
Cap space is going to be a problem for awhile
Blash, might as well wait until the season, but anytime is fine with me .  Missing out on Gallant might hurt.
Too thin and old Goalies, Howard has to go at the end of the season.
Team is struggling but Vets sure aren’t helping

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 01/20/20 at 01:25 PM ET


Posted by Primis on 01/20/20 at 12:08 PM ET

I think what people are failing to grasp is the scale of how bad the Red Wings are.

Pretty much any team that misses the playoffs by more than a handful of points is branded “awful” and pretty much no further consideration is given. But there’s a huge difference between a team that, say, puts up 65-70 points and is realistically out of the playoff race by Thanksgiving and one that doesn’t even crack 50.

The Red Wings’ roster is arguably worse this year than last year, but they are tracking to be 27 points worse in the standings. For context, a 27-point drop in performance would have been enough to knock last year’s second-place team (Calgary) all the way to 25th place in the league. The Red Wings are on track to lose that much ground just in going from fourth last to last.

Here’s more. Since the start of the shootout era (2005-06), NHL teams have played a combined 392 82-game seasons over the course of 13 years (not including the lockout-shortened 2012-13 seasons). Barring a geopolitical cataclysm, there will be 423 such seasons by the end of this year.

The 2019-20 Red Wings are on pace for:

47 points (423rd out of 423)
172 goals scored (418th out of 423)
314 goals allowed (423rd out of 423)
-142 goal differential (423rd out of 423, with the next worst being “only” -116)

To answer your question, I expected this team to finish in the bottom 3 of the NHL with around 70ish points, give or take. They were fairly bad last year, and I expected them to be slightly worse. Instead they are almost unfathomably worse.

The roster is bad. Nielsen-Filppula is a bad 2-3 center combo. The defense is bad with only Hronek and arguably Green being much better than replacement level. The goaltending was maybe supposed to be the “bright” spot, and it was projecting to only be around average.

That’s a recipe for a very bad season, sure, but is it a recipe for the worst season by any team in at least 15 years? I would say no, not close.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/20/20 at 01:31 PM ET


For reference, BetOnline’s over/under for the Red Wings was 75.5 points this season, which was still third last in the NHL (ahead of LA and Ottawa). And Dom Luszcyszyn of the Athletic predicted ~74 points, with 45 percent chance of the team finishing between 70 and 80.

The Red Wings are on track to miss those projectsion by almost 30 points. Which is mind boggling consider how bad they already were.

Both of those projections, in fact, were shared on KK this offseason, with the general consensus of the comments being that the numbers were probably about right.

I actually predicted they would be worse than what the experts said, and lo and behold they are still way worse than even that.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/20/20 at 01:45 PM ET


I guess my problem is i look at the roster and i assume historical terribleness. Biega, Bowey, Big E half the defense for tonight. Nemeth on the top pair. LGD is second line center. AA injured, Mantha injured, anyone decent and under 20 being sheltered in GR. Got two forth liners on the second line. Got a rookie on the first line because he’s the team’s only goal scorer. People are clamoring for career AHLers to come up and play because it can’t be worse. I’m sure it can actually get worse. Just wait.

Posted by teldar on 01/20/20 at 01:51 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Wondering what the expectations were coming into this season? I’ve been looking forward to this season playing out, being done, and being a quasi turning point upwards after, because of all the cap dollars that fall off the books, another solid draft with a high pick, Howard Green and Daley played well and returned something useful at the deadline, and our prospects would get a solid year of AHL development, create battles next year in camp for spots.

Figured we would improve, maybe have hope at times, but ultimately still be a bottom feeding team.  And then a few things happened that made this by far the worst team on the ice this year. 

1) DDK goes down and he was counted on to be the #1 Dman, whether he is or is not a #1 is fine, but for a team without much, that was a huge blow.

2) Same with Mantha, the expectation for me anyway was that this was his breakout year, and that’s just a huge 20 minute star hole in our lineup.

3) I thought AA would have himself a $$$ year, he’s in a contract year, and its unbelievable how terrible he has looked.

4)  Howard, who had played well for us over his career, is toast.  I get he’s not been consistently good every year, and at times with the Mrazek battle never just took the job, but was anyone expecting this? He’s been historically bad, like a diving board land on the old age rake to the face bad.

So you start out low bar, hope to see some improvement, and then 4 guys your really counting on, on an already thin roster, are either hurt, or just flat out suck this year, with most of the prospects still needing another solid AHL year, not sure what coach gets more out of this.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from YzerGod's pixie dust fueled bandwagon on 01/20/20 at 02:28 PM ET


Posted by teldar on 01/20/20 at 12:51 PM ET

Basically something largely resembling this exact team recorded 74 points last year.

Up front you take away Nyquist (biggest loss by far) and Vanek and replace them with Filppula and Erne, who were not expected to set the world on fire by any means but should have at least been competent third liners. On paper that’s a downgrade, but maybe not a massive one, and the hope was that steps forward for Bertuzzi and Mantha (and a jump to the NHL from Zadina) would make up the gap.

On D, again, going from Jensen + Kronwall to Nemeth + Bowey is a downgrade on paper, but not a huge one. Nemeth isn’t that far behind Jensen, and while Bowey is awful, Kronwall was pretty close to washed himself—too slow to play good D and only fourth among the team’s defenders in points per game (behind Green, Hronek, and DDK). Again, it was reasonable to hope that Hronek would take a step forward (and play the full season), Cholo would take a step forward and play most or all of the season, Green might stay relatively healthy, and the unit—while still bad overall—wouldn’t really be all that much worse than last year, and maybe even better.

Of course, the goalies are the same two guys we had last year.

Again, I thought the projections in the middle-70s were probably a bit on the optimistic side, but I don’t think they were outrageous products of wishful thinking either.

And yes, injuries have made a difference, especially the one to Mantha. But not enough to explain this deep of a plummet.

I dunno. I get what y’all are saying, and maybe in the end we’re not all that far apart. All I’m saying is that I’m not willing to let Blashill off the hook just because he got dealt a crap hand. He’s still played it badly. Even if he’s only 20 percent responsible for this debacle, even if he’s far less responsible for this mess than Holland is (which I agree with), he’s still a bad coach who has taken a bad situation and made it worse.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/20/20 at 03:07 PM ET


murray, all you have to do is look at octobers record of 4-9, with several 5-1 losses, a pace to get to 50 points for the season, to realize your 3 players missing time isn’t what makes this team pathetically bad.  Yes this team is bad, probably a 65-75 point team, but not 47 points bad.
Either the system, or “Process” is faulty, or the players have started to tune out the coach.
Before we give the coach credit for our young players developing, maybe we out to give credit to the internal drive of the Larkins, and Bertuzzis on the team to grab their cheese.

Posted by akwingsfan on 01/20/20 at 03:22 PM ET


I can understand the thoughts the Winds would be comparable to last year. I think i underestimated the difference there could be between Kronner and anyone else. The difference was larger. Add in DDK being out, Mantha being out, AA being out, abysmal play from Howard Kronwall’s replacement and Nielsen, and we get what we got. A load of steaming hot poo.

Imagine if the top line was what it is and Mantha and Smith or Abdelkader or Helm were being centered by AA. You’d have a second line with some grit and skill that could hurt teams. Instead most of the year we’ve gotten Fil. Or LGD. Or Nielsen. No offense to those guys, they’re much better than i could ever be, but they’re not second line material on a decent team.

Posted by teldar on 01/20/20 at 03:36 PM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

Thank you for the heads up there Wojo. Since you decide to finally call the Wings bad then it really must be true. Where have you been for the last 3 plus years? This sh!tshow didn’t just fall out of the sky today. It’s gotten to the point of being totally unwatchable though…...

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 01/20/20 at 08:16 PM ET


Strong chance this gets worse before it gets better, this team is probably going to start next year with a defense something like:

And while Ericsson (and Daley & Green) are coming off the books, we’re still paying Nielsen & Abby for 2-3 more years respectively (the latter when Larkin will be UFA, btw)

Rock Bottom this year is the *best case* for the rebuild timeline

Posted by EthrDemon on 01/21/20 at 01:59 AM ET

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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com