Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill talks about recognizing the goalie interference rule. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — Coming out of the All-Star break, with his team 2-5-1 over the previous three weeks, Jeff Blashill said the Red Wings could make a run.
The Wings had managed one winning streak longer than two games all season.
In his third season as coach, with his team tacking away from the playoffs for a second straight campaign, Blashill hoped to change course from the decline that began before Mike Babcock chose to coach the Maple Leafs.
Regardless of the trends, Blashill hoped to spark improvement.
Whether he ignited something or not, it seems evident midway through another disappointing season that Blashill has not “lost the room.”
The Red Wings are suddenly playing better, discouraging the desires of those who invoke hope of drafting celebrated defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.
But Blashill is adamant in not seeing development that way. GM Ken Holland never has.
They think the Wings will rebuild the roster through the draft, and develop by winning.
The coach, who said he believes the Wings can go on a run and who found considerable support for the theory from the men in the room over the next three games, thinks that growth and victories are synonymous.
“I’ve always been a believer that development and winning go hand-in-hand,” Blashill said.
“The best way to increase your ceiling is to increase your individual players. So, to me, they’re the same.”
Blashill’s tenure will be judged on whether the Red Wings improve.
“I think some people think development is just go play, have whoever just go play,” he said. “That is 100 percent bull.
“Part of learning is having to sit, sometimes. Part of learning is getting an understanding of being rewarded for efforts, and things like that.
“My job is to have the individual players on the team develop through the course of the year so that we’re better at the end of the year, individually, than we were at the beginning of the year,” he said.
“Now, sometimes that means somebody sits. Sometimes that means we show him video. Sometimes that means we show him in front of the guys. Sometimes that means I yell at you. All those things change the habit of a player.”
Putting it together
After a season-and-a-half of mostly disappointing performance, the Red Wings responded to the call last week.
Only a questionable ruling from the NHL Situation Room on the Panthers’ winning goal in the dwindling moments of the third period Saturday prevented them from seizing at least five of the first six points available after Blashill said, yes, we can.
The trend for two seasons now suggests the coming games against the Bruins, Islanders, Capitals and Ducks will provide some sobering realization.
This roster seems incapable of extending success.
Blashill remains adamantly hopeful, and the Red Wings seemed to respond.
Skeptics fervently hope that by playing poorly enough through April to tempt the odds in the lottery, the Wings could get Dahlin to fall to them.
Mindful of the offensively-talented Swede’s promise and other strong prospects in the 2018 draft, the Red Wings’ managers and coaches see developmental value in winning.
This certainly is no time to stop seeking improvement.
The Red Wings have strung together nine of some of their better periods of the season. Their improved performance in pace, shots and defensemen’s offense affords some of the best hopes of the season.
“I don’t care what anybody else thinks,” Blashill said. “I care what the group in this room thinks.
“And, in the end, it doesn’t matter what any of us think: We have a chance to prove our worth.”
A playoff berth remains a long shot, with odds determined by simple mathematics applied to NHL rules that award two points for a win and one point for a whole lot of losses.
Development remains key.
That principle dictates Joe Hicketts should have been in the lineup from the start, Tyler Bertuzzi quicker after his early-season injury, and Filip Hronek perhaps soon. The 20-year-old offensive defensemen is suddenly hot for Grand Rapids in his first, full professional season.
It suggests Michael Rasmussen, the 2017 first-round pick, should play from the start in October after an impressive training camp this season. After successful wrist surgery he returned in major junior hockey for Tri-City, of the Western Hockey League.
It suggests an advantage in even greater roster movement this offseason than last.
That is a sound strategy for rebuilding. Playing poorly now for a closer seat at the roulette table is not.
Valuable development is occurring. Blashill clearly has fostered some of it. If the Red Wings improve over the last 31 games, more will occur.
It would also reduce the chances of winning the Dahlin sweepstakes.
But other young prospects are available, and the Wings have lots of redeveloping to do, especially after next season or the one after that when Henrik Zetterberg retires.
Winning is never a bad idea.
More time on ice in the NHL for the Red Wings prospects is a good one, too.