ESPN writer: Wings deserve ‘A’ for start of season

The Detroit News

The first third of Jeff Blashill’s first season as the Red Wings coach?

So far, so very good.

That’s according to ESPN senior writer Craig Custance, who released his grades through one-third of the season for every Atlantic Division team (pay site).

The Red Wings are one of four in the 16-team division to earn an A from Custance.

Custance credits the Red Wings’ ability to play through injuries to Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Green and Brad Richards, among others, as well as the stellar play of rookie Dylan Larkin, who “forced his way onto the team to start the season and hasn’t looked back.”

He credits Blashill, too.

“Jeff Blashill has proven to be a fantastic follow-up to Mike Babcock, rewarding GM Ken Holland’s faith in him,” Custance wrote. “The questions surrounding the Detroit goaltending have completely disappeared, and it’s become a position of strength for the Red Wings, with Petr Mrazek sporting a .925 save percentage in 17 starts and Jimmy Howard right behind him at .921 in 14 starts.”

Also earning A grades are the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, coached by Babcock, received a C-plus, as did the Buffalo Sabres, led by Grand Haven’s Dan Bylsma in his first season.