Wings mailbag: Blashill’s future, Kronwall hangs tough

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

So who are these Red Wings, and what can people expect the rest of the season?

That’s been a confounding question up to his point of the season. It’s a been a streaky team that can look like a playoff team one night — and a team that exactly resembles last season’s playoff-missing group the next game.

Head coach Jeff Blashill has the Red Wings off to an 8-7-1 start and, for the moment, in the hunt for a playoff spot early in the season.

But there could be a clearer picture of what this team is capable of over the next month or so.

The Red Wings have 13 of their next 15 games at Little Caesars Arena, where the new arena still feels foreign as the team only has played five home games.

Trying to establish a home-ice advantage — and actually winning some of those games — could go a long way toward the Red Wings angling for a playoff spot later in the season.

The Red Wings weren’t a very good home team a season ago, and it contributed to them missing the playoffs.

The way the standings are shaping up, the Red Wings need to win at LCA to just stay even with everyone.

Let’s take a look at some questions from readers during the past couple weeks:

■ Question: Since the Ilitch empire is committed to utilizing minor league (maybe an insult to minor leagues) coaches, and it finally saw (Brad) Ausmus wander out of town, after squandering whatever assets the Tigers had, now we can just watch (Jeff) Blashill drive this baby into the ground (already there?). (Pavel) Datsyuk gone, (Henrik) Zetterberg staying on out of some misguided sense of loyalty to an ownership that simply doesn’t care…bring back Harkness — @singerlee

■ Answer: When the Red Wings were mired in a six-game winless streak last month, I felt there was a situation developing where Blashill could be axed in time if things hadn’t improved.

But things have straightened out, the team is playing considerably better, and I feel Blashill may have escaped the worst.

At this point, unless the season goes completely off the rails — and this team has enough talent where that’s not likely to happen — Blashill is going to remain the head coach.

Young players are beginning to develop, the team is playing hard, and a team that wasn’t expected to sniff the playoffs is contending to make them.

At the end of the season, though, if there’s no playoffs ... well, all bets are off.

Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (left) has two assists in 13 games this season, and is a plus-2.

■ Q. Any other GM with half a brain would have put Niklas Kronwall on waivers. But (general manager Ken) Holland isn’t that smart, we’ve found out. — Bob Stockel Jr. (via email)

■ A. Is Niklas Kronwall what he was five years ago, or eight seasons ago? No.

But he’s been able to play regularly this season — hasn’t been the weakest Red Wings defenseman by any stretch — and has been play to play close to 20 minutes per night.

Will Kronwall be able to play these minutes and look as good as he is right now, in February or March?

Remains to be seen.

Scott Wilson arrived in Detroit following a trade last month with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

■ Q. Scott Wilson had 8 goals 18 assists, played on the second-line in the Stanley Cup finals, (and) he is going to thrive in Detroit. He was top 5 player in the league points to minutes played.

He has always flown under the radar due to his size as a youth, his skills will impress, and he plays physical. — Peter Rooney (via email)

■ A. The offense hasn’t come through yet, but I agree Wilson could be a useful player on this roster.

He’s had several quality chances, he’s a quick, speedy player who can disrupt opposing teams, and Blashill feels Wilson will be capable of playing anywhere from the first to fourth line.

And, you’re right, Peter. Wilson had some very good moments in Pittsburgh, and was a contributing part of two Stanley Cup teams.

That says something.


■ Q. Ted, I would appreciate any information on parking for a Red Wing game. I used to take the People Mover over to Joe Lewis from Greektown but that won’t work anymore.

I’ve seen the prices for parking near the arena. Yikes! I’m sure you have media parking, but whatever you can suggest would be greatly appreciated! — John Nicoloff (via email)

■ A. John, there were many fears about parking, but I haven’t heard any horror stories at all.

You’re going to pay a little more than you were used to at JLA, if you want to park closer to LCA.

But if you stay on Cass, or around Masonic Temple, you can park for between $10-$20 and the walk isn’t bad at all.

The impressive thing is the sheer amount of parking spaces available. There were whispers about how it would be the exact opposite, that parking spots were going to be tight, but there are many different options, in varying price ranges, and it’s just one more plus in what is an impressive addition to downtown Detroit.

■ Q. Just wondering why Luke Witkowski is not getting any ice time? — @toddbriggs

■ A. The addition of Scott Wilson in the Riley Sheahan trade, plus the return of Andreas Athanasiou from his contract stalemate, have solidified the 12 forwards on the roster, and Witkowski and David Booth are the extra-depth forwards.

Witkowski has been practicing on defense and could see time there if injuries being to pile up.

But right now, Witkowski is simply getting squeezed out of the lineup. If Blashill feels there’s a need to bring a physical presence lineup in a given game, Witkowski’s chances of playing improve considerably.