Detroit – The Detroit Red Wings’ victory Friday night over the Toronto Maple Leafs helped.
There was a sense of relief around the Red Wings’ locker room the next day – a few light-hearted moments, some laughs.
It also eased the angst of some Red Wings fans clamoring for changes in the front office or coaching staff.
With the victory Friday, the Wings completed a stretch of 13 of 15 games at Little Caesars Arena with a 4-5-6 record. It was a less than desirable result for a team that acknowledged earlier that the stretch could define their season.
The Red Wings have made things very difficult on themselves. They’re going to have to make up points while playing a difficult schedule, with plenty of tough road games, especially in February and March.
With that in mind, and as the Wings head out on a four-game stretch on the road, let’s go to the mailbag.
Question. The only way that Jeff Blashill can wake this club up is to bench Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg is no Stevie Yzerman that can actually carry a team and right now this team needs carrying. It seems that the young guys aren’t getting the same message. If Zetterberg, who is slumping bad, keeps getting his minutes, why shouldn’t the kids? – George Kaleniecki (via email).
Answer. Zetterberg played better Friday, with two key assists in the victory over Toronto.
But Zetterberg isn’t having a good season from an offensive production standpoint (five goals, 15 assists). His numbers are down, and there are no signs he’s going to break out in a big way.
But Zetterberg isn’t going to be benched. There are too many other areas in which Zetterberg can make an impact, including his role as captain and the leadership he continues to provide.
But I will say this, George. If there was any doubt Zetterberg will retire before the end of his contract in 2020-21, it’s diminishing by the day.
Zetterberg may want to play, the will could be there. But age (37) and a lot of years competing will end a brilliant career.
Q. Since I communicated with you some time ago, things have hit rock bottom for the Red Wings. They are falling apart. In our last communication I mentioned it could be time for a coaching change. It seems like the players have tuned him out. A 10-1 rout to Montreal is shameful. What do you think the problem is and what corrections need to take place to get the team on the right track again? Bill Blake, Arizona (via email).
A. Bill, I was interested, also, as to whether this team was beginning to tune Blashill out after the Montreal debacle.
But the way they’ve played since that embarrassment, even with the mounting overtime losses, was a testament to how hard they’re still playing.
I don’t see Blashill getting replaced during the season. I don’t think this team will bottom out and will, instead, remain competitive.
After the season? We’ll see what happens with both Blashill and general manager Ken Holland. If the Wings fail to make the playoffs, which is how they’re trending, that would be the time to make changes.
Q. LCA is half-empty for every game. The arena may be a sellout; however, the ticket holders are not attending. It's embarrassing to watch on TV and see so many empty seats in a magnificent venue. I'm also not buying the premise that most in attendance are walking the concourse. Gus P., Clearwater, Fla., former season-ticket holder (via email).
A. It has been mystifying, Gus, no doubt about it. For whatever reason, people aren’t showing up on a regular basis.
They all aren’t on the concourse. They’re just not. There are a lot more empty seats than there are fans on the concourses and in the sports bars.
I’m beginning to sense this roster just doesn’t excite the casual sports fan. It’s a decent team, but far from excellent. No real standout, no must-see players. And Detroit certainly is not a championship contender.
It’s a wonderful hockey arena, among the finest in North America. But it’s not enough to entice fans on a regular basis.