Analysis: Wings need changes, but firing Jeff Blashill isn't one of them (yet)
Detroit — Sure enough, the emails came in full force, offering suggestions, opinions, and sure-fire trade proposals that will cure the Red Wings in no time flat.
That sort of deluge usually occurs after a bad loss. Funny how that works.
And the way these last two losses occurred, well, plenty of Wings fans had ways for their team to get better.
Fans are frustrated. Angry, too, although they knew this season was going to be a difficult one. It’s just that watching the last two games in particular — losing by a combined score of 15-5 — has spooked even the most die-hard Red Wings fan.
Is it really going to be this bad, this season?
After losing to Montreal on Monday, the Red Wings have opened this regular season with six consecutive defeats — the longest skid to start a season since 1985-86, when they were winless in their first nine games.
The NHL record, incidentally, is 11. The way the Wings are playing — and considering the quality of opponents ahead — oh, yes, they can reach 11.
Just watch the second period of these last two games. Or don’t. It was 40 minutes of hell — not the "60 minutes of hell" the Wings were supposed to give opponents this season.
Some changes need to be made. Some don’t — stability being the best course of action.
But things have to turn around for the Wings to get out of this current mess, and that’s what it is — a mess.
The Wings haven’t been mired in this kind of muck for a long, long time.
Here are key changes the Wings have to make — or not — to get out of this funk:
Keep Jeff Blashill
For now, anyway. But change could still happen, and should if these lackluster losses continue.
This situation closely resembles Brad Ausmus’ final season with the Tigers.
Firing Ausmus during the middle of his last season in Detroit in 2017 wasn’t going to improve the Tigers at that point. It would have been meaningless, benefiting no one, or anything. The season already was over.
Blashill is in the final year of his contract. Firing Blashill and moving assistant Dan Bylsma into the head coach’s spot isn’t going to turn this team around. And, really, in terms of this season, Blashill hasn’t had close to a full roster, particularly on defense, where injuries have completely ravaged the position, forcing Blashill to use four rookies.
Opposing teams, as expected, have figured out their weaknesses, and are exposing those defensemen fast and furiously.
But here’s where it gets dicey for Blashill: More of these lopsided losses, maybe setting the record for season-opening losses, young players not getting particularly better — those are things the organization may not look the other way on, even in a rebuild.
Nobody likes to be embarrassed night after night, even in a rebuild.
Yes, it’s all about player development right now, and as long as the games are close and you lose, so much the better, because you want the best odds possible to draft Jack Hughes (as a multitude of e-mailers are apt to point out).
But nobody likes to be embarrassed. The last two games have been embarrassing.
Keep Michael Rasmussen
This one, there are no asterisks.
Scratching Rasmussen out of the lineup Monday was a mild surprise. He hadn’t been outstanding, but then again, very few Wings players have been.
Sending Rasmussen back to juniors — when he plays 10 games, it burns a year of his contract, so a decision will be made soon — wouldn’t seem to benefit his development. Carve out playing time on this NHL roster. Rasmussen will get comfortable in his surroundings eventually with regular ice time.
There have been flashes of what Rasmussen can ultimately do. Though, admittedly, not nearly as many as most would have expected.
Use the Feb. 25 trade deadline
Here’s where change could happen in a big and positive way.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard and forward Gustav Nyquist are prospective unrestricted free agents and could be valuable rentals for playoff teams.
Defenseman Trevor Daley, with next year left on his contract, could be a valuable trade target once his upper-body injury heals. With Christoffer Ehn’s emergence, Luke Glendening also would seemingly be on the market. Thomas Vanek should attract his usual middle-round draft pick at the deadline.
Use this deadline to clear as much of the roster as possible, and keep accumulating draft picks, and clearing spots for young players. It will help the future.
This roster is likely to be slightly more competitive by the season debuts of Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) and Mike Green (virus), and Daley (upper body) returning to health, along with Danny DeKeyser (hand).
Those players aren’t necessarily difference-makers. That is known by Wings fans. But they have the experience and veteran poise the youngsters playing back there these days don’t have.
They give the Wings a chance.
This start to the season, the Wings haven’t had much of one.
And finally, stay patient
The schedule eases entering November, with a five-game homestand against mostly teams that also are rebuilding
The Wings aren't playing well, but playing the New York Rangers or Edmonton is a lot easier than facing Boston, Toronto and an improved Montreal team.
The road ahead
A look at the Red Wings' next six games:
►Thursday, at Tampa Bay: The Red Wings have lost 11 consecutive games to the Lightning. You have the sense 12 is going to happen.
►Saturday, at Florida: The Panthers were the only other NHL team Tuesday without a victory — but they had played only three games. With G Roberto Luongo injured (lower body), the Wings have a chance to win here.
►Monday, Carolina: The Wings return home to face an improved, but inexperienced, Hurricanes team.
►Oct. 26, Winnipeg: The Stanley Cup-contending Jets visit Little Caesars Arena. Not a good match-up for the Wings.
►Oct. 28, Dallas: Containing the Stars’ deep well of offensive threats will be difficult.
►Oct. 30, at Columbus: If the Wings were to break the record, it would be against the Blue Jackets, who began the losing streak defeating the Wings in OT in the opener.