Red Wings Organization Grade: Yzerman and Blashill

Steve Yzerman. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Steve Yzerman. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Jeff Blashill

On the Ice

The Red Wings were better in 2021 than they were last year. This is especially true on the defensive side of the ice. The 2019-20 team finished dead last in defense, with 3.73 average goals against per game; this year, Detroit finished 20th in the league with an average of exactly 3 goals against per game.

Blashill’s system was devoted entirely to improving the team defensively, he often waxed poetically about the importance of playing a tight, mistake free game. And the results on the ice proved that it worked.

Although the defense was heavily improved, the offense remained miserable. Detroit’s 2.23 average goals per game was only better than the Anaheim Ducks during the season. Blashill’s defense-first scheme created on offensive black hole, and many of Detroit’s top-scoring players regressed statistically.

The special teams struggled again this year – especially the power play, which finished at 11.4 percent, second worst in the NHL.  Dan Bylsma took the fall for the man-advantage failures at the end of the season, but the head coach still deserves some blame for how the power play was run. With a late-season push, the penalty kill actually improved all the way to 22nd in the league, impressive for a team that was bottom-three in that category for a majority of the year.

B. Expectations are important to weigh-in when discussing the results of a hockey team. In a vacuum, the Red Wings objective had a terrible year. But considering the injuries at the end of the season, the covid scare through the first two weeks, last years absolute failure of a squad and the overall makeup of the roster, the results on the ice were not bad at all. The team finished with nine more points this year in 15 less games, and took an absolute leap offensively. But the team didn’t really exceed expectations: of course they were better than they dumpster fire that was the 2019-20 team. They still were terrible offensively and they were still garbage on the power play. Blashill certainly deserves credit for a mightily improved blue line, which was league average in 5v5 hockey, but he must also take partial blame for the offensive black hole and special team failures. To be fair to Blashill, the team lacks a chunk of scoring talent: it’s hard to do something with nothing.. . Detroit Red Wings. RESULTS ON THE ICE