Here at The4thLinePodcast.com, we like a good arbitrary scale to give context to how we’re feeling about something. Now that we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the regular season, I wanted share my thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings’ rebuild and in particular, head coach Jeff Blashill.
To this end, I give you the Maxner – Bowman scale. It’s difficult to say who the worst ever coach was. The Red Wings, at times, have scraped the bottom of the proverbial barrel, but I’ve gone with Wayne Maxner. Maxner was behind the bench in the early 1980s, and his team was by no means packed with superstars, but Maxner lost way more of his 129 games than he should have. At the other end of the scale is Scotty Bowman, who needs no introduction.
After 20 games, the Red Wings are 23rd in the league and, despite having more points than New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Vegas, are still far from the end of Rebuild Road.
Where does Blashill sit on the Maxner – Bowman scale? Well, right now he’s about slap-bang in the middle. It isn’t trendy or cool to be a fan of Blashill, but he’s probably the best man for the job right now. At least there’s nobody else available who could do the team justice.
After three full seasons, Blash is 104-105-37, and he isn’t likely to take the team to its 12th Stanley Cup. But he’s doing well with the young talent, a lot of whom he coached in the AHL. Dylan Larkin, Gustav Nyquist and Andreas Athanasiou are now well established in the Little Caesars’ Arena, while Tyler Bertuzzi, Dennis Cholowski and Michael Rasmussen are showing early promise.
The Red Wings team of Mike Babcock is no more, and Detroit Fans will always be grateful for his coaching. But that success bubble has burst, as they regularly do, and times have very much changed.
It’s often said that you have to ‘trust the process’, ‘build for the future’ and ‘never eat yellow snow’, and it’s safe to say that the Red Wings are doing this. I’m not entirely confident where Ken Holland is taking the team, but the trades and free agency players that are coming in seem to be better built to support short term, while developing long term players from within.
That’s something we haven’t always seen. Under Babcock, young players spent an eternity down in the AHL before getting a shot at the Big Team, but that ideology left with Babcock, and the youth (partly through necessity) is making up a larger contingent of the team.
Maxner’s only stint as an NHL coach was with Detroit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Blashill was the same. Not because the two are comparable, but because of the type of role Blashill does. I fully expect him to stay in the organisation once his replacement is inevitably found. Until that day, the rebuild is still ongoing, and Jeff is firmly in the middle of the Maxner – Bowman scale.