CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield penned an article wondering whether the latest benching of Andreas Athanasiou. Burtchifeld wonders aloud whether the relationship between coach Jeff Blashill and Athanasiou, who has handled his benchings with team-first answers, is already beyond repair:
“There’s other guys that some nights their minutes are diminished a little bit and we don’t talk tons about it,” said Blashill, “… but obviously because of the profile of Double-A we talk lots about it.”
The erratic nature of things fuels further frustration, as does this: Athanasiou’s pending free agency. The Red Wings might consider him a key piece of their future, but is the feeling mutual? Athanasiou’s numbers the past two seasons have no doubt been suppressed by inconsistent playing time. He might decide this summer — or maybe he already has — that he’d be better off in a new environment under a different coach.
The Red Wings’ fledgling rebuild is desperate for players of Athanasiou’s ilk. His talent is that of a 30-plus goal scorer. But the strained relationship between the two sides doesn’t bode well for a long-term partnership. Even in the short term, Athanasiou’s status as a restricted free agent matters little if he already has designs of leaving. A change in the GM’s office, where Holland’s contract expires after this season, and/or behind the bench, where Blashill is under contract through next season, may be the only way to salvage the situation.
For now, Athanasiou will “get back on the horse,” as Blashill said Wednesday, and put Tuesday behind him. The coach believes he’s played well over the past month, even if points have been hard to come by and ice time has been as volatile as ever. Athanasiou was bumped back up to the second line with Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar Wednesday at practice, and Blashill plans to call his number often Thursday night.
“He’ll get another chance against Tampa to have a big impact,” said Blashill.
I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t think that Blashill’s relationship with Athanasiou is unusual given Athanasiou’s potential…
And I don’t believe that Athanasiou’s talent, nor his pre-season, end-the-hold-out discussions with Ken Holland or Jeff Blashill have somehow earned him deference from the coach. I fall in the, “If you perform well, you’ll play more” side of the argument as to whether ice time merits performance or performance merits ice time. As such, and as far as I’m concerned, AA’s inconsistencies in terms of his performance merit the occasional kick in the ass by planting his ass on the bench.
Mind you, I wish the entire team was treated in a more egalitarian manner, but given that Athanasiou tends to respond to these benchings with bursts of performance, I can’t suggest that Blashill is doing something that doesn’t work in #72’s case.