Of Red Wings-related note this morning:
1. I’ve tried to avoid reading lists of power rankings this season as the Wings’ record among their competitors, both real and perceived, has been ugly this season, and TSN’s Scott Cullen wraps up his regular-season power rankings with a big thud for his 29th-place-ranked Wings:
Since the trade deadline the Red Wings compiled a record of 4-13-3, worst in the NHL. The 72 points they earned on the season were their lowest in a full season since they had 70 in 1989-90.
2. In case you had any doubt (though I’m sure the wailing and gnashing of teeth will be intense today), Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff wants you to know that the inevitable is inevitable:
Tuesday, when the Wings gather for the team photo and locker clean out day, expect that the club will announce that [Red Wings coach Jeff] Blashill is returning to finish out the fourth season of the contract he signed to coach Detroit in 2015.
3. Somehow, I get the feeling that the Associated Press’s Larry Lage is preparing us for an eventuality (one I would not be happy with), and given Ken Holland’s record with insubordination via contract negotiations…I’d give this 50-50 odds:
ONE TO WATCH: Andreas Athanasiou, a 23-year-old center, was inconsistent after holding out for a bigger contract last fall. He is a restricted free agent, eligible for arbitration, and may want to be on the move.
Does he want to play for the Red Wings next season?
“I want to be an NHL player,” he said. “I want to be in this league. I’ve been very happy to wear a Red Wings wheel, but it’s a business so we’ll see what happens.”
4. One way or another, the Red Wings’ pre-locker-room-clean-out-day comments were most intriguing in regards to the team’s style of play. According to the players and coach, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, the Wings are going to continue to transition to a faster-paced game–and by faster-paced, they mean a break-neck paced “speed game” (which also happens to be fun to watch):
“New Jersey was the best hardest forechecking team we probably saw and they don’t have big, strong forwards, they have quickness,” Blashill said. “It’s become a real forechecking, hounding league in a lot of ways.”
Blashill didn’t feel the Red Wings were fast enough to play against last season. But that’s changed this season.
“We tried to implement a much faster transition game, to try to make use of one of our assets — our speed,” Blashill said. “I don’t think enough coaches said last year we were fast. (But) I don’t know if there’s a coach now that doesn’t say our team is fast.
“Part of “fast” is playing fast, and we’ve learned to play way faster, and so part of that is willing to put pucks behind people and go forecheck a little bit more. We’ve done a pretty good job of that, trying to use our quickness, and that’s a positive.”
A young player like Bertuzzi, who seems well suited for this type of style, also gives the organization hope going forward.
“He’s a real good piece to a winning hockey team,” Blashill said. “He plays winning hockey. He’s extremely smart defensively, he has a very strong stick, he’s very strong on the puck. He’s hard and smart and has good skill and that’s a rare combination.”
Stylistically, I still believe in puck possession hockey over dump-and-chase, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and today’s team speed is all about getting through the neutral zone fast and setting up on the cycle.
MLive’s Ansar Khan happens to have posted a video in which Blashill spoke about the Wings’ harder-charging style, prior to Saturday’s game, and I’m just guessing that Khan will post a 6 AM-published column regarding this topic:
9. NBC’s worst nightmare: The Winnipeg Jets have one of the NHL’s best rosters — and one of North America’s smallest television markets.
Can you imagine seeing the Jets winning the Western Conference and reaching The Finals?
They have the talent to do so, no doubt about it. But what would that do to NBC’s ratings?
Update: Yes, MLive’s Ansar Khan penned an article about the Wings’ transition to a faster game:
They still want to possess the puck, but when they don’t have it, they need to be more aggressive, coach Jeff Blashill said.
“More forechecking and a faster transition game,” Blashill said. “I think in the past it was bring it back and loop and do some things and it was awesome for a while. Some of that was with the number of Russian players that were here, that’s how they’d grown up playing. Some of that is the league was much different, there were huge disparities in talent from one team to the next.
“It’s not that way anymore. We’ve tried to implement a much faster transition game to try to make use of what I think is one of our best assets — our speed. I didn’t think enough coaches said to me last year that our team was fast. I don’t know if there’s a coach I talk to now that doesn’t say our team’s fast. I think we’ve learned to play way faster, and part of that is being willing to put pucks behind people and go forecheck a little bit more. This certainly wasn’t noted as a forechecking team in the past. I think everybody in here knows that you have to be that if you want to win.”