Pondering Red Wings’ offseason after letting Jeff Blashill go

Pondering Red Wings' offseason after letting Jeff Blashill go
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Jeff Blashill’s lengthy run as Detroit Red Wings head coach is over.

A day after their regular season ended, the Red Wings announced that they allowed Blashill’s contract to expire. They did the same with assistant coach Doug Houda and goalie coach Jeff Salajko.

After seven seasons, Jeff Blashill no longer Red Wings head coach

For those not paying attention to the Red Wings on a daily basis, it might be surprising to realize just how long Jeff Blashill has been their head coach.

Blashill, a Detroit native, took over before the 2015-16 season. That ended up being the only year the Red Wings made the playoffs under Blashill, where they won a single postseason game.

Since that short run, the Red Wings have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. Blashill finishes with a head coaching record of 204-261-72, which translates to a .447 points percentage in 537 games.

When one looks back at his work, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg debate.

[What went wrong (and right) for the Red Wings in 2021-22]

On one hand, seven seasons represents a long time to prove yourself. He didn’t receive a short leash.

On the other hand, the Red Wings rarely (if ever) really furnished Blashill with the type of talent that would inspire lofty aspirations. He took over a team in its last gasps of former glory, and then sorted through the rubble of a lengthy rebuild.

Frankly, it was a little surprising that he remained through the 2021-22 season, though.

New head coach part of a series of big questions for the Red Wings

So, where do the Red Wings go from here?

It’s crucial for Steve Yzerman & Co. to make the right calls this offseason. That starts with finding the right head coach, but also charting a wise path in free agency (and possibly through trades).

Along with another high first-rounder, the Red Wings hold an extra second-round pick, two extra fourth-round picks, and an additional seventh. They also possess an extra second-round pick for 2023.

Should they use some of those futures to try to add more NHL-ready talent?

[Nicklas Lidstrom is around to help Yzerman make such key decisions]

With almost $35 million in cap space, the Red Wings could accelerate their move upward if they want to. That said, there’s a risk in trying to reach too far. For all we know, it might be wiser for the Red Wings to continue their incremental approach, and maybe use their cap space to absorb short, problem contracts.

(Maybe extract some real value to take on the last year of James van Riemsdyk‘s contract, or that of Evgenii Dadonov, for example?)

Of course, a more incremental approach might make the Red Wings a less desirable destination for a more established head coach.

It’s a lot to think about, yet it makes perfect sense for the Red Wings to move on from Jeff Blashill as head coach.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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