The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Florida Panthers by a score of 4-1 on Sunday. This was the Red Wings first win in eight games. However, the bigger story from the game was that star forward Anthony Mantha was a healthy scratch for the game.
Mantha Scratched as He Begins to Heat Up
The choice to bench Anthony Mantha was certainly a surprise to many However, Mantha has been criticized in the past by some for what they see as him not playing hard. The 6’5″ 234-pound right-winger from Quebec is so strong that he can make the game look so easy.
Mantha is not the only player who has not played well in the early part of the 2020 NHL season for the Red Wings. Should Jeff Blashill consider benching Frans Nielsen for a lack of effort, for example? Why was Mantha singled out? It is not as though he has not had statistical success recently. Mantha has scored three goals and added one assist in his last five games played.
Blashill did not comment further as to why he benched Mantha in his post-game press conference. He only said that Mantha is fully healthy and that he decided to go with the group he went with. It remains to be seen as to whether or not he will play in the second game against the Panthers.
Mantha signed a four-year contract for $22.8 million in November of last year. Given that the Red Wings are not expected to compete for playoff spots any time soon, would it be better for the team to look for a trade partner if Mantha has told Red Wings management that he wants to be traded. It is unlikely for Steve Yzerman to divulge this information because he never tells the media and fans anything about his plans for the team. We are left to speculate in the meantime.
It would be much easier for an NHL team to replace their coach than to replace a player such as Mantha. Blashill is in the first year of a two-year contract extension that he signed in April of 2019. If had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, would he still be the head coach of the Red Wings?
One Red Wing that certainly took this “coaching tactic” to heart, if you believe that hockey axiom, was Givani Smith. Smith had a Gordie Howe hat trick. This unofficial statistic is when one player records a goal, assist, and a fight in one game. Howe, known as Mr. Hockey, only had two of these during his hall of fame career.
Whether or not Red Wings coach Blashill scratched Mantha on purpose to light a fire under the team is up for discussion. This tactic has been used by coaches throughout history to get their teams going. One current example of this is how the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, John Tortorella, has treated Patrik Laine, whom the Blue Jackets just acquired for Pierre-Luc Dubois.
It appeared that Laine was benched by Tortorella for poor defensive play that led to the Carolina Hurricanes tying their game. Tortorella told the media after the game that “It wasn’t because of the missed assignment,” he told reporters. “There’s a number of things that come into play with that, and that will stay in the locker room.”
What’s Next for the Red Wings?
Blashill’s system of low-event hockey is a hindrance to the growth of the young players on the roster. General manager Yzerman brought in free agents to the team during the offseason. At the time, Yzerman said that he did this to keep games closer. During the 2019-2020 season, the Red Wings lost too many games in a blowout. An astounding -122 goal differential meant that the team was eliminated from playoff contention before Thanksgiving in 2019.
It might be time for the Red Wings to make a change at head coach before bad habits learned under Blashill become permanent.
main image credit