Hockey

Jeff Blashill’s Questionable Roster Decisions During his Tenure

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Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond are two bright spots on the current Detroit Red Wings roster. These two players will be part of the Red Wings’ core when it comes time for the team to get back to the playoffs and contend for a Stanley Cup. The issue is that beyond Seider there is not much defensive talent on the Red Wings’ current roster. It could be argued that the newly acquired Red Wing Jake Walman is the best defenseman on the left side of the Red Wings’ defensive corps.

Raymond was not supposed to make the Red Wings roster out of training camp. As the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft, Raymond was the highest draft pick made by the Red Wings since Martin Lapointe was drafted 10th overall in the 1991 NHL entry draft. The 20-year-old was one of the two candidates for the Calder Trophy for the Red Wings during this season along with Seider.

This has certainly worked out so far as general manager Steve Yzerman shocked the hockey world by drafting Seider sixth overall in 2019. Seider was the first selection by Yzerman as general manager of the Red Wings. Seider was projected to be drafted as a number two defenseman. Perhaps this will be the case when the Red Wings are one day contending for Stanley Cups. But for now, the 20-year-old is the best defenseman on the Red Wings roster.

The 20-year-old was one of the Red Wings rookies that were a candidate for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year in the NHL. Seider is the current front runner to win this award at this time. Blashill has had to lean on the 20-year-old from Zell, Germany not only because of the talent that Seider possesses but also out of necessity. What remains to be seen is which defender pairs best with Seider.

For every Seider and Raymond that have shone brightly during their rookie seasons, there have been Red Wings players that have not panned out. This is not unique to the Red Wings. What is more worrisome is when a player’s development is hindered by the organization’s handling of him. The prime example of this when it comes to the Red Wings in recent history is Evgeny Svechnikov. Svechnikov was drafted by the Red Wings 19th overall in the 2015 NHL entry draft.

Injuries hampered Svechnikov’s ability to get into the lineup regularly. In 2018 he underwent successful ACL reconstruction. In 2021, the year that I wrote needed to be a big year for Svechnikov, he left a scrimmage after being hit. This was the first time the coaching staff had gotten to see Svechnikov after the COVID-19 pause. He was a young player at 24-years-old that needed to prove that he could overcome the injuries that had hampered his development.

Prior to that Svechnikov played five seasons for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Red Wings. From 2016 to 2021 he would be sent back and forth from Grand Rapids to Detroit. Beyond this Svechnikov was healthy-scratched in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. This would have been the first time the Red Wings’ Svechnikov would have gotten to play against his brother Andrei Svechnikov.

The two brothers had family fly in from their homeland of Russia to watch the game. While this is not the end of the world it shows a pattern of Blashill and perhaps the upper management of the team that the players are expendable. This could lead to free agents not wanting to sign with the Red Wings because they have talked to former players on the roster. Raymond has played the majority of the time during this season with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.

Filip Hronek is a defenseman that the Red Wings thought would stabilize the left side of their defensive corps. Hronek was drafted by the Red Wings 53rd overall in the second round of the 2016 NHL draft. Unfortunately, this has not happened. I’ve previously written that Hronek has not panned out as a defenseman for the Red Wings. This has shaped the draft strategy for Yzerman in the time that he has been in charge of the draft strategy.

The Red Wings have the ninth-best odds to get the first overall pick in the 2022 NHL entry draft. Shane Wright will be the prospect that is most likely to be drafted number one overall. Wright has scored 28 goals and added 56 assists in 58 games played for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League during their 2021-22 season. As an elite playmaker with a sniper’s release, Wright could slide right into the Red Wings lineup and immediately improve the roster.

It is a testament to the draft strategy of Yzerman that both Seider and Raymond are near the top of the league in rookie scoring. Seider was not supposed to be drafted where he was and Raymond was not a lock to make the Red Wings roster out of training camp. If not for Jakub Vrana injuring his shoulder 10 minutes into his training camp debut, Raymond would not have made the team.

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