Wings snap losing streak, but is Blashill's job safe?
Gustav Nyquist scores the winning goal against Florida goalie James Reimer during a shootout. The Red Wings won, 3-2.
Gustav Nyquist likely cooled off the area around where Red Wing which coach Jeff Blashill sits ... at least temporarily, anyway.
Nyquist scored the only goal of a shootout to give Detroit a 3-2 road win over the host Florida Panthers on Saturday night, snapping the Wings' six-game losing streak (0-5-1).
The Red Wings are still only 5-6-1 (11 points) and out of the playoffs. They are fourth in the Atlantic Division, three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the division's final playoff spot and one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card playoff spot.
But at least Detroit has won its last game and the losing streak is over.
However, you still have to wonder if Blashill will be the man behind the Wings bench much longer.
Yes, Detroit is paying for the 25-season playoff run with a roster devoid of any real impact players besides 37-year-old captain Henrik Zetterberg and goalie Jimmy Howard. Its weak defensive corps is without its most talented member – Danny Dekeyser, who is injured.
But you still have to wonder what general manager Ken Holland really thinks of the situation after watching Blashill-led teams barely make the playoffs and lose in the first round in 2015-16, miss the playoffs last season and struggle this season after a 4-1-0 start.
We are not accustomed to observing Red Wings coaches on the hot seat during the regular season. That’s the result of following a team that reaches the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons, winning four Stanley Cups and making six trips to the Stanley Cup final and eight visits to the conference final.
But the last time any of that happened was 2009 – a loss in the Cup final.
If Blashill doesn't survive the season, it will be the first time in over 30 years that the Red Wings will have to make a coaching change during the regular season. The last time was 1985-86, when Harry Neale was replaced by Brad Park.
Jacques Demers was hired to begin the 1986-87 season and coached four full seasons. The late Bryan Murray was hired next, and he coached three full seasons, while also serving as the team's general manager.
And the subject of coaches getting fired period hasn't been broached that often, either.
Yes, Murray was relieved of the coaching duties in 1993 – he remained the GM for one more season – and Dave Lewis got the axe in 2005. But that was because their teams did not produce in the playoffs. The Murray- and Lewis-led Wings were among the NHL's best during the regular season.
Murray was replaced behind the bench by Scotty Bowman, who, after losing in the first round in 1994, led Detroit to three Stanley Cups and four Cup final appearances from 1995-2002. Mike Babcock, currently the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, replaced Lewis in 2005, and after a first-round knockout in the 2006 playoffs, led the Red Wings to the Western Conference final, a Stanley Cup victory and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final the following three seasons.
Blashill was hired as the team's coach after Babcock left for Toronto when his contract expired after the 2014-15 season.
Will Blashill continue the three decades of in-season stability behind the Wings bench? Or will he be a reminder of the days of Neale and Park, when the Wings were the NHL's worst?