By: Will Burchfield
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill understands the expectations for his team may be lower than they’ve been in seasons past. He doesn’t really care.
“We don’t worry lots about expectations to be honest with you. Whatever the expectations are, they are. From an internal standpoint, we want to win the Stanley Cup,” Blashill told 97.1 The Ticket on Monday morning.
“I’ve never sat in front of a team and not have my end goal be to raise the trophy at the end of the year,” he added. “Now from here, that’s the last time we talk about that. Let’s focus on the things it takes to be good.”
The Wings are a different looking team than they were a year ago. Most of that change occurred via free agency, obstructing the majority of the organization’s top prospects from earning a spot on the NHL roster.
“If we thought they were better than the guys we have, they’d be on the team, flat-out, 100 percent,” Blashill said. “I think Ken Holland’s 100 percent committed to that.
“We’re trying to win tonight. If we thought any of those guys were going to help us win more than the guys we got, we’d play them.”
When the preseason came to a close, Anthony Mantha, 22, and Tyler Bertuzzi, 21, were both sent down to Grand Rapids. 24-year-old Teemu Pulkinnen, meanwhile, was put on waivers. And though the Wings kept Ryan Sproul, 23, he didn’t play in either of their first two games.
“It’s always great to want what you don’t know,” said Blashill. “That’s a common thing in humans is to want what you don’t know, because you haven’t seen any of the downsides of them. None of them are perfect.
“We have a bunch of good young players. If I felt they were ready to be elite in the NHL, they’d be in the NHL.”
While some fans point to 20-year-old Dylan Larkin as proof that the organization should give more young players a shot, Blashill resisted that notion.
“Dylan Larkin’s here for a reason, because he earned it by his play. He was elite when he came into the American League in the playoffs, his impact in the game was unbelievable,” Blashill explained. “It wasn’t about hoping, it wasn’t about expectations, it was his impact was unbelievable and his impact in the preseason was unbelievable so he’s here.
“If we felt today that those other guys could have the same impact, they’d be on the team. But right now we think, with most guys, it’s way more of a process.”