When a team falls apart, it can be hard to put the blame on a few names. Hockey is a team sport. Unless a player (or coach) is especially egregious, the blame can be placed on a variety of circumstances. In the case of the 2020-21 Detroit Red Wings, their underwhelming season comes from poor lineup decisions, monstrously terrible special teams play, and a regression that took out the entire team’s offence. Last week, I covered the most valuable players on the Red Wings roster. Now, we’ll cover the opposite.
Detroit Red Wings 2020-21 Least Valuable Players
The 2020-21 Red Wings finish their season with a 19-27-19 record at 27th place overall. With the addition of the Seattle Kraken to the draft, they’ll have the sixth-best odds to land the first-overall pick. How did they get here? What could have been done to help (or hurt) their place in the standings? Three large factors play a key role in this. These failures come from within the coaching staff and from an effort on the players’ parts. There is no specific person to blame. Rather, the blame falls squarely on a series of factors. These are just a few of the least valuable players of the 2020-21 Red Wings:
1. The Power Play
At just 11.41%, the Red Wings’ power play was the second-worst in the NHL. This is the second season in a row that Detroit has ranked among the bottom-five worst power plays in the league. Coincidentally, this is the third season in a row that Dan Bylsma has handled the power play. The failure to ice even a semi-competent power-play unit falls squarely on his shoulders. While it’s up to the players to finish the job, power plays simply aren’t efficient if the system is run poorly. Bylsma’s abysmal power play system has shown its true colours yet again this season.
2. The Puzzling Lineup Decisions
One of the most infuriating parts of the season was watching the Blashill Line Blender make its return. On nights where younger players should have received opportunities, Blashill would send out veterans like Frans Nielsen and Valtteri Filppula. Prospects need chances to thrive. Without those opportunities available, they can overripen and stagnate. Blashill’s continuous deployment of Filppula over, say, Givani Smith helped to contribute to the team’s lack of toughness against teams like the Florida Panthers. While Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina obtained chances to earn full-time roster roles, it never ceased to frustrate fans to see a lineup that yet again decided to ice Marc Staal over Dennis Cholowski or Gustav Lindstrom.
3. A Slew of Underperforming Players
Captain Dylan Larkin led all the Red Wings in advanced stats and possession metrics but ended the season with just 23 points in 44 games. He wasn’t the only one who suffered from offensive regression. In fact, the team itself ranked 30th of 31 NHL teams in offensive ability. This underwhelming offence led to otherwise solid players falling flat on expectations. The highest-scoring player on the Red Wings’ roster, Filip Hronek, had just 26 points. He is the lowest scoring leader of any team in the expansion era, just two points behind Shea Weber‘s 2013-14 season.