TAYLOR, Mich. – Whether it was in juniors, at college, or in the minors, Jeff Blashill has always used small sample sizes to evaluate team performance and success rates.
He’s instituting the same appraisal style in his new role as the Red Wings’ head coach.
“It’s just the way for me to divide the season up,” Blashill said following Tuesday's morning practice at the Taylor Sportsplex. “I think it’s a manageable number of games. I think 10 games can kind of get away with you so I go with five.”
The season is early, but the Wings have already checked off the first five-game portion of their schedule, winning three and losing the last two games to Carolina and Montreal.
The goal, Blashill said, is to get at least six out of the available 10 points in each of the 16 segments in the season. Achieving their goal would give the Red Wings 96 points in the Eastern Conference standings.
“You basically evaluate if you’re a playoff team in that five segment and are you a playoff team for the year,” Blashill said. “We want six out of every 10 points in every five game segments. The last segment is a seven game segment and it’s hopefully preparing us for the playoffs.”
Though the season is less than two weeks old, the Wings are aware of things they need to chance before little issues escalate into big problems that could cost them a playoff berth in six months.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg said he welcomes the new assessment method.
“It’s good,” he said. “The season’s so long but it started five games ago. You need to know where you’re at. As soon as you’re too far back it’s tough to get those points. It’s nice to have those segments and now look forward to the next one.”
The Wings begin their second segment this week with a three-game road trip to western Canada, which starts Wednesday at Edmonton.
While the Wings reached the six-point plateau in the first segment, there are things – like shot differential, secondary scoring and power play – they need to work on in the upcoming segment.
“Within the process are their areas you can improve on,” Blashill said. “We told the team yesterday if we have the exact same process this five-game segment we’re probably not a playoff team so our process has to get better and that’s what we’ve tried to work on these last two days.”
This week’s trip to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, especially this early in the season, can help the Red Wings from a camaraderie standpoint, which in turn can be a positive thing in the standings.
“I think every year at the start of the season it’s good to get together,” Zetterberg said. “Nothing more than a road trip will get you together. You spend so much time with each other. Playing some good hockey, having some good practices, and enjoy yourself.”
Blashill agreed with the captain.
“I think anytime you get a chance to spend time together as a team (it’s good),” Blashill said. “We haven’t had tons of that it’s been play go overnight and play. I think just the guys being able to bond is a no brainer.”
As for the goalies on this trip, Blashill plans to use Petr Mrazek twice, starting him Wednesday against the Oilers and Saturday against the Canucks. Jimmy Howard will face the Flames on Friday.