Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill continues to waste little time retooling his coaching staff as the team announced the hiring of Jeff Salajko as the new goaltending coach on Tuesday.
Salajko, 41, spent the past three seasons as the goaltending development coach for Grand Rapids, where he also worked alongside Blashill for two years.
Under Salajko, the Griffins — who were ousted in second round of the American Hockey League playoffs on Monday — had one of the top goaltending tandems in the AHL this season, with goalies Tom McCollum and Jared Coreau both finishing in the top 10 in goals-against average and save percentage.
“I think firsthand knowledge would be the No. 1 thing,” Blashill said of what made Salajko the front-runner for the job. “The last year I certainly continued to stay in touch with him and maintain a relationship. I saw firsthand his ability to work with Petr Mrazek, his ability to help Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum get better. He's got a relationship with Jimmy Howard so for me, it's everything that I was looking for and thought it was a real good fit.”
Salajko worked extensively with Mrazek in Grand Rapids and attended several Red Wings practice during the season. Blashill said Salajko's familiarity with the organization and the team's goalies will allow for a smoother transition.
“I believe it allows him to hit the ground running with his knowledge of the goaltenders and, vice versa, their knowledge of his teaching,” Blashill said. “Obviously Sal has been to our training camps and been on the ice working with all of our goalies.”
Blashill said one of the things that drew him to promote Salajko was his teaching methods.
“He has similar beliefs I do in terms of how to train goaltenders and their habits and using simple drills to create great habits in which the goaltender then can go play without thinking and rely on those habits,” Blashill said. “It's an approach that Jeff takes … and I think it's the most successful way to help goaltenders get better.”
Blashill added Salajko will provide plans for Mrazek, who got off to a hot start before faltering down the stretch this season, and Howard, who could be traded in offseason, to work on certain things over the summer.
“Hopefully they come back into camp better goaltenders than when they left,” Blashill said.
Salajko replaces longtime goaltending coach Jim Bedard, who was with the Red Wings the last 18 seasons but was let go after his contract wasn't renewed.
The move comes a week after Blashill hired former Red Wing Doug Houda as an assistant coach, who will work with the defensemen and oversee the team's penalty kill. That leaves Blashill with one vacancy to fill as he continues to search for a bench assistant who will preside over the forwards and team's power play.
“We're still going through the discovery process, meaning we're reaching out to people,” Blashill said. “We'll bring people in for interviews, we'll go through that process here. As I said earlier, I have no timeline for it other than I want to find the right person and hopefully the best person to maximize our coaching staff.”