Jeff Blashill is encouraged about the improvements of the Red Wings' young players this season. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Detroit – Ken Holland will return as Detroit Red Wings general manager next season, a source familiar with the organization’s plans told The Detroit News on Tuesday.
The source requested anonymity because the team has not made a formal announcement regarding its leadership plans for next season.
Head coach Jeff Blashill is likely to return to the Red Wings, the source told The News.
Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., was asked about Holland at Tigers spring training earlier this month, but Ilitch would comment only about the Tigers, not the Red Wings.
Holland, 62, has been the Red Wings’ general manager since 1997 and helped the franchise win Stanley Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2008.
There has been ample speculation about his future this season because of the team’s performance – they have 65 points, third-worst in the Eastern Conference – and because Holland is in the final year of his contract.
But with Holland collecting numerous draft picks, and a rebuilding plan seemingly in place, ownership is optimistic Holland is the man to preside over the next several years, the source told The News.
Holland would not comment about his future on Tuesday.
“By the end of the season there will be a decision,” Holland said.
Blashill, in the third year of his four-year contract, said he’d love the opportunity to continue working on the development of the Red Wings players.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt, first of all, Dylan Larkin is a big piece of the future we have,” said Blashill, noting some of the major developments. “He went from a winger who was playing OK most of last year to a taking steps of being a premier two-way center. That’s a huge piece.
“Tyler Bertuzzi has taken steps to being a real good top-six complementary type of winger. Anthony Mantha has taken steps to be more of an everyday worker, which will result in more goals.
“My focus all the time is building this thing to get back to where the fan base wants to be. The realization is it’s not an easy thing, and it takes a growth process of some young people in our organization, young people on our team right now, and a lot of that has been in the works the last couple of years.
“It’s been a process of changing of how we play the game of hockey to suit more the style of the young guys we have coming up.
“This has been a process for two years and I look forward to continuing it.”
The Wings will not be in the playoffs for the second consecutive season after making the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons.
The Red Wings end the regular season April 7 against the New York Islanders.
In the hunt
The Red Wings will probably find out this week if they’ll be able to sign undrafted college free agent Daniel Brickley, a defenseman from Minnesota State.
According to TSN analyst Bob McKenzie, the Red Wings, Los Angeles and San Jose are expected to visit with Brickley, 22, with two other teams also being considered.
Brickley (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) had 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 40 games this past season.
Considered to be an elite offensive defenseman, Brickley, 22, is projected to walk onto an NHL roster immediately, and could eventually become a top-four defenseman.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has been nominated by the Detroit chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Kronwall, 37, has played the last several years over a chronic knee injury and tried stem cell procedures last summer in an effort to alleviate the pain.
Kronwall passed the 800 games played mark this season and expects to return next season to complete the final year in his contract.