Blashill to return, keep Wings 'moving in right direction'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jeff Blashill is returning for a fourth season as head coach of the Red Wings.

General manager Ken Holland announced the decision to, not surprisingly, bring back Blashill during Tuesday’s locker clean-out day.

Jeff Blashill will be back for his fourth season as the Red Wings' head coach.

“This team played hard to the finish,” said Holland, who has continually supported his head coach despite two years of missing the playoffs. “He did a good job with the young players in Grand Rapids when he was the coach there, and this year, you look at the impact of (Tyler) Bertuzzi and (Dylan) Larkin and the development and the importance they had on the team; they improved as players.”

Blashill, 44, coached the Red Wings into the playoffs his first season as head coach, but the team has missed the playoffs the last two years after 25 consecutive trips into the playoffs.

Blashill has a 104-105-37 record in three seasons with the Red Wings.

Holland, who said “he’s big on experience," feels the experience Blashill has gained at the NHL level will make him a better coach.

“I just had a conversation in there (the locker room) with one of the young players who had played in the American League last year, and he was telling me (what) his perception of the NHL in the American League, and now when he got to the NHL and played here, it’s totally different,” Holland said. “What a different animal the NHL is than even in the American League, and this is a guy who had success at the American League level.

“In Jeff’s case, you’re in the American League and you had success, when you’re a fan out there and you see the success at that level … the NHL is a whole different ballgame.

“So in Jeff’s case, he has three years of experience, and some of those ideas he might have had when he became an NHL head coach with the success he had in the American League and he had in college, this is a totally different set of circumstances.

“This team played hard until the end. Even when we lost nine (games) in a row, we lost a lot of games by one goal and played hard. The young kids that were brought up, they improved, and he played them and they were important and got minutes.

“The experience of three years in the NHL, and he’s been a guy who has had success along the way, is the reason for him to continue to be head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.”

More: Ken Holland on Wings’ ‘old’ defense, free agency, more

Captain Henrik Zetterberg also saw maturity and growth from Blashill this season, from when Blashill started with the Red Wings.

“Blash has done a good job. It’s not an easy spot, or easy job to take over,” Zetterberg said. “But he’s been doing a good job with the kids and the older guys. It’s a good locker room — we’re winning together and dealing with the ups and down together.

“I have nothing bad to say about him.

“Coming up from Grand Rapids, as a coach, it’s a big step to come into this locker room and dealing with everything that comes with it. He was more mature (from his first season) and calm.”

Blashill is hopeful he has grown and improved as a head coach at the NHL level.

“I hope I’ve gotten better,” Blashill said. “One thing I’ve tried to do my whole life is self-reflect and look in the mirror and say ‘you have to be better, how do you get better?'

“I’ve always encouraged a free communication in terms of what others think, so I know the areas that I’d like to improve upon. I would also say at any job, the more time you’re in it, the more comfortable you are. It’s easier to be good at it this year than in year one, it’s just easier because of experience.”

Blashill didn’t worry about the speculation swirling whether he would be retained, or not.

“I’m certainly glad to be coach of the Detroit Red Wings; it’s a job I love,” Blashill said. “I’m excited about trying to keep this thing moving in the right direction, to put this franchise where everybody wants it. I’m excited about the opportunity, and about continuing that job.

“I do the very best job I can every day, I don’t ever try to worry about things out of my control. My focus has been on trying to help this team be the very best I can be and individually the best they can be.

“I said it late in the year, over the course of the final two months (when the Red Wings were slipping out of playoff contention), it was making sure we’re building toward the future and my focus has been on that.”

Blashill has been named head coach of Team USA at the world championships for a second consecutive year next month in Denmark.