Detroit – The trial run at the world championships was so good, why not try it in the NHL?
Jeff Blashill and Dan Bylsma were successful together in Denmark, coaching Team USA to a bronze medal.
So when Blashill, who was Team USA’s head coach, needed an assistant on his Red Wings staff, he believed Bylsma – who was on the Team USA staff – was a perfect fit.
Friday, the Red Wings officially named Bylsma an assistant on Blashill’s coaching staff.
“The experience in Denmark gave me a first-hand knowledge of Dan as a coach, specifically as an assistant coach, and he did an excellent job over there,” Blashill said. “Our interaction was excellent, and he really, at that point, went to the top of my list for assistant coaches.
“There’s not an interview you could have that would be anywhere near the level of importance compared to working with somebody in the setting we worked at the world championships for three and a half weeks. That would supersede any interview, to get a feel for what I am as a coach, what Dan is as a coach, and we both felt real comfortable in our relationship that way.”
The nearly month-long tournament was also where Bylsma felt comfortable working with Blashill, and wanted to join the Wings.
“I wanted to get into a situation I felt comfortable with,” said Bylsma, who replaces John Torchetti, who wasn’t retained after the season. “With the staff, the coaches, and I find that in Detroit, found that with Jeff at the world championship.
“That experience we had, the 4-5 weeks coaching together, really made me want to come to Detroit and to get on Jeff Blashill’s coaching staff.”
Bylsma, 47, a Grand Haven native, has been a head coach in Pittsburgh (2008-14) – where he coached the Penguins to a Stanley Cup victory over the Red Wings in 2009 – and the Buffalo Sabres (2015-17).
Bylsma has a 320-190-55 record in 565 career games as an NHL head coach, and was named winner of the Jack Adams Award (coach of the year) in 2011.
Bylsma was excited about the potential of returning to his home state.
“I’ve lived two lives in this aspect: The first 20 years of my life I was a Detroit Red Wings fan and for the next half of my life, I may not have been,” Bylsma said. “But I’ve always had in the back of my mind that coming back home and working for the Red Wings organization is something that I wanted to do and certainly this is an opportunity and an aspect that Jeff afforded me to come back home, so to speak.”
Bylsma was in charge of the power play and forwards at the world championships, and Blashill will put Bylsma in charge of those areas with the Wings.
The Wings’ power play ranked 24th last season.
“He’s got a very organized plan as to how he believes a power play should execute, how he believes a power play should be run, having a multiple number of breakouts to utilize in a game if needed, if you’re struggling,” Blashill said.
Blashill also likes Bylsma’s ability to manufacture plays off face-offs.
“Dan’s an excellent face-off play guy; I know this first-hand,” Blashill said. “His teams have always been good on the face-offs and having a good plan of the face-offs and on the power play.
“Honestly, that’s something I haven’t been good enough. He can really add to our power play.”
Bylsma wants the Wings to be aggressive and disruptive on the power play.
“Shot and attacking mindset and mentality is a huge indicator of power-play success,” Bylsma said. “Teams that have those aspects to their power play, they have success. Once we evaluate who is going to be on the power play, who is going to be put there, you’ll see a certain kind of mentality.
“But it’ll always end up with shots and activity around the net and chaos around the net. Attacking and converging is really a key essence of having success on the power play.”