Red Wings' development helps land coach Jeff Blashill two-year contract extension
Detroit — The Red Wings are bringing back coach Jeff Blashill.
The team made the anticipated announcement official Tuesday morning at Little Caesars Arena before the morning skate, announcing Blashill has agreed to a two-year contract extension.
Blashill, 45, is in the final year of a four-year contract.
“Jeff has done a very good job considering the circumstances of a rebuild,” general manager Ken Holland said. “On a night-to-night basis, our team has been very competitive.
“When I look at the development of the young players on our team as we’ve gone through the rebuild, they’ve all improved, all gotten better.
“When I hired Jeff as a head coach, he was the second-youngest coach in the NHL. He’s been behind the bench now for four years and he’s learned a lot and he’s going to put the experience to good use as we go forward.”
The Wings will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year this season — the team made the playoffs in Blashill’s first season — but the organization has been pleased with the development of young players and feel Blashill has the team on the right path.
“I believe our arc is beginning to head in the right direction,” Blashill said. “With the development of a number of a young players, I believe we’re starting to head into the direction we all want to. We have a lot of work to do, and I look forward to diving into that work.
“You have to get over that hump. You can’t just talk about close games and one-goal losses. How do you get over that hump? Part of it is a maturation process and learning how to win, and it’s something a number of our young guys have have to go through.”
Blashill feels the retirement of captain Henrik Zetterberg at the start of training camp quickened the learning curve for many of the Wings’ young core.
“It ripped the Band-aid off and all the responsibility, a lot of the responsibility, was put on those young guys who we believe are going to lead us to a better future,” Blashill said.
Players such as Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi have progressed noticeably this season under Blashill’s guidance, and the team currently has won seven of its last eight games.
“I’m very happy we’re competing right to the finish line, it’s a credit to Jeff and the coaches, and to the veterans in there,” Holland said. “And the young players in there. They’re wanting to make a name for themselves and as we head into (the offseason). A lot of guys who are in there (locker room) will be feeling (good) about themselves and can’t wait to get to September and get going again.
“It bodes well as we had into the summer time. We know we have to make some moves this summer to try and make the team a little better and competitive.
“But certainly we’ve had a lot of competitive signs over the last three weeks.”
Blashill coached many of those players while head coach of the Wings’ minor league affiliate in Grand Rapids from 2012-15, winning the Calder Cup in 2013.
Blashill has a 135-143-47 record with the Red Wings.
Blashill is expected to be named head coach of Team USA at the world championships for the third consecutive year shortly after the NHL regular season ends.
“Being involved with Team USA, when you go to the world championships for six weeks and you coach NHL players from other teams, all those experiences add up,” Holland said. “Jeff is more prepared and experienced then when he came into the league.”