Detroit – Jeff Blashill considers himself a fortunate hockey man.
The Red Wings’ head coach has gone from coaching under one likely future Hall of Famer in Ken Holland to a current Hall of Famer in Steve Yzerman.
Yzeman replaced Holland as Red Wings general manager and Holland was promoted to executive-vice president.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work for Ken Holland, to learn tons of stuff and had great interactions with him, and now (for the organization) to bring another Hall of Famer in Steve Yzerman, for me personally, to be able to interact and learn and find ways to be successful. … You think about it, there’s not many organizations that have those types of people in their management departments,” Blashill said.
Yzerman and Blashill met earlier in the week for the first time since Yzerman was hired. Yzerman and Holland had been scouting the under-18 world championships in Sweden.
“It’s great to have a guy like Steve, his pedigree and knowledge, to try to help us continue in this process of building the Red Wings back to where we all want the Red Wings to be,” Blashill said. “It’s a great opportunity and excellent for me to be able to, again, learn from another great voice.”
Blashill was given a two-year contract extension late in the regular season by Holland.
At his introductory press conference on April 19, Yzerman gave a big endorsement of Blashill, noting the development of the Red Wings’ young core this season and Blashill’s success at every level of coaching.
“I watched his (Grand Rapids) team beat us in the Calder Cup final a few years ago; he did a tremendous job,” said Yzerman. “What I did like is, you watch those young players this year, watch them evolve, watch them develop, and some continuity is good. The Dylan Larkins and those young players are doing well and a coach has a lot of credit for that.
“I look forward to working with him.”
The fact Yzerman spent time under Holland in management, and is so familiar with members of the Wings’ organization, should make for an easy transition.
“The relationships are in place,” Blashill said. “The fact Ken and Steve have had such a great relationship, it’s a huge part of the transition, and it makes the transition easier.”
But most of all, said Blashill, the work ethic and dedication to winning remains the same.
“It doesn’t make the work toward success (any less). Steve talked about it at his press conference – we have a lot of work to do," Blashill said. "There’s a lot of hard days ahead. I just look to continue to work to develop our young players to a level where we can be the successful franchise, not just team, but franchise we want to be.”
The regular season ended almost a month ago but there’s been little down time for Blashill.
He’s been preparing for the world championships in Solvakia, where Blashill will be head coach Team USA for the third consecutive year.
Blashill also has been in the beginning stages of evaluating every facet of the coaching staff and how they prepared for games, practices and meetings.
“Preparing for the world championships takes a good amount of time, and the two things coincided with each other,” Blashill said. “It’s an evaluation of everything we did as a coaching staff and team, everything from systems to meetings to look at different statistical studies, different things to make sure we have the best plan in place come next October.
“This is the time of year where it’s still fresh enough. I’ve watched a good amount of hockey on television and you see a lot of different stuff and you gather as much information as you can. We’ll work toward our development camp as a coaching staff at our meetings, and we’ll leave those meetings with a good idea of what our exact plan will be heading into camp.”
Blashill talked often during the season about the parity in the NHL.
These playoffs, with the lower seeds defeating higher seeds, have shown there’s not much difference among NHL teams.
“The difference is paper thin,” Blashill said. “It emphasizes what I’ve been saying. The difference isn’t near what it used to be. Everyone is fairly close.”