Dylan Larkin backs Jeff Blashill as spotlight shines on Red Wings coach

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News


Detroit — Dylan Larkin knows what is being said on social media, though he tries to block it out as much as he can.

Fans are clamoring for general manager Steve Yzerman to replace coach Jeff Blashill, as the Red Wings are going through a 12-32-3 season.

Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, left, has the support of forward Dylan Larkin (right).

Replacing Blashill with former Wings’ player and Yzerman teammate, Gerard Gallant, who was fired Wednesday as Vegas’ coach, is a popular notion right now.

But Larkin, who has had no other NHL coach other than Blashill, fully backed Blashill after Thursday’s practice and highlighted Blashill's strengths.

“We’ve grown together in this league and I have a lot of respect for him,” Larkin said. “He’s a great guy, a great dad, and great coach and he’s well respected in the room.

“He’s my coach, and I’m his player, and that’s about as far as it goes.”

Larkin, as he has said on several occasions, insists it’s the Red Wings as a team that needs to play better and accumulate some wins.

“I don’t reach much into that (social media), I don’t see much of it, I block that out,” Larkin said. “Anyone in this locker room would be crazy not to tell you we have to do a better job, and that’s on the players. Unfortunately, in this league, the coaches seems to be replaced first before the players, when it’s mostly on the play of the players.

“We need to be better, everyone in this locker room, and the players know that. The coaches are trying to help us be better players and evolve our game and be better as a team.”

Blashill is in his fifth season coaching the Wings, but this has easily been his worst.

With the constant losing has been the fans’ frustration and disappointment, and analysts pointing out the availability of coaches such as Gallant, Pete DeBoer (who actually replaced Gallant Wednesday), Peter Laviolette and Mike Babcock, who Blashill replaced with the Wings, as big-name coaches who’ve been fired this season and looking for new opportunities.

Yzerman, though, has given no indication he's looking to make an immediate change.

Blashill, who knows Gallant personally, reached out to Gallant after hearing about Wednesday’s dismissal.

“I respect him a lot and I was pretty surprised,” Blashill said. “Gerard is a good coach, Pete DeBoer is a good coach. They are guys I respect a lot. It’s crazy in the league right now, but that’s the way it is right now and we go from there.”

Blashill and Yzerman talk often, and in fact, talked Wednesday, a day after the Wings lost 8-2 on Long Island to the New York Islanders.

The majority of the conversations, Blashill said, center on players and what the team is doing well and not so well.

“We talk about everything,” Blashill said. “We talk about how our team is playing and some of that is making sure we, as a team, are getting better in certain areas that will help us long term. Certainly we look at that as a coaching staff and with the management group, what’ll help us long term, whether it’s individual players or how we play or areas we have to get better.”

Blashill’s own personal performance, he said, isn’t often brought up with Yzerman in those discussions.

“I wouldn’t say we talk lots about that,” Blashill said. “I don’t bring it up, and he doesn’t bring it up. I don’t think it really has a big place. I don’t really need to be told I’m doing a good job and if he wants to say we’re not doing a good job, it’ll be more specific into what area. If there’s something that bothers him, he certainly isn’t afraid to say either our team has to be better at this, or I don’t like the way we do this. That’s normal feedback and that’s totally fine.

“I ask his advice on how we’re doing. I want his opinion on how we’re playing and his opinion on players. I want to make sure we’re involved in that process. He has a lot of experience as a manager and player and he’s seen a lot of stuff. We have long conversations at times and short conversations at time and every day is a bit different.

“At the end of the day, he understands, we all understand, we’re here and we have to make sure that we continue to not just hold the young guys accountable, but hold the group accountable and continue to push them to be their very best.”

Wings players have been consistent all season about Blashill’s approach, his diligence about making sure to look forward and not worry about the past, and the need to stay strong as a team.

Larkin credited Blashill for maintaining a consistent message.

“One thing we’ve done as a group is come to work every day, and his message has been the same since day one,” Larkin said. “We’re going to work and get better and we’re going to work on playing as a team and defensively as five men on the ice — and we’ve done that.

“We practice hard and we’ve been prepared in games most nights. We show up and work real hard. Work ethic has never been a problem.

“He’s done a real good job us for that.”

Like Larkin and many players, Blashill isn’t on social media, either.

Blashill has consistently told his family to remain off of it, though the kids have a tendency to get on a bit.

“I learned right away in this league, especially not to pay attention to it, especially when it’s not going well,” Blashill said. “Certainly I appreciate the passion of our fan base 100 percent. Our fan base, overall, has an idea of where we’re at in the building process.”

Penguins at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Outlook:  The Penguins (29-12-5) have overcome staggering injuries to remain one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams. … C Evgeni Malkin (47 points) has been sensational, and RW Bryan Rust (Troy/Birmingham Brother Rice) has 19 goals. C Sidney Crosby (abdominal surgery) returned to the lineup Tuesday and had a 4-point game.


Twitter: @tkulfan