Returning Jeff Blashill: Wings must be 'fluid, flexible' in long offseason

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – The Red Wings have to be “fluid and flexible” as they head into a long offseason — maybe as long as nine months — coach Jeff Blashill said Thursday.

Blashill talked about the need to be ready for whatever is ahead during a Zoom call with the media, one day after general manager Steve Yzerman confirmed Blashill will return for a sixth season as the Wings’ head coach.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill

“One thing that’s important in any of this, our decision making, is we’re fluid and flexible,” Blashill said. “Because we don’t really know exact dates, which you’d have for a normal year. We’ll have to be real good about being fluid and flexible and making adjustments when needed.

“I’ve had some discussions with some of the players on this and there is some concern among the players. It’s a big disadvantage for those seven teams (that didn’t qualify for the revised playoff tournament), for those individual players, without an organized practice and coaching and going at full speed.

“I’m hoping we can look toward some creative solutions with the NHL.”

Blashill said “it means a lot” to have the confidence and backing from Yzerman.

“What I like working for Steve is he tells me exactly the parameters with which I’m working from,” Blashill said. “We’re all in our organization taking a long-term approach to taking this organization to the level we all want it to be, that championship level, and that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

“Certainly to have Steve’s confidence is great and I look forward to the challenges ahead of us.”

This season, which was paused on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic and deemed completed Tuesday by the NHL, was certainly a unique challenge.

More: Wojo: Amid Wings' pain and pandemic, Steve Yzerman has lots to consider

The Wings finished with the NHL’s worst record, 17-49-5. Since making the playoffs in Blashill’s first season, the Wings have now missed the postseason four consecutive years, as the organization goes through a rebuild.

Forward Dylan Larkin believes Blashill shouldn’t be judged by the won-loss record.

“He’s a great coach, a hard-working coach,” said Larkin during a Zoom interview Thursday. “The way we’ve played at times, it is unfair to judge. I don't really want to talk a whole lot about it because he’s the coach and I’m a player, and at the end of the day, I have no say. I have to play my best, and I have to play better than I did this year.

“I have a lot of respect for him and how he came every day to the rink and he worked us extremely hard, as he should have. He understood that there’s a bigger picture than this season, and he wants all of his players to be great, and I have a lot of respect for him.”

With the possibility of the 2020-21 season not starting until December or January, there’s a real chance the Wings – coaching staff and players – could be off the ice as a group for approximately nine months.

Blashill hopes the seven non-playoff teams can be allowed to do something as a team, on the ice.

“Hockey is played at an incredible pace – it’s a chaotic game,” Blashill said. “There’s a lot of things going on around you and if you don’t experience that for a long period of time, you’re not training your body to make those decisions.

“Whether it’s a goalie to make reads and see through traffic, or a forward knowing what he’ll do with the puck before he gets it and makes the proper play, you can’t replicate that (without practices and games).”

Blashill has yet to do a postseason review of his staff but spoke highly of his assistants Dan Bylsma and Doug Houda.

“As we review everything, I’ll have those answers,” Blashill said about potential changes. “But right now, I can tell you that they did a really good job in really hard circumstances to continue to come to the rink every day and try to push our team to be better and try to find solutions.

“Our coaching staff did an excellent job that way.”

Twitter: @tkulfan