Why Steve Yzerman’s silence is golden for Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons held their exit interviews with the media on Monday, less than 24 hours after the end of their season. The Detroit Red Wings have been silent since their season ended 10 days ago.

The lack of any availability since the Wings finished 19-27-10 on May 8 seemingly indicates general manager Steve Yzerman is keeping Jeff Blashill as coach. An announcement on Blashill is expected this week.

Blashill has been behind the bench since 2015, guiding the team to a 172-221-62 record and one playoff appearance, in 2016. But the Wings are in a rebuild and higher-ups in the organization have not been expecting the team to advance to the playoffs during most of Blashill’s tenure.

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Blashill and his assistants are all on expiring contracts. Dan Bylsma is unlikely to return; he’s been in charge of forwards and the power play since he was hired in June 2018. The power play has operated at 15.2% in that span, and was especially egregious this season, at 11.4%. Doug Houda, who has been in charge of defensemen and the penalty kill, is expected to return because the Wings played better defensively and their penalty kill (78.8%) on the whole has been pretty respectable. The fact Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss finished with .914 and .912 save percentages, respectively, playing behind a team that averaged 2.23 goals per game reflects well on goaltending coach Jeff Salajko.

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In addition to clearing up the coaching situation, there are also lingering questions regarding captain Dylan Larkin’s health. He left the April 20 game against the Dallas Stars in considerable pain after being crosschecked in the neck by Jamie Benn. When asked about the topic roughly two weeks later, Blashill said Larkin was still being evaluated.

Robby Fabbri also didn’t finish the season, leaving April 3 with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

The usual locker clean-out and team picture day that would have been either the Monday or Tuesday following the last game didn’t happen this year. Instead the Wings took advantage of having four days between games the last week of the season to take the team picture then, which meant players could disperse as soon as May 9. Bobby Ryan, for one, said he’d been at his offseason home in Idaho on May 10.

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News on Larkin and which of the unrestricted free agents — a group that includes Bernier and Ryan — Yzerman intends to keep should come as soon as the Blashill situation is clarified.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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