Why Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman is keeping Jeff Blashill as coach: ‘We play hard’

Detroit Free Press

Steve Yzerman chose to stick with what he knew when an opportunity arose to make a change behind the Detroit Red Wings bench.

Yzerman extended Jeff Blashill’s tenure as head coach into a seventh season, 10 days after the end of the Wings’ 2020-21 season.

“I feel our team is collectively very competitive,” Yzerman said. “Whether we play well or not every night is different, but we play hard. Our players play hard and I think that’s a reflection of the coaching staff, that they have the respect of the players.”

The Wings have gone 172-221-62 during Blashill’s time, making the playoffs once, in his first year.

“I’ve been a Red Wing for a long time and in this seat for a long time,” Blashill said. “I love being a Red Wing. I love being part of this organization, and I want to continue to see this team get to a better tomorrow. We’ve been through tough times and to get a chance to continue to lead this team, I’ve very grateful for it and I’m very excited.”

With the team in a rebuild, the focus has been on player development more so than winning percentage.

“Jeff has really worked with me with transitioning our young players into the lineup, being patient with them,” Yzerman said. “Not handing them positions or ice time, really forcing them to earn it and guiding them along.”

There will be at least one change to the Wings bench, however, as assistant coach Dan Bylsma (forwards and power play) was not offered an extension.

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Blashill also appeals for fiscal reasons, as his salary — roughly $1.6 million a year — is below that of more experienced coaches such as Gerard Gallant, Yzerman’s old linemate and longtime friend who has been available since January 2020.

Blashill has been with the organization since former head coach Mike Babcock hired him as an assistant in 2011. After one year, Blashill took over as coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, returning in 2015 when Babcock left.

Blashill, 47, had just received a two-year extension in early April 2019, a couple weeks before Yzerman was named GM. Yzerman endorsed Blashill at the time, and has done so on multiple occasions. Yzerman in particular has expressed approval of how players such as Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen, former first-round picks, have developed. The Wings are not yet at a point where Yzerman is looking to hire someone who will guide the team towards a Stanley Cup.

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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