Jeff Blashill has a sports-filled weekend planned: Namely, watching his kids play lacrosse and hockey.
His seventh season as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings came to an end Friday with a 5-3 victory against the Devils. At some point soon, he is expected to meet with general manager Steve Yzerman. Yzerman can pick up the option on Blashill’s contract and keep him for another season, release Blashill — or offer him a different job in the organization, perhaps as a scout.
Last season, 10 days passed before Yzerman publicly addressed the issue, but “it was 10 days for you guys, it wasn’t 10 days for me,” Blashill said Friday.
Blashill has committed to be an assistant coach for the US at the World Championship in Finland, which begins May 13. The 48-year-old is 204-261-72 ( .447 winning percentage) since being promoted in June 2015.
MORE ON YZERMAN: What 3 years in charge of Red Wings shows about his plan
Yzerman plays his cards close to his chest, but showed signs of dissatisfaction a month ago. When he was asked about Blashill’s performance at the March 21 trade deadline, Yzerman bristled, a change in tone from how he endorsed Blashill at prior deadlines.
The Wings had an encouraging first half, boosted by the arrivals of rookie of the year candidates Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. The Wings managed to stay around .500 and were 22-21-6 on Feb. 13. But they struggled to maintain their first-half momentum as they faced murderers-row stretches in the schedule: The Wild, Rangers, Avalanche, Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers from Feb. 14-March 5; Hurricanes, Rangers, Panthers, Lightning, Panthers, and Penguins from April 14-23. Those outings, against teams jostling for playoff positioning, exposed how far the Wings have yet to grow.
The Wings suffered through two six-game losing streaks, and endured lopsided losses that included losing 9-2 at home to the lowly Arizona Coyotes and 11-2 on the road to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Had the Wings played competitively and lost close games to elite teams, it would have reflected well on Blashill. But the Wings wilted disastrously: From Feb. 14-April 3, they had a 5.00 goals-allowed average.
The Wings were eliminated from playoff contention April 9, marking the sixth straight year they’ve missed the playoffs. While the franchise is in a rebuild, this season ignited hope of renewed competitiveness. As he further retools the team — the Wings need a second-line center, a scoring winger and at least one defenseman — it seems likely Yzerman will choose to go forth with a new coach.
Blashill said he didn’t ponder whether Friday’s game might have been his last — not even as the clock ran down and Tyler Bertuzzi scored into an empty net, sealing a victory for Magnus Hellberg in his debut.
“I was happy for Bert he got his 30th, happy for Magnus to step in and win a game,” Blashill said. “Seids gets his 50th point. Other than that, it’s way better to walk into a locker room after a win.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.