Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin: Seeing Jeff Blashill lose his job was tough

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Blashill was the only NHL coach the Detroit Red Wings core knew, and seeing him let go was emotional.

Blashill was in his first year in 2015 when he put Dylan Larkin on the team. In 2016, the two celebrated the Wings making the playoffs for what was the 25th consecutive season. But after seven seasons behind the bench, the last three under general manager Steve Yzerman, the Wings parted ways with Blashill Saturday, the day after the season ended.

“It’s a tough feeling,” Larkin said Tuesday. “You don’t want to see anyone get fired or lose their job. It’s just another emotion for another disappointing end to the season. We don’t want to continue to be in this spot much longer. I think everyone heard what Steve had to say.

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“They are looking for different answers and it’s a bit of a wakeup call for us.”

Yzerman said Monday that he wants a new coach who will figure out how to improve the team’s defensive play. The Wings enjoyed an influx of talent this past season with the arrivals of defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Lucas Raymond, and that helped boost success through the first half. But the Wings wilted starting in mid-February, and Yzerman said the Wings had regressed.

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Like Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi has only known Blashill as a coach.

“I’ve had him my whole career,” Bertuzzi said. “We’ve had a lot of success in Grand Rapids and in Detroit. No playoffs in Detroit, but we won some games and had some good moments. It’s a tough spot, like guys getting traded, or not making the team any more. You just move on.”

Michael Rasmussen, another young player who only has played under Blashill, said it would be “nteresting to have a new coach. I have a lot of respect for Blash. It’ll be different coming into camp, but I think it’s an exciting thing for the group and obviously something Steve kind of has figured out.”

Veteran Sam Gagner, who has played under Blashill for the past two years, described how a new coach can affect a team.

“Anytime a new coach comes in, you want to prove yourself to him individually,” Gagner said. “That’s part of it. A new voice sometimes just kind of allows guys to see it from a different perspective and continue to grow as a group.

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“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Blash and the way that he’s handled things over the years that I’ve been here. I think he’s a great person, he cares about his players and I think as a player, that’s what you want most — a coach that cares about you and wants you to succeed and tries to help you become a better player. I feel like I’ve grown as a player under Blash and I certainly wish him success in whatever comes next for him.”

Assistants Doug Houda (defense, penalty kill) and Jeff Salajko (goaltending) also were let go.

“You don’t want to see anybody get fired,” veteran defenseman Marc Staal said. “I’ve enjoyed the last couple years playing for him and Doug Houda. It’s part of the business that coaches end up getting fired, that’s just the way this thing goes. Steve obviously thought it was time for a different voice.”=

Larkin said he found out through his agent about the change in coaching staff shortly after seeing it on Twitter Saturday afternoon. He anticipates a smooth transition as the Wings await their next coach.

“That decision is up to Steve,” Larkin said. “Who he wants to bring in, who he wants as the best fit. You show up on Day 1 of training camp ready to work, ready to have a great season, and try and learn from the new coach, whoever that may be.”

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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