Jeff Blashill proud of his Detroit Red Wings tenure; ‘ship is headed in the right direction’

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Blashill spoke with appreciation about his departure from the Detroit Red Wings after 10 years with the organization.

The occasion was primarily to discuss his new opportunity with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which Blashill joins as an assistant coach some two months after his tenure with the Wings ended.

“Over the course over seven years, I got the opportunity to coach the team I grew up cheering for,” Blashill said Tuesday. “For a young boy who was born in Detroit and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, it was a great experience. My kids were in the Detroit area for seven straight years, which is not always the norm in coaching, and they got to grow up and really be raised here.

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“We didn’t have the success we wanted on the ice, but part of that was the situation we were in and the fact that shortly into my time there, we went into a rebuild. I’m proud of the fact I think that we worked through a lot of difficult times and I think the ship is headed in the right direction.”

Blashill fills the vacancy created when Wings general manager Steve Yzerman hired former Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde July 1.

“I know that the program is headed in the right direction,” Blashill said. “They have a really good coach in Derek Lalonde, who I think will do great things.”

Yzerman called Blashill into his office at Little Caesars Arena April 30, the day after the season ended, and informed Blashill his contract would not be renewed. When he addressed the media a three days later, Yzerman noted that Blashill “ran a good program.”

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It was a program that was on the decline when Blashill was promoted in 2015, and the Wings only made it to the playoffs once under Blashill, in his first season. The 25-season playoff streak had left the farm system empty, and as the last remnants from the 2008 Stanley Cup championship — Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall — left or retired, the Wings competitiveness declined.

Neither Yzerman nor his predecessor, Ken Holland, put the blame on Blashill, who worked four years under Holland and three under Yzerman. Blashill went 204-261-72 in 537 games

“I totally enjoyed my experience working for Steve and felt that through those three years I learned a ton from him — as I did working for Ken Holland,” Blashill said. “I’ve been fortunate to work for some great, great people and in the two GMs that I worked for were both Hall of Famers.

“Through adversity, you can really have an opportunity to grow, and I feel like I had that opportunity to grow, and a big part of that was working with Steve.”

Blashill now will work for a team that won the Cup in 2020 and 2021 and lost in the Cup Final last month. He and head coach Jon Cooper go back two decades, and Blashill will see plenty of the Wings because they and the Lightning share a division. Blashill was hired in Tampa after all the NHL head coaching vacancies were filled.

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“When my time in Detroit ended, I went right over to the World Championship and was gone basically for a month,” he said. “I came back in early June and in that process kind of worked through following some different leads with some opportunities. I had some conversations with Jon and Coop felt there was a potential losing an assistant coach.

“Once he found out Derek was headed to Detroit, we had more detailed conversations and in the end both came to the decision this was the right move for both of us. I’m going to do everything I can in my power to help Coop and the rest of this coaching staff be as good as we can 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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