Blashill to return as Red Wings coach

Detroit Redwings Head Coach Jeff Blashill speaks to media during the funeral visitation for Gordie Howe, June 14, 2016. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman believes he’s got the right man.

Despite the Red Wings missing the playoffs for the fourth season in a row, Yzerman confirmed that the organization will retain Jeff Blashill as head coach. The former Red Wings star and Hall of Famer made the announcement during the team’s end-of-season media availability Wednesday afternoon.

The Red Wings’ season was declared completed after the team finished last in the NHL with 39 points at the time league play was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With that, the Wings will not participate in a proposed 24-team playoff to finish this season.

Yzerman said his position on Blashill hasn’t budged.

“My comments or my remarks and thoughts on the head coach, Jeff Blashill, haven’t changed from February,” Yzerman told the media. “I have no plans of making a coaching change at this time.”

Blashill, 46, was promoted from the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, his teams qualified for the Calder Cup three years in a row, winning it once in 2013.

Despite his success at minor and college levels, Blashill has generated criticism for a lack of results at the NHL level. His first Detroit team made the playoffs in 2015-2016, and subsequent teams have missed the post-season since.

Yzerman said he has seen some progress, but the changes need to be made with players and not necessarily coaching.

“I think it’s been a difficult position in his tenure here. The Red Wings are in a rebuild for a while and for the last two, three trade deadlines, the team has traded valuable players, good players, for future assets and Jeff has, with his head held high, diligently worked hard, done a good job in coaching this team in a difficult situation throughout that,” said Yzerman. “I┬áthink it’s unfair to judge him based on our record at this time. Quite frankly, we need to improve the team for anybody to truly critique or assess the coaching staff.”

Blashill was awarded a two-year contract extension in 2019, and the Wings hold the option for the 2020-2021 season.

The Red Wings are one of seven NHL teams whose season has ended, and they are the early favourites to snag the first-overall draft pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The first phase of the NHL Draft Lottery is set for June 26.