Updated 2x at 3:58 PM: If you missed it in the Locker Room Clean-Out Day Twitter post, Red Wings GM Ken Holland has confirmed that Jeff Blashill will return as the Wings’ coach for the fourth and final year of Blashill’s contract:
Holland on Blashill: He has had 3 years of experience. Team played hard till the end. The young kids improved. … He’s had success along the way (lower levels). .. There is reason for him to continue to be head coach of the Red Wings.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 10, 2018
Update: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan penned an article about Blashill’s return…
“This team played hard to the finish,” Holland said. “He did a good job with the young players in Grand Rapids when he was the coach there, and this year, you look at the impact of (Tyler) Bertuzzi and (Dylan) Larkin and the development and the importance they had on the team; they improved as players.”
Blashill, 44, coached the Red Wings into the playoffs his first season as head coach, but the team has missed the playoffs the last two years after 25 consecutive trips into the playoffs.
Blashill has a 104-105-37 record in three seasons with the Red Wings.
“I’m certainly glad to be coach of the Detroit Red Wings; it’s a job I love,” Blashill said. “I’m excited about trying to keep this thing moving in the right direction, to put this franchise where everybody wants it. I’m excited about the opportunity, and about continuing that job.”
Blashill didn’t worry about the speculation swirling whether he would be retained.
“I do the very best job I can every day, I don’t ever try to worry about things out of my control,” Blashill said. “My focus has been on trying to help this team be the very best I can be and individually the best they can be. I said it late in the year, over the course of the final two months (when the Red Wings were slipping out of playoff contention), it was making sure we’re building toward the future and my focus has been on that.”
Update #2: Here’s more from CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield:
Holland said the two biggest factors in his decision were the growth of the Red Wings’ young players this season and the competitiveness of the team throughout the year.
“I thought the team played hard to the finish. I’m hoping that two, three, four young players in our system make the team (next year), he did a good job with the young players in Grand Rapids when he was the coach there. This year you look at the impact of (Tyler) Bertuzzi and (Dylan) Larkin and the development and the importance hey had on the team this year, they improved as players,” Holland said.
Bertuzzi, 23, grew into a reliable top-six forward as the season wore on, while Larkin, 21, set career highs in assists and points. 23-year-old Anthony Mantha also took significant strides, scoring 24 goals in his first full NHL season.
As a team the Red Wings took a step back in the standings, finishing fifth to last with 73 points, but they showed signs of progress in terms of dictating play. Blashill’s coaching never seemed to wear on the players, who responded to him, Holland said, even when the going got tough.
“We lost nine in a row in March and the bottom fell out, but I felt even when we lost nine in a row, we lost a lot of games by a goal and we played hard,” said Holland. “I thought that the young kids that have been brought up improved. He played them, they were important, they got minutes. I think that with the experience of three years in the National Hockey League, (plus) he’s been a guy that’s had success along the way, there’s a reason for him to continue to be the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.”
Blashill, 44, is 246-104-105 in three seasons behind the bench. The Red Wings have begun to rebuild under his watch, a process Blashill’s eager to see through.
“I’m certainly glad to still be the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. It’s a job I love. I’m excited about trying to keep moving this in the direction to put this franchise where you guys (the media), us, the fan base, everybody wants it,” Blashill said. “I’m excited at the opportunity to continue that job.”