What Yzerman said about keeping Jeff Blashill as Red Wings head coach

‘I’ve enjoyed working with him in that he’s comfortable in speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts’

Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman speaks to the media on May 18, 2021 (WDIV)

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman spoke to media members on Tuesday after the team announced he extended head coach Jeff Blashill’s contract.

Yzerman said he would not share details of the contract, such as length and monetary figures, per his staff policy. However, he did offer his reasons for keeping the coach who has been overseeing the team’s transition for the past few seasons.

“I feel our team is collectively very competitive, whether we played well or not every night is different, but we played hard and I think our players play hard, and I think that’s a reflection of the coaching staff, that they have the respect of the players,” said Yzerman. “The other part is Jeff has really shown (an ability) to work with me with transitioning our young players into the lineup, being patient with them, not handing them positions or ice time, really forcing them to earn it and guiding them along and being firm yet patient with our young guys.”

Yzerman said the plan is to move more young players into the lineup in the coming seasons. He believes Blashill is the right kind of coach with “calmness, willingness and patience” to help the young players.

The Red Wings GM said he has seen progress being made with those younger players.

“I saw some of our younger players take on bigger roles within a game,” said Yzerman. “I think there is progress, but having said that, you know, there is so much work to be done. We’ve got a lot of improving (to do) on the ice, in all aspects of it -- offensively, defensively, special teams.”

Read more: Dear Red Wings end-of-season notes: 2020-21 vs. 2019-20, looking ahead

Blashill had signed a two-year extension in 2019, just before new Yzerman took over the job left by Ken Holland. Yzerman said he has been impressed with the coach since becoming his boss.

“He’s very passionate about it, he’s very serious about his job, great attention to detail, extremely good/great work ethic. He’s very well prepared. Every day is well thought out. Every practice, his game plans -- he prepares,” said Yzerman. “I’ve enjoyed working with him in that he’s comfortable in speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts, and for a manager and a coach relationship to debate, to discuss, and then ultimately respect my decisions, and in return it’s my job to respect the coach’s decision and allow him to do his job.”

Yzerman said he considers Blashill, 47, to be a relatively young NHL coach. He believes Blashill will continue to grow as a coach in this league, and he thinks the job for him in Detroit will become easier as their young talent continues to burgeon.

“He’s worked extremely hard. As an organization we’ve been rebuilding, and it’s hard to coach a rebuilding team. At the trade deadline, I’ve been here for two years, and we’re trading players for future assets, and now -- a little bit last year and this year -- we’re starting to see some of those future assets turn into players and that is going to make our coaching staff’s job a little bit easier,” said Yzerman.

The Red Wings finished their 56-game 2020-21 season with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on May 8. They ended the season tied for points (48) with the Blue Jackets as the teams “battled” for last place in the Central Division.

Detroit’s 19 wins bested Columbus’ 18, slotting the Red Wings in at 7th out of eight teams in the division and leaving the Jackets in the final spot.

This was Blashill’s 10th season with the organization. He first joined the Red Wings coaching staff in 2011 as an assistant coach to Mike Babcock. He then took the head coaching job with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins won the AHL championship in Blashill’s first year as head coach in 2012-13.

He has spent the past six seasons as Detroit’s head coach while the team works through a rebuild. The Red Wings made the playoffs in Blashill’s first season as head coach in 2015-16, bowing out in the first round. They have not returned since as they’ve worked through rebuilding a roster that aged out of the league.