DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman talked to the media on Monday, just two days after announcing the firing of head coach Jeff Blashill.
The Red Wings missed the playoffs again this year, and struggled to win games -- and hold teams to fewer than five goals -- in the final stretch of the season. It was the conclusion of the third year under Yzerman as GM.
“Jeff Blashill is a good hockey coach. He ran a really good program,” Yzerman said in a press conference on Monday afternoon. “I can certainly attest to what has been our program for the last three years because it’s been dictated by me. You cannot judge Jeff Blashill on the Detroit Red Wings’ record. I think you judge it on how he ran this program and how he conducted himself, and he was extremely professional in that.” He added: “Pardon the expression, but he ran a good program. This wasn’t a complete shitshow.”
The team announced on Saturday that it would not renew Blashill’s contract. Yzerman points to the defense as the biggest sore spot.
“We’ve been unable to, with the group that we’ve had, specifically in that area, to get better,” Yzerman said. “To get our team to play, both individually and collectively, as a sounder defensive hockey team. And it’s been three years we’ve been trying.
“It hasn’t been a lack of discussion, a lack of effort on the coaching staff’s behalf, or trying. We just haven’t been able to do it. I look at this now as - that’s an area that’s going to need to improve. In order to do that, I’m going to bring in a new coach and see if he can’t do that with the group that we have.”
Yzerman said that he felt like the team had regressed, especially near the end of the season.
“Ultimately to take that decision, I felt our team fundamentally, that we kind of — I don’t even know if plateaued is the right word,” he said. “But we had gotten to a point where fundamentally, with and without the puck, we had regressed. We’re at a point now where I felt like, OK, I’ve got to see if bringing in a new coach and coaching staff, can make a difference to get us back and get us going in the right direction.”
Yzerman wouldn’t put a specific timetable on replacing Blashill, and wouldn’t comment on any specific names, but he did mention that it’s hard to hire someone you don’t have a previous relationship with. Read into that what you’d like.
“I’ve got a few names bouncing around in my head and it’s been a busy couple of days here,” Yzerman said. At this stage, I’m not gonna restrict my search or my long list to any particular criteria as he has to be a head coach, he has to have NHL experience, or this or that.”
Yzerman did confirm that Red Wings assistant coach Alex Tanguay and video coach LJ Scarpace currently remain on the coaching staff.
The Red Wings finished with a 32-40-10 record, and a -82 goal differential, one of the highest in the league.