What do you get when you lead a team to five playoff games in five seasons as head coach? An extension, it appears.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said that he is not interested in making a coaching change at this time. Jeff Blashill’s contract expired after this season and the team had seven days to pick up the option to extend it.
“My remarks and thoughts on the head coach, Jeff Blashill, haven’t changed from February,” Yzerman said. “I have no plans on making a coaching change at this time.”
It’s not clear how long Blashill’s option is for, but he’ll at least be behind the Red Wings’ bench whenever the 2020-21 NHL season begins.
The Red Wings finished dead-last in the league this season with a 17-49-5 record as of the March 12 pause. That lack of success puts Detroit in the best position (18.5%) to win the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft lottery.
Blashill took over following Mike Babcock’s departure in 2015. After making the Stanley Cup playoffs in his first season, the Red Wings have failed to qualify for the postseason the last four springs. Detroit has compiled a 153-194-52 record with him behind the bench — that’s only 20 more wins than the Golden Knights, who entered the NHL with the 2017-18 season.
There are a number of unknowns about the 2020-21 NHL schedule and how it will be affected by the current coronavirus pandemic. Yzerman’s thinking for keeping Blashill on might be that it would be difficult to implement a new voice/system during such a time, especially if the Red Wings’ next game isn’t until December. If Blashill’s option is only for one season, that would allow the GM to buy more time before potentially making a longer-term change if little progress continues to be made on the ice.
“I think it’s unfair to judge him based on our record at this time,” Yzerman said, “and quite frankly, we need to improve the team for anybody to truly critique or assess the coaching staff. We need to improve the team.”