Jeff Blashill

Red Wings give Blashill two-year extension to continue developing youth

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Another playoff-less spring means the Detroit Red Wings have already begun working on the 2019-20 NHL season. First, they extended goaltender Jimmy Howard and now they’re bringing back head coach Jeff Blashill.

The Red Wings announced on Thursday that Blashill has agreed to a two-year extension through the 2020-21 season. He was hired in June 2015 and has headed up a rebuild that is still on-going, but has some bright spots to it.

Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou each hit the 30-goal mark for the first time during career years, while Anthony Mantha hit 20 goals for the second straight season, and Tyler Bertuzzi took a big step forward as part of a developing Red Wing core. There’s still plenty of age on the roster beyond this season — Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericcsson, Trevor Daley, and likely Niklas Kronwall, whose contract expires this summer — but a youth movement is afoot. In general manager Ken Holland’s eyes Blashill is the right choice to continue to lead this transition phase.

“Jeff has done a tremendous job developing our young talent as we continue to rebuild our organization,” said Holland in a statement. “Our young players have made significant strides during his time as head coach and are playing important minutes in key situations. As we continue to build towards the future, we have the utmost confidence that Jeff is the coach best suited to help our prospects become impactful NHL players. He has gained valuable experience as an NHL coach in each of his four years in Detroit and has instilled a work ethic in our current team that makes us hard to play against every night and competitive in every game, which is the identity we want our team to have as we move forward.”

The one solution the Red Wings have yet to find is a goaltender of the future who can step in in a year or two. With Howard’s extension and Jonathan Bernier still under contract through the end of next season, Holland has $7.25M invested between the pipes for 2019-20.

A two-year extension is a short enough leash that a change could be made if things aren’t trending in the right direction. There’s plenty of speculation about Holland’s future as well. He signed two-year deal last April, but his name has been constantly brought up in rumors surrounding the GM position for the Seattle franchise, which isn’t entering the NHL until the 2020-21 season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Red Wings frustrated with slump, but not looking for excuses

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Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg put it bluntly after Thursday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We aren’t good enough to win games and that’s why we lost six in a row,” he said.

We knew the Red Wings probably wouldn’t be a playoff team again this season, and now they’re mired in a 0-5-1 stretch and stuck near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The negative possession numbers (via Corsica), constant penalty taking (tied third-most in NHL with 54) and inconsistent play make that 4-1-0 start seem forever ago.

Andreas Athanasiou’s presence back in the lineup will help, but there are plenty of issues here for head coach Jeff Blashill to try and fix. For starters, he’s turning off the line blender off for now. So the top six will see Zetterberg stay with Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, while Athanasiou will continue playing with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.

“We have guys who’ve been elite in this league and we need them to step up and be elite. We need guys, and we have them, to step up and make plays,” he said via the Detroit News.

Blashill is hoping to try and find chemistry in his lines as his seat warms up. His name could be found near the top of “First NHL Coach Fired” lists before the season and his chances of staying in the job certainly haven’t improved through 11 games.

Detroit’s next two games give them a shot at snapping this slide, however. Saturday night they visit the Florida Panthers, who have lost four of their last six games and then have a Halloween home date versus the winless Arizona Coyotes. There are no excuses right now.

“I look at the next game. We better have confidence. There’s no reason not to have confidence,” Blashill said. “We have tons of belief that we can win. To me, not having confidence is an excuse. Penalties are an excuse. We’re in the no excuse business. Let’s find solutions here… Are we frustrated? Sure, we’re frustrated, but it doesn’t do anything. Let’s find a way to a solution right now.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sheahan on playing for Blashill: ‘Guys will be a little bit more confident’

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Riley Sheahan believes his teammates’ familiarity with Jeff Blashill will help ease the transition for the rookie head coach in Detroit this season.

Sheahan is one of a number of players on the current Red Wings’ roster that played under Blashill with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

“You can see the job that he’s done in Grand Rapids and so many of us have played there and played with him, especially the Calder Cup team,” Sheahan told the team’s website. “He’s had so much success everywhere that he’s gone, so I think all of the guys are pretty happy.

“The guys that played with him before know how he reacts to different situations and knows what he expects. I think in that way some guys will be a little bit more confident, which always helps. It’s definitely a good thing.”

Blashill was named the 27th head coach in Wings’ history back in June. The 41-year-old led the Griffins to a 134-71-23 record in three seasons winning a Calder Cup in 2013.

Sheahan, who scored 13 goals and 36 points in 79 games in his first full season with the Wings last year, doesn’t expect much to change systems-wise with Blashill taking over from Mike Babcock.

“I actually thought they were really similar,” Sheahan said. “The system is pretty similar, there are a few tweaks here and there, but I think obviously, Babs leaving that’s tough to deal (with). He’s such a good coach, but Blash coming in, I think there’s a lot of positivity and a lot of happiness with the guys.”

Related: Under Pressure: Jeff Blashill

Under Pressure: Jeff Blashill

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Here’s an understatement for you: Mike Babcock is a tough act to follow.

In the hearts and minds of Red Wings fans, Jeff Blashill may very well face an impossible task in trying to supplant the scowl of Babs. It cannot be easy to jump from the AHL to replacing one of the most respected bench bosses in recent history.

That said, for all the well-earned hero worship Babcock often inspires, there’s an argument that Detroit needed a breath of fresh air.

The Red Wings were as dominant as ever from 2006-07 to 2008-09, making three conference finals, two Stanley Cup Final rounds and winning one ring. They’ve been solid-yet-mostly-unspectacular since then, however:

  • Just one division title (in 2010-11).
  • Three first-round exits in their last six postseason berths, including two straight years of one-and-done. The Red Wings haven’t made it beyond the second round in that span, either.
  • They struggled to make the playoffs more than ever in recent years.

This is likely a case of oversimplifying, yet some may look at this situation in one of two ways:

A) Babcock squeezed every standings point possible out of a fading team.

B) Conversely, the franchise was begging for a jolt of energy.

It’s worth noting that the Red Wings remain a quality possession squad, although their exact rankings vary based on which specific metrics you use. The bottom line is that there’s a solid chance that Blashill has a decent group to work with, even if this obviously isn’t the stupidly dominant group many long associated with the Red Wings brand.

When your team is currently on a record 24-season playoff streak, expectations are inevitable, and Blashill faces a tall task. For all we know, setting the bar so high might not be such a bad thing.

Red Wings announce assistant coaches, including Chelios and Granato

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The Detroit Red Wings announced new head coach Jeff Blashill’s assistants on Tuesday, and you may notice some familiar names.

Tony Granato, Pat Ferschweiler, Chris Chelios (pictured) and Dave Noel-Bernier will be in the mix, while Jim Bedard returns as goalie coach.

The Red Wings noted that Granato and Ferschweiler will be behind the bench with Blashill while Noel-Bernier serves as a video coach; the team merely said that Granato “will have an increased role.”

MLive.com’s Ansar Khan provides a little more insight: it sounds like Chelios will (logically) work with defensemen.

This all continues a changing of the guard in the Red Wings organization, as Blashill jumps to the NHL level to replace Mike Babcock. Former Edmonton Oilers interim head coach (and experienced AHL bench boss) Todd Nelson is at the helm in Grand Rapids, too.

The 2015-16 season may present some uncomfortable changes, yet the Red Wings still seem to be in some capable hands.