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#LGRW Daily: Steve Yzerman happy to extend Jeff Blashill's contract

Red Wings' coach returns for seventh season at the helm in Hockeytown

by Josh Berenter @DetroitRedWings / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- After more than a week of anticipation, Detroit Red Wings executive vice president & general manager Steve Yzerman announced Tuesday that Jeff Blashill has agreed to a contract extension to remain head coach of the Red Wings.

Yzerman said one of his biggest reasons for extending Blashill is his respect for Blashill's attention to detail and tireless work ethic.

"He is very passionate about his job. A great attention to detail, a great work ethic," the Wings' GM said Tuesday afternoon. "He is very well prepared. Every day is well thought out. Every practice, his game plans, he prepares.

"I have enjoyed working with him, in that he is comfortable in speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts and for a manager and a coach relationship to debate, to discuss and ultimately respect my decisions and in return, it's my job to respect the coach's decisions as well and allow him to do his job."

Under Blashill's guidance this season, the Red Wings eclipsed their 2019-20 victory total of 17 wins in just 50 games (compared to 71 games last season), and Detroit matched its point total from last season in just 49 contests this year.

The Red Wings collected at least one point in 10 of their last 14 games, and in 15 of their last 21 contests. And in the last 30 games of the campaign, Detroit posted an above .500 record of 12-11-7.

Video: Steve Yzerman's End of Season Media Availability

"We have a long way to go and we recognize that. (But) I like the competitive fire that our team shows," Yzerman said. "They work hard, they compete hard and I think throughout the course of this season, I see progress being made. Specifically I am watching some of our younger players take on bigger roles within a game and our veterans are high-character guys. That's what they do, they compete hard, so I do think there is progress."

As the 27th coach in franchise history, Blashill has compiled a 172-221-62 record in six seasons as Red Wings coach since replacing Mike Babcock to begin the 2015-16 campaign.

The Sault Ste. Marie native and Ferris State University graduate is the third-longest-tenured current NHL head coach, trailing only Tampa Bay's Jon Cooper (ninth season) and Winnipeg's Paul Maurice (eighth season).

Next season, Blashill will tie Tommy Ivan as the fifth-longest Wings coach, and his 172 wins ranks sixth in franchise history.

Blashill said he's excited to have the opportunity to complete the work that he started nearly a decade ago.

"I've been a Red Wing for a long time now. I love being a Red Wing. I love being part of this organization," Blashill said. "I want to continue to see this organization get to a better tomorrow. We've been through tough times over the last number of years, and to get a chance to continue to lead this team, I'm very grateful for it and very excited."

Video: Coach Jeff Blashill End of Season Media Availability

Blashill began his coaching career in Detroit as an assistant in 2011 before becoming head coach of the Red Wings' AHL-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins from 2012-2015. In his first season as Griffins' head coach, Blashill led the club to its first Calder Cup championship in franchise history.

After taking over in Detroit, Blashill led the Wings to their 25th consecutive playoff appearance in his first season behind the bench, extending the third-longest postseason streak in NHL history.

Since the 2015-16 campaign, in which Blashill posted the sixth-best winning percentage (.567) of any first-year coach in Wings history, Detroit has endured a complete lineup transformation, overhauling a veteran roster with multiple Stanley Cup champions in lieu of several young prospects through the NHL Draft and trades.

In his time as Red Wings coach, Blashill has overseen the development of several of Detroit's best young players, including 2013 second-round pick Tyler Bertuzzi, who led the club in goals in 2019-20, and 2014 first-round selection Dylan Larkin, who was named team captain to start this season.

Blashill also helped develop 2013 first-round pick Anthony Mantha, who the club dealt at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline for new leading scorer Jakub Vrana and a first and second-round draft pick.

The Wings' coach has been instrumental in seeing 2016 first-round defenseman Filip Hronek become a mainstay on the blue line and he's seen 2018 sixth overall pick Filip Zadina blossom into an everyday forward. Under Blashill's tutelage, Detroit has also seen young draftees like Evgeny Svechnikov, Dennis Cholowski, Michael Rasmussen, Gustav Lindstrom and Joe Veleno make their NHL debuts, showing flashes of brilliance as the Wings build for the future.

"Jeff has really worked with me in transitioning our young players into the lineup, being patient with them, not handing them positions or ice time," Yzerman said. "Really forcing them to earn it and guiding them along, being firm yet patient with our young guys.

"As we are rebuilding and trying to move younger players into the lineup, I think it is important to have a coach that has a calmness and a willingness and the patience to allow these younger players to go through some of the growing pains of playing in the NHL."

Former Red Wings GM Ken Holland signed Blashill to a two-year extension in April 2019, and now, the 47-year-old is set continue Detroit's quest to return to prominence.

"I think any coach would tell you, that you would love to continue to have the opportunity to grind, push and find ways to continue to make strides as a team and as an organization," Blashill said. "To have the opportunity to coach this team for six years and now go in to my seventh year, I take that very seriously and I am very grateful for that."

Both Yzerman and Blashill know there is a still a lot of work to be done to get back into championship contention, and both acknowledged that it will take everyone in the organization to be on the same page to continue taking steps forward.

"We need to have a better team. We need our current players to play better and it is up to the management to provide and bring in players to make us a better team," Yzerman said. "You need good players to win in the league and I can change coaches year after year after year, we need good players. If we don't have good players, it's not going to change."

Blashill agreed with Yzerman's assessment.

"Certainly the job is not nearly complete. I am aware of where we have been the last number of years and I want to get us back to a much better spot," Blashill said. "I am very aware of what I have been a part of, I have been a part of a rebuild.

"My job is to push us and help our players be the very best they can be and help push this team to a better spot. We have tons of work to do. I think we made some strides this year, we got better in certain areas and individual players got better. Though that is extremely important, we have tons of work to do."

For more Red Wings offseason coverage and updates, stay tuned to DetroitRedWings.com all summer and follow on social media @DetroitRedWings.

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