Jeff Blashill agreed to a contract Tuesday to remain coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
The 47-year-old completed his sixth season as coach and is the third-longest tenured in the NHL behind Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning (March 2013) and Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets (Jan. 2014). Blashill was named coach June 9, 2015 to replace Mike Babcock, who left for the same position with the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 20, 2015.
“I’ve been a Red Wing for a long time now,” Blashill said. “I’ve been in this seat for a good amount of time and I love being a Red Wing, I love being part of this organization. But probably more importantly though, I want to continue to see this organization, to see this team get to a better tomorrow.”
Blashill is 172-221-62 and ranks sixth in Red Wings history in wins and games coached (455).
In his first season, Detroit made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing to Tampa Bay in five games in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Red Wings have not qualified since.
“We’ve been through some very tough times over the last three years, and I’m very grateful to get the chance to continue to lead this team,” Blashill said. “The job is certainly not complete. I’m aware of what we have done the last number of years and I want to get us to a better spot. We need to continue to make strides as a team and as an organization and we are all very aware of that.”
Detroit was 19-27-10 this season and will finish tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for last in the eight-team Discover Central Division.
Under Blashill’s guidance, players in the Red Wings system worked their way up the depth chart. Filip Hronek, a 23-year-old defenseman, led Detroit in scoring (26 points; two goals, 24 assists) and average ice time (23:23 per game). Forwards Michael Rasmussen, 22, and Filip Zadina, 21, each earned full-time roles in the NHL.
“Whether or not we played well or not every night was different, but we played hard and that’s a reflection of the coaching staff,” Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said. “The other thing is Jeff has really shown the desire to work with me at transitioning our young players into the lineup, being patient with them and not handing them positions or ice time they haven’t deserved. He’s done a good job of being a firm guide while staying patient. That’s important when you are rebuilding.”
Prior to being hired as coach, Blashill was coach of Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids from 2012-15, winning the 2013 Calder Cup and was named AHL coach of the year in 2013-14.
“We recognize we have a long way to go in all areas, but when I watch our team play, I like the competitive fire and I think during the course of the season, I see progress being made, especially seeing some of our younger players take on bigger roles during the game,” Yzerman said.
Detroit has allowed 3.00 goals per game this season and ranks 22nd on the penalty kill (78.7 percent) and 30th on the power play (11.4 percent). Last season, the Red Wings allowed the most goals per game (3.73) and scored the fewest (2.00).
“The hardest way to win in this League is to outscore your own defensive mistakes,” Blashill said. “You have to be sound defensively and that’s where you build your offense.”
Assistant coach Dan Bylsma left the Red Wings to pursue other opportunities in the NHL. He had been in that role for the past three seasons.
“Dan was the head coach of a Stanley Cup champion in Pittsburgh (2009) and he’s been a coach in Buffalo,” Yzerman said. “In his mind, he’s still an NHL head coach. He had his reasons for wanting to come on board here, but ultimately he’s a head coach at heart and he wants to do that.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Dave Hogg contributed to this report