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Red Wings GM Yzerman Avoids Blashill Question

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Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings coach
Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman wasn't interested in assessing the performance of his coach Jeff Blashill, saying that'll be done at season's end.

Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman was loathe to discuss the future of his coach Jeff Blashill. However, once he relented and finally did briefly address the subject, it wasn’t like he was offering Blashill a ringing endorsement.

“This has been an up and down year for us,” Yzerman said. “We had a lot of progress.”

With 19 games left in the NHL regular season, the Red Wings are 26-30-7. On Feb. 13, they were seven points behind the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff position. Today, Detroit is 21 points out of a playoff spot and will miss out on postseason play for the sixth successive season. The team went without a single regualtion time victory from Feb. 13-March 16.

“The last six weeks of the season have been disappointing for all of us,” Yzerman said.

Jeff Blashill has been the man behind the bench for all six of those seasons in which Detroit has come up shy of playing in the NHL’s second season. In Red Wings history, only one other coach lasted as many as three successive seasons of non-playoff participation. That was Alex Delvecchio (1973-76) and he held the added security for much of that tenure of also being GM.

Blashill, 48, is showing a 198-251-69 record for a .449 points percentage. This season, he’s on pace for his third-best campaign in charge of the club.

Red Wings Compete Level Waning

It’s known that Yzerman respects Blashill’s ability as a teacher to their young players. However, there have been some alarming examples this season of the Wings not bringing their compete level to the ice on game night. In past campaigns, that was not a criticism that could often be attached to a Blashill-coached club.

“That simply can’t happen with our hockey team,” Blashill acknowledged. “We got work to do.”

Detroit has also slipped from 20th in the NHL in goals against per game in 2021 all the way down to 30th in the league this season (3.70). The Wings have allowed an NHL-high six goals or more per game an NHL-high 11 times this season.

Compete level and defensive responsibility are as much about commitment and work ethic as they are about raw talent. Should these be viewed as indications that the players are beginning to tune out Blashill’s messaging?

There is also a highly thought of NHL coach with Detroit ties on the market. Paul Maurice left his post with the Winnipeg Jets earlier this season.

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Certainly, these are facors that Yzerman will take into consideration.

“Jeff and I will sit down at some point and talk about our team and where we’re going with our team and what we need to do,” Yzerman said. “But I don’t think this is the time to discuss our coaching staff or our coach.”