The Detroit Red Wings have apparently liked the development of their young players enough to reward the man behind the bench. Jeff Blashill today signed a two-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2020-21 season. Blashill’s current deal was set to expire at the end of the season, but GM Ken Holland has repeatedly explained that the coach is doing an excellent job. The executive did it again today when discussing the extension:
Jeff has done a tremendous job developing our young talent as we continue to rebuild our organization. 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.
After three outstanding seasons behind the bench of the Grand Rapids Griffins, Blashill took the role he was being groomed for in the NHL and hasn’t looked back. Replacing Mike Babcock in 2015-16, Blashill took an aging Red Wings team back to the playoffs with a 41-30-11 record but was quickly eliminated. That summer legendary forward Pavel Datsyuk left the team to return to Russia and things drastically changed in Detroit. For three years now Blashill and the Red Wings have failed to reach the playoffs and there are very different goals for the franchise. No longer are they competing for championships, but are now focused on developing the next wave of talent.
That development is what Blashill has been in charge of, and he has now been rewarded for it. Dylan Larkin, the new face of the franchise after Henrik Zetterberg finally left the team, has become a legitimate star this season with 32 goals and 70 points, while complementary pieces like Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Andreas Athanasiou look like they could form a core to get the team back to the postseason.
Still, there is obviously work to be done in Detroit. Even with his successes developing the young talent, Blashill will have to produce some results in the standings before long. The Red Wings have a long and storied history of winning and at some point in the next two years will need to turn the corner from rebuilding to competing. There’s obviously a reason why Blashill was given just a two-year extension, as development isn’t what NHL coaches are paid for in the long term.
Luckily the team has some excellent prospects like Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno who look ready to make an impact, and four picks in the first two rounds this draft. They also have plenty of money coming off the books the next few seasons and should be able to build a winner if handled properly.