Tag Archives: Jeff Blashill

Blashill: “Jurcs is one of those guys that’s in a spot and he knows it”

Tomas Jurco has officially been put on notice.tomas-jurco-producing-for-red-wings-d3a36ee5d93990d0

“Jurcs is one of those guys that’s in a spot and he knows it,” Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the second day of training camp in Traverse City. “He’s had an opportunity to play up here for a year and a half, basically.

“When he left us in Grand Rapids, my second year, he was a point per game in the league,” Blashill continued. “He was starting to evolve into a real go-to player. I think the first couple of years he survived and I think he’d like to take that next step. But in order to do that, he has to earn that ice time. He knows that.”

Blashill appears to be giving Jurco ample opportunity to show if he’s an NHL player or not, slotting him on a line with Brad Richards and Tomas Tatar after Darren Helm was injured on Friday.

“For now, then probably (Sunday) and maybe the red and white game,” Blashill said when asked if that’s where he plans to keep Jurco.

Jurco struggled mightily last season in Detroit.

Despite playing in 27 more regular season games than he did his first season, he scored five fewer goals. Jurco had three goals and 15 assists last season, compared to eight goals and seven assists in the 2013-14 campaign.

While in Grand Rapids, Juro had 27 goals and 47 assists in 106 games over two seasons.

“He’s got real good speed,” Blashill said. “He’s got a good skill set. He’s got size. So those are three real good assets. I hope he can continue and play like he did (Saturday).”

Blashill took over behind the bench for Mike Babcock, who had coached the Wings for the past 10 season.

“Providing more offense is the main thing for me,” Jurco said in the days leading up to training camp. “I’ve been working hard all summer, to get stronger, faster, so I think it’s going to help me.

“I think (confidence) was one of the biggest factors for me,” Jurco added. “It was hard for me to not be scoring as much as I was used to before and not playing as much, so of course when you do that for a few months it’s hard to keep your confidence high. Of course it was one of the factors, but it’s a new season and I’m ready for it.”

Jurco, who missed eight games last season with a back injury, went 39 games without a goal a year ago.

Despite his struggles he was only a healthy scratch in five games with Babcock, who used Jurco more in a grinding role.

“I think Blash knows what kind of player I was before,” Jurco said. “He had a chance to see it, so he knows I can be a different player, too. I’m not saying he’s going to put me on the power play and expects me to score 30 goals, but I think he wants me to work hard and work my way up to maybe first three lines so I can provide offense. It’s going to be up to me. Just the good thing is Blash knows I can do it.”

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Larkin could make Wings’ roster if Blashill wants him

DETROIT >> Dylan Larkin will make the Detroit Red Wings’ roster out of training camp on one condition: if new coach Jeff Blashill wants him in the lineup.

“My take on Larkin would be he’s got to be in our top 12,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Coach Blashill’s got to say to me, ‘I want him in the lineup.’ He’s not going to be our 13th, 14th forward. Realistically, just to put him on the fourth line and play eight minutes, I think he’s a real good young player with a lot of potential.

“He’s going to be real important to our franchise as we go forward,” Holland continued. “We want to make sure we do what’s right for him and us. If he comes and is a legitimate top-nine forward we’re going to find a way to get him in the lineup. If he’s less than that then we’ll sit down as an organization and decide.”
All the speculation began when the Waterford native decided to leave the University of Michigan after one season and sign a three-year entry level contract with the Wings.

After signing the deal he joined the Grand Rapids Griffins, playing on an amateur tryout contract, just in time for their Western Conference finals series with Utica.

In six games he had three goals and two assists under the watchful eye of Blashill.

“I thought he did a great job,” Blashill said of Larkin’s stint with the Griffins. “I think sometimes with a young player you look at them and get excited about what they could be and you see that potential. With him I thought he stepped right in our lineup and helped us win hockey games at the toughest moment with only three teams left in the American Hockey League. There were lots of guys that will play in the NHL on that ice so I thought he did a great job.

“It’s a tiny sample size,” Blashill continued. “He’s seemed to have passed all the tests in terms of small sample sizes, the World Championships, World Juniors, his freshman year at Michigan. He’s going to be a real good player, we’ll see when.”

Larkin, who slipped to Detroit at 15th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is regarded as the Wings’ top prospect, even ahead of Anthony Mantha, who struggled his first year as a pro in Grand Rapids.

“I still have a lot of work to do and still have a lot of hockey to play so I’m just trying to focus on the development camp and get better for the training camp,” Larkin said. “I think I want to make the jump. I signed for a chance to play in the NHL and after my time in Grand Rapids, I’m more than comfortable spending time there. The coaches they brought in and the players we have we’re going to have a good team again.”

Larkin, who’s a two-way center, was the unanimous winner of the Big Ten’s freshman of the year award, leading the conference’s first-year players in goals (15), assists (32) and points (47) in 35 games with the Wolverines. He also was a plus-18.

He also led Michigan with 15 power play points (six goals) and with 151 shots on goal.

At the World Juniors, he led Team USA in goals (five), points (seven) and tied in plus-minus (plus-seven) in five games, which helped Larkin earn a spot on the U.S. World Championship roster, where he had an assist in 10 games.

“We’ll see in camp how ready he is to make an impact,” Blashill said. “Like Ken said, can you make an impact? If you can make an impact and make our team better that’s great. If we’re not convinced of that then let’s let him continue to grow as a player so when he does come here he can make an impact right away. I think everybody saw that happen with Gustav Nyquist. That’s a great example of a guy, people said he should have been up early, I don’t know, all I know is when he came up he made an immediate impact and continues to so I think that’s the right formula.”

Larkin, who is very competitive and plays a 200-foot game, back checks hard and is conscientious defensively, won’t be disappointed if the team decides to have him play a full season with the Griffins.

“I think Grand Rapids, if I’m there for the whole year or most of the year or however long, I’ll develop better with the younger group of guys and the new coach that I’ve heard great things about,” said Larkin, who doesn’t turn 19 until July 30. “I think I need to get stronger. I think every player can always get stronger in the weight room and physically stronger. You can always be better in the defensive zone. That’s something I’m working on, faceoffs and little details.”

With additions of Green and Richards, Blashill now has limitless options

DETROIT >> If Jeff Blashill wanted options heading into training camp, he’s got them now.

With the addition of free agent defenseman Mike Green and veteran forward Brad Richards on the first day of free agency Wednesday, the options are endless.

“You’d rather have more options than not enough,” Blashill said Thursday at Joe Louis Arena prior to departing for development camp in Traverse City. “Obviously by adding those two guys that gives us more options, more abilities to do different things.

“It puts a premium on guys playing great in order to earn their different spots in the lineup and I think that’s a positive thing,” Blashill continued. “We were happy with the outcome, but we also understand it’s one day. We were able to acquire a couple guys that can really help us, but we have lots of work ahead of us.”

Early on it appears that Green, who’s a right-handed shot that the Wings have coveted since last offseason, will be paired with Danny DeKeyser.

Green, who signed a three-year deal worth $6 million a season, can run a power play and will rack up the points.

He’s not air-tight defensively, but it doesn’t concern Blashill because of how the Wings’ system is set up.

“I think their skill sets matchup,” Blashill said. “I think both guys can help each other and that’s a positive. I think the other thing is the best D-zone coverage is breaking the puck out of your own end and both guys skate really well and can break the puck out so that could be a good combo.

“I thought with Mike, he’s got a unique skill set,” Blashill added. “He’s different than a lot of defensemen on our team. We have some great, great quality D, but he brings an offensive ability beyond probably most of the guys.”
Mike Knuble, who was an assistant coach last season in Grand Rapids under Blashill, knows Green, 29, well from his time in Washington with him.

“He had a lot of great things to say about him as a person and as a teammate so I think that’s a really good fit,” Blashill said.

Green is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

Richards, who signed a one-year deal worth $3 million and could earn an extra $1 million if he meets playoff bonuses, is a number two center ice man, but could slot up to number one if Pavel Datsyuk isn’t ready to being the season after ankle surgery.

“Throughout his career he’s proven to be a top couple line center,” Blashill said. “That’s something I thought going into free agency if we can add somebody that could give us that potential that would be a positive thing. He can do that.

“He’s been a great power play guy his whole career,” Blashill continued. “He’s run it from up top. He also has the ability to play off the half wall. It gives you opportunities to have what Detroit had last year, two real good units and if you have two real good units I think you can really be successful instead of relying on one and kind of having a half unit. That’s our goal going in is to have two real strong power play units and he’ll be a big part of that and then five-on-five I think he can really help us.”

Richards, 35, won a Stanley Cup with Chicago this season and also won one with Tampa Bay in 2004, when he also was named the playoff MVP. He won the Lady Byng for sportsmanship that same season.

Richards scored 12 goals and had 25 assists in 76 games with Chicago. He turned it up in the playoffs with three goals and 11 assists in 23 games.

“I just went back and looked at his scoring over the last number of years and in my opinion I don’t think he’s slowing down,” Blashill said. “I think he’s still got a lot of great hockey in him. He’s been a great playoff guy. This organization has a lot of Cup experience, but within our locker room that not only just won a Cup, but has won two Cups.

“This gives you flexibility with a Riley Sheahan,” Blashill continued. “Riley can play the wing, he can play center. It gives you more flexibility with a lot of those guys. It allows us an opportunity to have a couple more good players than we did before the beginning of (Wednesday).”

The Wings now have 20 players signed, 11 of which are forwards, for nearly $65 million. That leaves them just under $7 million under the $71.4 million cap.

The Wings still have restricted free agents Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro to sign this year, while factoring in the cost of re-signing Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, DeKeyser, Sheahan and Petr Mrazek in 2016.

Blashill adds Granato, Ferschweiler, Cheilos, Noel-Bernier and Bedard to coaching staff

DETROIT >> When Jeff Blashill was named the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings one of the first calls he made was to Tony Granato.

He wanted him to return as an assistant coach.

Blashill got his wish.

“He was my number one priority,” Blashill said. “I wanted a guy with lots of NHL playing and coaching experience. Tony obviously fits that model, but probably beyond that and more importantly, I think he’s a home run because of the person he is. Tony’s an outstanding person, an outstanding hockey coach, who has earned the respect of so many of the players that he’s coached. I’ve talked to guys that played with him, or played for him in Pittsburgh, talked to many of the players here in Detroit and all of them have a real infinity for Tony. So I thought it was an extreme priority to get Tony to stay onboard.”

Pat Ferschweiler will be the other assistant on the bench, while Dave Noel-Bernier was hired as video coach. Chris Chelios will work the defense and goalie coach Jim Bedard will return.

Granato will continue to run the D during the games and he’ll also oversee the penalty kill. Ferschweiler will be a “sounding board” for Blashill as well as overseeing the power play.

Ferschweiler spent last season in Grand Rapids as an assistant coach under Blashill. He also spent one season with Blashill at Western Michigan.

“When I got the job at Western, Pat, similar to what I said about Tony, Pat was the guy that I tried the hardest to come and that’s because I had the opportunity to watch Pat grow a program, a youth program from the very ground stages and build it to one of the elite programs nationally. I saw that first hand. Then as I got to know Pat I realized what a great hockey mind, what a great person and what a strength he’d be and an asset on the staff.

“He is one of the best guys I’ve been around, helping individual players get better,” Blashill continued. “I think one of the things that we owe to our players is to help them become the best players that they can be each and every year. That’s a promise that I’m going to make to the players and Pat is going to have a big impact on that, especially with our forwards. He’s a good sounding board for me. He knows the way I think. He knows a lot of the things that we want to be about. He’ll be able to tell me when I’m on the right path and when I’ve gotten off the right path.”

Chelios, who Blashill refers to him as his “eye in the sky”, will have a similar role he had the last three years in Grand Rapids.

“I think every year it’s increased in terms of his scope and number of games he’s able to attend,” Blashill said. “He’s done a great job for me of getting me a player perspective. He looks at the game a lot through the eyes of a player and I think when you’ve coached a long time you think like a coach and a lots of times Cheli thinks like a player.

“He looks at a lot of plays from a micro view and maybe I’ll look at them from a macro view and I think that different perspective has been invaluable for me,” Blashill continued. “I think Cheli is another great, great person who can lend his obvious, unbelievable playing experience with the players in the locker room. He obviously has instant respect of everybody he comes across. He has some obligations that he’ll have to attend to, certainly the USA Hockey role that he was recently named to, but he will be with us to a large degree.”

Last week Chelios was named an assistant coach for the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.

Noel-Bernier will be in charge of the pre-scout.

“He’s got great hockey knowledge and also an understanding of what I like to glean from the video, what types of clips I like to show in our meetings, what types of things we want in our preparation and David’s already been through that with me so that’s a huge advantage,” Blashill said. “You also need somebody in that role who’s willing to work and Dave’s a tireless worker.”

Bedard returns for a 19th season with the club.

“Jimmy and I have a relationship where I’ve got certain beliefs in things a goalie should do, drills a goalie should do, no different than I have certain beliefs in the penalty kill and things like that where I would discuss with other coaches,” Blashill said. “Jimmy and I have a relationship where we’re going to be able to have those discussions. I’ll be able to add my input and he’ll be able to go out and build upon the foundation he’s already laid.

“We have two goalies who have proven at times to be elite in the NHL and now our job is to help them make sure they’re both elite this year,” Blashill added. “That obviously isn’t just on Jimmy’s shoulders but partially on his shoulders along with myself and the rest of the coaching staff.”

Blashill excited to work with both Howard and Mrazek

DETROIT >> Jeff Blashill had this to say when asked how he would handle the goalie situation in Detroit with Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek.

“The one thing that I know is that both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have proved at different points of their careers that they’re elite goalies. I think it’s great to have as much depth at every position you can and that’s what those guys have proven at different points of their careers. I know they’re elite competitors as well and character people. I’m excited to coach both of them.”

Wings lock up their insurance policy, Blashill, if Babcock bolts after next season

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings have locked up Jeff Blashill to keep him in the organization for three more seasons.

The move to keep him as the Grand Rapids Griffins coach gives the Wings an insurance policy if they are unable to work out a new deal with Mike Babcock, who’s heading into the final year of his contract.

“He’s very happy where he’s at,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in an interview last week. “I think he’d like to spend another year or two in the AHL, getting more experience coaching pros.

“He wants to be in the NHL but he’s got family in Michigan and enjoys where he’s at in Grand Rapids,” Holland added. “I told him some teams have called, he’s happy where he’s at. He’s happy to be in Grand Rapids for at least another year, maybe two. See how it goes.”

Holland called the salary increase “significant” since Blashill is being patient for another year or two.

Blashill spent one season in Detroit, where he was in charge of the power play, after leaving Western Michigan University.

“He can continue to develop, evolve as a coach in hopes that there continues to be interview opportunities in the next couple of years,” Holland said. “He’s very happy where he’s at.”

Blashill guided the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 seasons during his one season in Kalamazoo. His squad also made it to the CCHA tournament championship game.

“Mike Babcock identified Blash as a guy who’d be great on our staff,” Holland said. “He did a tremendous job turning around Western Michigan. A year under Mike Babcock in Detroit was beneficial and positive for his career.

“We wanted somebody who had aspirations to move on and bring in some energy,” Holland continued. “He did a fabulous job in Grand Rapids.”

Blashill won the Calder Cup with the Griffins last season.

He’s also played a key role in the development of the players in Grand Rapids, which showed as many of them helped in getting the Wings to the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.

“We’ve seen in Grand Rapids over the last year, year and a half … scouts identified good players and Jeff Blashill has done a fabulous job in the development of those players,” Holland said. “If Blash really wanted to pursue a head coaching job, we would support him.

“It’s an important time in Detroit,” Holland added. “We’re trying to develop another group of players who’ll be key contributors to us having playoff success. It’s important that they learn to win the American Hockey League level. This season and next summer is a critical time in Detroit as we transition young players into being Red Wings. Jeff Blashill is an important guy as we go through that transition. He’s excited to continue to have an impact on the Red Wings.”

Blashill has also been an assistant coach at Ferris State and Miami University. In 2009, he was named head coach and general manager of the Indiana Ice, a Tier 1 junior hockey team in the United States Hockey League. In his only season there he guided the Ice to the championship.

Blashill played goal for Ferris State from 1994-98.