Red Wings’ next coach could have an edge, NHL experience

The next Detroit Red Wings coach figures to be much different than Jeff Blashill, at least in personality and demeanor.

General manager Steve Yzerman, chances are, will seek someone who is more abrasive and demanding.

The feeling amongst some in the organization is that the team is too soft, wilts under pressure and does not handle adversity well, that players need someone who will push them to the limits to get the most out of them.

The Red Wings over the past 30 years have gone from a “nice guy” behind the bench in Bryan Murray to the tyrannical Scotty Bowman, and from a players coach in Dave Lewis to the hard-driving Mike Babcock.

There is a pattern here.

When Babcock left for Toronto in 2015, Blashill was the logical replacement given his familiarity with the organization and success in Grand Rapids, winning a Calder Cup championship in 2013. But players also needed a change of pace after being worn down by Babcock, and the organization needed some relief after putting out so many of Babcock’s fires for 10 years.

Unlike Babcock, Blashill was universally liked in the organization, considered a good person, a company man and a team player.

The Red Wings expected a long and painful rebuild after a 25-season playoff streak, but Yzerman clearly did not see enough progress this season. A rough final two months (9-18-40), which included blowout losses and too many goals against, sealed Blashill’s fate.

Plus, after seven seasons, which is an eternity for an NHL coach, a new voice was needed.

Yzerman might want someone with NHL head-coaching experience, something the past two coaches who were fired, Lewis and Blashill, lacked.

If so, that would eliminate New York Islanders assistant Lane Lambert, Yzerman’s former teammate. Yzerman did not hire another ex-teammate, Gerard Gallant, when he had an opportunity because he did not want to be in the position of having to eventually fire a friend. The same could be said of Lambert.

Some believe Rikard Gronberg, the former Swedish national coach who is currently coaching in Switzerland, would be a logical choice for the Red Wings given his ties to Nicklas Lidstrom and the organization’s penchant for Swedish players.

But no European has been hired as an NHL head coach since Alpo Suhonen of Finland (by Chicago) and Ivan Hlinka of the Czech Republic (by Pittsburgh) in 2000. Neither lasted long.

Yzerman is not likely to experiment and risk setting back the rebuild. It makes sense that he would want someone with NHL head-coaching experience and a history of success.

John Tortorella, Paul Maurice, Alain Vigneault, Dave Tippett, Claude Julien and Rick Tocchet are available, and Peter DeBoer might be soon.

Tortorella would fit the bill as a no-nonsense, in-your-face personality, someone who would get the players’ attention. He turns 64 in June and took the year off coaching after six seasons in Columbus, which included the franchise’s only playoff series win, a sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019. He won a Stanley Cup championship with the Lightning in 2004.

Maurice, Vigneault and Tippett are highly experienced NHL coaches who did not finish this past season. Maurice resigned in Winnipeg while Vigneault and Tippet were fired in Philadelphia and Edmonton, respectively.

Julien, who’ll coach Canada at the World Championship, won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.

Tocchet, an analyst for TSN, was fired as Tampa Bay’s coach in 2010, six weeks before Yzerman became the Lightning’s GM. Tocchet recently had a four-year run in Arizona, where it is virtually impossible to win.

DeBoer, who might get fired soon by Vegas, led New Jersey and San Jose to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year with each franchise, losing both times.

What about Babcock? As crazy as that might seem given his tumultuous tenure in Toronto (losing in the first round of the playoffs three years in a row) and his rough treatment of players such as Mitch Marner and Johan Franzen, Yzerman tabbed Babcock as Team Canada’s coach at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, which resulted in goal medals.

Of course, one of the many issues in that scenario is trying to get free agents to sign with the Red Wings.

Regardless of who’s in charge, the Red Wings need more talent. They need to continue developing the young players on the roster and in their system. And they need to get more quality players in the next couple of drafts.

That will have a bigger impact on their fortunes in the long run than the next man running the bench.

More: Red Wings part ways with Jeff Blashill after seven seasons

Leave a Comment