On Blashill and Other Season-Ending Thoughts

The Red Wings ended their season on Friday night in New Jersey and entered the offseason with a slate of decisions to make about the direction of the team. It took under a day for General Manager Steve Yzerman to make the first one.

Jeff Blashill will not return as the team’s head coach.

The move comes in the form of the team cleaning house behind the bench. Assistant coach Doug Houda and goalie coach Jeff Salajko will also not return.  It is believed – coach contracts are rarely made as public as player contracts – that none of the three were explicitly fired; instead their contracts were not renewed.

Assistant coach Alex Tanguay remains with the team.  The 2021-22 campaign was his first in Detroit.

Blashill, as The Athletic’s Max Bultman notes, never had much to work with as far as player personnel goes, taking the team over from Mike Babcock as the Red Wings entered their current rebuild.  There seems to be the thought that he’ll end up coaching back in the NHL sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, there’s already buzz that he could take over the Ferris State program in 2023.

For the Red Wings, though, answering the question of whether or not Blashill would return has just raised another; that of who will replace him.

I won’t pretend to have insight into what Yzerman might be thinking regarding that (turn to Bultman again for some options Yzerman might be considering).  My hope – and my expectation given Yzerman’s history – is that we won’t see someone from the NHL coaching carousel brought in.  No John Tortorella or Paul Maurice or Dave Tippett.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m equal parts curious and terrified of the idea of bringing Sergei Fedorov over from CSKA Moscow of the KHL, with all the baggage that would entail. I’d been on the Roger Ronnberg bandwagon for a while but I’m not so sure about that anymore.

Whoever the new coach is, another big question for the summer is how similar the team he takes over looks to the one Blashill leaves behind.

Thomas Greiss is expected to depart as a free agent this summer, opening up the backup slot with the Red Wings.  Is the late-season signing of Magnus Hellberg, who made his Detroit debut in the season finale, a sign that he has the inside track on replacing him?  Hellberg himself is an unrestricted free agent, so he might not even return.  If Calvin Pickard leaves the organization and Victor Brattstrom returns to Europe, Alex Nedeljkovic would be the only returning goalie from Detroit or Grand Rapids, so upheaval is coming there.

On defense, it’s hard to see Danny DeKeyser – waived and unclaimed during the season – returning next year.  Mid-season waiver claim Olli Juolevi was largely ineffective in his time in Detroit and – as a pending restricted free agent – may not be given a qualifying offer, becoming unrestricted.  Jake Walman was good for the Wings after being acquired in the Nick Leddy deadline day trade and can reasonably be expected to return as a restricted free agent.

The biggest question mark of the current blueliners is Marc Staal.  Along with DeKeyser, he was named an alternate captain to start the season and the team appreciates his veteran leadership.  Though he’s not the player he once was, his performance didn’t drop as much as DeKeyser’s did, so there may be interest in bringing him back.

If Staal and Walman return, the Detroit blueline would be made up of Moritz Seider, Filip Hronek, Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Lindstrom, Staal, and Walman.  Simon Edvinsson, the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, could claim a spot out of training camp.

Even with the addition of Edvinsson, it’s hard to see that defense corps being much of an improvement over what the Red Wings had this year, so there may be appetite to let Staal (and/or Walman) walk to clear roster spots for upgrades brought in via free agency.

Up front there’s a similar situation.  Ten of the 12 forward spots are accounted for by returning players.  One of those is restricted free agent Filip ZadinaJonatan Berggren, who set a new Grand Rapids Griffins rookie scoring record this season, can also be expected to take up a spot.  That’s 12 just by letting pending restricted free agent Mitchell Stephens and unrestricted free agents Sam Gagner, Turner Elson, and Carter Rowney walk.

Like Staal, the team has appreciated Gagner’s veteran hand and may want him back next year.  Pushing Givani Smith into the 13th forward slot wouldn’t be the end of the world but it again means that there’s little room to add upgrades via free agency.

The Red Wings are getting into a dangerous spot in their rebuild.  To take advantage of the prime of Dylan Larkin‘s career, they will need to add pieces now.  Trotting out the same basic lineup behind a new head coach won’t do it (though having both Robby Fabbri and Jakub Vrana healthy at the same time would be a benefit).

If they can’t do that, realistically, this rebuild is going to take at least another three or four years and they should be looking at selling Larkin or Tyler Bertuzzi or Vrana for assets that will make them competitive when Seider and Lucas Raymond are in their primes.  It might be a hard pill for Wings fans to swallow but it makes sense.

Red Wings Shut Down Through Christmas

The National Hockey League announced on Sunday that the Detroit Red Wings would be shut down until at least after the league’s Holiday Break.

The Wings would be eligible to resume their schedule against the New York Rangers on December 27.

The move comes with the team announcing that forwards Sam Gagner, Pius Suter, and Joe Veleno has been placed in COVID protocol, along with assistant video coach Jeff Weintraub.

Robby Fabbri and Michael Rasmussen had been placed on the COVID list on Thursday.  Givani Smith, Carter Rowney, Alex Nedeljkovic, and coaches Jeff Blashill and Alex Tanguay were added on Saturday morning.  Filip Zadina was a late addition on Saturday, announced just before the Red Wings hosted the New Jersey Devils.

The team had only one game remaining on the schedule in the week leading up to Christmas anyway, a Thursday visit to the Minnesota Wild.  Monday’s matchup between the Wings and Colorado in Detroit had already been postponed due to COVID concerns with the Avalanche.

The Red Wings join the Avalanche, Calgary Flames, and Florida Panthers as teams having been temporarily shut down.


As I said yesterday, some kind of league-wide shutdown seems inevitable at this point.  There are over 100 players across the league in COVID protocol.  This isn’t contained.

Cross-border travel was also cancelled through the end of the Holiday Break so no one would be forced to quarantine on the wrong side of a border for Christmas.

So it seems like the league recognizes that it’s not contained.  But, to give them the benefit of the doubt, it’s also not contained in communities, so would shutting the league down actually do any good?  I’m not an epidemiologist, I don’t know.

Red Wings Add Five to COVID Protocol

With Robby Fabbri and Michael Rasmussen already in COVID protocol, the Detroit Red Wings added five more to that list on Saturday.

The Red Wings are set to host the New Jersey Devils tonight.

New Jersey, meanwhile, placed defenseman P.K. Subban on the COVID list.

This comes as the virus runs rampant through the NHL.  Per CapFriendly, 90 players across the league are in COVID protocol.  The Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche have had their seasons paused until after Christmas, with Detroit’s matchup against the Avalanche on Monday yet to be rescheduled.

Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Ben Simon and assistant Todd Krygier have been tapped to join Detroit assistant coach Doug Houda behind the Red Wings’ bench with Blashill and Tanguay unavailable.  Simon and Krygier are available because the Griffins’ weekend series with the Toronto Marlies was postponed due to an outbreak on the Marlies’ roster.

It seems like some kind of league-wide pause is inevitable at this point, however no further cancellations involving the Red Wings have been announced.

Wings Announce Initial 2021-22 Roster

The Detroit Red Wings announced their initial roster for the 2021-22 NHL season on Monday, making their final cuts by sending Riley Barber, Taro Hirose, and Joe Veleno to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The team also announced the termination Bobby Ryan‘s pro try-out, removing him from their roster.

As had been previously announced, Detroit is opening the season with 13 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies.

The most notable item in the team’s initial 23-man roster might be the inclusion of 2020 first-round draft pick Lucas Raymond, who practiced with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi on the team’s top line in preparation for the Red Wings’ season opener on Thursday.

While Ryan and Raymond may not have been fighting for the same roster spot, the fact that Raymond made the team while Ryan didn’t does seem to be a change for the Red Wings.  Under previous general manager Ken Holland, “the tie goes to the veteran” was a common refrain.  Current GM Steve Yzerman could have made room for Ryan at the expense of a number of younger players and the fact that he didn’t may show that veteran status won’t always be the tiebreaker going forward.

In addition to Raymond, 2019 first-round pick Moritz Seider will start the season in Detroit, though this was expected after his breakout campaign in the SHL last season.

One of the Red Wings’ young prospects who had been expected to challenge for a roster spot didn’t make it, with Veleno having been sent to Grand Rapids.  There’s an argument that Veleno could have been picked over Mitchell Stephens or Carter Rowney for a spot on the Wings’ fourth line and but one could also say he’s better suited playing top-line minutes with the Griffins than fourth-line minutes in Detroit.

It’s also important to note that, while this is Detroit’s initial roster, required to be set by 5:00 PM today, there is plenty of time between now and Thursday’s opener for things to change.  Notably, Adam Erne, Givani Smith, and Michael Rasmussen are all nursing injuries.  With only 13 forwards on the roster, a call-up will be necessary if more than one of them is unable to play.

2021 Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings announced their 2021 training camp roster on Wednesday and, following the Tuesday announcement of Bobby Ryan joining the team on a PTO, there were no surprises on the roster itself.

Which means I get to move on to my favorite annual tradition: Analyzing jersey number changes.

Between returning players from last year’s roster, incoming players who had already had their numbers announced, and players whose numbers were revealed by Detroit’s prospects tournament roster, there weren’t a lot of surprises left.

The biggest surprise is probably Taro Hirose switching from #67 to #25.  He’d previously switched to #67 after debuting wearing #53, specifically requesting a number with a seven in it, so switching to a number without a seven was unexpected, to me.

Additionally, Hirose’s switch makes Mitchell Stephens having picked #22 interesting.  Stephens had worn #67 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and seemingly wore it whenever his preferred #27 wasn’t available.  With #27 taken by Michael Rasmussen in Detroit and #67 vacated by Hirose, I’m surprised that Stephens went with #22 instead.

Two players making their returns to the Detroit organization also have some slightly-surprising numbers.

Luke Witkowski will wear #20 in Detroit’s camp after having worn #28 in his first stint with the Wings.  I’d wondered if Gustav Lindstrom would give up #28 but he keeps it, and Witkowski’s usual alternate number #82 went to summer free agent signing Jordan Oesterle.

Dan Renouf had previously worn #77 in Detroit but that number is now assigned to Oscar Plandowski.  In camp, he’d also worn the #20 taken by Witkowski, leaving him switching to the #21 made available by Dennis Cholowski‘s departure.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
15 Jakub Vrana
22 Mitchell Stephens
23 Lucas Raymond
24 Pius Suter
25 Taro Hirose
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Carter Rowney
42 Kyle Criscuolo
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
50 Dominik Shine
51 Hayden Verbeek
52 Jonatan Berggren
54 Bobby Ryan
56 Pasquale Zito
57 Turner Elson
58 Cameron Butler
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
61 T-Bone Codd
62 Cooper Walker
63 Jon Martin
64 Luke Toporowski
67 Dennis Yan
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
74 Cross Hanas
76 Tyler Spezia
78 Patrick Curry
79 Kirill Tyutyayev
89 Sam Gagner
90 Joe Veleno
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Nick Leddy
3 Jared McIsaac
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Luke Witkowski
21 Dan Renouf
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
44 Donovan Sebrango
47 Wyatt Newpower
49 Seth Barton
53 Moritz Seider
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stetcher
77 Oscar Plandowski
82 Jordan Oesterle
83 Mason Ward
84 Alex Cotton
86 Adam Brubacher
87 Ryan Murphy

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
31 Calvin Pickard
33 Sebastian Cossa
34 Victor Brattstrom
36 Kaden Fulcher
39 Alex Nedeljkovic
60 Jan Bednar

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