Red Wings Name Derek Lalonde Head Coach

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday evening that Derek Lalonde will be the team’s next head coach.

Lalonde replaces Jeff Blashill, who was let go by the team after the Red Wings missed the playoffs in six of his seven years behind the bench.

The move was somewhat expected, as it was Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman – then in the same role for Tampa Bay – who hired Lalonde as an assistant coach with the Lightning, his most recent role.

As my primary hope for the Red Wings’ next head coach was new blood, this move works for me.  I kind of would have preferred someone from Europe – Roger Ronnberg would have been interesting and Sergei Fedorov would have been entertaining – but Yzerman specifically said he wanted someone he was familiar with and this certainly checks that box.

Somewhat interestingly, Lalonde’s coaching staff was not announced.  Alex Tanguay remains as an assistant coach with the team but assistant Doug Houda and goalie coach Jeff Salajko were let go with Blashill.

This is just one in many dominoes to fall for the Red Wings this offseason, but it’s certainly a large domino.

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 Hire Tanguay as Assistant Coach

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Wednesday the hiring of Alex Tanguay as assistant coach.

Tanguay replaces Dan Bylsma, whose contract was not renewed when the Red Wings brought back head coach Jeff Blashill.

The Red Wings’ statement on the hiring specifically called out Tanguay’s work on the power play with the AHL’s Iowa Wild over the last two seasons.

Iowa had the AHL’s fifth-best power play in Tanguay’s first season behind the bench at 21.9 percent, and its offense was among the league’s most productive, improving from 3.08 goals per game in 2019-20 to 3.15 goals per game over a 34-game schedule in 2020-21. The Wild also had the second-best shot-per-game average in the AHL in each of the past two seasons, averaging 32.68 combined in Tanguay’s tenure with the club.

The longtime Colorado Avalanche forward also scored 28% of his points on the power play.

Tanguay sounds like a good hire for Detroit.  I wasn’t really expecting him but, with those numbers, maybe I should have been.

I’d kind of come around on the idea of Igor Larionov as assistant coach but I have no idea if that was ever actually an option for the Wings or just social media spitballing.

Red Wings Bring Back Blashill as Head Coach

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday the signing of head coach Jeff Blashill to a contract extension.

Blashill’s contract with Detroit had been set to expire this offseason.

In six seasons as the Red Wings’ head coach, Blashill has taken the team to the playoffs only once.  His overall record with Detroit is 172-221-62.

Notably, the length of the extension was not announced.

The team also revealed that assistant coach Dan Bylsma will not return to the team.


Blashill hasn’t exactly had much to work with as far as talent on the roster goes during his time in Detroit, so I understand the idea of keeping him to see what he could do with a more well-assembled group of players.

The problem with that thinking, though, is the question of whether or not the roster will be better next season.  If the roster isn’t going to be much better and the coach isn’t going to be different, how are you expecting a different outcome?

Perhaps the thinking is that a different coach couldn’t do better with the players Detroit has available.  That may also be true and is a little harder to counter.

I don’t particularly think it was necessary to make a change.  That said, it feels a lot like, over the years, the organization has been content to trot out the same old players, the same old coaches, and hope for something to change.  Swapping out Blashill would have been a sign that these losses, no matter how necessary for draft capital and the rebuild, are unacceptable over the long-term.

Red Wings Lose Ryan for Season

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill announced on Friday that forward Bobby Ryan will miss the remainder of the season.

Ryan had a setback in recovering from an upper-body injury that was originally though to be minor.  He may now require surgery.

With the Red Wings’ season all-but-lost, this hurts the franchise more by how it impacts their trade deadline strategy.  With just three days until the trade deadline, they’ve lost one of their more valuable trade pieces.

Ryan is a veteran presence who has put up 14 points in 33 games with Detroit, seemingly rebounding from several off years with the Ottawa Senators.  Additionally, he’s on a contract for just $1 million.  As the Red Wings could be expected to retain salary on any potential Ryan trade, he would have been able to slot into almost any contender’s lineup.

Instead, he’ll be on the shelf and Detroit won’t add whatever he would have brought in trade.

It feels, to me, a lot like the 2018 deadline, when Mike Green was Detroit’s top trade piece, only for him to get injured down the stretch and no market to develop.  Eventually, Green was signed for two more years, much of which he spent out, before being traded for the injured Kyle Brodziak and a conditional pick that ended up being a fourth-rounder in this year’s Entry Draft.  He retired last summer.

I’ve often compared the Red Wings’ rebuild to that of the New York Rangers, citing the main difference (aside from the Blueshirts’ ability to win the lottery) as New York having players to sell.  When their rebuild started in 2018, the Rangers were able to move Michael Grabner and Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh.  Then the next year it was Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes.  With the draft picks they acquired, they were able to acquire Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba, making Brady Skjei expendable so he could be flipped for yet another first-rounder.

The Red Wings haven’t been able to do that. They have a lot of expiring contracts to offer up in the next few days, so I’m not willing to write that off as a possibility this season, yet.  But they did just lose a big potential piece.

Red Wings Lose Comrie to Jets via Waivers

Less than three weeks after acquiring him via trade, the Detroit Red Wings lost goalie Eric Comrie to the Winnipeg Jets via waivers.

The Jets are the team that originally drafted Comrie before losing him to the Arizona Coyotes via waivers to start the season.

As I Tweeted yesterday, this move feels wrong to me.  If waiving Comrie was about clearing a roster spot for Jimmy Howard to return from injury, that could have just as easily been accomplished by sending Christoffer Ehn to Grand Rapids.

The argument against that seems to be that this team needs more than one spare at forward or defense due to injury and illness.  I’d counter that the Wings will also need insurance in goal with Howard coming back from injury.

Mostly, though, it seems like waste of resources.  Yes, Vili Saarijarvi, who was traded for Comrie, probably had no future with the Red Wings.  He was still an asset, though, who could have been traded for someone who did have a future.  The two starts and one relief appearance made by Comrie could have been taken care of by Calvin Pickard and cost Detroit nothing.

Finally, there’s this:


Update, 12/20/2019: I’ve gotten some replies to the above Tweet scoffing at the idea of judging Steve Yzerman for such a low-risk move and want to address that further.

As I noted above, Vili Saarijarvi probably had no future in Detroit.  I don’t like how that came to be, I liked Saarijarvi back when he was with the Flint Firebirds, but there were simply too many prospects who had passed him on the Detroit depth chart so his lack of future was undeniable.  As such, trading him for something makes sense.

My problem with how this all went down is three-fold.

First off, why trade for a goalie at all if Howard’s injury was only going to keep him out for three weeks?  That’s what Calvin Pickard is for.  I’m sure the argument could be made that, with Filip Larsson struggling, the Griffins needed Pickard, but that’s the nature of being a farm team.

Secondly, Max Bultman of The Athletic notes today that Jeff Blashill had issues with Comrie’s rebound control.

“That’s an area that I know that he’s got to get better at, and I thought he struggled a little bit in Winnipeg that way, too,” Blashill said.

If rebound control is such an issue for Comrie – an issue bad enough that the Red Wings felt comfortable losing him on waivers – why didn’t their pro scouts note that before the trade?  If this is a dealbreaker now, why wasn’t it three weeks ago?

Finally, two games is just an absurdly small sample size to judge Comrie on.  A player who is in his third organization of the season, joining a team that’s the worst in the league with a god-awful goal differential, has two bad starts?  Yeah, I can see how that would happen.

But maybe it was some kind of 3D chess for Steve Yzerman to turn a low-value defenseman into a goalie rental for three weeks.  Maybe it was, in fact, necessary to rent a goalie for three weeks.  I just don’t see it.

Thoughts on the Captaincy

Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill announced today that the team would go a second consecutive season without naming a captain.

The move comes contrary to rumors that flew all summer about Detroit star Dylan Larkin being named as the successor to Henrik Zetterberg, whose playing career is over due to back issues but will remain under contract with the club for two more seasons.  While Larkin may indeed be the Red Wings next captain, that won’t happen this season.

While a new captain will not be named defensive specialist Luke Glendening was added to the rotation of alternate captains (alongside Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, and Frans Nielsen), giving the Red Wings four players wearing the A.

The captaincy is something that is very tradition-heavy in the NHL.  Steve Yzerman‘s retired jersey banner includes the C in recognition of his tenure as Detroit’s captain.  Joe Sakic’s does as well, as the Avalanche have never had an original thought.

It was a big deal when the Vancouver Canucks named goalie Roberto Luongo as their captain in 2008, skirting NHL rules to do so.  Similarly, it was something of a shock when, just five years ago, the San Jose Sharks stripped Joe Thornton of their captaincy.

Now, it seems that some of the gravitas behind the captaincy is gone.

Per the NHL rulebook, only players with letters are allowed to talk to the referees.  That rule is ignored on a nightly basis.  If any player can talk to the refs, there’s no in-game reason to designate one as captain.

The Red Wings showed how unnecessary on-ice captains are during the 2015-16 season.  For 34 games that year they dressed two or fewer captains due to injury, opting not to name replacements on a game-by-game basis, knowing there was no need to.  A season earlier they did that ten times, while also using four alternate-alternate captains.

Compare the current decade to the 1990s.

From 1990-91 to 1999-2000, there were six instances of a team going an entire season without a captain.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning.

There will be as many cases of teams going captain-less this season, same as last season.  There will be 25 instances of teams not naming a captain between 2010-11 and 2019-20.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Teams are instead opting to name a “leadership group,” as the Golden Knights called it in 2017 and the Canucks did in 2018 and the Red Wings have seemingly done this year.

It may just be that the captaincy doesn’t carry the importance it used to.  If a letter isn’t required on the ice, and if leaders make themselves known in the dressing room regardless of whether or not they’re a captain, then why name one at all?

Thoughts on Game One

I spent most of the Red Wings’ 2018-19 season opener watching how the five players making their debuts looked.  Mostly eye-test stuff, this is not a detailed breakdown, but here are my thoughts nonetheless.

Christoffer Ehn
There was a stretch in the third period where I was pleasantly surprised to see Ehn on the ice for two consecutive scheduled shifts.  That’s how little ice time he got (8:09, by far the fewest minutes of any Red Wing and only beating out Sonny Milano‘s 7:30).  That’s largely driven by the fact that his linemates were getting time on special teams, so it’s not his fault, but it still makes it hard to get much of a read on him.

Michael Rasmussen
I felt like I was looking for him and not finding him.  Is that because he was invisible or because he only got 12:06 of ice time?  Probably a combination of the two.

I will say that the look that I got from staff at the LCA Team Store when I asked if they had any Rasmussen jerseys was slightly hilarious.  It’s rare to come across someone else with my last name, I’m going to have fun with it.

Filip Hronek
Hronek had at least three giveaways that weren’t recorded as such and on one of those I was certain it was going to turn into a goal against.  He also wasn’t afraid to shoot the puck, even if those shots didn’t always end up on net.  Jeff Blashill said during the preseason that Hronek needs to consistently have more positives than negatives and I don’t think he did last night.

Libor Sulak
There were a could times Sulak surprised me when he was carrying the puck on a rush and just held onto it himself, ending up in an offensive-zone corner.  On one hand, these plays didn’t turn into anything so they probably weren’t the right call.  On the other hand, with how predictable the Red Wings’ zone entries have been over he last several years, with over-reliance on getting too cute with the puck, it was kind of nice to see someone willing to go all Thanos on it – “Fine… I’ll do it myself.”

Dennis Cholowski
The goal-scorer of the bunch, Cholowski looked solid.  He showed great timing on that goal, stepping up exactly when he should.  But I don’t think we shouldn’t get too wrapped up in that, because I really don’t remember a lot of positives for him other than that.  Kind of the inverse of Hronek, where he didn’t make many mistakes or do a whole lot, other than that goal.

That said, one thing I noticed is that, when I was shooting photos during the game, I kept coming back to him.  Someone my eye was just drawn to.  Not sure if that means anything.


Joe Hicketts
Hicketts wasn’t one of the five players making his debut but as part of the kid contingent, I figured he deserved some thoughts.  Once or twice there was a group of bodies around the Detroit net and Hicketts came screaming in to clear things out.  It was this combination of awesome and hilarious to see, at his height.


Henrik Zetterberg
It was time.  Zetterberg has been playing on a bad back forever and with what it took for him to play last year, him calling it a career before the start of training camp made sense.  I’ve been ready for the team to move on, to name a new captain, all of that.

But…  Man…  Watching him come out for the ceremonial puck drop?  That was hard.  I’m ready for this team to rebuild.  Zetterberg’s absence opens up a roster spot for that.  It comes at the cost of an icon, though.

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