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.

Red Wings Announce Bylsma as Assistant Coach

The Red Wings made official on Friday something that had been rumored for weeks: The hiring of former Penguins and Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma as head coach.

It seemed somewhat inevitable once the Red Wings cut ties with John Torchetti that Grand Haven-native Bylsma would come to Detroit if he couldn’t land a head coaching gig.

I like the move.  That’s partially because every time the Wings’ coaching staff has an opening I worry that they’ll just bring in a former Red Wing who doesn’t have any coaching experience.  It’s also because this gives Detroit a clear backup plan if the team struggles under Jeff Blashill this season.

Coaching isn’t like goaltending, where you might bring in a veteran to backup a struggling younger player to light a fire under him.  Blashill isn’t going to become a better coach just because Bylsma is waiting in the wings (though he might by learning from Bylsma, which is a whole other thing).  But if the Red Wings don’t turn things around and if management decides it’s time to move on from Blasill, Bylsma isn’t a bad option to turn to when that comes.

Final Thoughts on Petr Mrazek

Much like my thoughts on Andreas Athanasiou‘s mindset during his holdout last fall, I have a theory on Petr Mrazek‘s tumultuous tenure with the Red Wings.  A lot of it is conjecture, so take it with a grain of salt, but I don’t think I’m far off.

Mrazek was known as a cocky goalie from the start.  His celebrations while playing for the Czech Republic in the 2012 World Junior Championship introduced him to the world.  His “attitude problems” through the 2016-17 season can be attributed to it.  His comments upon being traded reflect it.

“The pressure for both of us was pretty high,” he said. “You have to show up every night if you want to play the next game. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s a really good thing when we can battle between goalies and do the best that we can. Sometimes when they say, ‘you’re the guy who’s gonna play for a while,’ I think it’s better.”

Specifically that last line.  I read that as Mrazek being frustrated that he was never made “the guy” in Detroit.  Some might say he never earned it, given his regression last season, but I think the slump was caused by feeling threatened by the presence of Jimmy Howard.

We don’t know what went down in meetings between Mrazek and Ken Holland.  We don’t know the reasons behind decisions made by Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill.  But what if it went something like this…

In 2012, Mrazek is coming off being named the best goaltender at the World Juniors.  He wraps up his OHL career and goes pro in the fall.  The Red Wings assign him to the ECHL to start the season but he quickly replaces future doctor Jordan Pearce in the AHL as the backup for the Grand Rapids Griffins, then supplants Tom McCollum as the starter.  He even gets in a couple games in Detroit, going 1-1 with a respectable .922 save percentage and 2.02 GAA.  By spring, he’s leading the Griffins to their first-ever Calder Cup Championship.

For 2013-14 Mrazek is back with the Griffins, with Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson manning the crease in Detroit.  In 32 games he drops his GAA to 2.10 and his save percentage gets up to .924.  He gets into nine games in Detroit, putting together a 1.74 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Come summer of 2014, Mrazek has put together stellar numbers through the first two years of his pro career and Gustavsson’s contract is up.  There is no reason for him to not think that he’s earned the backup role in Detroit.  Yet the Red Wings re-sign Gustavsson after a season where he had a 2.63 GAA and a .907 save percentage.  With one year left on his existing deal, Mrazek signs a one-year contract extension – a one-way  contract to ensure he’s in Detroit for 2015-16 – but starts 2014-15 in Grand Rapids.

Injuries open the door for Mrazek, who steps in and plays 29 games.  His 2.38 GAA and 9.18 save percentage are better than both Howard and Gustavsson.  He starts all seven games of Detroit’s playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and, though the Red Wings drop the series, Mrazek  improves on his regular season stats, going 2.11 and .925.

Despite his playoff starts, Mrazek is the backup when the Red Wings start the 2015-16 season.  He ends up starting 49 games, though, with a 2.33 GAA and a .921 save percentage, better than Howard’s 2.80 and .906.

Come Game One of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs – with the Red Wings facing the Lightning again – Howard gets the start.  In the first two games of the series, Howard puts up a .891 save percentage and a 3.59 GAA as the Red Wings go down, 2-0.  Mrazek takes over for Game Three but Detroit falls in five games.  Mrazek’s GAA is 1.36 and his save percentage is .945.

Mrazek’s contract extension from 2014 is up and on July 27, 2016, he agrees to something of a bridge deal, two years at $4 million each.  It’s less than Howard’s salary and a shorter deal but he’s being paid like a starter.  The rumor is that Howard will be dealt.  By all appearances, the Red Wings are now Mrazek’s team.

But Howard isn’t dealt.  Mrazek gets the start to open the season in Tampa and at the final home opener at Joe Louis Arena.  He gets 14 starts in the first two months, being pulled once.  Howard started 11 games, also being pulled once.  It’s clear it’s a 1A-1B situation.

It’s at this point that the wheels come off for Mrazek.  Even with Howard hurt for much of the season, Mrazek puts up the worst numbers of his career, with a 3.04 GAA and a .901 save percentage.  Both are better than the 3.46 and .887 of Jared Coreau, who “steals” some of Mrazek’s starts, including the outdoor Centennial Classic in Toronto.  Rumors abound about Mrazek’s attitude and it’s even suggested that Coreau is the true heir-apparent to the Detroit crease.

Six months later, Mrazek is left unprotected in the expansion draft, going unclaimed.

He comes into the 2017-18 season the clear backup.  It’s expected the Red Wings won’t even give him a qualifying offer when his contract is up (which has since been confirmed).  His .910 save percentage and 2.89 GAA nearly match Howard’s numbers but Mrazek ends up dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers.

If I were in Mrazek’s skates, I would have a bad attitude, too, and it would certainly impact my play.  I’m not saying it’s okay for that, just that I can understand it.

You rise up from the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL in your first season and carry your team to a Calder Cup Championship.  The next year your stats are even better, but a worse goalie is re-signed to play in front of you.  You take over the starting role anyway and make the most of it, putting up great numbers in a seven-game playoff series.

By next fall, you lose the starting role anyway.  You fight your way back to become the playoff starter again, you get a starter’s contract, and then again you’re the backup on opening night and the guy who they said they’d trade is still there taking up space in your crease.

It’s in your head, you falter, and suddenly the third-string goalie who hasn’t done anything is stealing your starts.  The spiral continues.  You pull yourself together over the summer.  After a rough start, you’re putting up similar numbers to your partner in the crease.  But it’s too late, you’re out.

Again, I’m not saying that Mrazek didn’t slump and didn’t have an attitude.  I’m saying that I can see why he would have one and why it would impact his play.  And, with that perspective in mind, it’s also why I think the Red Wings should have tried harder to deal Jimmy Howard, rather than giving up on Mrazek.

Red Wings Call-Up Bertuzzi, Put Vanek on LTIR

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday that Tyler Bertuzzi was called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins, with Thomas Vanek placed on long-term injured reserve to make room for him.

Vanek’s LTIR stint is back-dated to October 25th, so he’s eligible to come back late next week.

The interesting thing is that, with a player like Bertuzzi, you’d think he’d be called up so a guy like Steve Ott could sit.  Ott’s signing last summer essentially took away Bertuzzi’s spot on the fourth line.  But then there’s this:

If Bertuzzi was slated for the fourth line in Philadelphia tomorrow, wouldn’t he be practicing on that line while the 13th forward fills in for the missing Henrik Zetterberg?  Is Bertuzzi the spare, called up just in case Zetterberg can’t go against the Flyers?

If Bertuzzi was called up as insurance, it’s really interesting that the Red Wings didn’t go with Anthony Mantha.  A top-six spot opens up and they don’t go with the supposed top-six guy?  I don’t know.

Apparently Zetterberg will be ready to play tomorrow.  In that case, Bertuzzi taking his spot in practice confuses me.  I guess we’ll see tomorrow.


Update, 12:20 PM: MLive’s Ansar Khan, who still has me blocked on Twitter, says that Bertuzzi will play in a top-six role.

I really don’t get why they didn’t go with Mantha here and I’m confused as to what they want from him.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Rangers – 10/19

Coming off their first win of the season and their final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings are back on the road tonight, visiting the New York Rangers.

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal for the Wings, his first of the season.  Howard grew up a Rangers fan and loves playing at Madison Square Garden, so that’s not much of a surprise.

Any other lineup changes will be determined after the pre-game skate, per coach Jeff Blashill.

Game time is 8:00 PM on NBCSN.


In the meantime, Down Goes Brown has an interesting time-waster going on Twitter.

I gave it a couple shots.

I mis-counted, that total is actually 143. But when you can add a seven-time Norris Trophy winner, which also allows you to swap Wendel Clark for Marian Hossa, you do that.