Wait continues as Red Wings’ coaching situation remains uncertain

Detroit News

Detroit — The wait continues around Little Caesars Arena.

The regular season ended Saturday for the Red Wings, but a decision regarding the future of coach Jeff Blashill has yet to be announced.

Tuesday came and went with no word from general manager Steve Yzerman regarding a decision as to whether Blashill will return for a seventh season.

The delay is a mild surprise.

Yzerman said during his news conference after the trade deadline in March that he would meet with Blashill quickly after the season.

Maybe the two have met, but an announcement on Blashill’s future still hasn’t made public, leading to more speculation and guessing regarding Blashill’s job security with the Wings.

The lack of news surrounding Blashill comes at a time while other NHL teams already have made decisions.

Columbus mutually decided with John Tortorella to part ways Sunday, after a six-year term. Tortorella was 227-166-54 in Columbus, his fourth NHL stop, and guided the Blue Jackets to the playoffs four of the six seasons, including winning the first series in organization history in 2019.

Arizona also parted ways Sunday with Rick Tocchet after four seasons with the Coyotes. Tocchet had a 125-131-34 record, and coached Arizona to its first playoff appearance last season since 2012.

Buffalo, the New York Rangers and Vancouver also have hazy coaching situations, with final decisions expected in the coming days.

Blashill, 47, has a six-year record of 172-221-62 with the Wings, missing the playoffs the last five seasons.

The Wings finished seventh out of eight teams in the Central Division this season, but showed noticeable improvement.

The Wings were 19-27-10 (.429) in the shortened pandemic season — a significant improvement over last season’s 17-49-5 (.275) nightmare that was shortened by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 virus tore through the Wings just after the first week of this season, and was a key reason the Wings went on an eight-game losing streak and a stretch of 13 losses in 15 games.

All of which pretty much buried the Wings’ season. But, the Wings rebounded, finishing 15-15-7 in their final 37 games after the 4-12-3 start.

“We lost our way in that one stretch where we were missing those guys, but when we look where we are, (eight) games under .500, somewhere in that range, ultimately that COVID stretch was a tough stretch for us,” Blashill said. “We did a real good job of responding when things went bad. It’s not whether you get knocked down, you’re going to get knocked down. It’s whether you continuously get back up, and our group continuously got back up.

“I can say on a night-to-night basis we worked and competed to the Nth degree, and that’s something I’m proud of our group.”

The development of young players such as Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Hronek, the arrival of goal-scorer Jakub Vrana in the Anthony Mantha trade, and arrival of prospects such as Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond as early as next season, provide hope for the Wings’ future.

“In terms of the arc of the organization, it’s starting to head in the right direction,” Blashill said. “Last year was a bad year for sure, and this year, again for me, it was totally different.”

Still, there are plenty of reasons why Yzerman is giving pause to simply bringing Blashill back.

One major one is the variety, and quality, of coaching candidates available.

Most are veteran coaches who likely would rather step into a situation where the team is closer to being playoff ready. But, the Wings offer the opportunity to work with a successful GM in Yzerman, have a young, promising future, with a load of draft picks still on the way, and the mystique of being an Original Six franchise, which remains a strong allure for many people around the NHL.

Some possible candidates include:

Tocchet: Pushed Arizona to a level of success despite so many obstacles, namely financially, and the constant speculation the team could be moving elsewhere. He’ll be looking for something more stable this time around.

Gerard Gallant: An old friend and linemate of Yzerman’s, Gallant has been on the sidelines for about a year after he was unexpectedly fired in Vegas, and should be champing at the bit.

Lane Lambert: Another former teammate of Yzerman’s, Lambert has been a loyal and respected assistant for Barry Trotz in Nashville and currently the New York Islanders.

Rod Brind’Amour: He has coached Carolina to the top of the NHL standings and the Hurricanes are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. But the former Michigan State star has yet to come to a contract agreement for next season in Carolina, and though everyone expects a new contract, it wasn’t been finalized yet. So the speculation continues.


Twitter: @tkulfan

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