The Detroit Red Wings plan on making a change behind the bench–but it’s for Dan Bylsma’s position. Bylsma was in charge of forwards and the power play–two spots the Wings sorely underachieved in. While it doesn’t seem fair to blame all of it on Bylsma, it was troubling enough that both Steve Yzerman and Jeff Blashill bid Bylsma adieu.
There are plenty of candidates available in the league, as the Athletic’s Max Bultman wrote about earlier this week, and I’m a huge fan of the Igor Larionov angle. It’s something that needs attention along with the roster Yzerman is sure to turn over some more. But one name left off the list was Yzerman’s old roomate: Lane Lambert.
How would Lambert Help The Red Wings?
Lambert has been with Barry Trotz at every stop: Starting with Nashville, picking up a Stanley Cup title in Washington, and then heading to the Island when Trotz accepted the job with New York. Could the Red Wings entice him for a return trip to Motown?
Lambert seems a logical choice as he’s worked with the forwards in Washington and New York. Sure, he had a lot of sure fire talent in Washington but the work he’s done in New York has been impressive. He’s been in the mix for head coaching jobs, and also been rumored to be a target for Detroit by some in the local media, albeit as a head coach.. As Helene St. James wrote, Lambert’s skills with the penalty killing unit are lauded:
One of Lambert’s duties with the Islanders is running their penalty kill.
“He’s one of the most detailed coaches I’ve ever seen,” forward Brock Nelson said. “He studies the game quite a bit and knows the ins and outs of little plays that will make a big difference in the long run in the course of a game.
Here’s a look at the penalty killing efficiency in New York:
- 2018-19: 82.7% (18th)
- 2019-20: 84.1% (13th)
- 2020-21: 86.7% (5th)
And then his numbers with Washington:
- 2014-15: 82.7% (20th)
- 2015-16: 85.9% (7th)
- 2016-17: 85.7% (9th)
- 2017-18: 81.8% (18th)
The uptick in New York is impressive as the kill has steadily improved each season. Though the 2017-18 numbers ballooned, they did win the Stanley Cup on the strength of their forwards, also coached by Lambert.
Why it Might not Work
For starters, why would Lambert leave a great situation for a lateral move with a team rebuilding? Even if he is brought in, no one really knows what the future holds for Blashill. A two-year deal could easily be extended again, and beyond that, would Blashill really sign off on a guy who could potentially replace him?
Additionally, the Red Wings desperately need an efficient power play coach who can help them and that hasn’t been in Lambert’s coaching duties at the NHL level. This isn’t to say that he couldn’t run it, especially with a background with forwards, but it seems more realistic that he would stick with what he knows.
Will the Red Wings realistically look at Lambert?
So a lateral move might not be exactly what he’s looking for. Then again, if reports are true that Blashill has a two-year extension, Lambert could be a coach-in-waiting if things don’t work out. The Athletic’s Josh Cooper wrote two seasons ago about how some have compared him to Carolina bench boss Rod Brind’Amour.
High praise indeed.
Maybe Yzerman brings his old buddy back–or perhaps Lambert gets the chance to run his own bench before the Red Wings can even ask. Lambert has a wealth of experience, starting in juniors, serving as a head coach in the AHL with Milwaukee that saw success, and led him to be a disciple of Trotz.
From what others have said about him, it could be a masterful fit. The better bet is that he’ll be a head coach soon, but it’s certainly worth a look for Detroit.