Hiring Alex Tanguay as assistant coach was right move for Detroit Red Wings. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

Alex Tanguay’s challenge is to work among former foes and make the Detroit Red Wings a more competitive team.

His past as a forward for the Colorado Avalanche during the latter part of the storied rivalry delighted one new coworker so much he called Tanguay earlier this week to congratulate him on his new job as assistant coach.

“Kris Draper said, ‘You’re the first one to cross that bridge,’” Tanguay said Wednesday. “It was such a unique rivalry. I told Kris, ‘I missed most of the fighting.’ But it was always such a special place to play at the Joe, and the organization was so good and the team was so good. It made it interesting at that time.

“I certainly understood how much pride those guys had in the Red Wings organization, and I’m glad to be a part of the organization now.”

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Tanguay will be in charge of the forwards and the power play. The Wings have been dreadful on man advantages over the past three seasons: Their conversion rate of 15.2% ranks 30th out of 31 teams.

“I’m very confident Alex can put a structure together, can have a foundation on the power play,” head coach Jeff Blashill said. “Where I’m really confident Alex can help our guys is in individual situations on the power play. He can help our flankers find ways to evaluate and know the best options that the player has available. Find ways with our net-front guys to be a little more dangerous.

“That’s where I thought Alex was pretty unique because of the way he sees hockey. He was a really cerebral offensive player himself.”

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Tanguay, 41, played 16 seasons in the NHL, also suiting up for the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes. He recorded 283 goals and 580 assists in 1,088 games. Drafted by Colorado at No. 12 overall in 1998, Tanguay played for the franchise from 1999-2006 and again from 2013-2016. He announced his retirement in February 2017, accepting a role as a studio analyst for the NHL Network.

Tanguay replaces Dan Bylsma, whose contract was not renewed at season’s end. General manager Steve Yzerman took part in the interviewing process to add a fresh voice behind the bench.

“Steve is highly praised in hockey circles, not only for what he did as a player but also what he did with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization,” Tanguay said. “It was a good conversation. It was fun. Steve asked me questions about some of the things that I thought, and then I asked him certain questions about the team. It was fun to pick the mind of one of the brightest in the game.”

Tanguay has spent the last two years as an assistant coach with the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League. During his time there, the Wild had a combined 54-31-8-4 record. The Wild had the AHL’s fifth-best power play in Tanguay’s first season behind the bench, at 21.9%.

“I’m somewhat relatively new to coaching, but players always have feels that you can’t get as a coach,” Tanguay said. “I’ve always believed that. When you’ve experienced it, you’ve got a different view and a different perspective on certain things. My job is to get familiar with players, build relationships with them, and earn their trust in that I’m going to try to get them better and put them in situations to succeed. I can’t wait.”

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Tanguay was looking for an opportunity to coach at the NHL level and hit it off right away with Blashill.

“When I started talking with Jeff, we had a real good interaction,” Tanguay said. “Through the interaction and meetings I had with Jeff, we went over some stuff and I shared my thoughts on some of the things they did last year and what I would suggest they try in the future. We talked about different players and where they are at in their development.

“I’m very happy to be a resource now and help make this team grow and get the young guys to be better and be more effective.”

As it happens, Tanguay joins the Wings for a season that rings the bell on two anniversaries: Next spring marks 25 years since the Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup championship and 20 years since their 2002 Cup; both times, the Wings dispatched the Avs in the Western Conference finals.

“You don’t have to remind me that next year is going to be 20 years anniversary of 2002,” Tanguay said, smiling. “I still remember that, it’s still very fresh in my mind in a bad way. But all kidding aside, I’m looking forward to being part of the organization.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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