One high-profile coach is off the market, with the Detroit Red Wings now more than two months into their search for a new bench boss.
General manager Steve Yzerman does not lack for candidates, even with Bruce Cassidy snapped up this week by the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights were the most covetable opening, and they hired Cassidy eight days after the Boston Bruins shocked the hockey world by firing him.
That leaves Barry Trotz as the biggest name available, but he’s a Stanley Cup champion who may well want to resume his career with a team close to contending.
The Wings are moving on from Jeff Blashill, whose contract was not renewed after seven seasons, the last six of which the Wings missed the playoffs. That wasn’t on Blashill — the Wings lack the star rosters that populate a playoff team — but the way the Wings stumbled down the stretch after an encouraging first half did not reflect well on him. Yzerman wants the Wings to play better defensively, and he wants a stern voice.
He may also want a transitional one.
The Wings aren’t where they were in 1993 when, as a player, Yzerman saw what difference it made to bring in Scotty Bowman. Within five years, the team had won two championships. Yzerman may be more comfortable bringing in a coach on a shorter-term deal, such as three years, than the four-or-more years that coaches with leverage can command. That latter group includes multiple Stanley Cup winners besides Trotz (2018, Washington Capitals): Joel Quenneville (2010, 2013 and 2015, Blackhawks), John Tortorella (2004, Tampa Bay Lightning), and Claude Julien (2011, Bruins).
Yzerman’s history in hiring head coaches shows his willingness to gamble on a a fresh face: As GM of the Lightning, Yzerman hired Guy Boucher, and, when he wasn’t coaching to expectations, fired him and promoted Jon Cooper, who has the Bolts in the Stanley Cup Final for the third straight year.
The Wings would seem a good fit for a newcomer to the NHL head coaching game. The Wings are on the rise, thanks to last season’s arrivals of Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, with Simon Edvinsson poised to join the team next season. The Wings still need a No. 1 center and to solidify their goaltending situation, but they are ready to be pushed to be at least be a .500 team. Candidates that could be a good fit in a transitional role (with the possibility of staying, of course), include Derek Lalonde, an assistant coach during Yzerman’s last year with the Lightning; Mike Vellucci, a Farmington native who also has coached in the AHL and as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins; Marco Sturm (Los Angeles Kings) and Spencer Carberry (Toronto Maple Leafs).
Another possible candidate is Cam Abbott, who has been coaching in Sweden. He was Seider’s coach in 2020-21.
There’s no time pressure for Yzerman to make a decision — coaches don’t have input on the draft, which is July 7-8. Beyond deciding who the first-round picks should be, this is Yzerman’s most important decision since being named GM three years ago.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.