How Stanley Cup Final affects Detroit Red Wings and Steve Yzerman’s coaching search

Detroit Free Press

Nearly eight weeks have passed since general manager Steve Yzerman opened the Detroit Red Wingshead coaching position, and it’s still vacant.

Other NHL teams have made hires: This week saw former Plymouth Whalers coach Peter DeBoer hired by the Dallas Stars; previously the Vegas Golden Knights snapped up former Grand Rapids Griffins coach Bruce Cassidy, eight days after he was fired by the Boston Bruins. The Philadelphia Flyers already have introduced John Tortorella as their new coach, and Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland (formerly of the Wings) removed the interim tag from former Wings video coach Jay Woodcroft. The Florida Panthers announced Wednesday afternoon that they hired former Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice to replace Andrew Brunette, who was a finalist for the NHL coach of the year award while replacing Joel Quenneville on an interim basis.

That leaves the Wings, Bruins, and Jets with openings. The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t announced a decision regarding their interim coach.

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It bears emphasizing that there’s no rush: It may be nice to have a coach installed before the July 7-8 draft, but a head coach doesn’t influence draft decisions. It’s a monumental decision, one of the biggest since Yzerman was named GM in April 2019. He inherited and extended Jeff Blashill before opting not to renew his contract again April 30, the day after the season finale.

[WHAT HAPPENED: Steve Yzerman says Red Wings ‘regressed’ under Jeff Blashill]

Given how much time he has had to interview available candidates, Yzerman may be waiting for the Stanley Cup Final to end so he can talk to Derek Lalonde, who has been an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning since Yzerman’s last year with the team. Lalonde, mentioned early on as a candidate by the Free Press, was an assistant at Ferris State early in his coaching career, and has been a head coach at the USHL and ECHL level. He coached in the latter with the Toledo Walleye from 2014-16, before Yzerman’s return to Detroit but during Toledo’s affiliation with the Wings. During his first season, Lalonde led the Walleye to a 50-15-5-2 record, claiming the Brabham Cup as the ECHL’s regular-season champion. Before being hired in Tampa in 2018, Lalonde was head coach for two seasons in the AHL with the Iowa Wild.  During his tenure (69-58-17-8), the Wild posted team records for wins, home wins, road wins, fewest losses and total points in a season.

Yzerman plucked coaches from the AHL the two times he hired head coaches in Tampa: Guy Boucher in 2010, and, after firing him in 2013, Jon Cooper, the former Lansing Catholic coach who has the Lightning competing for a third straight Stanley Cup. Yzerman may see a situation in Detroit ideal for doing so again: The Wings are in a transitional stage, ready to take the next step in the rebuild but not yet at contender status. Lalonde, 49, doesn’t have the leverage or salary demands of high-profile coaches such as Quenneville or Barry Trotz. Lalonde could be hired on a two- or three-year deal, giving Yzerman an opportunity to see if he can improve the Wings defensively, which was one of the chief criticisms Yzerman leveled at Blashill in announcing the coaching change.

The Lightning trail the Colorado Avalanche, 3-1, in the Final heading to Game 5 on Friday in Denver. The latest the Final can finish is Tuesday.

Contact Helene St. James at 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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