Red Wings’ coaching search likely nearing its end

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings’ search for a new head coach is likely in its final stage.

With the NHL season concluding Sunday night, as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games to win the Stanley Cup, general manager Steve Yzerman’s search for a coach to replace Jeff Blashill should be wrapping up soon.

Yzerman is expected to interview Lightning assistant coaches Derek Lalonde and Jeff Halpern — each of whom Yzerman is familiar with — as leading contenders for the Wings’ vacant coaching position.

The fact Yzerman hasn’t named a coach yet, and been waiting for Tampa’s season to conclude, gives weight to the theory Lalonde or Halpern could be preferred choices.

Lalonde, 49, is considered a slight favorite at this point for the Wings’ job.

Yzerman prefers familiarity with his coach, having promoted Jon Cooper to head coach in Tampa in 2013 after Cooper had been the coach in Syracuse, the Lightning’s minor-league affiliate.

At his season-ending press conference in May, Yzerman talked about working with a coach he knew and was comfortable with.

“I find it difficult to really hire people that you don’t really know, that you haven’t worked with or somebody that you worked closely with and knows kind of the way I want things done or the way I do things,” Yzerman said. “But I don’t want to rule anything out or exclude anybody because they have or haven’t coached (in the NHL), or they’ve not been in North America or whatnot.”

Yzerman managed Tampa from 2010-18, and was there when Lalonde joined Cooper’s Lightning staff in 2018.

Lalonde has an impressive head-coaching resume, which includes some Michigan ties having begun his coaching career in 2003 as an assistant at Ferris State. Three years later, Lalonde moved on to the University of Denver.

Lalonde won the USHL’s Clark Cup in Green Bay in 2011-12. Lalonde guided Toledo to two division titles (Toledo is a Red Wings’ ECHL affiliate), including being named coach of the year after Toledo improved by 58 points, still the largest improvement in ECHL history.

He then moved upward to the AHL, where he guided Iowa to its first winning season during Lalonde’s first season with the Wild.

Halpern, 46, played for seven NHL teams and dressed for 976 games in his long career (1999-2014). Halpern began his coaching career as an assistant in 2016 in Syracuse, Tampa’s minor-league affiliate, before being promoted to Tampa in 2018.

Halpern doesn’t have any head-coaching experience but is generally considered one of the more impressive up-and-coming coaching prospects.

Barry Trotz (who reportedly discussed the Wings’ coaching position with Yzerman), Rick Bowness, Rick Tocchet and David Quinn are former NHL coaches still available. The fact Yzerman hasn’t hired any of them already, though, likely diminishes the likelihood of them ending up behind the Wings’ bench.

Benoit Groulx, the head coach at Syracuse (and a former Yzerman hire) and Ryan Warsofsky (who coached Chicago in the AHL championship last week) are also considered possibilities.

Only the Red Wings, Boston and Winnipeg are currently without head coaches.

Vacancies in Vegas (Bruce Cassidy), Philadelphia (John Tortorella), the New York Islanders (Lane Lambert), Dallas (Pete DeBoer), Florida (Paul Maurice) and Chicago (Luke Richardson expected to be officially named shortly) have been filled since the start of the offseason.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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