Steve Yzerman has been a dual Canada-U.S. citizen since 2001, but his commitment to his adopted country doesn’t preclude making major announcements over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
He appears to still be contemplating who the next head coach of the Detroit Red Wings should be, nearly nine weeks after the position opened. Connect the dots and they draw a picture of either Derek Lalonde or Jeff Halpern, assistant coaches with the Tampa Bay Lightning who became available for interviews Monday, the day after the Lightning lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Colorado Avalanche. Lalonde and Halpern both have been assistants since 2018-19, Yzerman’s last year as GM of the Lightning.
Conventional practice is to make the announcement and then hold a news conference. A new coach certainly could be introduced virtually; the pandemic has facilitated that, but given what a big deal it is, it’s likely the Wings will want to have the event in person at Little Caesars Arena. The upcoming holiday weekend isn’t likely to deter Yzerman’s decision. It certainly didn’t 16 years ago.
On July 3, 2006 (a Monday), Yzerman announced his retirement after 22 seasons. “The Captain” was surrounded by former Wings greats Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay at the event; team owner Mike Ilitch also was there, as was Jimmy Devellano, the former general manager who in 1983 drafted Yzerman at No. 4.
So the precedent has been set for upending America’s birthday with a fireworks-worthy presser. Complicating matters a bit this year is the fact that Yzerman is among the Wings front-office personnel scheduled to depart Monday for Montreal, in advance of the July 7-8 draft. But he could delay his departure by a day.
There’s no rush to make a decision, but after this weekend, the business of running an NHL team cranks up: There’s the draft, followed by development camp, and then free agency begins July 13.
Yzerman has been searching for a new coach since April 30, when he informed Jeff Blashill his contract would not be renewed. There has been a cornucopia of candidates, but several have been snapped up by other teams: The Vegas Golden Knights hired Bruce Cassidy, the Dallas Stars hired Peter DeBoer, the Florida Panthers hired Paul Maurice, and the Chicago Blackhawks hired Luke Richardson. That leaves the Wings, Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets with vacancies.
Yzerman likely wants a coach he can hire on a two- or three-year deal to help the Wings take the next step in their rebuild.
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 guided the Lightning to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.
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