Steve Yzerman

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.


Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.


The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”


Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”


Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”


The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Big Red Wings free agent splashes: Chiarot, Copp, Perron

Big Red Wings free agent splashes: Chiarot, Copp, Perron
Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s early in 2022 NHL Free Agency, but the Detroit Red Wings already rank among the most aggressive spenders in the league. Much like their Atlantic Division-mates in Ottawa, the Red Wings are pushing hard to exit their rebuild. The multi-million dollar question is: how far along are the Red Wings after free agent signings of Ben Chiarot, Andrew Copp, and David Perron.

You can definitely throw Ville Husso in the mix, too, even though they snatched him up before he could become a UFA.

Red Wings splurge on free agents: Chiarot, Copp, Perron (and Husso, basically)

Let’s run down each move, then round back to the larger question of how far Detroit really traveled.

Ben Chiarot part of a set of questionable free agent defensemen signings

If you want a theme to go with the normal “that doesn’t seem like a good idea” vibes of most free agent years, it was that bad defensemen contracts often came in at four years. Personally, Brett Kulak resonates as the exception. His four-year deal with a $2.75M cap hit feels like the type of deal the Oilers should have focused solely on, instead of bigger gambles on Evander Kane and Jack Campbell.

The Blue Jackets’ investment in Erik Gudbranson is troubling. The Blues are banking on Nick Leddy being better than the charts say. Like those teams, the Red Wings are betting big (four years, $4.75 million cap hit) that Ben Chiarot is better than projections indicate.

Even if the truth is somewhere in between the fawning “eye tests” and the dicey analytics, it seems like a dangerous move. Especially for a team that still has an awful lot of work to do in adding useful defensemen beyond Moritz Seider and a select few other possible solutions.

If nothing else, other Red Wings free agent signings are easier to defend.

Nice bargain on Perron

With certain moves, the main criticism revolves around wondering if Detroit is “there” yet. David Perron headlines such a concern.

Perron is somehow 34 already. That would make a long-term contract really dicey. Wisely, the Red Wings limited the term to two years, and got a nifty bargain at just $4.75M. He checks boxes both from analytics and simple counting stats standpoints. Heck, Perron’s even done some great work in the playoffs.

I just wonder if the Red Wings will be anything more than respectable during his two years under contract. It’s a bit surprising a more established contender didn’t knock harder on Perron’s door if the price was that reasonable.

Maybe the Red Wings can make a jump in time?

Digestible deal for Copp

Heading into 2022 NHL Free Agency, Andrew Copp carried the potential to be one of those players whose value inflated too high.

All things considered, the Red Wings made a respectable free agent investment in Copp. The 28-year-old can thrive in a number of different roles, and five-year deal ($5.625M cap hit) isn’t explosively risky.

It’s fair to wonder how that contract will age, though. While Chiarot’s contract personally weighs in at “bad” and Perron’s leans toward quite good, Copp trends more toward the middle. Maybe it would’ve been wiser to go younger, and cheaper, like Dylan Strome or Sonny Milano?

Ville Husso investment looks better by comparison to other moves

In 2021-22, Ville Husso often looked outstanding. That said, 57 career regular-season games (and seven bumpy playoff contests) only give you so much “data” on Husso. His numbers at other levels tailed off a bit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

It’s possible that the Red Wings’ consecutive offseason swings at younger goalies (Alex Nedeljkovic in 2021, now Husso) may both end up being whiffs.

Sure, some of that is “the price of doing business.” But they enter 2022-23 paying that duo a combined $7.75M in salary cap terms. Spending that money isn’t really “shrug, and see what happens” material. It’s a lot closer to throwing down the gauntlet.

It’s easier to feel OK-to-good about the Red Wings’ goalie changes after seeing the Maple Leafs’ strange investment in Matt Murray and other shakier bets. Even so, these moves keep stacking the stakes higher for a Red Wings team that might not be ready for such gambles.

Will spending almost $25M pay off?

The Red Wings also added Dominik Kubalik (two years, $2.5M cap hit) and Olli Määttä (one year, $2.25M). Those aren’t moves that will radically change things either way (though Kubalik could be a nice value).

They do add to the overall costs, though.

Between Husso, Chiarot, Copp, Perron, Kubalik, and Määttä, the Red Wings added nearly $25M in salary cap/free agent commitments during this offseason. Remarkably, they still have room to add more if they’d like.

Of course, the Red Wings can’t just look at this offseason. Some cheap contracts are coming off the books soon.

Now, the Red Wings aren’t poorly positioned to handle those situations. Only some of the contracts they signed could make things a little tougher down the line.

But it’s unclear if this aggressive push will be worth it. In the end, the Red Wings may wish they waited just a little longer to truly try to rise from their rebuild.

Red Wings hire Lightning assistant Lalonde as next head coach

Lalonde Red Wings
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings hired now-former Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde as their next head coach. This makes Lalonde the Red Wings’ 28th head coach. Jeff Blashill’s lengthy run ended after seven years.

“I’m very pleased to announce Derek as our new head coach,” Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said in the team release. “He has proven himself as an excellent coach at every level and has spent the last four seasons in the National Hockey League as part of a very successful program in Tampa Bay. We feel he is ready to take the next step in his career as the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.”

Red Wings hire Derek Lalonde as new head coach

It’s nice to see a non-retread get an NHL head coaching job. Instead, there’s that familiarity angle (some may call it … “chummy”) as Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman brings in a figure from the Lightning team he once ran.

Lalonde, 49, was part of the Lightning organization as an assistant coach starting in 2018, when Yzerman was still with Tampa Bay. Beyond that, Lalonde’s been around, including spending some time coaching the Wild’s AHL affiliate.

The Red Wings’ release regarding Derek Lalonde gets into the granular detail of his winding way to becoming their head coach. That experience included coaching the wonderfully named USHL team the Green Bay Gamblers.

Personally, the best chuckle came from Lalonde’s modest pro experience:

A former goaltender in the Division III ranks with SUNY Cortland, Lalonde recorded a 3.93 goals-against average and 0.877 save percentage in 41 appearances for the Red Dragons from 1991-95.

Hey, at least that gives the Red Wings an EBUG, eh?

It’s hard to say what message the Red Wings send by hiring Derek Lalonde as head coach. On one hand, Lalonde has that experience helping the Lightning. On the other hand, he’s not a retread, so he’s not super-experienced.

Is the feeling that the coach and team will grow together? Or will there be big steps forward starting in 2022-23 … or at least soon? Maybe we’ll get a better idea about all of that once the Red Wings start making offseason moves.

Pondering Red Wings’ offseason after letting Jeff Blashill go

Pondering Red Wings' offseason after letting Jeff Blashill go
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Jeff Blashill’s lengthy run as Detroit Red Wings head coach is over.

A day after their regular season ended, the Red Wings announced that they allowed Blashill’s contract to expire. They did the same with assistant coach Doug Houda and goalie coach Jeff Salajko.

After seven seasons, Jeff Blashill no longer Red Wings head coach

For those not paying attention to the Red Wings on a daily basis, it might be surprising to realize just how long Jeff Blashill has been their head coach.

Blashill, a Detroit native, took over before the 2015-16 season. That ended up being the only year the Red Wings made the playoffs under Blashill, where they won a single postseason game.

Since that short run, the Red Wings have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. Blashill finishes with a head coaching record of 204-261-72, which translates to a .447 points percentage in 537 games.

When one looks back at his work, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg debate.

[What went wrong (and right) for the Red Wings in 2021-22]

On one hand, seven seasons represents a long time to prove yourself. He didn’t receive a short leash.

On the other hand, the Red Wings rarely (if ever) really furnished Blashill with the type of talent that would inspire lofty aspirations. He took over a team in its last gasps of former glory, and then sorted through the rubble of a lengthy rebuild.

Frankly, it was a little surprising that he remained through the 2021-22 season, though.

New head coach part of a series of big questions for the Red Wings

So, where do the Red Wings go from here?

It’s crucial for Steve Yzerman & Co. to make the right calls this offseason. That starts with finding the right head coach, but also charting a wise path in free agency (and possibly through trades).

Along with another high first-rounder, the Red Wings hold an extra second-round pick, two extra fourth-round picks, and an additional seventh. They also possess an extra second-round pick for 2023.

Should they use some of those futures to try to add more NHL-ready talent?

[Nicklas Lidstrom is around to help Yzerman make such key decisions]

With almost $35 million in cap space, the Red Wings could accelerate their move upward if they want to. That said, there’s a risk in trying to reach too far. For all we know, it might be wiser for the Red Wings to continue their incremental approach, and maybe use their cap space to absorb short, problem contracts.

(Maybe extract some real value to take on the last year of James van Riemsdyk‘s contract, or that of Evgenii Dadonov, for example?)

Of course, a more incremental approach might make the Red Wings a less desirable destination for a more established head coach.

It’s a lot to think about, yet it makes perfect sense for the Red Wings to move on from Jeff Blashill as head coach.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

2021-22 Red Wings mixed rebuild hope with more growing pains

2021-22 Red Wings mixed rebuild hope with more growing pains
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

PHT’s “What Went Wrong?” series asks that question about teams who’ve been eliminated from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why did this team fall short, and how far are they from getting things right?. This time, PHT breaks down the 2021-22 Detroit Red Wings.

Honestly, it’s tricky to review the Detroit Red Wings rebuild, and where the 2021-22 season figures into the big picture.

A lot of it boils down to expectations, and time.

If you’re viewing from afar, you may mostly like what you see. Yet, if you’re a Red Wings fan, this rebuild (and much of the 2021-22 season) may feel interminable. Even then, it likely all depends on which Red Wings fans you ask.

How many more chances should Jeff Blashill receive?

Let’s begin with a fact that’s either stunning (if you barely pay attention to the Red Wings), something you know all-too-well (if the rebuild is beating you down), or a subject you get defensive about.

In mere weeks, Jeff Blashill will complete his seventh season as Detroit Red Wings head coach.

As of this writing, Blashill’s coached the Red Wings through 528 games, assembling a 200-256-72 record, good for a .477 points percentage. During that time, the Red Wings reached the playoffs one time, and won a single playoff game under Blashill.

Look through the coaching register for anyone who’s coached 500+ games, and you won’t see a ton of modern coaches* who’ve lasted so long with so little success. Even Mike Yeo — who feels like he’s on borrowed time with Philly — managed a .547 points percentage in a comparable 534 games coached.

* – Interestingly, former Red Wings coach Sid Abel managed the same .477 points percentage, and ended up coaching 967 games. Abel enjoyed much more playoff success, but maybe Blashill would too with an extra 400+ games to work with?

Of course, Mike Yeo and others stepped into more viable situations than Blashill did.

As Red Wings head coach, Jeff Blashill’s either been dealing with the dying days of that Detroit dynasty, or in the full grasp of the rebuild. To an extent, it’s not easy to grade his work.

Would Blashill be a great chef if the ingredients weren’t rotten? Or should we have seen more progress given just how long his run has been?

To make key steps from a rebuild to true competence (and then, ideally, actual contention), the Red Wings need to ask this question — frankly, they should’ve been asking those questions well before the 2021-22 season.

2021-22 season still shows a Red Wings team with a long way to go

If you rate the 2021-22 season based on progress from some key prospect-turned-players, there are some great success. We’ll get to Moritz Seider and others in a moment.

But if you remove the bumpers and bowl with the best, you’ll still end up with a lot of gutters. Evolving Hockey’s Team RAPM charts tell a quick story: the Red Wings, frankly, weren’t very good at much of anything, overall, in 2021-22.

Again, if you tweak expectations, you can see signs of growth. Still, it’s fair to wonder if the Red Wings are growing enough. How long will they be content with baby steps? That circles back to the Blashill question: would a different coach produce leaps instead of incremental improvements?

Because the bottom line is that, by any measure, the Red Wings weren’t very close to playing like a playoff team in 2021-22. Even when they kinda sorta flirted with the playoff bubble for a while.

Young players represent a promising future, with some delivering in the present

Judging prospects isn’t all that different from thumbing through prospect reports before a draft. For all the excitement (or, conversely, raised concerns) about a player, it’s often tough to tell if potential will actually translate to production.

That’s one reason why the 2021-22 season brings a lot of hope to the Red Wings. In Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, the Red Wings already boast two prospects who are effective NHL players right now.

Seider a real gem

  • Seider checks some big boxes for sought-after defensemen. He’s big, mobile, and right-handed. Seider may even be more skilled than first expected (when he was as surprised as anyone to be selected sixth overall in 2019).

Interestingly, a bit of luck may exaggerate Seider’s nonetheless outstanding rookie season. Seider ranks in the 92.9% percentile in Evolving Hockey’s GAR stat, in the neighborhood of Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Hughes, and teammate Tyler Bertuzzi. By the expected goals (xGAR) version of that metric, Seider’s more modestly in the 74.8% (with quality players like Taylor Hall, and maybe a mild surprise like Trevor van Riemsdyk).

Really, though, that just indicates there’s room for debate between whether Moritz Seider’s been elite this season, or “merely” very good. Not a bad problem to have. Especially since he’s been thrown into the fire, averaging 23:09 TOI per night, and splitting his offensive and defensive zone starts almost exactly evenly.

Considering how difficult it is to find defensemen like Seider, it’s extremely promising that the Red Wings found one at age 21. That’s already translated into a blueliner who generated 46 points in 71 games, too.

Raymond already a promising forward

With both Seider and Raymond, you can nitpick them if you really want to. It must be emphasized that you can nitpick them as rising NHL stars, rather than prospects whose output remains merely hypothetical.

By underlying metrics, Lucas Raymond is what many would picture a promising young forward to be. His offense is dynamic, while his defense could use some work.

Importantly, the good outweighs the bad, including in that Hockey Viz chart above.

Ideally, Lucas Raymond can maintain that scorching offense while improving on defense. If not, a team can win with a high-event player when they’re creating more than they’re allowing. It’s exciting that Raymond’s already pulling that off.

More help likely coming

OK, so we touched on production from those with potential. Naturally, there remains room to picture different pieces fitting or falling from a Red Wings rebuild.

Even with the graduation of Seider and Raymond, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler ranked the Red Wings’ prospect pool seventh in the NHL. They boast fascinating prospects in big defenseman Simon Edvinsson, hyped goalie Sebastian Cossa, and playmaking forward Jonatan Berggren. Depth options could pan out with Joe Veleno, and others.

And the Red Wings continue to pile up extra darts to throw. They have an extra second-rounder in each of the next two drafts, and boast three fourth-rounders for the 2022 NHL Draft.

Most likely, the pivotal pick will be the Red Wings’ first-rounder for 2022 (likely to be in the top 10). But loading up on extra picks gives you more chances to find diamonds in the rough. The Red Wings have a storied history of doing just that, after all.

Questions from 2021-22 and beyond lingering over Red Wings, their rebuild

Actually, those extra picks helps to kick off some miscellaneous questions. After 2021-22, the Red Wings should ponder a few things:

  • Should they package some of their picks for more immediate help? Imagine an enormous Red Wings defense with Seider, a traded-for Jakob Chychrun, and (eventually) Edvinsson.
  • Unlike Seider and Raymond, Filip Zadina‘s producing mixed NHL results. Should they move on from the pending RFA? Is it too soon to do that with a 22-year-old?
  • How should they feel about Alex Nedeljkovic? His play plummeted after a hot start. The 26-year-old has one more year left at a $3M cap hit, so they don’t need to panic. But the clock’s ticking on a potential answer in net.
  • Can they get a healthy season out of Jakub Vrana? If so, can he flirt with 40 goals?
  • With 15 roster spots covered, the Red Wings are projected to have about $35.6M in cap space. How aggressive should they be in free agency? Would they be better off trying to land a big upgrade via a trade?

[What Went Wrong (and right) for the Anaheim Ducks]

  • How will they handle some fork-in-the-road choices? Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi rank among those who will need new contracts after next (2022-23) season. With the Raymond – Seider rookie deals up after 2023-24, certain costs should rise.
  • With those entry-level contracts in mind, is there a window where the Red Wings can really jump, thus exploiting those savings?
  • Again, where does Jeff Blashill fit in all of this? Sooner or later, they have to make bigger gains. Is Blashill the coach to bring them up a level? Sometimes the patience approach devolves into merely walking in place.

The Red Wings have aced a lot of the early tests of a rebuild, yet the 2021-22 season looms as a reminder. The biggest obstacles remain, so we’ll see if Detroit has the mix of skill and luck to clear them.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.