The Detroit Red Wings are now officially in the offseason. And while the last three months have been a monumental disappointment after having initially flirted with a Wild Card playoff spot, there are several positives that they'll be taking into the offseason – perhaps none more than the emergence of defenseman Moritz Seider, who will not only be a Calder Trophy finalist for the NHL's top rookie but will almost certainly be a candidate for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in the near future.
GM Steve Yzerman has already made the decision to not renew the contracts of Jeff Blashill and assistant coach Doug Houda, as well as goaltending coach Jeff Salajko. He directly addressed those major personnel moves during his end-of-season press conference this afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.
“I guess ultimately, to make a coaching change and take that decision, I felt that a team fundamentally that we'd plateaued if that's the right word, but we got to a point where fundamentally, with and without the puck, we regressed,” he said. “We're at a point where I felt like I felt bringing in a new coaching staff can make a difference to get us back on track and get us going in the right direction, so ultimately, that is the simplest reason I made the change.”
So, what will Yzerman be looking for in his next head coach?
“I don't know I can sit and say here I want specifically this or that,” he said. “I'm not sure how to answer specifically what i”m looking for. There are obviously areas in the game we need to improve, and I hope that a new voice and new approach, maybe a different way of doing things, we can improve our team play and the play of our players individually, because I think that we're not going to get rid of every single player here. We have some very good players, but they have to improve in a lot of different areas, and I”ll be specific with each of them as I meet with them here in the offseason.”
“My experience is that there are different personalities and ways that coaches are successful. I intend to look at all different avenues, leagues, and backgrounds of coaches. I won't restrict myself to any particular resume in how I determine the next coach will be.”
Fans will note that Yzerman has now been at the helm as GM of the Red Wings for three years now, and while he is well aware that there are those who want a specific timeline of when the team can once again be contending for championships, that's not something that he's ready to give.
“I think we're at the end of year three and the beginning of year four,” Yzerman said. “I wish I could give definitive answers, and I'm not trying to be witty or coy.
“We're going to be continuing to try and draft well and run a good program here in Detroit and Grand Rapids and gradually keep improving,” he continued. “That's what I'll stick with, and hopefully, sooner than later, we'll be a playoff team. I'd love to be able to sit here and give an exact plan…I'd be an idiot to say that.”
When asked whether the coaching change was a sign that his own expectations were not being met, Yzerman once again stated that it was still relatively early in his tenure as GM since his return in 2019.
“I don't know if my expectations have changed,” he said. “Again, we just finished our 3rd year with me as GM, I worked with this coaching staff for three years and there were good things done. And again, I didn't speak publicly of this because Jeff and I discussed this, we struggled defensively. To state the obvious, yes it was personnel. But we've been unable to with the group we've had specifically in that area to get better and get our team to play both individually. and collectively to be a sounder team.”
“It's been three years,” he continued. “It's not been from a lack of discussion on our coaching staff's behalf, we've been trying and we haven't been able to do it. That's an area that's going to have to improve, I'm going to bring in a new coach and see if he can do that with the group we have. There will be changes on the roster, but to what extent, I can't say. but there will be changes.
My expectation is that we improve in that area.”
As far as what Yzerman plans on doing this offseason, he explained that he doesn't have a set plan in place to improve only a single area of the roster.
“I wouldn't honestly just specifically target the blue line,” he said. “We've got decisions to make on our roster, in goal and on defense and up front. We'll look at all the different areas you can improve on, whether it's the younger players taking the next step into the NHL and even for that matter the trade market. I'd hesitate to say that because I don't foresee there being a real trade that would make sense and maybe something will come up. And then free-agency and try to add with that. You look at all forward positions and our D, and depending on what extent we go within not bringing players back, there may be more or fewer spots on the roster to need to address.”
Finally, Yzerman was sure to give Blashill kind parting words.
“I worked with Jeff and his staff for three years here, and he was here for four years before I got here, and three years in GR and one here as an assistant,” he explained. “Jeff Blashill is a good hockey coach, and he ran a good program.”
“Jeff did an outstanding job of leading this team and organization in difficult circumstances,” Yzerman continued. “It wasn't a complete s**t show. We were organized and our guys practiced hard. Having to sit here every day and answer questions after the game and say it with dignity and be supportive and positive, that's a hard thing to do. I said it after year one and I said it after year two, you cannot judge Jeff Blashill on the Detroit Red Wings record. I think you judge it on how he ran this program and conducted himself, and was extremely professional in that. I think it's unfair to put it all on the coach.
Having said that, for three years, I'm making a change today for the reasons I stated earlier.”
– – Quotes via Detroit Red Wings Link – –