After seven seasons as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, Jeff Blashill was officially given his walking papers by GM Steve Yzerman, along with assistant Doug Houda and goaltending coach Jeff Salajko.
Detroit finished this season on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth consecutive year; Blashill led the team to the postseason on only one occasion, his 1st season on the job in 2015-16.
And while this move was expected by many, one coaching change that almost nobody saw coming took place over the weekend. The New York Islanders made the puzzling decision to relieve veteran head coach Barry Trotz of his duties despite the fact that he led them to within a game of the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 and 2021 coupled with another postseason appearance in 2019.
Trotz spent the first 15 seasons of his NHL coaching career behind the bench of the Nashville Predators, leading them to the postseason seven times including a 1st round upset over Detroit in 2012. He would later lead the Washington Capitals to their 1st Stanley Cup win in franchise history in 2018. He holds a career record of 914-670-60-168.
Could the Red Wings have interest? Speculation immediately began to abound from fans and pundits alike that Trotz could be on Yzerman’s radar as a potential replacement for Blashill.
One immediate pro that would come from hiring Trotz is that they’d instantly improve defensively thanks to the system he employs. The Red Wings finished the 2021-22 season with the NHL’s worst goals-against average, and routinely were lit up by the opposition to the tune of five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and even eleven goals against while looking lost and often disinterested. Upon his hiring by the Islanders in 2018, they would finish that campaign as the NHL’s top defensive squad in their own zone while also allowing the least amount of goals of the then-31 teams.
They would also finish with the second-fewest GA/GP with 2.56 in his four years.
Of course, another immediate pro that would come with a Trotz hire is his Stanley Cup-winning pedigree, an invaluable positive to help influence the young players on the roster such as Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, and the established figures that include the likes of Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.
However, the hiring wouldn’t be without cons. Fans would immediately point out the fact that Trotz will be 60 years of age by the time the regular season starts. And while that’s not exactly considered “elderly”, there always lies the potential for disconnect with younger players.
Additionally, Trotz’s focus on a defensive structure could also have a negative effect on offensive production. Teams under Trotz have seen their top offensive talents fail to reach their previous highs in points scored, including the likes of Alex Ovechkin with the Capitals and Matt Barzal of the Islanders.
It remains to be seen what Yzerman’s plan moving forward is. But you can bet that an established NHL bench boss like Trotz will almost certainly be on his list of potential candidates.