April 13, 2017
No Yzerman or Gallant to rescue Wings;
GM Holland, coach Blashill to return
By KEITH GAVE
So it has come to this: After 20 years on the job, during which he helped to build teams that won four Stanley Cup titles, Ken Holland needed a vote of confidence from the ownership family to keep his job even if it did little to keep the wolves at bay.
After the Wings failed to advance to the post-season tournament for the first time in 26 seasons, the harshest (read dim-witted and unreasonable) among a passionate fan base needed someone to blame, and their fingers have been wagging in Holland’s direction for months.
Immediately, Holland announced that coach Jeff Blashill will return for a third season behind the bench despite widespread speculation that Blashill would be sent packing – and probably wind up as the leading candidate to succeed Red Berenson at the University of Michigan.
It’s probably just a coincidence that the news came within a day or so after Sunday night’s ceremony commemorating Joe Louis Arena, when favorite son Steve Yzerman spoke so eloquently about his time here. Interestingly, Gerard Gallant, Yzerman’s longtime line mate, was there, too. The overwhelming sentiment among a legion of fans was that one or both would be coming home to Detroit.
I mentioned that in a lengthy conversation with Gallant before Sunday’s season finale.
“The question is, does Stevie want to leave Tampa Bay right now?” Gallant asked.
Great point. And that is doubtless precisely the question Chris Ilitch sought to ask the former Detroit captain himself. Yzerman’s contract as GM of the Lightning goes to 2019, but after narrowly missing the playoffs, the optics wouldn’t be good. Despite two great playoff runs in 2015-16, it would be perceived by some as a cut-and-run move.
Steve Yzerman isn’t that kind of guy. Despite his love for Detroit – his family remains here in Bloomfield Hills – and his reverence for the franchise he was such a big part of, he’s staying in Tampa to right the ship. And he will.
So Holland stays.
“We have 100-percent confidence in Ken Holland,” Ilitch told reporters this week. “He’s an excellent general manager and executive vice-president and we’ve got a lot of confidence in the future.”
The decision regarding the coach, Ilitch added, was entirely up to Holland.
Almost immediately, Holland said he was bringing back Blashill for the third season in his four-year contract.
“I believe in Jeff Blashill,” Holland said. “I believe in him because of his resume before he got here. I worked with him every day. I know he works at it. He’s talking to people. He’s gathering information. He’s trying to get better.
“This year was very disappointing, unacceptable. We have to be better. He knows it. I know it, and I think the players know it.”
Almost immediately, the other domino fell. Gallant accepted the job as the first coach of the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play this fall as the NHL’s 31st team.
Would it have gone down this way if Mike Ilitch were still around to run things? Hard to say. Ilitch, who died in February, never hesitated getting involved in coaching decisions. He set the bar awfully high, and when coaches didn’t measure up, he didn’t hesitate to order his general managers to make changes. Witness Jacques Demers in 1990, Bryan Murray in 1993 and Dave Lewis 10 years later.
But Chris Ilitch, now minding the store with his mother, Marian, is still finding his way. And so, to be fair, is Jeff Blashill.
Gallant would be the first to tell you about how hard it is to coach in the NHL. Yes, he was a Jack Adams Trophy finalist for Coach of the Year honors last season after the Florida Panthers set franchise records for wins and points in winning the Atlantic Division in the 2015-16 season. But he struggled in his first stint as a head coach with a young Columbus franchise.
Blashill’s teams struggled mightily the past few seasons, barely making the playoffs last year and missing by a wide margin this season, when his team finished with a 33-36-13 record for 79 points, 14 fewer than last season. But the Wings did anything but throw in the towel – even, and especially, after they were eliminated from playoff contention.
They battled, fought from behind, forced and won in overtime or in the shootout competition; the way the power play that had been so awful all season improved dramatically in the final 20 games of the season. That spoke volumes for how the players feel about the coach and his staff, and it probably saved their jobs.
Like it or not.
Detroit’s reward for a lousy season?
The Red Wings finished 26th overall among the NHL’s 30 teams, so they’ll have their highest draft pick since the early 1990s when they picked Keith Primeau with the third overall selection in 1990 and Martin Lapointe in 1991. This year, they’ll have longshot odds at the first three picks, but will choose no later than seventh overall.
Here’s how their placement in the draft order will be determined:
The 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, used to determine the order of selection for the first 15 picks in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, will be held on Saturday, April 29 in Toronto. The results of the Draft Lottery will be announced shortly after 8 p.m., ET, during live coverage of the event on NBC, CBC and TVA. Coverage on CBC begins at 7:30 p.m., ET.
The 2017 NHL Draft Lottery will consist of three drawings: the first Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting first overall, the second Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting second overall and the third Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting third overall.
Participants in the Draft Lottery include the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play in the 2017-18 season, and all other clubs that did not qualify for this season's playoffs (or clubs that acquired the first-round picks of those non-playoff clubs).
The Golden Knights will be afforded the exact same lottery odds as the team finishing the regular season in 28th place -- or with the third-worst regular-season record. They will be guaranteed no lower than the sixth overall selection.
To accommodate the addition of a 15th team in the Draft Lottery, the odds for all other participating teams have been reduced proportionally from the odds utilized in last year's Draft Lottery.
The allocation of odds for the 1st Lottery Draw of the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery is as follows:
Colorado Avalanche 18.0 percent Vancouver Canucks 12.1 percent Vegas Golden Knights 10.3 percent Arizona Coyotes 10.3 percent New Jersey Devils 8.5 percent Buffalo Sabres 7.6 percent Detroit Red Wings 6.7 percent Dallas Stars 5.8 percent Florida Panthers 5.4 percent Los Angeles Kings 4.5 percent Carolina Hurricanes 3.2 percent Winnipeg Jets 2.7 percent Philadelphia Flyers 2.2 percent Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8 percent New York Islanders 0.9 percent
The odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the second Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the first Lottery Draw, and again for the third Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the second Lottery Draw.
The 12 clubs not selected in the Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 4-15, in inverse order of regular-season points.
The 2017 NHL Draft will take place at the United Center in Chicago. The first round will take place on Friday, June 23 and the subsequent rounds (2-7) on Saturday, June 24.