Keith Gave's Northern Sports Desk









Gallant-Yzerman reunion is anybody’s

guess – because one guy isn’t talking




Sports Director


DETROIT – Kirk Maltby saw the news first on his phone, and all he could do was hold it up for everyone else to see.


“What’s going on?” someone asked the former Detroit Red Wings’ Grind Liner, now a scout for the beleaguered hockey club.


“Gerard Gallant is out in Vegas. They just fired him,” Maltby announced to the group of team scouts and executives, meeting well in advance of the looming trade deadline.


“What the (expletive)! That cannot be true,” an angry Jim Devellano shouted. The team’s senior vice president – the first person Mike and Marion Ilitch hired when they bought the team in 1982, was visibly upset.


The guy running the meeting, general manager Steve Yzerman, had little reaction. Which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has spent any time around him. To say he holds his cards close to his vest is a colossal understatement. But he did offer up the question suddenly on everyone’s mind:


“How long do you think it will take for the rumors to get started that he’s coming here?”


I’m guessing the rumor mill already was in high gear before Yzerman finished his sentence. And the question still lingers.


Only one man knows the answer, of course; two if Steve Yzerman has already reached out to Gallant and asked him to hold tight until the off-season before doing anything – if Gallant is even remotely interested in the Detroit gig. And the sorry state of this team could well be a factor for the NHL Coach of the Year winner just two years ago.


To many, another homecoming of a prominent former Red Wings star is a no-brainer. But Yzerman isn’t talking. He isn’t even talking questions.


In fact, Steve Yzerman has become a kind of ghost since he returned to Detroit last spring to accept the gig for which we all thought he was destined. He hasn’t spoken to the beat reporters of the two Detroit newspapers that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars traveling around the continent to cover the Red Wings since last summer.


Zero availability. Zero accountability from the man making all the decisions that matter with this hockey club. Rather mind-boggling, to be honest, not to speak to the GM at least several times a

week during the course of a 10-month hockey season – which starts in September, ends in June, and dribbles into July with some serious newsworthy events.


In fact, Yzerman’s only public statements about the team, its historically bad season – and any reasons for optimism among the dwindling fan base (season-ticketholder numbers are approaching historic lows as well) came during an in-house interview with radio play-by-play man Ken Kal. In a well-choreographed sit-down, Kal served up a number of softball questions that Yzerman naturally knocked out of the park.


The Wings released the video on its website. There were no headlines; the interview might have fulfilled what the club recognizes as a PR obligation, but it provided precious little news.


This snub of local media that has been so generous with their coverage over the years is disgraceful, and already it is beginning to tarnish the legacy of a guy generations of fans know lovingly as “The Captain.”


This is a far, far different Steve Yzerman than the guy I covered since before then-coach Jacques Demers pinned the “C” on his Red Wings’ sweater. But those who remained to cover the team and the remainder of Yzerman’s career after I left say they saw this coming.


In his final days as captain, they say, Yzerman was rarely available to the media even after games, preferring instead to let teammates do the explaining after wins and losses. That’s in stark contrast to what we saw in the men who followed. Nick Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg were there after nearly every game, present and accountable, staying amid the scrum of notebooks, microphones and cameras until the last question.


Which is what you need to do in times like these, when empty seats outnumber fans at the Pizz-Arena. Fans need reasons to be excited; they want explanations when things go sideways and they’re frustrated. Reporters covering the team have the questions and capabilities through various information streams to get fans the information they might need to keep from jumping off the bandwagon.


This isn’t the late 1990s, when The Captain was kicking up a rooster tail on his wave runner on Lake St. Clair with the Stanley Cup riding shotgun. The Detroit Red Wings are dead last, by a country mile, among the NHL’s 31 teams. They need the media far more than Steve Yzerman and Little Caesars’ CEO Chris Ilitch want to acknowledge.


Bringing Gerard Gallant – Yzerman’s pal and linemate for several seasons on those joyful teams of the late 1980s – won’t change a lot on the ice, at least immediately. It’s more of a PR move similar to Yzerman’s homecoming. Hell, brining Scotty Bowman back to coach this team wouldn’t change much. It’s not Jeff Blashill’s fault; he doesn’t have enough actual NHL players to compete from night to night.


The prevailing wisdom – and again we have no idea because Yzerman refuses to talk – is that the Wings won’t make a coaching change until the off-season. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world. Then Yzerman can say he gave Blashill a shot, and can name his own coach.


But this much we do know: Gallant has proven NHL coaching chops. His team’s play fast and hard, with a chip on their shoulders – just the way he played in Detroit. Like Bowman, Gallant has a knack for getting the most out of every player in his lineup, and a little extra. They find ways to win, while in Detroit in the final years under Mike Babcock and through most of Blashill’s five seasons, they find ways to disappoint.


Those days have to end. Soon.




--FEBRUARY 5TH, 2020: Dantonio’s departure surprising? Not really. Welcome? Surely. It was time

--JANUARY 23RD, 2020: Pistons give us hope by changing on the fly

--January 26th, 2020: Even over an 8-day break, Red Wings give us reason to agonize

--JANUARY 23RD, 2020: Pistons give us hope by changing on the fly

--JANUARY 17TH, 2020:Dear Baseball: I’ve had enough. We’re done. Our differences are irreconcilable

--January 15th, 2020: Stunning coaching change in Vegas gives Wings GM Yzerman something to ponder

--JANUARY 8TH, 2020: Hail and farewell to a giant among Spartans; George Perles dead at 85

--December 27th, 2019: Ho, ho, ho! Some much-needed holiday gifts for our sorry teams

--December 19th, 2019: Same empty refrain from Fords to Lions fans: Wait ’til next year

--December 13th, 2019: Careful what you cheer for, Lions fans; Team can still be No. 2 where it counts

--DECEMBER  11th, 2019 Four NHL coaches gone. Who’s next? Firing Blashill not the answer for Wings

--DECEMBER 9TH, 2019: NHL’s #MeToo moment? Players (and Wings) take abuse charges public

--DECEMBER 6TH, 2019: Lions face major questions as another disappointing season comes to an end

--NOVEMBER 28TH: ‘As the Stomach Turns’: Living with historically bad Detroit sports teams

--NOVEMBER 26TH, 2019: As Harbaugh tries once again to beat Ohio State, there’s a little Max Mercy in us all

--NOVEMBER 12th, 2019: Sour Grapes: Don Cherry stands by his words even after his firing

--NOVEMBER 8th, 2019: Can Lions’ generous defense lead to upset over woebegone Bears?

--OCTOBER 28th, 2019: Wolverines serve notice: They’re not through yet

--OCTOBER 23rd, 2019: Did Belichick really snooker Detroit on the Patricia deal?

--OCTOBER 17th, 2019: MSU’s Dantonio at a crossroads? And what about UM’s Harbaugh?

--OCTOBER 16th, 2019: NFL has an officiating crisis, but Lions have much to clean up, too

--OCTOBER 11th, 2019:Trying to rebuild continues, but Red Wings are clearly turning a corner

--September 30th, 2019: Klima, the Russians, and Jaromir Jagr, too: Nick Polano’s profound Red Wings legacy

--September 27th, 2019: Hey Commish: Have some balls, eh, and consult players on game changes

-- September 23rd, 2019: Just who are those imposters in the iconic winged helmets?

-- September 19th, 2019: O Captain, my Captain among Red Wings: New GM Yzerman says Larkin must wait

-- August 31st, 2019:  New beginnings: Hopes rise as leaves fall and sports keep us going

-- August 23rd, 2019: Verlander’s self-indulgent grudge vs. writer overshadows the memorable game

-- August 2nd, 2019: Tigers flip – and flop? – at the trade deadline; Big questions plague AuSable Marathon

--July 19th, 2019: A kind and wonderful man felled by demons he could not control

--July 10th. 2019: Just shoot me now; Avila’s contract extension a bad omen for Tigers’ fans

--October 10th, 2018: Play of young Wings suggests rebuild is on the right course
draft to kickstart Red Wings’ slay in NHL June 27th, 2018: --rebuild
Cabrera’s season-ending injury June 13th, 2018: --isn’t end of the world for Tigers
--April 23rd, 2018: Quinn and fellow NFL GMs pile it high and deep ahead of annual draft
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