Dear Red Wings: Gallant goes to Rangers; coaches quiz time

Red Wings miss out on coveted NHL coach, but timing not right ... for now

Canada's Head Coach Gerard Gallant reacts during the Ice Hockey World Championship quarterfinal match between Russia and Canada at the Olympic Sports Center in Riga, Latvia, Thursday, June 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov) (Roman Koksarov, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

More than a year ago, I wrote about Gerard Gallant and whether he could end up behind the Detroit Red Wings bench.

Quick look back

At the time, he was the most sought-after coach in the NHL. That was January 2020. He was just fired by the Vegas Golden Knights -- surprisingly -- and no one would have guessed it would be more than a year later until he had a new NHL head coaching job. We speculated that perhaps Gallant would want to join up with his old teammate, Steve Yzerman, in Detroit.

Here’s what I wrote on Jan. 15, 2020:

“I’ve stayed away from the ‘Fire Jeff Blashill’ talk as much as possible this season because it just seems pointless. As I’ve said before, firing the coach during a season that you know is a total tank-fest can’t do much to change things. I mean, unless the guy is hated by the roster. That doesn’t appear to be the case for Blashill, and overall those close to the team seem to have good things to say about him and his work with young developing players.

But what if someone else becomes available? Someone you really wouldn’t want to pass up on (again). Gallant will have no problem getting another job behind an NHL bench. He’s a respected figure around the league. He’s known as a player’s coach while retaining an old-school edge. He has a history of helping teams put together winning formulas.

Is it time for GM Yzerman to bring back his old teammate as the new Red Wings coach? Yes, that would mean firing Blashill before the season ends. Gallant could be the person Yzerman needs to help right this ship. He’s a bit of contrast from Blashill. Remember, this is Blashill’s first NHL head coaching job. He does not have the professional playing background that someone like Gallant has, either. If anything, Gallant would bring a fresh perspective and new voice to the Detroit room.”

Yzerman never fired Blashill, of course. Then there was the pandemic to deal with, too, which kept Gallant from signing anywhere. He waited, and now he’ll go try to help the New York Rangers become a playoff team.

Not then, not now

Blashill remains as the Detroit head coach for at least another season anyway. Yzerman made it clear he likes to work with Blashill and trusts him to guide the young prospects into the program.

“I’ve enjoyed working with (Blashill) in that he’s comfortable in speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts, and for a manager and a coach relationship to debate, to discuss, and then ultimately respect my decisions, and in return it’s my job to respect the coach’s decision and allow him to do his job,” Yzerman said a month ago.

It’s clear Yzerman needs a coach who will be flexible with the GM’s requests for ice time, who gets looks, who doesn’t, who’s in the lineup, who’s not, shift lengths, etc. I think we’d be foolish to think Yzerman is not very hands-on throughout a rebuild such as this. He needs a coach who understands this and is willing to work with him.

That’s not exactly the role someone such as Gallant is used to or looking for. No, Gallant is the type of bench boss you bring in to coach a roster that needs the extra push to get to the next level. In fact, he just coached a very talented Team Canada from an 0-3 start to the gold medal at the world hockey championship. He is a big personality with a sense of urgency and stubbornness.

The Red Wings are still a couple of seasons away -- at least one -- from being in a position to hire their own Gallant. The timing was not right in January 2020 and it wasn’t a fit at the end of this past season when Yzerman announced Blashill would stay as his coach for now.

I know patience is running thin for a lot of Red Wings fans. Many want something to get excited about -- not just the ever-growing prospect pool. They want Yzerman to get aggressive, whether through free agency or by hiring a new coach. But we’re not there yet, and the last thing you want is a premature move that could set back the rebuild.

Quiz time

Everyone seemed to enjoy the goalies quiz, so while we’re on the topic of coaches, how about a coaches quiz? This might be quite difficult -- take the Dear Red Wings Coaches quiz here!

I hope you have half as much fun taking these quizzes as I do making them.

Dear Red Wings Discussion Board

Have something to say about the team? Join the conversation here.


About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.