After losing in the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, Detroit bench boss Mike Babcock knew changes had to be made. They struggled on defense as they ranked in the middle of the pack in many defensive categories during the regular season such as penalty kill (17th), shots allowed per game (16th) and winning percentage when leading after two periods (14th). There will be roster turnover just like any other team, but there were changes to be made on the bench as well. Assistant coach Brad McCrimmon was not retained after the season after his contract expired and both sides agreed to a split. He is now head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian KHL after three seasons in Detroit.
The second coaching change came this week when former Red Wings defenseman Paul MacLean left to become the bench boss in Ottawa. Mike Babcock has a good record of former assistants doing well in recent years as Todd MacLellan had turned the San Jose franchise around into a near mirror-image of the Red Wings.
MacLean and Babcock have been together for eight seasons, dating back to Anaheim. His previous work with the Ducks is also where he was under current Senators GM (and former Red Wings coach) Bryan Murray. In his press conference where he was announced as head coach, he vowed to bring the leadership necessary for them to win. He wants to bring a hard-working, physical style of hockey to Canada’s capital.
“The way we play is probably going to be a little similar (to Detroit),” MacLean said. “You have to play 200 feet. The game is not played in 100-foot increments … you have to be able to skate the whole rink, so we’ll skate the whole rink and play good defense. But we’re going to come out and attack the net and make sure we’re putting pressure on the opposition and making sure they’d have to make good plays in order to have an opportunity to beat us.”
There are several names associated with the assistant coaching search in Detroit. A Monday report on MLive.com reported that the Red Wings could target two NHL coaches who were fired this past season: Todd Richards (Minnesota) and Peter DeBoer (Florida). DeBoer would be an interesting selection as he has previous coaching experience in the Detroit area as he coached the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League in the mid-1990’s.
Other names that were floated around were Gerard Gallant and Bob Boughner. Both were former Red Wings draft picks and have experience winning in the CHL as well as NHL coaching experience. Gallant led Saint John to the Memorial Cup this season and was named CHL Coach of the Year. He was previously a head coach in Columbus.
Boughner resigned recently after one season as an assistant in Columbus. Before that, he led the Windsor Spitfires to multiple Memorial Cup championships.