The 2015-2016 season was one of change for the Detroit Red Wings. It started with the hiring of Jeff Blashill as head coach of the Wings to replace Mike Babcock, who signed an eight-year contract worth 50 million dollars to become the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Defenseman Mike Green and veteran forward Brad Richards were signed as free agents to start a personnel change in Detroit. Rookie Dylan Larkin, a Waterford, Michigan native, made the team out of training camp. Dylan became the first teenager to play for the Red Wings since Jiri Fischer in the 1999-2000 season. Goalie Petr Mrazek took the reigns as the starter, and several prospects played for the Red Wings this season.
Changes in the coaching staff
Jeff Blashill brought in Pat Ferschweiler and retained Tony Granato as an assistant coach. Ferschweiler was in charge of the offense and power play, and Granato was in charge of the defense and penalty kill. The power play jumped up to 13th in the league at 18.8% due to a late season surge, but for the most part hovered in the mid to high 20s in league rankings. The penalty kill finished 14th in the league at 81.5%. After the end of the season, Tony Granato took the head coaching job at the University of Wisconsin.
Former NHL defenseman Doug Houda was hired to replace Granato two weeks agao. He will be in charge of the defenseman and penalty kill next season. Houda just finished an impressive tenure of ten seasons with the Boston Bruins as an assistant coach there. Pat Ferschweiler was reassigned in the organization, and the team is currently searching for a replacement. Todd Richards and John Torchetti are among candidates to be hired. Torchetti’s name was recently added to the list, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. The Red Wings chose not to re-sign longtime goalie coach Jim Bedard and Jeff Blashill chose Jeff Salajko, goalie coach for the AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins, as his replacement.
Red Wings change up roster
The Red Wings made roster changes throughout the season. Jakub Kindl was traded, Landon Ferraro was waived, Johan Franzen ended up on the LTIR after two games, and Drew Miller had season-ending surgery on his ACL and meniscus. Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Tomas Nosek, Dylan Larkin and Eric Tangradi all debuted for the Red Wings this season. Athanasiou played 37 games in the NHL, Dylan Larkin played a full season. Xavier Ouellet was also recalled for a five-game stint this season. The youth movement for the Red Wings is in full swing now, with prospects getting time in the NHL and more changes to be made in the near future. Defenseman Alexey Marchenko was also called up from Grand Rapids this year, and won a full-time spot on the Wings roster, scoring 11 points in 66 games.
Petr Mrazek started 49 games for Detroit, winning the starting job from former all-star Jimmy Howard. Mrazek is seen as the long term starter by the organization. He finished the season with a GAA of 2.33, and a SV% of .921. For stretches, he was seen as a Vezina Trophy contender, but finished colder than he started. The Red Wings brought in Jeff Salajko, who has a unique player-coach bond with Petr Mrazek, to usher in a new era of goalies. The writing on the wall is that Jimmy Howard’s time as the starter and potentially even a Red Wing is over.
Long-time Red Wings forward and future Hall of Famer Pavel Datsyuk is expected to head to Russia to play in the KHL over playing out the last year of his contract. General Manager Ken Holland is expected to either try to trade the contract to a team needing to hit the cap floor, or keep it on the books if the asking price to offload is too high.
This coming offseason is one that many view as a crossroads for the franchise. The veteran talent is in the twilight of their careers for Detroit, and the young talent is, well, young. Ken Holland vowed to be aggressive in the draft, exploring trades, and in free agency. The draft is very deep, and it could be a good move to trade for an additional first-round pick. The trade market may prove a more viable way to improve over dipping into the free agent market for the Red Wings, but impressive names will be on the market.
Jeff Blashill led the Red Wings to another first-round exit, for the team’s third straight. This also marked the 25th straight playoff season for the Red Wings. This team, though improved roster-wise from a year ago, failed to live up to expectations. The players many thought would step up actually regressed, like Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Gustav Nyquist. Sheahan was the heir apparent to the second line center role, and Tatar and Nyquist were expected to finally hit the 30 goal mark. None of those accomplishments happened. Jeff Blashill took it upon himself at the end of year press conference that necessary player development didn’t happen, and aims to get the players back on track for and during next season. Promising prospects in the organization, younger talent, and winning culture all give hope to the cup-hungry Red Wings fan base.