BUFFALO, N.Y. – While the Red Wings’ amateur scouting staff prepared for this weekend’s NHL draft at First Niagara Center, coach Jeff Blashill took the opportunity to assemble his staff, including new assistants Doug Houda and John Torchetti.
“(We) all went to dinner on Wednesday night and that’s just a good start to getting a feel for each other personally,” said Blashill, who was also joined by staffers Dave Noel-Bernier and Pat Ferschweiler. “I think sometimes that’s more important than getting into the details of hockey. We’ll do that later on. Right now it’s been more socially and trying to get comfortable with each other.”
Houda and Torchetti bring a wealth of NHL coaching experience behind the Red Wings’ bench, but more importantly they will help out Blashill, who is entering his second season as an NHL head coach. So just getting together as a staff during the off season is a big step in creating chemistry.
“I think the best staffs have chemistry,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you always get along, it doesn’t mean you always agree but you build off each other and you work as a cohesive unit. So I think that’s a real good first step, all being here together.”
Earlier this month, the Wings rounded out their coaching staff by signing Torchetti, 51, to a two-year contract. He joined Houda, 50, and goaltending coach Jeff Salajko, who were hired in May.
Both Torchetti and Houda have won the Stanley Cup as coaches. Torchetti was on Chicago’s coaching staff when the Blackhawks claimed the championship in 2010. He will be responsible for working with the Red Wings forwards and overseeing the club’s power play that struggled during the 2015-16 season.
Houda, a former Red Wings’ defenseman, was an assistant the past 10 seasons with the Boston Bruins, who won the Cup in 2011. He will coach Detroit’s defensemen and oversee the penalty kill.
Blashill said the bench experience between Houda and Torchetti will be immeasurable.
“I think it’s a real benefit,” said Blashill, who was a Wings’ assistant in 2011-12. “It’s something that I was looking for, lots of years on NHL benches. I’ve only had two years on NHL benches and I think that’s an area I can learn from their past experiences. I’m somebody who takes in lots of perspectives and makes my own decisions and they’re going to give me added perspective of having been through what they’ve both been through. They both won Stanley Cups, they both worked for lots of real good coaches, so I think it should be a real positive.”
Blashill will attend next month’s development camp in Traverse City, though he won’t be joined by his new assistants.
“We will get together at some point in the summer here and spend more time on Xs and Os,” Blashill said. “Some of that will be done via video conferencing, some of that will be at a specified time but it will not be at development camp.”
Blashill also took the opportunity Friday to talk about other topics, like the league’s expansion to Las Vegas in 2017-18 and what this year's training camp will look like with nine Wings headed to the World Cup of Hockey for two weeks in September.
“There are a lot of good players that aren’t in the NHL right now, so I think having another team makes lots of sense that way,” Blashill said, of the yet named Vegas team. “I think being able to add that to a Western trip is a great thing. It’s a great city, it has lots of energy. We’re the first major-league team in there and I think that’s a great thing.”
As for a depleted training camp, Blashill said, “the approach has to be the same but we’re certainly missing some guys. We’re gonna change a little bit in how we attack our training camp but we have to be real cognizant of the fact that a number of our guys will have been playing for a month by the time we actually get going. So I’m gonna have to give them some rest before we throw them into exhibition games, and let them get rejuvenated.”
The Red Wings’ coach also addressed Pavel Datsyuk’s recent announcement that he is foregoing his final NHL season to return home to Russia where he plans to play in the KHL.
“I’m disappointed I don’t get to coach him anymore,” Blashill said. “I’m disappointed that I don’t get a chance to have him on our team next season. He’s been one of the best players in the NHL, one of the best people. He’s always a pleasure to coach. I loved every second coaching him.”