DETROIT -- As an NHL player, Alex Tanguay played 43 career games against the Detroit Red Wings, most of which were for Detroit's biggest rival in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Colorado Avalanche.
But now, the former 16-year NHL forward will find out what the other side of the rivalry is like, as Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today that Detroit has hired Tanguay as its newest assistant coach.
The 41-year-old spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild's AHL-affiliate Iowa Wild. In Tanguay's two years behind the bench for Iowa, the team compiled a 54-31-8-4 combined record, finishing second in the Central Division and Western Conference in the 2019-20 campaign.
Video: Alex Tanguay on becoming a Red Wings assistant coach
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said when the organization began searching for a new assistant coach, it was important to find a candidate with a unique mentality, and not necessarily someone who coaches by the book.
"When we went into this process to find an assistant coach, I wanted to find somebody unique, especially from the offensive side of the puck; somebody who thought the game from a little different perspective," Blashill said Wednesday afternoon. "I wanted somebody who thought (the game) offensively in somewhat unique ways."
During his NHL playing career, which spanned from 1999 to 2016, Tanguay skated for five teams, including nine seasons with the Avalanche and five with the Calgary Flames.
Tanguay earned 283 goals and 580 assists for 863 points in 1,088 NHL games. He was the fourth-leading scorer on Colorado's 2001 Stanley Cup championship team with 77 points, and he added 21 points in the postseason, including two goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, to help the Avalanche win their second championship in franchise history.
Blashill said Tanguay's experience as an NHL player will pay dividends as an assistant coach.
"Ultimately Alex was a great fit for us because of that," Blashill said. "He's got offensive beliefs based on his playing career and his coaching experience, but also just the way his mind thinks of hockey on a micro level as much as on a macro level. One of his greatest strengths is going to be helping our individual players get better within our structure to help them find ways to be more offensive."
Video: Jeff Blashill on hiring assistant coach Alex Tanguay
Tanguay, who Blashill said will be in charge of the power play, helped Iowa achieve the AHL's fifth-best power-play output in 2019-20 at 21.9 percent.
Blashill said he's excited about Tanguay's unique ability to improve the club's performance on the man advantage.
"That will certainly be one of his responsibilities. I'm very confident that Alex can put a structure together and can have a foundation of a power play, but to me, it was more than that," Blashill said. "I'm really confident that Alex can help our guys in those individual situations on the power play. That's where I thought Alex was pretty unique because of the way that he views hockey and because he was a really cerebral offensive player, himself."
Tanguay agreed with Blashill's assessment that his experience as a player will help him as he begins his NHL coaching career.
"Players always have feelings that you can't get as a coach," Tanguay said in his introductory press conference. "When you've experienced it, you've got a different view and different perspective on certain things. My job is going to be to get familiar with the players and build relationships with them and earn their trust in the fact that I'm going to try to get them better."
Tanguay, who earned 36 points against Detroit as a player, said he's excited to be on the other side of one of the most intense rivalries in NHL history.
"Kris Draper called me and he said, 'you're the first one to cross that bridge," Tanguay said. "It was such a unique rivalry. (Joe Louis Arena) was always such a special place to play. The organization was so good. It certainly was a big rivalry then, but I understood at that time how much pride those guys had in the Red Wings organization, and I'm just glad to be part of the organization now."
Tanguay said he's also ecstatic to join forces with Yzerman, who he considers one of the most respected figures in NHL history.
"Steve is highly praised in the hockey circle, not only for what he did as a player, but also what he did with the Tampa Bay Lightning before joining the Red Wings," Tanguay said. "It was a good conversation. It's always fun to pick the mind of one of the brightest in the game. Certainly I consider Steve to be extremely gifted in what he does and I'm hoping that he can still give me advice on some of things we're going to do going forward."
And while there's still more than three months before the 2021-22 campaign begins, Tanguay said he can't wait to get started.
"It's a big challenge," Tanguay said. "I was looking for an opportunity to get myself inside the door of the NHL. When I started talking with Jeff, I had a real good interaction with him. It was a great conversation. I'm very happy to be a resource now for those guys and become a part of their team and try to help this team grow. I'm just looking forward to working with those guys. I can't wait."