General manager Ken Holland was rewarded with a two-year contract extension. Coach Jeff Blashill will stay in place to finish out the final year of his contract. But you knew someone was going to have to pay the price for the Detroit Red Wings’ second straight absence from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
John Torchetti turned out to be the fall guy.
The Wings decided not to offer assistant coach Torchetti a new contract. The two-year deal he signed with the team in 2016 is about to expire, and the Wings took the step of informing other NHL teams early that Torchetti would not be retained in order to give him a better chance to land work elsewhere.
Torchetti didn’t seem the least bit surprised by this development.
“No, not at all,” Torchetti told Mlive.com. “The only disappointing thing was that I wish I could have did more. I thought that overall, everyone was saying the players were developing, which is a good thing. You just always wish you could do more.
“I signed a two-year deal and one of the good things is, talking it over, I have time to look for another job. I had a good opportunity to work with some young kids, build some good things for the future and wish them the best.”
One of Torchetti’s main duties with the Wings was to oversee the club’s power play, an Achilles heel in their fall from grace the past two seasons.
In 2016-17, the Detroit power play stumbled to a 27th overall finish in the NHL, clicking at a dismal 15.7 percent. Late into the season, there did seem to be signs of life in the unit, and it carried over briefly into the 2017-18 campaign before the familiar failures again came to the fore. The Wings ended up 24th in the league with the man advantage this season, succeeding 17.5 percent of the time.
The power play units frequently struggled with simple tasks such as gaining entry into the attacking zone and winning battles for pucks.
“Overall, we just didn’t score (enough),” Torchetti acknowledged. “Scoring entwines everything. Five on five, the forwards, we out-chanced (opponents) almost every game but we didn’t score. That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to score in this game. There’s no secrets and that’s it. You’ve got to score.”
The power play misfortune often crushed momentum and played a role in Detroit’s overall inability to put the puck in the net. The Wings scored just 212 goals, 28th in the NHL, and iced only two 20-goal scorers - Anthony Mantha (24) and Gustav Nyquist (21).
“They all combine,” Torchetti said. “You get players scoring goals on the power play and they carry it over to five-on-five and they get hot and different scenarios play out on the power play on who’s carrying the puck, who’s playing what positions and who makes the decisions.”
Torchetti, 53, who came to the Wings after serving as interim coach of the Minnesota Wild in 2015-16 and guiding that team to the playoffs, is uncertain at this point whether he will pursue another assistant’s job in the NHL, or seek a head-coaching position in the AHL.
“I’m not sure yet,” Torchetti said. “I thought for myself that I want to move in a different direction, too. We’ll see what’s available and then go from there.”
He also served as an NHL head coach with the Los Angeles Kings in 2005-06 and Florida Panthers in 2003-04. Torchetti has been an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers, Chicago Blackhawks, Lightning and Kings, earning a Stanley Cup ring with the Blackhawks in 2009-10.
Torchetti’s resume shows head-coaching experience in the AHL, IHL, CHL and even a one-year stint running CSKA Moscow of the KHL in 2003-04. He also served a tenure as GM of the IHL’s Detroit Vipers.
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