Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill added the final — and arguably, the most important — piece to his new coaching staff by announcing the hiring of John Torchetti as assistant coach on Thursday.
The hiring completes the overhaul of Blashill’s staff, as he has replaced all three components from last season. Torchetti will join Doug Houda — hired on May 11, to replace Tony Granato — and goaltending coach Jeff Salajko — hired on May 17, to replace Jim Bedard.
Torchetti will fill the vacancy left from Pat Ferschweiler, who was responsible for working with Detroit’s forwards and overseeing the power play units.
The new assistant coach will have his work cut out for him, though, as he takes over a power play that struggled through much of the 2015-16 season, going 4-for-48 on the man advantage from late February into March.
If ever there was a coach who could handle damage control, it just might be Torchetti.
In February, he stepped in as interim head coach of the Minnesota Wild and halted the team’s downward spiral. When Torchetti took over, the Wild had lost 12-of-13 games. However, the team quickly responded to its new coach and he was able to right the ship, ultimately getting Minnesota back into the NHL playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
The Wild power play improved marginally from 17.9 percent before Torchetti up to 19.6 percent through the final 28 games of the regular season. But give him a full offseason, training camp and preseason to work with the Wings and Torchetti could provide a significant improvement to a power-play unit that finished 13th in the NHL.
Also, the hope should be that Torchetti can improve the overall scoring ability of the Wings who finished 23rd in the NHL with 209 goals — 177 of which came from the forwards — led by Dylan Larkin (23), Tomas Tatar (21), Justin Abdelkader (19) and Gustav Nyquist (17).
Torchetti has experience with young forwards, which bodes well for guys like 19-year-old Larkin, 21-year-old Anthony Mantha and many others that the Wings are looking to develop.
During his time in Chicago from 2007 to 2010, Torchetti spent significant time with Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in the early parts of their careers. And again, in 2010-11, he worked with the then Atlanta Thrashers where their top five scorers were 25-years-old or younger.
Only time will tell how effective the Torchetti hiring will be. But on the surface, bringing in a man that has spent 10 seasons in the league, who has won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and has stepped in as head coach on an interim basis on three separate occasions are all promising signs of a good hire. Not to mention that he was considered to be a strong candidate for the Wild vacancy before May 9, when Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher signed Bruce Boudreau.
Player personnel still hangs in the balance while fans await news of Pavel Datsyuk’s future, which could be a noteworthy subtraction to Torchetti’s new forward group and power-play units. Additionally, front office moves are put on pause until the NHL Draft and free agency opens so decisions on Darren Helm and Drew Miller’s contract offers are unknown.
While there’s still many questions left to be answered regarding the forwards and special teams, the move to acquire an experienced assistant coach to oversee the group is a comforting move and important first steps to the Wings’ offseason.