Could the Detroit Red Wings be eyeing Igor Larionov as their next head coach?
In recent weeks Detroit Red Wings General Manager (GM) Steve Yzerman had expressed that the teams’ head coach Jeff Blashill is safe entering the 2020-21 season. It comes as a bit of a surprise with a luxurious pool of coaches available after a season where nearly one-third of the league lost their job.
It’s a group that’s topped by former Detroit Red Wings forward, and linemate of Steve Yzerman, Gerard Gallant. Nearly minutes after the Vegas Golden Knights fired Gallant, I had the successful bench boss returning to Detroit to team up once again with his old friend. It begs me to wonder, perhaps Yzerman did reach out to Gallant in regards to re-joining the Red Wings franchise, and the head coach decided to bide his time looking for a better option.
With the current state of the Detroit Red Wings, coaches certainly won’t line up for the job. That could also be why Yzerman announced Blashill would return for the final year of his contract.
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I can’t help but wonder, though, are the Detroit Red Wings waiting to hire another former teammate of Yzerman instead?
Igor Larionov was nicknamed ‘the professor’ for his excellent on-ice vision and reliability. Larionov had been one of the best player makers of his time and became a vital part of the Detroit Red Wings’ success of the late 90s.
Larionov often anchored Detroit’s third line, often playing alongside Doug Brown and Slava Kozlov, a pretty solid third line if you ask me. When Detroit decided to assemble what was known as ‘the Russian five,’ it didn’t only change the game; it launched the Red Wings into perennial Stanley Cup contention.
My fondest memory of Larionov came in 2002 when the veteran center scored a triple-overtime game-winning goal in game three of the Stanley Cup Finals well into the early hours of the morning after the puck dropped. It was a clear turning point in the series as the two teams split the first two games of the series.
Larionov enjoyed a very lengthy hockey career when you include his time in Russia and the NHL he played for 26-seasons. After winning three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and two Olympic Gold Medals with Russia, he’s cemented his legacy in Toronto as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Larionov amassed 644 points in 921 NHL games.
The former center has remained based out of Detroit as he’s spent time as a player agent. His son Igor Larionov jr had spent time playing for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey league, which is just a 20-minute drive from downtown Detroit and that includes a border crossing.
The professor has also spent time as an assistant coach with the Russian national teams, most recently as a member of the Russian World Junior team. He’s also dabbled in a management role as the Director of Hockey Operations with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
Recently Larionov was named the head coach of the Under-20 Russian National team. It appears the former Red Wings legend is working his way up the ranks in hopes of potentially landing himself an NHL job one day soon.
Having played for the stern Soviet Union and later the demanding Scotty Bowman, perhaps Larionov will be able to mix those experiences with the ones he’s recently endured as an agent dealing with younger players and blend them together with his upcoming adventure as a bench boss hopefully garnering attention for the next level.
I, for one, gravitate to head coaches with experience, and I’ve expressed that in the past. But the trend throughout the league is to hire the next John Cooper, making Larionov an option.
If Detroit was ever prepared to hire another head coach lacking much experience, it’s during a rebuild. If Jeff Blashill isn’t the long-term answer, why not take a flier on a rookie head coach in 2021? It’s also someone Yzerman knows exceptionally well. Don’t be surprised if Yzerman has his sights set on Larionov to be the organization’s next head coach.