Friday, June 04, 2004

Wings Retain Dave Lewis

After a Monday meeting between GM Ken Holland and owner Mike Ilitch, fresh off a vacation in Florida, Wings' management has decided to extend Dave Lewis an offer to return as head coach next season. It is likely to be a one-year deal, which will also bring back Associate Coach Barry Smith and Assistant Coach Joe Kocur. The decision was announced on Thursday, on schedule with reports that the Wings would come to a decision by the end of this week. With many player contracts up this summer and the CBA expiration looming, the Wings also faced the decision of whether to retain Dave Lewis and his coaching staff. Unlike the Senators, who fired Jacques Martin a day after his playoff defeat at the hands of the Leafs, the Wings decided to regain their composure and make the decision an educated one. After the boiling emotions of the second round defeat by the Calgary Flames, management has rightfully concluded that much of the fault rests on the players. In my May 7 comments, I listed Dave Lewis and coaching staff under the heading "questionable" when considering whether they would return next season. My main concern was that Lewis would want a multi-year deal, and I didn't see the Wings doing that to the second-year head coach:
"As for Lewis, his contract is up and he'll be looking for a multi-year deal. I just don't think that the Wings can/will give him that much considering his lack of playoff success. If Lewis is re-signed, it'll be a one-year deal. Part of me would like to see him back, considering that the big names available in Quenneville and Martin are also playoff losers. But part of me also says that Dave Lewis has been around the organization long enough, maybe not Wally Crossman long, but 18 years is quite a stay. I think that a new voice behind the bench might do the team well."
After thinking the situation through for the next three weeks, I made my conclusion on the coaching situation in my May 27 comments. To summarize, I listed the following reasons that Dave Lewis should stay: the problem lies more in personnel issues, only his second season as head coach, regular season success, team is in natural transition period, no need to make drastic coaching changes with the looming lockout, and available coaches (Paul Maurice, Joel Quenneville, Jacques Martin) don't fit the bill as successful playoff coaches. Also, Jacques Martin was just hired by the Florida Panthers at the time I wrote the article. So far, an offer has been made, and Lewis' agent and the Wings are working on terms of the contract. But it's safe to say that Dave Lewis will be back, according to Holland:
"I expect everything to get done rather quickly. A deal is not officially agreed to, but I don't expect things to fall apart."
Lewis is verbally accepting the offer and is excited about the prospects of another season behind the Detroit bench:
"I'm excited about the opportunity to continue to work with this team, and improve it. As soon as my agent and the Red Wings figure things out, and I don't foresee any problems with that, we'll go from there."
The hypothetical 2004-2005 NHL season will be Dave Lewis' 19th year with the Wings' organization (2 as a player, 17 as a coach). Other Wings News Pavel Datsyuk had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee a week ago. According to his agent, Gary Greenstein, the surgery was not anything serious:
"Just cleaning some stuff up. This was nothing out of the ordinary at all. In a couple of weeks, Pavel will be absolutely 100 percent."
It's good that Pavs will be ready to play in the World Cup of Hockey this September, but I wish I had some prior warning of the surgery. As a fan, I feel out of touch with the organization to be hearing about surgeries a week after they happen. I'm not asking for much, just a press release that notifies me of the surgery. Datsyuk is a restricted free agent this summer, but speaks highly of the Wings. Says Greenstein: "He loves Detroit, he loves playing for the Red Wings, and doesn't want to play anywhere else." In the event that there is a lockout this fall, Datsyuk will likely play for Ak Bars Kazan. On Wednesday, the Wings announced the signings of prospects Todd Jackson, Logan Koopmans and Derek Meech to entry-level contracts. Jackson was an eighth round pick in the 2000 draft, and has played the past four seasons for the University of Maine. Koopmans was a fifth round pick in the 2002 draft, and has played the last four seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. Meech was a seventh round pick in the 2002 draft, and has played the last five seasons with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Hopefully, these late picks blossom into future Wings' stars someday, or, at the very least, third or forth liners. The NHL Awards will aire from 8:30-10 ET (CBC and ESPN2) on June 10 from the gala in Toronto. Kris Draper is a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to "the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game." Drapes is going up against John Madden of the Devils and Alyn McCauley of the Sharks. I analyzed the matchup between the three in my April 21 comments. I guess I'm being a homer, but my pick is the one-dollar man, Kris Draper. While the NHL Awards are often a silly event to watch, with its Canadian bands and third-tier celebrity presenters, I can still say I look forward to watching it. But I also remember the travesties of past years, when Bill Barber won the Jack Adams over Scotty Bowman in 2001 or when Barett Jackman won the Calder over Zetterberg in 2003. Quite frankly, the latter still makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it. But at least the NHL Awards give fans a chance to relish their favorite players, whether or not they played deep into the 2004 playoffs.


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