Red Wings prepare for Panthers as NHL deals with fallout of Blackhawks' scandal
Detroit — From a hockey perspective, Friday was normal preparation for the Red Wings. Detroit is bracing for the hottest team in the league, the Florida Panthers (7-0-0).
But things have taken a twist after disturbing news out of Chicago that led to Andrew Brunette abruptly replacing Joel Quenneville as Panthers coach. Quenneville resigned late Thursday in the wake of the sexual assault scandal involving the Chicago Blackhawks.
Quenneville was the head coach of the Blackhawks in 2010 when a team investigation found Quenneville ignored forward Kyle Beach's claim that assistant coach Brad Aldridge assaulted Beach.
"My heart goes out to Kyle Beach, and to John Doe in Houghton, Michigan (an unidentified Aldridge assault victim), and what they've had to have gone through at the hands of a predator," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the morning skate. "That's not something that's going to go away. they'll have to deal with that for the rest of their lives. From a personal perspective, we all have great sympathy for what those two have had to go through and any others."
Several front-office employees of the Blackhawks, including general manager Stan Bowman, have been dismissed by the organization.
The NHL Friday said current Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, then an assistant GM with Chicago, was not responsible for the actions of the Blackhawks.
Beach has received support from peers around the league for his courage and strength.
"You feel for Kyle Beach and, obviously, stand with him and everything he's gone through," Wings forward Sam Gagner said. "We commend his courage and it obviously took a lot for him to get to this point and it's just something you never want to see somebody go through.
"You want to see accountability for the things that have happened. … I hate to see it happen, but hopefully it's a reckoning and it helps us moving forward."
Blashill said the Wings have established hotlines for any matters players would want to discuss.
"That's something we try to stay on top of, on a number of matters, not just pertaining to this particular (subject)," Blashill said. "There are a number of things our players go through and we want to make sure there is support for them here and we have certainly discussed that and will continue to discuss that."
The NHL is evaluating how it can try to head off another such situation in the future.
"The most important part is doing everything possible to not be in situations where people are exposed to predators," Blashill said. "We have to make sure our players understand there is support for them from a lot of different areas. We have to make sure we are making the best decisions we can with our players and our staff and anybody around us, and their personal lives first and foremost."
Blashill didn't expect much to change from the Panthers on the ice without Quenneville.
"We focus like we normally would to play against Florida," Blashill said. "There aren't real adjustments. Their systems and all that stuff will be the same. Obviously there's a lot going on there, and I can't speak to that within their own dressing room.
"From a hockey perspective, we'll focus on trying to win a hockey game against Florida."
Red Wings at Maple Leafs
►Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
► TV/radio: BSD, CBC/97.1
► Outlook: The Maple Leafs (3-4-1) have gotten off to an uneven start, with their vaunted offensive attack rather silent. … RW William Nylander (three goals, three assists) leads offensively. … C Auston Matthews and RW Mitch Marner have combined for one goal (by Matthews) thus far.