The Free Press’s Helene St. James posted an early-morning column discussing Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon’s NHL debut as a substitute for Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill last Saturday, during which time Simon helped the Red Wings win 5-2 over the New Jersey Devils:
It was a hectic day during a tumultuous time. The Wings played Thursday at Carolina, against a Hurricanes team that was short two skaters because of the virus. On Friday, Blashill was among Wings personnel who tested positive, leading Yzerman to summon Simon, Krygier, plus three players from Grand Rapids. Preparing for the Devils was a handful, especially when Zadina received a positive result shortly before game time.
Blashill was a part of pre-game planning via phone and Zoom.
“I talked to Jeff Blashill about line matchups, stuff like that, and you’ve got everything and you’re trying to take a breath, and then Z comes in and he was no longer able to go,” Simon said.
That led to defenseman Jordan Oesterle being moved to forward.
“It was a little bit of flying by the seats of our pants,” Simon said. “But things happen during a game that you have to adjust to, and you just kind of roll with the punches. Jeff had his game plan and we tried our best to implement what he was looking for, and at the end of the day, a lot of the success that night was because of the preparation that went on behind the scenes by Jeff and his staff, even though they weren’t able to be there.”
Yzerman’s advice was “don’t mess it up,” Simon said, and to enjoy the experience: “He was great. We’re missing a lot of players, a lot of coaches, go out there, have fun, and do this to the best of your ability.”