In an announcement made Tuesday, General Manager Ken Holland announced the hiring of Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill to become the Detroit Red Wings 27th coach in franchise history. Blashill becomes the first American born head coach of the Red Wings since the team’s induction in the NHL.
He takes over for Mike Babcock who left the team to become coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 41-year-old Detroit native was once an assistant coach under Babcock during the 2011 season before he was offered the head coaching position at Grand Rapids.
Blashill began his career in college hockey as an assistant coach at Ferris State University for three seasons before taking a position with Miami University in Ohio. In 2008 he coached the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League where the team won the championship in his first year behind the bench.
The Western Michigan University Broncos caught wind of Blashill’s success offering him a position to coach the team in 2010. He didn’t disappoint, as he led the Bronco’s to a top four finish in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association as well as being a finalist in the conference tournament.
The Bronco’s made it to the NCAA Frozen Four tournament for the first time in 15 years where he was later named USCHO Coach of the Year, Inside College Coach of the Year, and College Hockey News Coach of the Year.
All the accomplishments led to his start in the NHL where Holland offered him to assist Babcock for a year before he was offered to coach the Griffins who serve as the Red Wings farm team. Blashill and the Griffins won the Calder Cup in his first season.
In three seasons behind the Griffins bench, Blashill had been coaching a number of players that now skate for the Red Wings at present. His tutelage has helped their transition from the AHL to the NHL be smooth where they have helped the team maintain a strong force in Detroit.
“I had a great experience in Grand Rapids for the last three seasons coaching a special group of guys who are playing with the Griffins or playing for the Red Wings,” Blashill said in his introduction to the media.
A total of 24 players from Grand Rapids have played for the Red Wings that included the likes of Danny DeKeyser, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson.
Aside from his success of conditioning so many players for the Red Wings, his own experience with the team is what made him the best choice for Detroit. With only one year getting to know the players that included captain Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall, his knowledge of what Detroit has makes his job easier.
“You can only win at the highest level, you can only win championships with great talent and great character, you can’t have one or the other, you have to have have both,” Blashill said about the Red Wings. “Usually when you take a new job you hope the team has character. I don’t have to hope at all. I know first hand because I have experienced it.” “I can’t wait to go to work with this group in the fall and try to work win a Stanley Cup.”