The Malik Report
by Paul on 06/04/14 at 02:09 PM ET
Updated 3x at 6:14 PM: Via Ansar Khan tweets,
Wings announce they have signed Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill to 3-year extension.
Blashill, who had one year left on deal, actually signed a new 3-year contract that runs through 2016-17.
DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today agreed on a new three-year contract with Jeff Blashill to remain the head coach of the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
“Jeff Blashill has done a tremendous job in Grand Rapids,” said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. “Our young players were instrumental in getting us into the playoffs for a 23rd straight season, and the championship experience they got under Jeff in Grand Rapids was invaluable in turning those young players into NHL players. We’re excited to keep one of the top young coaches in hockey to continue to lead in the development of the next wave of Red Wings.”
“I’m thrilled to be able to remain with the Griffins,” said Blashill. “Both the Red Wings and Griffins are top-notch organizations filled with talented people that I enjoy working with. My family loves it here, and I’m happy to be able to continue to call Grand Rapids home. The AHL is a very challenging league, and we have a great group of young players and veteran leaders. I’m looking forward to being able to continue to work with them.”
Blashill, 40, has been in the Red Wings’ organization for the past three seasons, spending one season as an assistant coach in Detroit before being named the head coach of the Griffins prior to the 2012-13 season. In his first season with Grand Rapids, which had missed the playoffs four times in its previous five years (2008-12), he led the team to a Midwest Division regular-season title and its first-ever Calder Cup championship. Blashill and the Griffins improved on their regular-season record in 2013-14, tying for fifth overall in the AHL with a 46-23-2-5 record (W-L-OTL-SOL), but they fell to eventual the Western Conference-champion Texas Stars in the second round of the playoffs.
Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Blashill won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2013-14 season, as voted on by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities. He was also the head coach for the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic, which pitted AHL All-Stars in a skills competition and All-Star Game against Farjestads BK of the Swedish Hockey League in the first international All-Star event in the league’s history.
Blashill’s impact has also been felt in Detroit, as 13 players from his 2013 Calder Cup championship team skated for the Red Wings this season, including eight who went on to appear in the postseason this year with Detroit in Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Joakim Andersson, Brian Lashoff and Luke Glendening. A total of 17 players skated for both Detroit and Grand Rapids during the 2013-14 season, including nine who made their NHL debuts.
Prior to his tenure with the organization, Blashill spent one season (2010-11) as the head coach for the CCHA’s Western Michigan Broncos and led the team to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996 and first appearance in the CCHA championship game since 1986. He was named a finalist for CCHA Coach of the Year and was named National Coach of the Year by College Hockey News, Inside College Hockey and USCHO.com. His first head coaching experience came with the USHL’s Indiana Ice, which captured the 2009 Clark Cup championship and compiled a 72-43-5 regular-season record during his two seasons at the helm.
Blashill’s coaching career began with four seasons as an assistant at Ferris State University from 1998-02, where he began coaching following a four-year career as a goaltender for the Bulldogs. He also spent six seasons (2002-08) as an assistant with Miami University and has been a member of Team USA’s coaching staff on three occasions: the 2009 World Junior A Challenge, the 2009 World Junior Championship and the 2006 U-18 Junior World Cup.
Update #1: Blashill spoke with the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner about his contract...
“I’m a Michigan guy,” said Blashill, who lives in East Grand Rapids with his wife and three children, ages 3 to 8. “My family lives in West Michigan between Big Rapids and Traverse City. My wife is from the Detroit area. I love Grand Rapids. I think it is one of the nicest cities in America. I am extremely cognizant that I live in a great place. I work in a great place and work for great people in a great organization. I’m not in any rush to leave a great situation. Actually, I’d say the opposite: I was excited at the opportunity to be able to further my time with the Grand Rapids Griffins.”
Under Blashill, the Griffins won the Calder Cup championship in 2013 – after missing the playoffs the previous three seasons - and advanced to the second round of the playoffs this past season, when Blashill was named AHL coach of the year.
Blashill’s new contract comes as the Red Wings look to begin contract talks with coach Mike Babcock, who is entering the final year of his contract.
It raises the question if Blashill is the heir apparent in Detroit.
“Right now, I signed this new agreement to continue to be the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins and that’s my main focus,” he said. “As you know, I don’t worry about appearances and rumors. What I know are facts. And I know Mike Babcock is coach of the Red Wings and I’m coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins and I’m excited about it.”
And he spoke with the Free Press's Helene St. James about his deal, too:
"I'm excited to continue my time with the Detroit Red Wings organization and stay as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins," Blashill told the Free Press. "I feel real lucky that I love what I get to do every day and that I get to live in Grand Rapids, because it's a great city and near my family and my wife's family."
Blashill, 40, took over in Grand Rapids after one season as assistant coach under Mike Babcock in Detroit. Blashill coached the Griffins to the Calder Cup in 2013 and showed resilience this season as the Wings poached one Griffin after another to offset mounting injuries. Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco all came up and became regulars with the Wings. Others who made appearances included Petr Mrazek, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Teemu Pulkkinen.
"It was an interesting year," Blashill said. "We lost more guys, but the biggest thing it showed me is what a great job our scouting staff had done. I always felt comfortable with whoever was our replacement, and that's an amazing thing to say with the numbers we lost."
Blashill called it "awesome" to see guys such as Sheahan and Jurco thrive.
Blashill's success is almost certain to lead to an NHL offer at some point. He said it's his "ultimate goal to be an NHL coach, but it's not a race, to any degree. When you are in a real good situation and work for real good people in a real good organization, you have to respect that. I know I'm lucky."
Update #2: The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness also added this from an interview he conducted with Ken Holland last week:
"He’s very happy where he’s at,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in an interview last week. “I think he’d like to spend another year or two in the AHL, getting more experience coaching pros.
“He wants to be in the NHL but he’s got family in Michigan and enjoys where he’s at in Grand Rapids,” Holland added. “I told him some teams have called, he’s happy where he’s at. He’s happy to be in Grand Rapids for at least another year, maybe two. See how it goes.”
Holland called the salary increase “significant” since Blashill is being patient for another year or two. Blashill spent one season in Detroit, where he was in charge of the power play, after leaving Western Michigan University.
“He can continue to develop, evolve as a coach in hopes that there continues to be interview opportunities in the next couple of years,” Holland said. “He’s very happy where he’s at.”
Blashill guided the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 seasons during his one season in Kalamazoo. His squad also made it to the CCHA tournament championship game.
“Mike Babcock identified Blash as a guy who’d be great on our staff,” Holland said. “He did a tremendous job turning around Western Michigan. A year under Mike Babcock in Detroit was beneficial and positive for his career.
“We wanted somebody who had aspirations to move on and bring in some energy,” Holland continued. “He did a fabulous job in Grand Rapids.”
Update #3: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also weighs in:
The Red Wings feel it’s inevitable that Blashill will eventually receive a shot at an NHL head-coaching job. He’s a proven commodity who has done a splendid job of preparing a wave of young players like Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar for crucial roles with the Red Wings last season, with a second wave of guys – like Alexey Marchenko, Petr Mrazek, Xavier Ouellet, Teemu Pulkkinen and Ryan Sproul, among others – on the Red Wings’ horizon.
“Our future is down there in the hands of that head coach, and we feel that we have a tremendous coach down there,” Holland said. “He knows those kids and he knows there’s another wave with (Andreas) Athanasiou, and (Anthony) Mantha, and (Mattias) Backman. He knows there are a few more kids coming in and he’ll have those kids for another year, so I think he’s excited for the opportunity to continue overseeing their development.”
Before coming to the Wings, Blashill was a very successful head coach at the collegiate and at the junior level in the United States, serving stints at Western Michigan University and with the Indiana Ice in the USHL.
Blashill will be a part of the Wings’ conglomerate at this month’s NHL draft in Philadelphia on June 27-28. He will also head up the coaching staff at next month’s development camp as well as the eight-team NHL Prospect Tournament in September. Both events will be held at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.
A lot has been made of Mantha, the Wings 19-year-old prospect who set the Canadian Hockey League ablaze with his goal per game average last season. Out of junior eligibility, Mantha will either be in Detroit or Grand Rapids when he begins his pro career this fall.
“The one thing in my role is that you don’t know for sure who you’re going to have on any given day but certainly not who you’re going to have come October after the Red Wings have made their initial decision,” Blashill said. “I had the opportunity to coach Anthony at the prospects tournament and I was extremely impressed by his skill set and by his compete level and his want to learn and get better. So if I get an opportunity to work with him it will be exciting to watch his growth.”
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