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Griffins coach Jeff Blashill says he’ll return to GR next season

I've been reading Wings fans worry like nobody's business about the status of Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, and with the Griffins in superb shape after taking 2 straight games over the Abbotsford Heat on Friday and Saturday--the Griffins only have to win one more game to advance as the AHL's first round is a best-of-5 series--and NHL.com's Alyssa Dombrowski profiling Blashill's Griffins a couple of days ago...

Nine Griffins graduated to make their NHL debuts with Detroit this season – Callahan and Sproul included – all while Grand Rapids remained a dominant force in the AHL’s Western Conference, posting 99 points (46-23-2-5) and reaching the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs.

It’s an impressive feat that earned Jeff Blashill the 2013-14 Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach.

“We’re at a great understanding of what our job is [in Grand Rapids],” said Blashill, who served as an assistant to Mike Babcock in Detroit in 2011-12 before heading across Michigan to take over the Griffins last season. “I believe that it’s two-fold: One is to win hockey games for the Griffins and try to win a Calder Cup; 1-A is to develop our players, to maximize their potential and ultimately try to develop future Red Wings to help them win a Stanley Cup.”

Blashill delivered a reassuring message to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner:

When asked if he expects to be back next season, Blashill replied, “Absolutely.”

The organization would like to keep him past next season, but that will be a challenge if the Griffins continue their current pace. They finished the regular season one point shy of a second consecutive Midwest Division title. They open the playoffs tonight at Abbotsford.

“We, meaning (general manager) Ken Holland, myself and the organization, think he is one of the best, if not the best, coach in the AHL,” said Ryan Martin, the Red Wings assistant general manager. “He has a bright future in the NHL. He just needs some time, the right opportunity and the right fit.”

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who has been with the team since 2005-06, signed a contract extension in 2010 that runs through 2014-15.

Likewise, Martin does not expect the 40-year-old Blashill to leave, although it remains to be seen what interest level he attracts if the Griffins again go deep in the playoffs.

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Personally, from what I have seen of Blashill, including being 10 feet behind the GR bench in last year’s championship game, suggests that he is the logical heir to Mike Babcock. I respect all that Babs has done, even when I disagree with the way he handles certain players, but Blashill has moulded and shaped these kids well in GR. The future core came out of the system that he coached and he guided them to the Clader Cup last season….with a very strong possibility of repeating this year.

Babcock’s contract is up after next season and I wonder if it might be best for him to move on and let Blashill take over. Blashill seems to have a very good way with the youth on GR and I believe his players have a considerable amount of respect for him. He is Babcockian in his mannerisms, and in the way he speaks, but I truly feel he has the potential to be a very good NHL coach. I’d prefer we not lose him to somebody else.

Further, the defensive structure of his GR teams could be used by the Wings, who tend to be woeful at times in their own end. I feel that structure, not lack of talent, is causing a lot of the breakdowns for the Wings. Whatever system they use…is not working a lot of the time…..therefore, it needs to be tweaked or scrapped.

Posted by NewfieWing on 04/28/14 at 12:38 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.