The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/08/11 at 08:16 PM ET
Updated with a video interview with Blashill at 8:06 PM: The Detroit Red Wings raised more than a few eyebrows when the team announced that Mike Babcock chose Western Michigan University coach Jeff Blashill and Rockford IceHogs coach Bill Peters to flank his shoulders for the next three seasons. Neither of the Wings’ new assistant coaches have any coaching experience at the NHL level, and Peters is the only coach with any professional experience whatsoever—to the tune of three years behind the IceHogs’ bench.
According to Babcock himself, however, given that he’s been the Red Wings’ coach for over half a decade, fresh perspectives were necessary to keep both his and his players engaged and exposed to new perspectives, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I’ve been in Detroit six years and after a while you start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher—womp, womp, womp!” Babcock said. “I’m looking for new ideas, new thoughts. We’re trying to evolve our game. The way to do that is change. (Players) have heard the same voice for a long time.”
“I’m looking for young, excited workers are are willing to challenge the head coach,” Babcock said.
While Babcock initially was leaning toward replacing Brad McCrimmon and Paul MacLean with, let’s say more “seasoned” assistants, including the oft-mentioned Bob Boughner, Pete DeBoer, and possibly Ken Hitchcock, Babcock eventually decided that, at least behind the bench, anyway, youth (Blashill is 37 and Peters is 46) and enthusiasm are good things:
“We have experience covered (in the front office and dressing room), but I wavered back and forth a number of times,” Babcock said. “I’m very confident in the guys I hired. You can’t have too much enthusiasm and excitement on a staff. I believe winning follows around good coaches.”
With a little over two months until training camp begins, Babcock has some work to do in terms of defining the coaches’ roles—as at this point, even Babcock’s not quite sure who will handle the forwards and who will be in charge of the team’s defensemen (though it’s a safe bet that Blashill, a former goaltender, might know how to preach defense)...
“I tried to find guys who’ve won and made a difference everywhere they’ve been,” Babcock said. Babcock said he’ll soon meet with his staff to divvy up responsibilities and added, “Keith McKittrick (video coach) is often overlooked. He’s a real solid part of our staff, as well as (goaltending coach) Jim Bedard.”
And in Peters’ case, there is some familiarity:
Peters, 46, compiled a record of 122-97-7-14 in Rockford. Prior to that, he led the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs to the 2008 Memorial Cup title as champions of the Canadian Hockey League. He played for Babcock at Red Deer College and was part of Babcock’s staff in Spokane in the late 1990’s, prior to coaching at the University of Lethbridge.
“I’ve known Mike for a long time. He doesn’t want a yes man,” Peters said. “When you disagree you have to be able to stand up and state your case, defend your opinion. He wants to be challenged to get better. There will be a lot of fresh ideas.”
Peters told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that he had recently signed a contract extension with Rockford, but asked Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman if he could leave to pursue his opportunity with the Wings…
“I’m excited,” said Peters, who went 122-97-7-14 in three seasons at Rockford. “You always want to coach at the highest level and to do that with the Wings is special. I wasn’t actively pursuing an NHL job,” Peters added. “I just signed an extension two weeks ago, but I also had an understanding with Stan Bowman that if an NHL job came along I was free to go.”
And in Blashill’s case, he left a Western Michigan University program that competed for the CCHA title, played in the NCAA regional playoffs and was offering him a salary in the $275,000 range in base pay alone…
“He made such a huge impact his first season at Western,” said Babcock, who added Blashill’s strengths are his ability to communicate with players, express expectations and his knowledge of the game. “He’s got a bright future in coaching. He’ll make an immediate impact.”
“My ultimate goal has always been to go to the NHL,” Blashill said. “And ultimately be an NHL head coach. As much as I loved my position at Western, this was too good an opportunity not to take.”
“The core of who I am as a coach and what I believe in won’t change,” Blashill said. “I want to do everything I can to help the players be the best they can be so they can win at the highest level. I’m going to continue to learn and get better as a coach,” Blashill added. “I hope I can continue to adjust and get better.”
Peters believes that he has a pretty good idea of Babcock’s expectations…
Added Peters; “Mike believes a team must be good defensively. If your team is no good without the puck, you’re never going to get out of your own zone. Good play in your own zone is first and foremost.”
And as far as experience goes, Babcock doesn’t believe that it’s overrated by any sense of the imagination—it’s just something the Wings have in spades:
“With Kenny (Holland) and Nick (Lidstrom), I think we have experience covered,” Babcock said. “I did waver back and forth a number of times. I’m real confident in the guys I hired,” Babcock continued. “You can’t have enough excitement and enthusiasm on your staff. And I believe winning follows around good coaches.”
If you’re interested, Blashill spoke to WDFN’s Sean, Terp and Killer Show about his hiring:
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