The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/15/14 at 01:39 PM ET
Updated 4x at 4:48 PM: The Red Wings officially announced the hiring of new assistant coach Tony Granato just before noon today, and We All Bleed Redd on YouTube noted that the Wings' assistant coach and head coach introduced themselves some time ago, when Granato was an assistant coach in Colorado:
Granato coached the Avs for two seasons, he's served as an assistant to Dan Bylsma in both Pittsburgh and on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, and Granato addressed his status as a one-time Wings and Babcock rival in a conversation with the Free Press's Helene St. James.
Friends? Granato tells St. James that they are now:
"I've gotten a lot of texts with that picture," Granato said today. "I think it shows the competitiveness that we have, the intensity both of us have. We're both defending our players. It's a funny thing now. It's one of my favorite pictures."
The argument was over Colorado Avalanche forward Ian Laperriere's decision to hit Detroit star Nicklas Lidstrom. Now Granato and Babcock will spend at least one season defending the same players.
Granato, who will turn 50 later this month, had interest from several teams after the Penguins announced he wouldn't return, but after Bill Peters' acceptance of the Carolina Hurricanes’ coaching job opened up a position in Detroit, Granato had tunnel vision.
"When the Detroit position became available, I looked at the team, I looked at the staff," Granato said. "This is the organization that I want to be a part of. The way Mike has been able to get the most out of his players is something that I've admired.
"What they did last year, when you look at the injury problems — basically, their big guys played half of the year —the younger players were asked to step up and play a more significant role and really had a big impact on the season."
Babcock was equally gushy about Granato's qualifications while speaking with other beat writers, and Babcock continues that conversation with St. James. St. James points out that Babcock now needs to replace Tom Renney, who will be named Hockey Canada's presidnet today:
Babcock has to find a second assistant, now that Tom Renney has left to head up Hockey Canada. Babcock said he had talked to Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill — who already has experience as an assistant in Detroit —but Blashill "wants to be a coach in the minors" for the time being, Babcock said.
Keith McKittrick has been with the team for six years, with the majority of his work centering on video. But at last month's NHL draft, Babcock said he wasn't considering internal candidates.
Quick update: it appears that MLive's Brendan Savage has an article in the works presently:
Update: Here's Savage's article:
They've got a tremendous work ethic and the system in place that Mike's put in and has been part of for a long time shows the consistency and that when you do have situations, whether it be injuries or tough parts of the schedule, you find a way to win and be competitive," Granato said. "If you get those guys that were banged up last year healthy again, it gives you a much better chance. That certainly is something that moving forward is hopefully the case. And if so, I think it's a great lineup and I think it's a lineup that can win and I'm looking forward to getting her going."
The Red Wings made the playoffs last season despite playing large chunks of the season without veterans Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss and Jonathan Ericsson. They were also without Jimmy Howard, Daniel Alfredsson and Darren Helm for extended periods.
All of that was a big reason eight Red Wings made their NHL debuts last season.
"I think what they did last year ... you've seen basically all of their big guys playing half the year," Granato said. "I think the younger players and the players who were asked to step up and play more significant roles really had a big impact on the season. You've got tremendous experience in leadership with some players who have had unbelievable careers and have been the staple of the organization for a long time. So I'm looking forward to working with those guys. But I think the core of the young players, like I said, stepped up and made big impacts last year, and they make it awfully exciting as well."
Granato is excited about joining a franchise with such a rich tradition as well as working for Babcock, who many consider the best coach in the NHL.
"I respect the fact that he was able to get the most out his players, consistently find ways to get the most out of who he has," Granato said. "The Detroit Red Wings play a system and brand of hockey consistently through the years that's tough to play against every night."Systematically sound and from that perspective I think the way Mike is able to get the most out of his players and personnel is something I've admired about him and also the organization. It's great to finally be part of and I'm looking forward to helping and being part of something special."
Update #2: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also spoke with Granato:
“You don’t look past Detroit,” said Granato, who accepted a one-year contract, with a second-year option, to become an assistant on Mike Babcock’s coaching staff. “You try to find ways to succeed through situations whether (it’s) rebuilding or dealing with injuries like they had to this year. They always find a way,” Granato said during a conference call with Detroit media Tuesday afternoon. “You have to give a lot of credit to management, the coaches and the players and how they have been able to sustain that. I’m really looking forward to being a part of it and seeing what makes the Red Wings tick.”
Granato is the seventh assistant coach hired by the Red Wings during Babcock’s nine-year tenure as head coach. It’s expected that Granato will oversee the Red Wings’ penalty kill unit, which, despite a vast number of injuries to key players, was ranked No. 12 with an 83 percent efficiency rating last season.
“The younger players and the players who were asked to step up and play more significant roles really had a big impact on the season,” Granato said. “But I think (Henrik) Zetterberg, obviously, (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Johan) Franzen, and you’ve got (Daniel) Alfredsson, you’ve got tremendous experience in leadership with some players who have had unbelievable careers and have been the staple of the organization for a long time. So I’m looking forward to working with those guys but I think the core of the young players, like I said, stepped up and made big impacts last year, and they make it awfully exciting as well.”
Granato is an uncle to Red Wings prospect Landon Ferraro, who is the son of former NHL star Ray Ferraro. Granato’s younger sister, Cammi, one of the first women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, is married to Ray Ferraro, though she isn’t Landon’s mother.
“I didn’t think much of that going into certainly making this decision,” Granato said. “I’ve watched him over the past few years develop into a pretty good player. Hopefully he continues to develop and be part of it as well.”
With the exception of his nephew, Granato said he doesn’t know much about the organization’s rising young stars like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan. But he plans to use the next few months to get acquainted with their playing styles and tendencies.
“I just started watching video on them,” Granato said. “I’m just getting a taste of that right now, and I’ll continue to do my homework over the summer to get to know them a little bit better. But I do know there are some exciting prospects that have some great potential to play more significant roles as we move forward.”
Update #3: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also spoke with Granato:
Before the Penguins, he was head coach of the Avalanche twice: 2002-04 (they made the playoffs both seasons), and again for the 2008-09 season.
Granato, whose younger sister is hockey hall-of-famer Cammi Granato, is 104-78-17-16 as a head coach. Before entering coaching, Tony Granato played 13 seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Los Angeles and San Jose.
In 773 games, Granato had 248 goals and 244 assists.
"When you look at what they've (the Red Wings) done in the past 20 years, there's no franchise that can match the consistent success they've had," Granato said. "They know how to develop players, how to win, and find the right people and personnel and fit into the organization and roster. Year after year, they find ways to succeed."
Update #4: Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji also spoke with Granato:
Granato hopes to bring the intensity and competitiveness that he had as a player to his job coaching the penalty kill and the defense for the Wings.
"I learned a lot over the years about the importance of the small details of the game that are so important to being a part of a team's success," Granato said. "In Pittsburgh I worked with the forwards and PK. Over the past four years I think those two areas that I've enjoyed. So just bringing energy and I think I can relate to the players well; you can get a pretty good pulse on the locker room; and to be a complement and do whatever Mike needs of me."
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