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Babcock: Red Wings made right choice with Blashill

by Paul Harris / NHL.com

DETROIT -- When Mike Babcock left as coach of the Detroit Red Wings to become coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he felt Jeff Blashill was the right person to replace him.

Now, as Blashill prepares to make his NHL coaching debut with the Red Wings against Babcock's Maple Leafs on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SN1), his opinion hasn't changed.

"He's the Detroit Red Wings coach and he should be the Detroit Red Wings coach," Babcock said. "He's done a lot of things to get to where he is. … He's a smart guy, presents well and he has been taught well."

Blashill, 41, was born in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich., and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

"I saw the building process of [the Red Wings] becoming a really good team and then I saw the team that won Presidents' trophies [in 1994-95 and 1995-96] that couldn't quite get over the hump to win the Stanley Cup, and then finally to get over that and get to the top of the mountain in '97, and I celebrated as a fan," he said. "So I've got probably as good an appreciation of what the Detroit Red Wings are all about as anybody my age. I watched it first-hand and was a fan for most of that."

He was hired June 9 to replace Babcock, who left Detroit for Toronto on May 20. Blashill was an assistant coach on Babcock's staff with the Red Wings in 2011-12, then became head coach of the Red Wings' American Hockey League team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, the next season. The Griffins won at least 40 games in the three seasons Blashill coached them. They won the Calder Cup in 2013 and Blashill was AHL coach of the year in 2013-14.

Blashill's philosophy of how he wants the Red Wings to play is not much different than Babcock's approach: a puck-control, fast-paced game that also features defensive accountability.

But Blashill delivers his message a bit differently than the hard-driving, sometimes abrasive Babcock.

"They're both very similar but different," Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "With Mike, a lot of one-way conversation. Nice [with Blashill] to have someone who you can bounces things off of. It's different."

But Blashill is no soft touch.

"He demands every player do the right thing," forward Johan Franzen said. "If you don't do right he's going to let you know. He's going to push you until you do it right."

The Red Wings' veterans have watched Blashill develop as a coach.

"When he came here as an assistant he was really fresh to the pro level," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "He went down to Grand Rapids and did a tremendous job with the kids. And we are seeing his product up here with [Tomas] Tatar, [Luke] Glendening, [Gustav] Nyquist, [Riley] Sheahan and all those guys that came through his system."

Blashill coached 13 players on Detroit's roster in Grand Rapids.

"I've had experience with the majority of the players on the team, including a lot of guys that have been around here when I was here as an assistant," Blashill said. "My job is to evaluate where they stand today. Certainly their resumes, they've all built different resumes that we go into the year with great knowledge of. But this is a relentless profession. Where do you stand today and what do you get done today? That's what I'll be evaluating."

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