Jeff Blashill, coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, could be the leading candidate to replace Mike Babcock as Detroit Red Wings coach.
Babcock on Wednesday left the Red Wings after 10 seasons to become coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Grand Rapids has won its first two series in the Calder Cup Playoffs and will play the Utica Comets in the Western Conference Finals. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Wednesday he has contacted Blashill and will meet with him in the near future, likely during the next round.
"I reached out to [Blashill] to say, 'Blash, in the next little while you're the first guy I want to talk to. You've been in the organization. You've been the head coach in Grand Rapids. You've been Mike's assistant coach,'" Holland said Wednesday.
"So that's the first step. Once I have that meeting I'll know what the next step is."
Holland said the process of naming the 27th coach in Red Wings history won't be a long one.
"I'm not going to interview eight and 10 people," Holland said. "I might interview one. I might interview two or three. I'll decide that in the next few days. … I believe we're going to have a good head coach."
Earlier this month, Blashill, 41, told The Detroit News, "My ultimate goal is, I'd like to be a head coach in the NHL."
Babcock hired Blashill as an assistant in 2011 and endorsed the Griffins coach after their come-from-behind series win against the Toronto Marlies in the first round of the AHL playoffs at the beginning of the month.
"He's a good man and a good coach and he's going to get an opportunity in the National Hockey League," Babcock said, according to The Detroit News. "… He's an intelligent guy. He speaks well, and he presents well. … I'm proud of him. He does a good job."
Blashill was named coach of Grand Rapids in 2012 and led the Griffins to the Calder Cup in his first season.
"I've always believed [in] doing the best job you can in the job you are in, and thinking about not what's next but what's right now," he told The Detroit News earlier this month. "And that if you do a great job in what's right now, other things take care of themselves."
Blashill coached current Red Wings players Joakim Andersson, Danny DeKeyser, Landon Ferraro, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar in Grand Rapids.
"He's a great coach," Tatar told the Red Wings website. "He's helping the team a lot. I think it's a really similar school to what we're doing here. It's a similar system, so guys are coming up here really ready.
"He's a good talker. He can motivate the players. I feel like the system and how he's willing to play with the players is really good. Players feel like they can talk to him. He's somebody who they can trust and feel good."
The Griffins have made the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of its three seasons under Blashill, and that kind of success at the AHL level has impressed Holland.
"No. 1, he wins," he said. "Why does he win? I think a good coach, when I look at Mike Babcock and I see lots of similarities in Jeff Blashill. I want to talk to him. Making players accountable, having a tremendous work ethic, having passion, having a plan.
"Jeff has coached at different levels, just like Mike Babcock. … Jeff Blashill has been the same, different levels, had success. Spent time here under Mike Babcock. Spending a year kind of learning under Mike, then going down to Grand Rapids, so I think those are enough. You make people accountable; he's got a work ethic, he's got a plan, he's coached before, he's got experience, he wins."
Blashill was a college assistant for the first nine seasons of his coaching career, three with Ferris State and six with Miami (Ohio). After two seasons as coach of the Indiana Ice of the USHL, Blashill coached Western Michigan for one season.
"I would say that [Mike] and I have real similar philosophies on how to play hockey," Blashill said. "I'd say we have real similar philosophies on how to coach and train people. … I think that was one of the reasons that attracted [Mike] to me in the first place, in order to hire me."