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Detroit Red Wings hire Jeff Blashill as coach

by Paul Harris

DETROIT -- There was never another candidate to become Detroit Red Wings coach.

General manager Ken Holland decided last year that Jeff Blashill would be the choice if Mike Babcock chose to go elsewhere.

And Blashill, 41, was introduced as Red Wings coach Tuesday at a press conference at Joe Louis Arena. He is the NHL's second-youngest coach behind John Hynes of the New Jersey Devils, who was hired this month.

"I'm going on my instinct," Holland said. "He's a great young coach who is ready to coach in the NHL."

Blashill's contract is for four years, Holland said. Blashill replaces Babcock, who was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 20 after 10 seasons with Detroit.

Blashill was coach of Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, the past three seasons, winning the 2013 Calder Cup, AHL coach of the year in 2014, and reaching the Western Conference Finals this season.

"You don't have success like that at the American Hockey League level unless you're running a good program," Holland said.

Blashill was an assistant coach with the Red Wings under Babcock in 2011-12.

"I can't wait to go to work with this group in the fall and start trying to win the Stanley Cup," Blashill said.

After the 2013-14 season, Babcock was entering the final year of his contact and five NHL teams wanted to interview Blashill for their coaching vacancy. Holland gave Blashill the choice of interviewing with other teams or signing a contract extension with Detroit that included a significant raise and the assurance that if Babcock left after the 2014-15 season, he would be the next Red Wings coach.

Blashill signed the extension and remained in Grand Rapids. Blashill is the first American-born coach in Detroit's history and was coach at Western Michigan University in 2010-11.

"The Red Wings job was the job I wanted the most of all," Blashill said.

He was born in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich., and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, which is located on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"I've had conversations about our players with both Jeff and Mike Babcock, and they have different thoughts on certain players," Holland said.

Ten Red Wings who played in the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs played for Blashill with Grand Rapids.

"I don't want to talk about what has been the case in the past; I have my own approach and some things will be different," Blashill said. "I'll be Jeff Blashill, and I think in that, there will be change."

Blashill is unlikely to have the same sometimes abrasive manner with players as Babcock did, but Holland said he won't be an easy touch either.

"I don't think he's a soft coach; I think he'll have different relationships," he said. "But he will make people accountable."

Holland said the Red Wings, who have made the playoffs in 24 straight seasons, are getting younger. Though the core leadership group of forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and defenseman Niklas Kronwall is aging, nine players on the roster are 26 or younger, and Detroit will likely get even younger in the next couple of years as more players come up from Grand Rapids.

"We've always been trying to win the Stanley Cup and get into the playoffs," Holland said. "Now we're also trying to develop our organization.

"We're trying to get younger and trying to get better. And sometimes when you're dealing with younger players, you have to have patience."

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