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Lidstrom says Blashill's 'new voice' will help Detroit

by Dan Rosen

Nicklas Lidstrom's final season in the NHL was Jeff Blashill's first.

It was 2011-12, and Blashill started the season as a 37-year-old first-time NHL assistant coach to Mike Babcock tasked with working with the Detroit Red Wings forwards. Blashill finished it as a 38-year-old ready to coach his own team in the American Hockey League.

"He did have some ideas on the power play and looking at different things we can work at, but he came in kind of on the learning curve as well, trying to get familiarized with the team and the NHL, what it's like to be part of the NHL," said Lidstrom, the former Red Wings captain.

"It was a good learning experience for him to get that one year in before being in charge at Grand Rapids."

Blashill on Tuesday became Babcock's successor as coach of the Red Wings. This was an expected move and the reason the Red Wings prevented Blashill from talking with NHL teams about their coaching vacancies after last season.

He won the Calder Cup two years ago with the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Clark Cup in the United States Hockey League six years ago with the Indiana Ice.

Ironically, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper won the Clark Cup with the Green Bay Gamblers the year after Blashill won it with the Ice, and the Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals the year before Blashill won it win the Griffins.

Cooper is coaching in the Stanley Cup Final. Blashill's job is to get the Red Wings back there.

Another former Red Wings defenseman, Chris Chelios, an adviser to hockey operations for Detroit, worked closely with Grand Rapids.

"You talk about structure and accountability, I haven't been around too many guys who are better at it than Jeff," Chelios said. "One thing he says that hits home is, he knows what makes guys tick, he knows how to talk to guys.

"The fact that he won a Calder Cup with a lot of the guys who are with the [Red] Wings is going to help a lot, I think, with his transition."

Lidstrom, talking to by phone from Sweden, said the time seems right for Blashill in Detroit.

"He's been doing a tremendous job down in Grand Rapids, and I'm sure [Babcock] had a lot to do with that too, learning from [Babcock] when he was up and speaking to him throughout the last three years in Grand Rapids," Lidstrom said. "[Babcock] having been in Detroit for a lot of years and having a lot of success, he probably feels it's the right step for him to look for another challenge, but I think it could be the same for the team too.

"A younger coach coming in, a coach with hunger and drive -- not to say [Babcock] didn't have that -- but a new voice in the locker room could help some of the veteran players get recharged again."

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