GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The longest-tenured head coach in Griffins' history has become the club’s third bench boss to earn a promotion to the National Hockey League, as the Dallas Stars on Monday hired Curt Fraser as an assistant coach.
Fraser, 54, ends his four-year run in Grand Rapids with a cumulative 146-130-18-22 record (0.525), ranking first in franchise history in both regular-season games coached (316) and wins (146). His most successful campaign was his debut season of 2008-09, when he led Grand Rapids to an impressive 43-25-6-6 regular-season mark – a 28-point improvement in the standings from the prior season – and its first-ever playoff upset, a six-game toppling of Hamilton in the North Division semifinals.
Additionally, Fraser played a major role in developing 20 players for the Red Wings since 2008, including current regulars such as Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton, Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl and Jan Mursak, and budding stars like Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Curt since the mid-‘90s, when he was with the Orlando Solar Bears,” said Dan DeVos, co-owner, president and CEO of the Griffins. “More than just a fine coach, he has been a great representative for the Griffins over these last four years, setting an example for both our players and our staff with his tremendous attitude and his desire to positively impact people’s lives. We’re thrilled to see him return to the NHL and wish him nothing but the best with the Stars.”
Fraser follows in the NHL footsteps of Guy Charron (1998-00) and Bruce Cassidy (2000-02), who each spent two seasons behind the Griffins’ bench before earning positions with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (assistant) and Washington Capitals (head), respectively.
“The Griffins are a first-class organization, and Dan DeVos and (co-owner and chairman) David Van Andel have been fantastic to work for,” said Fraser. “They trusted me with their team.
“Grand Rapids is a great place to live, the arena is second to none, and the fan support that the Griffins receive is excellent. It certainly makes it a lot of fun to have that much energy in the building. It’s just a great group in Grand Rapids, and I can’t thank everyone enough for the last four years,” he added.
A timetable for hiring Fraser’s replacement is being established. As part of the Griffins’ new five-year extension of their affiliation with the Red Wings, the parent club will be responsible for identifying candidates and selecting the Griffins’ ninth head coach in 17 seasons.
After compiling a tremendous head coaching resume in the International Hockey League during the ‘90s, Fraser was named the first head coach of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers on July 14, 1999. He spent three seasons behind the expansion team’s bench and helped the Thrashers’ 2000-01 squad improve by 21 points over its debut season.
Fraser’s NHL resume also includes stints as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders in 2003-04 and St. Louis Blues in 2005-06. He joined the Griffins as their eighth head coach on July 23, 2008 after spending two years (2006-08) as the head coach of the Belarus national men’s team, posting a 23-12-5 record and qualifying for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“We feel that that the depth of Curt’s experience in the game speaks for itself, including a four-year run as an NHL head coach,” said Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk. “That experience will be an invaluable asset to our organization, and his dynamic personality will be a great complement to (head coach) Glen Gulutzan, (assistant coach) Paul Jerrard and the rest of our team.”
The Vancouver Canucks’ second pick (22nd overall) in the 1978 NHL Draft, Fraser spent his entire 12-year playing career (1978-90) as a left wing in the NHL, exhibiting a rare combination of scoring touch and toughness. He accumulated 433 points (193-240—433) and 1,306 penalty minutes in 704 contests with Vancouver, the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota North Stars, highlighted by a personal-best 29-goal, 68-point season with the Blackhawks in 1985-86 and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Canucks in 1982.