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Houda returns to Detroit as an assistant

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Doug Houda began his NHL career with the Red Wings, who selected him in the second round of the 1984 draft. (Photo by Mark Hicks/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – The Red Wings like Doug Houda so much they’re bringing him back to the organization for a third time.

The former NHL defenseman is returning to Hockeytown with a wealth of coaching knowledge as an assistant in the league spanning the past 10 seasons.

The Wings’ second-round pick in the 1984 NHL draft, Houda, who received a three-year contract, fills one of three job openings on the Wings’ coaching staff this offseason.

Head coach Jeff Blashill is still seeking a second bench assistant and a goaltending coach.

Houda, who turns 50 years old on June 3, replaces outgoing assistant Tony Granato, who returned to the University of Wisconsin, his college alma mater, to take over as the Badgers’ head coach. Granato had been in charge of the Wings’ defensemen and the penalty kill.

Houda was an assistant with Boston for the past 10 seasons, joining the Bruins in 2006 when Peter Chiarelli was named general manager and Dave Lewis was brought in as head coach. A year later, when Lewis was let go, new head coach Claude Julien retained Houda.

It is unclear what Houda’s role will be with the Red Wings.

For his first eight seasons with the Bruins, Houda coached the club’s defensemen and the power play units. But for the past two campaigns, the special-teams duties were reassigned to other assistants, leaving Houda entrusted with Boston’s defensive corps during games.

Doug Houda is a great coach,’’ Julien told the Boston Globe last month. “Doug Houda will coach again in this league. The players loved him.’’

However, because the Bruins missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second successive season somebody had to take the fall and that guy was Houda, the only coach relieved of his duties two days after the regular season ended.

While easy to blame Houda for the Bruins’ shortcomings, he doesn’t feel like a scapegoat.

“I know it was brought up as being that way, but I don’t feel that way,” Houda told the Boston Herald. “I just think it was time, and they needed a change. People can say what they want, but it’s just time to move on.”

Prior to his time with the Bruins, Houda was an assistant to Randy Cunneyworth in Buffalo’s minor-league system. Houda spent three seasons (2003-06) in Rochester in the American Hockey League, where the Americans compiled a 125-86-16-13 record, including a 51-19-4-6 record and a franchise-record 112 points in 2004-05, which was the top record in the AHL that season.

Doug Houda

He played pro hockey for 17 seasons, producing 19 goals and 63 assists in 561 games with six different NHL clubs, including two stints with the Red Wings. He also played for the Hartford Whalers, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Houda began his NHL career as a 19-year-old, making his debut in the Red Wings’ season opener against the Minnesota North Stars, on Oct. 10, 1985. At the time, he was just the fourth teenage defenseman in team history to play on opening night.

The Blairmore, Alberta, native played in 169 games before the Red Wings traded him to Hartford for defenseman Doug Crossman, in 1991. Nearly seven years later, he returned to Detroit when the Red Wings acquired him from Anaheim for future considerations.

Houda played just three more games for the Wings before he was sent to Adirondack, where he finished the 1998-99 season. He scored five goals with 26 assists and a plus-1 rating during his Red Wings career.

Throughout his playing career, Houda bounced between NHL clubs and their minor-league affiliates, logging 550 games in the American Hockey League. At 29 years old, the defenseman reached the AHL finals, where he helped the Rochester Americans win the 1996 Calder Cup.

In 2011, he was inducted into the Rochester Hall of Fame.

The Wings continue to look for a replacement for Jim Bedard, the team’s goaltending coach for the past 18 seasons. He was not offered a new contract last week.

The team also reassigned Pat Ferschweiler, who previous to his first season as an NHL assistant worked with Blashill in Grand Rapids and at Western Michigan University. Ferschweiler will now watch games from the press box. He was in charge of the Wings’ power play, which struggled for most of the season before a late uptick saw them finish 13th in the league.

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