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Team is excited with new coach Blashill

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
General manager Ken Holland said players will have new opportunities with new coach Jeff Blashill. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- As Red Wings training camp approaches, there's some extra excitement with a new man in charge.

New head coach Jeff Blashill might sound like Mike Babcock but he's not going to be a Mike Babcock clone.

Blashill spent a season as Babcock's assistant in 2011-12 before going to Grand Rapids to be the Griffins' head coach.

General manager Ken Holland spent some time in his office this past week talking about the transition from Babcock to Blashill.

"One of the things Mike Babcock said to me before he signed with Toronto and before he went through the process is, did I think his time had expired in Detroit and I said no, because we were having lots of young players, there was a turnover of players so some of these players had played for Mike for two years," Holland said. "(Tomas) Tatar, (Gustav) Nyquist and (Riley) Sheahan, they just got here. But there was a group of players that had played for Mike Babcock for 5, 6, 7 years. When you're a boss or you're in pro sports and you have structure, you make them accountable every day, sometimes change is good."

Holland expects Blashill to make his own tweaks to the Wings' system, whether it's small changes in the power play, penalty kill or neutral zone play.

But the change is less about the X's and O's and more about the person that Blashill is and the relationships that he develops with the players.

"Some of the players he's got a relationship going back to Grand Rapids," Holland said. "Anytime you win a championship at any level and he's won a Calder Cup championship as coach with half those players that are going to be here now, it's a special bond."

Holland cited Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who made a similar transition after leading the Norfolk Admirals to a Calder Cup title in the 2011-12 season and then became the Lightning coach in 2013.

Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup champion

ship the year after the Admirals won.

"If you're somebody coming from Grand Rapids, he coached you," Holland said. "If you did it for him in Grand Rapids, he's going to give you a chance. But you've got to do it here because Jeff understands what our expectations are in Detroit."

Holland also said that a new coach represents new opportunity for some other players.

"Those ones that think that they didn't get a fair shake from the old coach, there's a new coach," Holland said. "And if this coach thinks the same as the last coach, maybe it's not so much about the coach, maybe you're not doing what is needed, what is expected in order to get that ice time."

Most likely, the veteran players who had established roles and a certain amount of ice time with Babcock will have similar roles.

But there's no guarantee.

"There's players that had earned the coach's trust," Holland said. "They've got to earn Jeff Blashill's trust. It's good for Mike Babcock. But it starts all over again. They understand that they've got to win a new coach's trust."

It's Blashill's first opportunity as the head coach at the NHL level, but Holland believes his skills will translate.

"Lots of the things that made Scotty Bowman successful, that made Mike Babcock successful, that makes the other head coaches successful in the National Hockey League, those are traits that I believe Jeff Blashill has," Holland said.

"So I think early on there's going to be an air of excitement."

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