DETROIT – Jeff Blashill is returning to his teaching roots.
The 38-year-old Blashill, who spent last season behind the Red Wings’ bench as an associate to coach Mike Babcock, has accepted an offer to become the new head coach of the franchise’s American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids.
“It’s a great opportunity to coach at the American Hockey League level where I wanted to eventually go to be a head coach,” Blashill said. “Of the franchises in the American Hockey League, Grand Rapids was No. 1 for a number of reasons, including from a professional standpoint to remain in the Red Wings’ organization.”
Blashill becomes the ninth head coach in Griffins’ history, replacing Curt Fraser, who accepted a position on the Dallas Stars’ coaching staff last week. He ranks first in franchise history in both regular-season games coached (316) and wins (146).
A collegiate goalie at Ferris State University, Blashill remained with the Bulldogs following his senior season, latching onto an assistant position in 1998, and after three seasons at Ferris and another six at Miami University, he took a head coaching gig with the Indiana Ice in 2008, and led them to the USHL championship in his first season.
Two years ago, Blashill returned to the CCHA as head coach at Western Michigan University, and earned national coach of the year honors from two college hockey publications for rejuvenating the Broncos, which had a losing record a season earlier. Under, Blashill, the Broncos improved to 19-13-10, finished fourth in the CCHA regular-season, but managed to reach the CCHA tournament championship game before falling to Miami.
Blashill, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., is quite familiar with Grand Rapids, having lived in suburban Comstock Park during his coaching days at Ferris, which was about a 50-minute commute each way. But teaching is something that Blashill lives to do.
“My background has been through college hockey and then junior hockey and back to college hockey,” he said. “Watching guys get better over a course of a season, being able to really help them learn better habits, develop more skill and prepare them to play at a higher level is something that I have always enjoyed.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching my former players go on to have great success, like Alec Martinez, who I coached at Miami University, raise the Stanley Cup with L.A. this year, and I was extremely excited for him. It’s that mentorship that I really enjoy and something that I look forward to in the American Hockey League.”
Because Blashill was able to relate with the Wings’ younger players, like Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith, it was certainly something that general manager Ken Holland considered and thought could help in a smooth transition to Grand Rapids.
“We’re very excited to name Jeff the next head coach of the Griffins,” Holland said. “He’s a talented coach that has a proven track record of working well with young players. He did a tremendous job for us in Detroit last season and we look forward to having him grooming and mentoring our prospects in Grand Rapids.”
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