And on Wednesday, Mike Babcock filled his bench for the 2014-15 season, adding Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer as assistant coaches to accompany Tony Granato, who was hired as an assistant coach by the Red Wings on July 15.
“For my first experience in the NHL to be with Mike, there couldn’t be a better guy to start with,” Hiller said on Wednesday following the announcement.
“Mike has done a great job and he has a great network. He finds quality people and he mentors them as part of what he does. People can learn from him. For an opportunity to be around any coach with such experience and success, that’s only going to make you better.”
The trio replaces Bill Peters, Tom Renney and Keith McKittrick, who all departed the Wings organization this summer. Peters was named the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, Renney was hired as President and CEO of Hockey Canada and McKittrick will serve as an assistant coach for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.
Hiller returns to Detroit after suiting up for the Red Wings in 21 games during the 1992-93 season – a span he describes as “much too brief.”
“The team when I played was just starting to have a lot of regular season success, not quite the playoff success yet,” he said. “The fans were passionate and everyone could feel that it wasn’t far away. When I left, they went a great run with Stanley Cups and championships. It’s just a great, great hockey city.”
Hiller brings to Hockeytown 11 years of coaching experience in the Western Hockey League and the British Columbia Hockey League, most recently serving as the head coach of the Tri-City Americans for the last five seasons. In that span, Hiller led the club to four 40-win seasons en route to an overall record of 210-124-11-5.
The Port Alberni, British Columbia, native also guided Tri-City to four playoff berths, two U.S. Division titles and an appearance in the 2010 WHL Finals. Following the 2011-12 campaign, Hiller was named the WHL’s Coach of the Year and won the Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award as the top coach in the Canadian Hockey League after leading Tri-City to a 50-18-2-2 record.
On the ice, Hiller suited up in 63 NHL games between the Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers from 1992-94 before finishing his 10-year professional hockey career in the American Hockey League, International Hockey League and in Europe. Prior to turning pro, the winger played three seasons at Northern Michigan University and helped the club to the 1991 NCAA National Championship.
Hiller is expected to work with the Red Wings’ forwards, and although he hasn’t coached any of the current Red Wings in the past, he has kept a close eye on the Red Wings since suiting up in the Winged Wheel.
“As coaches, we never really step away from the game, especially when you’re talking about the NHL,” he said. “I watched the Wings a lot this year and in past several years. I saw what a great job they did when they went through all the injuries. The young players, specifically, came up through the system and really contributed.”
In addition to experience both on the ice and behind the bench, Hiller is well-versed with advanced player statistics and analytics, which have become a major talking point in the hockey community this offseason.
“I think all the information out there is good,” Hiller said. “It’s just a matter of where it’s practical or where you can implement it. But I think you always have to keep an eye on it. There always seems to be a way to get better, you just have to find it. If that’s an angle, then you use that. The fact that it’s part of the conversation these days is probably a good thing.”
Joining Hiller on the Red Wings bench is Andrew Brewer, who comes to the Red Wings after spending three years with Hockey Canada as the organization’s video coach for various international events, most recently working alongside Babcock during Canada’s gold-medal run at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
In all, Brewer has served on Hockey Canada’s coaching staff for three World Championships and three World Junior Championships, along with several other Hockey Canada events such as the Canada-Russia Challenge, the Deutschland Cup and the World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
Prior to joining Hockey Canada, Brewer was an assistant coach at the University of New Brunswick for three seasons, helping the club claim two national championships.
Hiller has crossed paths with both Brewer and Granato throughout his coaching career, and noted that discussions between the new bench bosses and Babcock have already commenced on a regular basis as training camp grows near.
“Mike has built such a great program and a style of play that works. Nobody is going to change that. With guys coming in from the outside, there is going to be great conversation and I think that’s what Mike is looking for.”
Granato Tabbed for NJEC: USA Hockey announced on Tuesday that Red Wings assistant coach Tony Granato has been selected as an assistant camp coach for the first four days (Aug. 2-5) of the National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Granato, who was as an assistant coach for the U.S. during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, will act as an associate coach for Team Blue at the evaluation camp, which serves as an audition for positions on the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the World Junior Championships in Montreal and Toronto from Dec. 26, 2014 – Jan. 5, 2015.
As an associate on Team Blue, Granato will coach forward Dylan Larkin, who was the Red Wings first round selection (15th overall) in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.