Jeff Blashill, the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins, is expected to be named the new head coach in Detroit on Tuesday.
Here’s everything you need to know about the man.
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Age: 41, born in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Playing career: Goaltender with Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) 1991-94, Ferris State University (CCHA) 1994-98
Head coaching jobs: Indiana Ice (USHL) 2008-10, Western Michigan University (CCHA) 2010-11, Grand Rapid Griffins 2012-15
Awards: 2008 Clark Cup (USHL), 2013 Calder Cup (AHL), USCHO Coach of the Year (2011), AHL Coach of the Year (2014)
A natural successor to Babcock in Detroit
In the event Babcock follows a trail of dollars to a gig in Toronto, San Jose, or Edmonton, Blashill would make an ideal candidate to step in his place with Detroit.
Blashill served as an assistant under Babcock during the 2011-12 season, so he’s familiar with several pieces of the Red Wings’ core group. He also has the advantage of having helped develop the likes of Tomas Jurco, Anthony Mantha, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, Riley Sheahan, Brendan Smith, and Tomas Tatar in his tenure with the AHL Griffins.
The 41-year-old coach has one AHL Calder Cup championship to his credit, with several of the aforementioned Red Wings having played major roles for the 2012-13 Griffins.
A man focused on the task at hand
Speculation on Babcock’s intentions for the 2015-15 season and beyond has been running on high since he opted to forgo contract negotiations until the season was over.
Even with that organizational uncertainty, Blashill has not thought about the prospect of landing the Red Wings head coach position. According to Blashill, there hasn’t even been so much as a single conversation with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland about the possibility of it.
“We have not had one conversation about it since Ken (Holland) and I sat down last spring to talk about doing a new contract and me being the head coach of the Griffins,” Blashill said. “That’s the only conversation we’ve had.”
“As in the past, I honestly don’t even think about it,” he added. “I have never been in a job and thought about what’s next. I’ve always thought about right now, and that’s a series with Toronto (AHL Marlies), and that’s my sole focus.”
Babcock could very well remain with the Red Wings for the foreseeable future. Even with Babcock gone, the Red Wings could look to someone with NHL experience, like former Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, to take his spot. Blashill could have options outside of the Red Wings organization.
His success in Grand Rapids could help land him in contention for any one of the coaching vacancies in Buffalo, Edmonton, Philadelphia, San Jose, and Toronto.
He’s been heralded for his ability to develop talent, which could make for a nice fit for a franchise stocked with youth like the Oilers or Sabres.
About that contract
Holland and the Red Wings were happy enough with Blashill’s performance behind the bench in Grand Rapids that they tore up his existing contract and handed him a new three-year deal and a raise last summer.
He’s valuable to the organization, so it’s possible they might not be willing to let him go just yet regardless of what happens with Babcock.
“He’s a very important person in our organization because we are in the process of trying to transition to some of the younger players that we have,” Holland said after extending Blashill in June. “… We are thrilled with the job that he has done from a competitive standpoint, from a development standpoint.
“I think his feeling is that he can use another year or two, certainly one more year, to continue developing as a coach, and we’ll see what happens next summer.”
The Red Wings could find themselves in a difficult position with Blashill. It’s hard to fathom that they would block him from pursuing an NHL coaching job if teams come knocking.
Again, it all comes down to Babcock… and he’s not quite ready to talk about that “crap.”
In good time, Jeff Blashill.