Wings’ future is now — and well beyond — with new coach Blashill
When Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland introduced Jeff Blashill as the 27th coach in club history today, he established a line of succession that should serve the organization for years to come.
In a perfect world — and if you can’t dream about that on the day you sign up a new coach, then when can you? — Blashill will be the last coach Holland ever hires. Steve Yzerman will hire the next one sometime down the road, maybe a decade or longer of the Wings can continue this remarkable run.
As well as the Wings played this spring against Tampa Bay, which sits just two wins from a Stanley Cup title, Holland knows his team is very, very close. With a roster rejuvenated by a popular serial winner behind the bench, maybe the Wings can deliver that final Cup title that would cement Holland’s legacy.
He can then move upstairs in a few years when Senior Vice President Jimmy Devellano calls it a career after more than 50 years in the NHL and 3 1/2 decades in Detroit. Should that happen, and that’s certainly the plan of succession, the Ilitch ownership won’t have look far to find Holland’s replacement. Yzerman, who apprenticed under Holland when his playing career ended in Detroit, is doing a fabulous job with the Lightning, establishing himself alongside Holland as one of the best GMs in the game.
Which may just explain why Yzerman continues to live in suburban Detroit.
But we digress. The Detroit Red Wings have a new coach, their first America-born coach, the son of a Detroit police officer who moved his family out of Detroit in 1975 to pursue a career teaching criminal justice at Lake State University in Sault Ste. Marie.
"This is one of the worst-kept secrets in recent Red Wings history," Holland said to begin a news conference. I’m here today to introduce the 27th head coach in team history, Jeff Blashill."
Blashill, 41, comes to Detroit from Grand Rapids, where he spent the past three seasons as head coach of the Griffins, the Wings’ top minor-league affiliate, in the American Hockey League. He succeeds Mike Babcock, who left last month to accept an eight-year, $50 million contract to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And here’s one more poorly kept secret. There were no other candidates. Blashill was Holland’s first and only choice — something he set in motion a year ago when Babcock balked when the Wings offered to extend his contract.
Five teams inquired about Blashill last year: Toronto, Buffalo, Nashville, Vancouver and Pittsburgh. More teams wanted to interview him this year, which is why Holland tore up his contract, doubled his salary and ensured this smooth and seamless transition.
"Nobody else, no," Holland said following the news conference when a TV interviewer persisted in a line of questioning about other candidates. "Because I think he’s a tremendous coach. I believe in developing people, in developing an organization, and if you can stay internally. . . I just don’t think there’s anybody out there who is more prepared to coach the Detroit Red Wings than Jeff Blashill.
"He’s paid his dues, and wherever he’s gone he’s had a positive effect. His players have gotten better and he’s won championships. I know the coaches that were available out there, and I believe we’ve got a great young coach who can be here for awhile and have a real positive effect on the Detroit Red Wings."
Blashill’s contract is believed to be worth about $3.2 million over the four years. Entry level coaches typically are paid $725,000 to $850,000 per year. Blashill’s deal is likely to be in the middle of that range.
For his part, Blashill hit all the right notes in his introductory remarks. He thanked all the coaches, college administrators and team owners who gave him an opportunity in a coaching career that has taken from Ferris State University, Miami (Ohio) University, Indianapolis in the U.S. Hockey League, Western Michigan University, Detroit for one year as an assistant to Babcock, and three years as head coach of the Griffins.
He thanked the Wings’ ownership and management, and went out of his way to thank the club’s pro and amateur scouts.
"I can tell you first hand because I’ve seen it through my time in the American League, they’ve done a phenomenal job — and they don’t get enough credit," Blashill said. "I’ve certainly been one of the big beneficiaries of the work that they’ve done, and I publicly want to thank them."
He thanked his parents, in-laws and siblings, his wife and three children, all of whom were among the few hundred people who attended the news conference, many of them in the media and many more staffers in the Wings organization.
He thanked the captains of all the teams he served as head coach, and praised the players he’s worked with in the Detroit organization — many of whom he helped to develop into NHL players. And it was clear he is thrilled at the opportunity to work with a Wings roster he helped to assemble.
"You can only win at the highest level, win championships, with great talent and great character," Blashill said. "You can’t win with one or the other. You have to have both. And usually when you take a job like this you’re unfamiliar with what you have. You’re hoping the group has great character.
"Well, I don’t have to hope at all. I know first-hand because I’ve experienced it. This group oozes character. They’re led by three of the best winners, in my opinion, in all of sports."
He named captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternates Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall.
"They come every single day with an unbelievable work ethic," Blashill said. "Their attention to detail, they’re extremely competitive and they’re selfless. They care about team success many times more than their own success.
"I can’t wait to go to work with this group in the fall and try to win the Stanley Cup."