DETROIT – Just one year after Jeff Blashill was named an assistant to Wings coach Mike Babcock, the organization has reassigned him.
Blashill will coach the Grand Rapids Griffins next season.
Curt Fraser, who is the longest-tenured coach in Griffins history, was named as assistant coach with the Dallas Stars last week.
There was no timetable announced as to when the Wings will Blashill’s position.
“We’re very excited to name Jeff the next head coach of the Griffins,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a press release. “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 groom and mentor our prospects in Grand Rapids.”
Blashill, who worked with the Wings’ power play units last season, will be introduced at press conference at Van Andel Arena later this week.
“I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Griffins,” Blashill in the release. “I had a tremendous experience in Detroit last season and will lean on that as I make the transition behind the bench in Grand Rapids. I worked with most of our young players at training camp and in the preseason last year. We have some great talent in the organization. I’m looking forward to getting started.”
As part of the Griffins’ five-year extension of their affiliation with the Wings, the parent club was responsible for selecting the Griffins’ ninth head coach in 17 seasons.
Despite having plenty of higher profile candidates to go with as assistants last season the Wings chose to pick from the minor league and college ranks to work behind the bench in naming Blashill (Western Michigan University) and Bill Peters (Rockford IceHogs).
Both signed three-year deals.
“I’ve been in Detroit six years and after a while you start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher — womp, womp, womp!” Babcock said last season. “I’m looking for new ideas, new thoughts. We’re trying to evolve our game. The way to do that is change. (Players) have heard the same voice for a long time.”
Babcock’s former assistants Paul MacLean (Ottawa Senators) and Brad McCrimmon (Russia’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl) each landed head coaching jobs. McCrimmon however lost his life in a plane crash in Russia last offseason.
McLean was with the Wings for five seasons, while McCrimmon spent three seasons in Detroit.
“He’s a young man with a bright future in coaching, a polished presenter,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said last year when asked about his new assistant coach. “He’ll have an immediate impact on the team.”
Blashill said at the time he was surprised when Babcock left him a message out of the blue since he had no previous relationship with anybody on the Red Wings.
“As much as I loved my position at Western (Michigan), this was too good an opportunity not to take,” Blashill said. “It was my goal for a number of years to go to the NHL. Ultimately, I would like to be an NHL head coach.”
He said dealing with NHL players will present challenges.
“I hope I can continue to learn and get better as a coach,” Blashill said, adding that his strengths are his “ability to communicate with players and express my expectations, knowledge of the game.”
Blashill guided the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 seasons during his one season in Kalamazoo. His squad also made it to the CCHA tournament championship game.
Because of those accomplishments the school increased his base salary from $150,000 to $275,000. He also could have earned $100,000 more in incentives.
Blashill has also been an assistant coach at Ferris State and Miami University. In 2009, he was named head coach and general manager of the Indiana Ice, a Tier 1 junior hockey team in the United States Hockey League. In his only season there he guided the Ice to the championship.
Blashill played goal for Ferris State from 1994-98.
Former NHL head coach Andy Murray is currently coaching at Western Michigan.
Fraser, 54, was 146-130-18-22 with Grand Rapids in four seasons, which ranked him first in franchise history in both regular season games coached (316) and wins (146). His most successful campaign was his debut season of 2008-09, when he led Grand Rapids to an impressive 43-25-6-6 regular season mark – a 28-point improvement in the standings from the prior season – and its first-ever playoff upset, a six-game toppling of Hamilton in the North Division Semifinals.
Fraser follows in the NHL footsteps of Guy Charron (1998-00) and Bruce Cassidy (2000-02), who each spent two seasons behind the Griffins’ bench before earning positions with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (assistant) and Washington Capitals (head), respectively.