DETROIT >> The Detroit Reds Wings have their replacement for Mike Babcock and he’s a chip off the old block.
The team will introduce Jeff Blashill as its 27th coach, Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Joe Louis Arena.
“Really, really similar,” Tomas Tatar said at the end of the season when asked if Blashill is similar to Babcock. “He’s a great coach. He’s helping (Grand Rapids) a lot. I think it’s a really similar school to what we’re doing here. It’s a similar system so guys are coming up here really ready.”
Blashill, who has been the frontrunner for the job all along since Babcock was named the Toronto Maple Leafs coach on May 20, has coached the Griffins the past three seasons after spending on year in Detroit as an assistant.
“Blash is a real good buddy of mine,” Babcock said. “I’ll never forget when I hired him. I left him a message. This is how quick life changes. He had just been one year at Western (Michigan University) there and I phoned him and said, ‘This is Mike Babcock, I’m the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Could you give me a call?’ He called me back and laughed and said, ‘Yeah, I know who you were.’
“I interviewed him and nobody had ever heard of him,” Babcock continued. “He coached with us one year and he’s gone (to Grand Rapids) and he’s been real good. We’ve talked five times a week ever since.”
Blashill led Grand Rapids to the Calder Cup championship in his first season and was named the American Hockey League coach of the year in 2014.
This season the Griffins lost in the Western Conference finals.
“He can motivate the players,” Tatar said. “I feel like the system and how he’s willing to play with the players is really good. Players feel like they can talk to him. He’s somebody who they can trust and feel good.”
Blashill, who will be the second youngest coach in the NHL at 41, compiled a 134-71-23 record with the Griffins.
“I feel like the players can trust him,” Tatar said.
Blashill was hired by Babcock and spent one season as assistant coach in Detroit, 2011-12, before taking over in Grand Rapids.
“I love Blash,” Tomas Jurco said after the Wings’ season ended in the first round for the third time in the past four seasons. “He just understands the game really well. He’s a really good guy and you can talk to him and he understands you as a person. Great guy, great coach, and I only have great memories of him.”
Blashill has coached many current Wings, including 10 players he coached in Grand Rapids that appeared in the playoff series against Tampa Bay this year.
“He’s a really good talker and that’s one of the best things about him,” Jurco said. “The things he actually shows you, every time he showed me something it was like ‘You are right. I can do it differently.’ He just understands it so well. He knows what the players can do a little differently. He’s a great coach.”
Detroit, which had been approached by numerous teams to speak with Blashill, doubled his salary to stay in the organization, seemingly as an insurance card if Babcock decided to bolt after this season.
Blashill could receive a three-year contract, since general manager Ken Holland has three years left on his deal.
Blashill guided WMU to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 seasons. His squad also made it to the CCHA tournament championship game.
He’s 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.
“He seems to have something, he wins wherever he goes,” Holland said after Babcock left. “I look at what he did at Western Michigan in getting them to the NCAA tournament. I think he had a tremendous positive influence in really building that program.
“When I look at Mike Babcock and I see lots of similarities in Jeff Blashill,” Holland added. “You make people accountable, he’s got a work ethic, he’s got a plan, he’s coached before, he’s got experience and he wins.”