DETROIT >> When Jeff Blashill was named the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings one of the first calls he made was to Tony Granato.
He wanted him to return as an assistant coach.
Blashill got his wish.
“He was my number one priority,” Blashill said. “I wanted a guy with lots of NHL playing and coaching experience. Tony obviously fits that model, but probably beyond that and more importantly, I think he’s a home run because of the person he is. Tony’s an outstanding person, an outstanding hockey coach, who has earned the respect of so many of the players that he’s coached. I’ve talked to guys that played with him, or played for him in Pittsburgh, talked to many of the players here in Detroit and all of them have a real infinity for Tony. So I thought it was an extreme priority to get Tony to stay onboard.”
Pat Ferschweiler will be the other assistant on the bench, while Dave Noel-Bernier was hired as video coach. Chris Chelios will work the defense and goalie coach Jim Bedard will return.
Granato will continue to run the D during the games and he’ll also oversee the penalty kill. Ferschweiler will be a “sounding board” for Blashill as well as overseeing the power play.
Ferschweiler spent last season in Grand Rapids as an assistant coach under Blashill. He also spent one season with Blashill at Western Michigan.
“When I got the job at Western, Pat, similar to what I said about Tony, Pat was the guy that I tried the hardest to come and that’s because I had the opportunity to watch Pat grow a program, a youth program from the very ground stages and build it to one of the elite programs nationally. I saw that first hand. Then as I got to know Pat I realized what a great hockey mind, what a great person and what a strength he’d be and an asset on the staff.
“He is one of the best guys I’ve been around, helping individual players get better,” Blashill continued. “I think one of the things that we owe to our players is to help them become the best players that they can be each and every year. That’s a promise that I’m going to make to the players and Pat is going to have a big impact on that, especially with our forwards. He’s a good sounding board for me. He knows the way I think. He knows a lot of the things that we want to be about. He’ll be able to tell me when I’m on the right path and when I’ve gotten off the right path.”
Chelios, who Blashill refers to him as his “eye in the sky”, will have a similar role he had the last three years in Grand Rapids.
“I think every year it’s increased in terms of his scope and number of games he’s able to attend,” Blashill said. “He’s done a great job for me of getting me a player perspective. He looks at the game a lot through the eyes of a player and I think when you’ve coached a long time you think like a coach and a lots of times Cheli thinks like a player.
“He looks at a lot of plays from a micro view and maybe I’ll look at them from a macro view and I think that different perspective has been invaluable for me,” Blashill continued. “I think Cheli is another great, great person who can lend his obvious, unbelievable playing experience with the players in the locker room. He obviously has instant respect of everybody he comes across. He has some obligations that he’ll have to attend to, certainly the USA Hockey role that he was recently named to, but he will be with us to a large degree.”
Last week Chelios was named an assistant coach for the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.
Noel-Bernier will be in charge of the pre-scout.
“He’s got great hockey knowledge and also an understanding of what I like to glean from the video, what types of clips I like to show in our meetings, what types of things we want in our preparation and David’s already been through that with me so that’s a huge advantage,” Blashill said. “You also need somebody in that role who’s willing to work and Dave’s a tireless worker.”
Bedard returns for a 19th season with the club.
“Jimmy and I have a relationship where I’ve got certain beliefs in things a goalie should do, drills a goalie should do, no different than I have certain beliefs in the penalty kill and things like that where I would discuss with other coaches,” Blashill said. “Jimmy and I have a relationship where we’re going to be able to have those discussions. I’ll be able to add my input and he’ll be able to go out and build upon the foundation he’s already laid.
“We have two goalies who have proven at times to be elite in the NHL and now our job is to help them make sure they’re both elite this year,” Blashill added. “That obviously isn’t just on Jimmy’s shoulders but partially on his shoulders along with myself and the rest of the coaching staff.”