Jeff Blashill 'leading candidate' to be named Red Wings coach
Ex-Detroit assistant guided AHL club to Calder Cup title in 2013
Ken Holland might not have to look far to find a successor for head coach Mike Babcock, who left the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday after 10 seasons for the same job in Toronto.
Holland, the Red Wings' longtime general manager, addressed the Detroit media for more than 40 minutes on Wednesday and said Jeff Blashill, the head coach of the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., is among two or three prospective coaches he plans to contact.
"He's certainly a leading candidate," said Holland. "I haven't made a final decision. I need to spend some time with him before I know anything. Hopefully next week."
Blashill, 41, is preparing for the Western Conference finals with the Griffins and will likely spend one of his upcoming off days talking in length with Holland about the Red Wings' vacant coaching position.
"I owe it to Blash to talk to him first," Holland told reporters. "Blash is loyal to us. Blash has had a real positive impact on the younger people in the organization."
Many of the Red Wings players, including goalie Petr Mrazek, forwards Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening along with defenceman Danny DeKeyser played for Blashill in his rookie season with the Griffins in 2013 when they won a Calder Cup championship.
A year later, the Red Wings rewarded Blashill, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., with a three-year contract.
Blashill took over as Grand Rapids coach after one season working under Babcock, who will address the media in Toronto on Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.
A week ago, Blashill told the Detroit Free Press his "ultimate goal is to coach in the NHL."
Holland said he wants the focus of Blashill and the Griffins to be on winning their next series "and having those young players in our system continue to experience playoff hockey."
When Scott Bowman retired as Red Wings head coach in 2002, the team promoted assistant Dave Lewis, who stayed on for two years until Holland jumped at the chance to hire Babcock, who guided Detroit to a playoff berth in each of his 10 seasons and a Stanley Cup title in 2008.
"Hopefully the next coach we find, we can work together and have as much fun and as much success, and maybe more success, than Babs and I had," said Holland.