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Holland: Blashill’s ‘an NHL coach in the making’

May 8, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

Ken Holland

Ken Holland knows he’s got a good thing in Jeff Blashill.

Blashill, the coach of Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, recently won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the American League’s top coach, one season after leading the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship. Unsurprisingly, his success has led to talk of a potential NHL gig — and some of that is coming from Holland himself.

“I believe Blash is an NHL coach in the making,” Holland said, per the Detroit News.

But the Wings GM also offered up this disclaimer:

“Is he ready today? He’s coached in the AHL for two years and he had one year in the [NHL, as Mike Babcock’s assistant].”

Holland’s comments are interesting, especially in light of what CBC’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his most recent 30 Thoughts column:

26. One subject Holland politely refused to discuss: compensation for losing your employees to other clubs. (He will not allow contact with AHL Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who would be a big-time contender for open NHL jobs.) This is a big issue for several teams who strongly believe you shouldn’t lose good people for nothing. This practice ended in 2006, when commissioner Gary Bettman had to negotiate Peter Chiarelli’s move from Ottawa to Boston because Senator owner Eugene Melnyk was mildly unhappy with the whole thing. Bettman ended this.

27. However, according to several sources, there is a movement to create some kind of draft-pick compensation. And it appears support is growing. Don’t be surprised if it’s on the agenda for the GM meetings at the Stanley Cup final. From what I understand, Bettman told the GMs at the last get-together he wouldn’t consider any proposal that left room for interpretation. As mentioned, Holland, who has lost several critical staffers in the past few seasons, wouldn’t discuss it.

The list of staffers Holland’s lost includes a pair of coaches (Paul MacLean to Ottawa, Todd McLellan to San Jose) and front office executives (Steve Yzerman to Tampa Bay, Jim Nill to Dallas). Given Babcock’s standing in Detroit, it’s fair to say the head coaching gig won’t be opening up anytime soon, meaning Blashill would have to look elsewhere for employment.

So you can see why Holland’s guarded in speaking about Blashill. Though, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like anything he says would keep teams from inquiring.

Why? Well, Blashill has plenty of similarities to current Tampa Bay bench boss Jon Cooper. In terms of experience, Cooper didn’t have much more than Blashill upon taking the Bolts gig (Cooper had just three years in the AHL) but the two share a similar track record for success. Like Blashill, Cooper won a Calder Cup (in 2012, with Norfolk) and, like Blashill, has done a tremendous job grooming prospects for the NHL (Blashill coached Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheanhan and Brendan Smith in the AHL; Cooper had Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik and Radko Gudas.)

And, lest we forget, Cooper — in just his second year on the job — was nominated for the Jack Adams as the NHL’s coach of the year.

No wonder Holland’s concerned about clubs poaching his guy.

  1. shoobiedoobin - May 8, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Blashill is an NHL coach already. Listen to him speak, look at how he has his club motivated all the time. No one in GR floats. No one takes a shift off. Every Griffins game I watch and every tiem I see Blashill open his mouth it’s evident that the man is a leader, he’s a strategist, and he’s not just hockey smart but smart in general.

    Remind you of anyone?

    He’s basically a Babcock clone. I dunno how the hell Detroit got so lucky but they found another Mike Babcock. No one will buy this right now, but give it a few months and they might-I could see Babcock walking away from Detroit and seeking a new challenge. His recent comments, in a between-the-lines kind of way, I think indicate that’s partially what he wants and he’s letting time make the decision for him over the next season. If he walks, Blashill gets promoted.

    And it’s not even a real negative-Blashill coached half the kids in GR and a new voice might be what some of the players need. No matter who you are, no matter how good you are, your voice gets old after a decade. We’re seeing more and more vets floating around the ice for Detroit. Time for some new blood.

    This is a classic scenario where you can’t go wrong with either, but regret the one that got away. It’s not the worst problem to have. Some teams couldn’t lure a good coach with a blank check.

    • shoobiedoobin - May 8, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      And this is where it gets borderline creepy-their voices sound eerily similar.

    • pjblake2redwings - May 8, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      Babs is going to go to University of Michigan. He is very close with the staff and athletic director and his family love living in Michigan. U of M will pay him way more than the Wings 1.8 million a year and it will be a new challenge for him since he already has won everything you can at the top level.

      • shoobiedoobin - May 8, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        He’d be assistant to Red Berenson. That comment sounded more like a (while not impossible) tongue-in-cheek remark.

        I think everything he said was code for “I dunno, and I’m going to just coach Detroit right now and see what happens at the end of the season”, tidied up to sound professional, grateful and PC.

        I think he doesn’t see eye to eye with the front office, especially when they asked him to tone down to abrasiveness. I also think he’s just bored and doesn’t feel like coaching the same vets every year who don’t appear to be listening.

        If he’s patient he’ll have new players very soon but who knows. And who knows is probably exactly what he’s thinking.

      • shoobiedoobin - May 8, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        Also, Berenson is the head coach until the year after Babcock’s contract is set to expire in Detroit. Any number of options are possible but consider that they’re paying Berenson 215k a year.

        All things I’m sure that have crossed Babcock’s mind.

  2. djshnooks - May 8, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    This is who the Sabres were going to go after it they couldn’t keep Nolan.

    Cooper was on the list last year too.

    It will be interesting to see their careers play out.

  3. mshantz22 - May 8, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    I would expect Holland to retire in the next couple years and have Babcock take his place. Blashill then comes and fills the head coach vacancy. Considering the fact that Holland isn’t allowing teams to talk to Blashill, this would make sense.

    • shoobiedoobin - May 8, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Babcock as a GM LOL


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