Wings tab Blashill: 'I can't wait to go to work'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Jeff Blashill was introduced as the franchise's 27th head coach Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit – There was no other candidate in the mind of general manager Ken Holland.

If Mike Babcock were to leave the Red Wings -- as he ultimately did in May -- the logical choice to replace him, in Holland's estimation, was Jeff Blashill.

And Tuesday, Holland made it official, naming Blashill, who was coach of the Red Wings' minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids, as the Red Wings' new head coach.

"I probably made the decision a year ago -- if Mike was going to (leave the Red Wings) -- based upon Blash being here (as an assistant coach) and what he accomplished in Grand Rapids and the way he developed young players.

"As we've gone along Mike Babcock and I talked about a lot of things and certainly Mike and I both believed Jeff Blashill is a tremendous young coach and deserving of being a head coach.

"He was the only candidate. I didn't talk to anybody."

Blashill, 41, was introduced as the organization's 27th head coach Tuesday in the Olympia Room at Joe Louis Arena, replacing Babcock, who left Detroit to become coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

No stranger to Red Wings fans, Blashill served as an assistant to Babcock during the 2011-12 season before taking over as coach of the AHL's Griffins the last three seasons.

It's in Grand Rapids where Blashill impressed the Red Wings' front office, stitching together a 134-71-13 record and winning the 2013 Calder Cup while developing young talent for the Red Wings.

Nine of the current players on the Red Wings roster played on the 2013 Calder Cup championship team under Blashill in Grand Rapids.

"It makes the transition easier, having had some relationships being built," Blashill said.

Blashill said he told Holland the coaching position he wanted most in the NHL – if Babcock were to leave – would be the Red Wings.

With a leadership core of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall, Blashill believes this roster has the character to be successful.

"You can only win at the highest level and win championships with great character and talent; you have to have both," Blashill said. "As a new coach you're hoping the group has great character. I don't have to hope. I know. I've experienced it.

"This group oozes character.

"I can't wait to go to work in the fall."

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland poses for photos with Jeff Blashill after Tuesday's press conference.

Before joining the Red Wings, Blashill spent one season at Western Michigan (19-13-10 record), taking the Broncos to the NCAA tournament after they hadn't qualified for the previous 14 years.

Blashill coached the Indiana Ice in the United States Hockey League (junior hockey) for two seasons -- winning one Clark Cup with the Ice -- after serving an assistant at Miami (Ohio) and Ferris State.

"He seems to win wherever he goes," Holland said. "The impact he had in the USHL and Western Michigan, he won in Grand Rapids, he finds ways to win. He makes his players accountable, and there's respect between the players and Blash.

"He's paid his dues. He's at a time in his life, I believe, to be ready for an opportunity to coach in the NHL."

Blashill played four seasons as a goalie at Ferris State before joining the Bulldogs staff as an assistant the next three seasons.

Blashill becomes the second-youngest coach in the NHL, only slightly older than recently hired John Hynes, 40, in New Jersey.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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