First Red Wings practice has Blashill’s stamp on it

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Traverse City — It was hardly a perfect first day as head coach, although it was memorable.

A violent collision between two players (Darren Helm, prospect Jerome Verrier) about 15 minutes into practice left one player with a broken right leg (Verrier) and the other with a possible concussion (Helm).

Then, a scheduled intra-squad scrimmage had to be moved from one rink to the other because of ice issues.

But coach Jeff Blashill and his staff made it all work on the first day of training camp.

“We had some things that obviously didn’t go our way,” Blashill said. “But that’s part of life. We’ll have challenges moving ahead, and we did a good job of adjusting and moving on.”

The pace, intensity and heavy dose of instruction were all traits that reminded many people of former coach Mike Babcock, who Blashill replaced.

But some drills were different, some tweaked, and Blashill’s stamp was definitely all over the first official day of workouts for the Red Wings.

“Blash is his own man and he coaches the way he wants to,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s good for us veteran guys who’ve been here for 10 years (under Babcock). The last four or five years you kind of knew everything. Now, you have to think out there.

“It’s a little different. You have to pay attention. There’s a little more competition, friendly competition, mixed in with work.”

Said Johan Franzen: “It’s a fresh start and it kind of makes you feel young again. You want to show what you can do.”

This is hardly Blashill’s first training camp as a head coach.

He’s coached at the junior level, Western Michigan, been an assistant under Babcock, and for the last three years a head coach at Grand Rapids, the Red Wings’ minor league affiliate.

The man knows how to get a hockey team ready for its season.

But there were still a few nerves at the start of the day, as there are every hockey season.

“Every new job I’ve taken, whether it’s junior, college, American League or here, pretty much every season you have a little bit of butterflies and nerves,” Blashill said. “You have them in the sense you want to be prepared as possible and cover as much possible.

“It’s impossible to have everything covered and you’re going to have stumbling blocks like today. But certainly I was excited about getting going and get rolling.”

Players were excited about the new voice leading them.

“A different coach, a different voice, it’s a new sparkle for us,” said Tomas Tatar, who played for Blashill in Grand Rapids. “The first day was real good. It’s going to be weird seeing (Babcock) on another bench, for sure, but I’m used to have Blash behind me and I’m excited.

“They’re very similar and they both know what they want.”

The similarities to Babcock made the entire practice that much more comfortable to what was going on in the past.

“It’s not that huge of a difference, I recognized some of the drills,” Franzen said. “Training camp is about speed and good habits, going full out and getting the legs ready for the season. It’s not a big difference.”