Griffins coach Todd Nelson contemplates NHL future

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — So what does the future hold for Grand Rapids Griffins coach Todd Nelson?

With the Griffins eliminated from the playoffs Monday, Nelson’s name will likely be mentioned with NHL head coaching openings in Carolina, Dallas and the New York Rangers.

Nelson, 48, led the Griffins to the Calder Cup in 2017, and took a injury-ravaged and constantly-changing roster into the playoffs this season.

Nelson was a candidate for the Arizona Coyotes’ job last year. He’s likely to get longer and maybe more, NHL looks this spring.

“I’m not thinking too far ahead right now,” Nelson told reporters on after Monday’s 5-1 Game 5 first-round series loss to Manitoba. “I have to process what just happened. We have exit interviews with players, I’m sure I’ll get feedback from management to see where myself and the coaching staff is at. Once that’s done, we’ll see what happens.”

But Nelson, who was an interim coach in Edmonton in 2014-15 and drew positive reviews, would like another opportunity to coach in the NHL.

“Obviously that’s a goal of mine,” said Nelson, who has a year left on his contract with the Wings’ organization. “But if it doesn’t happen, this is a great place of work. The Grand Rapids organization is fantastic to work with, fantastic people. The Wings are fantastic to work with.

“I’m just going to process this.”

MOREMoose end Grand Rapids Griffins’ bid for repeat

Nelson has little left to accomplish on the American League level.

Coaching in Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City, Nelson has made the AHL playoffs eight consecutive seasons. He has a 309-189-63 (.607) regular season record, including 133-78-17 (.621) with the Griffins.

“A lot of people counted us out (this season) and I pride myself on making the playoffs,” Nelson said. “I didn’t want this to be the first time. The guys came through.”

Players were passionate in their support of Nelson, and hopeful he gets an NHL opportunity.

“I came here originally to play for him again,” captain Matthew Ford said. “He definitely deserves any attention he gets. He’s too good for this league. He gets the best out of every player.”

Dallas might be a good fit for Nelson, who favors an aggressive offensive style, which would be suited to the Stars’ personnel.

Also Jim Nill, the former Red Wings assistant general manager who oversaw Grand Rapids, is now the Stars’ GM.

Shorthanded Griffins

The Griffins were without key forwards Eric Tangradi (suspension), Matt Lorito and Axel Holmstrom (injuries) and Dominic Turgeon (shoulder blood clot) for Monday’s Game 5, and the depth issues caught up.

“Those injuries, or suspensions, sting a bit,” Nelson said. “Our guys worked hard but we lost a lot of creativity and offense.”

This will be the first time the Griffins haven’t made the second round of the playoffs since 2012. They won the Calder Cup in 2013 and 2017.

“We had a remarkable run and push to make the playoffs, and for whatever reason we flattened out here at the end,” defenseman Joe Hicketts told reporters on “We weren’t able to generate enough scoring opportunities.

“We should be proud of the way we played to get into the playoffs, and the first four games of series. But it’s almost like we ran out of gas there in the third (period).”

Manitoba broke a 1-1 tie with 13 seconds left in the second period, then added three more unanswered goals in the third period.

Griffins goalie Jared Coreau stopped 24 of 28 shots.