Todd Nelson: Leaving Red Wings organization a 'tough decision'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Todd Nelson

Detroit – The Red Wings are officially looking for a head coach – for their minor league team.

Todd Nelson, who has coached the Grand Rapids Griffins the last three seasons, was Thursday officially named an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars.

“This was a very tough decision,” Nelson said to reporters at Van Andel Arena Thursday. “Last year it wasn’t the case, I wanted to stay. After this season I felt like I needed a change.

“It was a tough decision. I’m leaving a pretty good spot. Have a lot of friends and family here. From all the support the players have shown today, it make it difficult.

“(But) this seemed like the right fit.”

Reports surfaced Wednesday Nelson would be named an assistant for new Stars head coach Jim Montgomery.

Montgomery, who left the University of Denver, was named the Stars’ coach in early May and contacted Nelson immediately.

Nelson and Montgomery were teammates in 1995 for Hershey in the American League (AHL) and have stayed in contact over the years.

“We kept in contact, coached clinics, we have a very similar philosophy in how to play,” said Nelson, who’ll oversee the defense and power play. “It seemed like the right fit.”

The Stars’ general manager is Jim Nill, the former assistant GM of the Red Wings.

Nelson, 48, coached the Griffins to the playoffs all three seasons in Grand Rapids, with a 133-78-17 regular season record, and won the Calder Cup in 2017.

In eight years head coaching in the AHL, Nelson’s teams have made the playoffs every season (309-189-63).

“Sometimes in this game people get labeled,” Nelson said. “If I stay another three or four years, all of a sudden I might have the label of good head coach in the American League.

“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, go to a different organization, and try something new.

“I want to make myself better.”

Griffins players raved about Nelson and his ability to communicate after this past season ended.

“Probably one of my favorite coaches in my life to play for, any sport, I love the guy,” forward Ben Street told reporters. “He deserves it. I hope he gets the chance because there’s not a whole lot left to prove at this level. The whole staff is excellent, they should all be offered a job somewhere in the NHL, I believe.

“I’m extremely proud to have played for him. I learned a lot playing for him. I had a blast playing for him and I hope he gets an opportunity.”

Nelson was an interim head coach with the Edmonton Oilers in 2014-15, going 17-22-7 in 46 games.

Along with the head coaching vacancy in Grand Rapids – Griffins assistant coaches Ben Simon and Bruce Ramsay are early favorites to land the head coaching job – the Red Wings have an opening for an assistant on Jeff Blashill’s staff on the NHL level.

Twitter @tkulfan