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Red Wings name Ben Simon as new Grand Rapids Griffins head coach

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — That didn’t take very long.

The Red Wings named Ben Simon as new head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, just days after an opening was created.

Ben Simon

Simon, 39, spent three seasons as an assistant for former Griffins head coach Todd Nelson, who last week left for the NHL to become an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars.

Simon, who signed a three-year contract, becomes the 11th head coach in Griffins’ franchise history.

Ryan Martin, the Red Wings’ assistant general manager, hired Simon for Nelson’s staff and believes Simon is ready for this next step.

“He’s committed to make his mark as a success in hockey, utilizing many of the attributes that served hi as a player,” said Martin, who first met Simon in 1999 when Martin was an agent and Simon played for Notre Dame. “Hard work, competitiveness, honesty, integrity, very detail oriented.”

Simon was a former Griffins’ player, earning nine points (four goals, five assists) in 21 games in 2006-07 in Grand Rapids and becomes the third former Griffins player to serve as Grand Rapids’ head coach, following Nelson (2015-18) and Danton Cole (2002-05).

The last two Griffins head coaches — Jeff Blashill (2013) and Nelson (2017) — have won Calder Cup championships.

“I’m very aware of that, as well, big shoes to fill,” Simon said. “But I’m looking forward to working with Blash, we had a relationship before (Simon arrived in Grand Rapids).

“I’m fortunate to be part of both Grand Rapids and Detroit and I know how respected both organizations are in the NHL. I’m excited to put my stamp on the organization as head coach here.”

Simon is widely considered one of the upcoming young coaches in the American League, and was rumored to be in the mix for several other AHL head coaching positions.

When Nelson left for Dallas, the Wings acted swiftly to secure Simon.

“Since the day we hired Ben as an assistant coach, he’s proven to be an invaluable (part of the) coaching staff and one of the best young coaches in hockey,” Martin said. “As he transitions from assistant to head coach, I’m sure success will follow Ben.”

“He grinds every day and makes sure the job gets done, and done the right way. He possesses an NHL caliber level of attention to detail and preparation.”

Simon played 81 NHL games with Atlanta and Columbus, and nearly 500 AHL games during his 11-year playing career.

“I understand what these guys are going through, I was that guy not too long ago,” Simon said. “I understand what these guys are going through and that’s what motivates me every day, to make these guys better and help them achieve and accomplish their dream of playing in the NHL.”

Before joining Nelson in Grand Rapids, Simon was a head coach with Cincinnati in the ECHL and an assistant with Rockford and Toronto in the AHL.

Simon was appreciative of the time he had on Nelson’s staff.

“Nellie took a gamble on me, gave me an opportunity, and I can’t thank him enough for the responsibilities he gave me,” Simon said. “Todd Nelson is a fantastic coach. I’ve learned a lot from him. He cares about the players. He’s truly genuine.”