FSU alum Jeff Blashill signs three-year extension with AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins

GRAND RAPIDS — After two stellar seasons leading the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Grand Rapids Griffins, the organization rewarded head coach Jeff Blashill with a new three-year contract on Wednesday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the deal will keep Blashill, who previously played collegiately for the Ferris State hockey team and also served as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs, in Grand Rapids through the 2016-17 season as the leader of the Detroit Red Wings’ top minor league affiliate.

STAYING PUT: Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill (center) speaks with his players during a game this past season. Blashill, who played goaltender for Ferris State in college before serving as an assistant coach at FSU, signed a three-year deal with the Griffins Wednesday to remain with the Detroit Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate through the 2016-17 season. (Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins/Mark Newman)

STAYING PUT: Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill (center) speaks with his players during a game this past season. Blashill, who played goaltender for Ferris State in college before serving as an assistant coach at FSU, signed a three-year deal with the Griffins Wednesday to remain with the Detroit Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate through the 2016-17 season. (Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins/Mark Newman)

While his name has been frequently brought up as a candidate for open NHL head coaching jobs the past two offseasons, Blashill said he always has had his sights set on remaining with the Red Wings organization as the head coach of their top farm club.

“I’m excited to be able to continue my commitment to the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Detroit Red Wings organization,” Blashill said Wednesday in a phone interview. “My family and I really enjoy living in Grand Rapids. It’s a great place to raise a family and a great area for my kids to grow up in.”

“Jeff Blashill has done a tremendous job in Grand Rapids,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a statement. “Our young players were instrumental in getting us into the playoffs for a 23rd straight season, and the championship experience they got under Jeff in Grand Rapids was invaluable in turning those young players into NHL players. We’re excited to keep one of the top young coaches in hockey to continue to lead in the development of the next wave of Red Wings.”

The 40-yeard old Sault Ste. Marie native has turned the Griffins into one of the top teams in the AHL the past two seasons, with Blashill leading the Griffins to their first Calder Cup championship in franchise history at the end of the 2012-13 season.

The team continued to excel under Blashill in the 2013-14 season as the defending AHL champions, with the Griffins compiling a regular season record of 46-23-2-5 (99 pts.) to surpass the 92 points the team earned the previous season and clinch another AHL playoff berth. The Griffins made it to the Western Conference semifinals this postseason, where they was eliminated by the regular season champion Texas Stars in six games.

While they weren’t able to defend the Calder Cup, Blashill and the Griffins were able to get back to the AHL playoffs despite returning only four of the previous year’s top 12 scorers and having just three of their top 10 playoff producers play a majority of the season in Grand Rapids after the Red Wings called up a slew of players this season to offset the multitude of injuries they sustained.

For his efforts this season, Blashill was named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2013-14 season, as voted by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

“This season was certainly a great challenge and a unique situation for me as a coach,” he said. “It was a great opportunity for us to prove the kind of depth and talent we have in the Red Wings organization. This season certainly helped me grow as a coach. Obviously, we’d love to still be playing but I’m very proud of the season we had.”

Blashill said it was especially gratifying to see players like Danny Dekeyser, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening move up from Grand Rapids to Detroit this season and help the Red Wings earn their 23rd-straight playoff berth.

“That’s the greatest part of coaching for me,” Blashill said. “What I enjoy most is seeing our guys grow not only as players, but as people as well. It’s a great feeling to see young guys get better and better. It was really fun to watch our guys grow up and move up to make an impact with the Red Wings.”

Blashill has had a very successful run as part of the Red Wings organization after he first joined the club as an assistant coach on Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock’s staff for the 2011-12 season before taking over the head coaching duties in Grand Rapids in June 2012.

While there have been some rumors the organization could be locking up Blashill to possibly replace Babcock in Detroit if Babcock doesn’t re-sign with the team after the last year of his contract is up at the conclusion of the upcoming 2014-15 season, Blashill said he’s only focused on his job of leading the Griffins right now.

“Ken Holland and I sat down at the end of the season and we both had an interest in getting a deal done,” he said. “I knew I wanted to stay in Grand Rapids, so there really wasn’t much work to do except for the financial part these last few weeks. I think the situation has worked out for the best for both sides. I want to stay in Grand Rapids. My focus is on helping this team win games. That’s all I’m focused on right now.”

Before all of this recent success, Blashill began his coaching career as an assistant on current FSU head coach Bob Daniels’ staff for three seasons from 1999-2002 before serving as an assistant coach with the University of Miami (Ohio) hockey team from 2002-08. Blashill joined Daniels’ staff after he played for Daniels as a goaltender during his collegiate days, earning the Bulldogs’ Rookie of the Year award in 1994-95 and also winning the FSU President’s Award for three straight years for having the highest grade point average on the team.

With all of his ties back to the FSU program and Big Rapids, Blashill said his new contract will also allow him to remain close to the town and the program where he first got his coaching career started.

“I obviously have great friends and ties in Big Rapids,” he said. “I’m still great friends with coach Daniels, (FSU associate head coach) Drew Famulak and (FSU assistant coach) Mark Kaufman and I talk with them frequently. My brother (Tim) is the hockey coach at Big Rapids and he runs the pro shop at the arena there, so it’s obviously great for me to be able to stay close and keep my ties to Ferris State and the Big Rapids community. My mother, father and sister all live in Traverse City and my wife’s from Detroit, so Grand Rapids is a great location that allows us to stay close to our family.”

Leave a Reply