Jeff Blashill has officially been announced as the 27th head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
Blashill inherited the job from Mike Babcock, who decided to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. While Detroit wanted to keep Babcock, this is at least an opportunity for the Red Wings to retain Blashill’s services as the highly regarded bench boss probably wouldn’t have stayed with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins for much longer before landing an NHL head coaching gig elsewhere. Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship in 2013 and was named the league’s coach of the year in 2014. At the age of 41, he’ll be one of the younger bench bosses in the NHL.
Blashill has a way of connecting with his players, making each one improve in different ways.
Which brings me to Randy Cleves, the Griffins’ public relations manager.
Now, generally, I would never quote a PR guy, because his job is to pour sugar over everything and make Blashill look good.
But Cleves had an interesting observation about Blashill, pointing out how much different he is from other coaches in Grand Rapids. “He’s always so focused,” Cleves said. “When he’s at the rink, he is always on. He’s always thinking. There is always that next player to talk to. That’s something, with him, that I’ve never seen with any other coach.”
After practice, Blashill would often go in the dressing room and talk to several players.
“After practice, the coaches usually leave the rink and go do their thing,” Cleves said. “He would almost work the room. He would go up and talk to a guy for a few minutes. He was always very animated. He’s a great teacher. He’s always thinking about how he can make each individual player better.”