GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The National Hockey League's (NHL) Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday signed current Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill, who played collegiately and later served as an assistant coach at Ferris State University, to a new three-year contract, extending his tenure with the organization through the 2016-17 season. He'll remain as the head coach of the Red Wings' top affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).
"Jeff Blashill has done a tremendous job in Grand Rapids," said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. "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."
"I'm thrilled to be able to remain with the Griffins," said Blashill. "Both the Red Wings and Griffins are top-notch organizations filled with talented people that I enjoy working with. My family loves it here, and I'm happy to be able to continue to call Grand Rapids home. The AHL is a very challenging league, and we have a great group of young players and veteran leaders. I'm looking forward to being able to continue to work with them."
Blashill, 40, has enjoyed two monumental seasons at the helm of the Griffins. In 2012-13, his first season as head coach at the pro level, Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup, marking the first championship in franchise history. During the 2013-14 campaign, Blashill helped the Griffins maintain prominence in defense of their title despite turnover which saw only four of their prior year's top 12 scorers and just three of their top 10 playoff producers play a majority of the season in Grand Rapids. Blashill helped the team earn a regular season record of 46-23-2-5 (99 pts.) – surpassing the 42 wins and 92 points from its Calder Cup season – and ultimately led Grand Rapids to the Western Conference Semifinals, where it was eliminated by the regular season champion Texas Stars in six games.
In April, Blashill was named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the American Hockey League'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. Blashill became the second Griffins head coach to be named AHL Coach of the Year and the third to be named his league's coach of the year, following the selections of Bruce Cassidy in 2001-02 and Guy Charron for the 1999-2000 International Hockey League season.
In February, Blashill became the first Griffins head coach in 12 years to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic, guiding the AHL All-Stars to victories over Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League in both the skills competition and All-Star Game. The event, which took place at the Mile One Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, marked the first international contests in AHL All-Star history.
Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Blashill played a key role in the success of the parent Red Wings by preparing 10 of his 2013-14 players for their NHL debuts, including nine as members of the Wings. In all, 17 members of Blashill's 2013-14 squad were called up to play a total of 329 NHL games, and 13 players from his Calder Cup championship team logged time in Detroit during the 2013-14 season, helping the club extend its playoff streak to 23 consecutive seasons.
Blashill was named by the Red Wings as the ninth head coach in Griffins history on June 25, 2012 after serving as an assistant coach for the Wings in 2011-12, when he helped the team to its 12th consecutive 100-point season and 21st consecutive postseason appearance. Prior to joining the organization, he served as the head coach of the CCHA's Western Michigan Broncos in 2010-11, earning several national coach of the year honors.
Blashill has rapidly ascended hockey's coaching ladder, joining his fourth team in four seasons when he took the Grand Rapids helm a year ago, which was capped with yet another championship effort in his distinguished career. He began his head coaching career with the USHL's Indiana Ice in 2008-09, capturing a franchise-record 39 wins and a Clark Cup championship. He compiled a 72-43-5 mark in two seasons as the Ice's head coach and general manager before departing for Western Michigan in 2010.
While in Kalamazoo in 2010-11, Blashill led the Broncos to a 19-13-10 record, doubling the team's win total from the previous season and leading the team to its best conference finish (4th) since 1995-96. Additionally, the Broncos played in the CCHA championship game for the first time since 1986 and earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996. Blashill was named a finalist for CCHA Coach of the Year and was named National Coach of the Year by College Hockey News, Inside College Hockey and USCHO.com.
Blashill began his coaching career by spending three seasons (1999-02) as an assistant under current Bulldog head coach Bob Daniels at Ferris State University, his alma mater. He also spent six seasons (2002-08) with Miami University, helping the CCHA's RedHawks qualify for the NCAA Tournament four times while recruiting three Hobey Baker Finalists, four CCHA All-Rookie Team members, 11 first or second team All-CCHA players and six All-Americans. Blashill has also been a member of Team USA's coaching staff three times – at the 2009 World Junior 'A' Challenge, the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship and the 2006 U-18 Junior World Cup.
The former goaltender spent four seasons between the pipes for Ferris State, earning the Bulldogs' Rookie of the Year award in 1994-95 and a spot on the CCHA's All-Academic Team for 1996-97. He also garnered the Ferris State University President's Award for three straight years for having the highest grade point average on the Bulldogs.