Holland: Blashill’s ‘an NHL coach in the making’

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Ken Holland knows he’s got a good thing in Jeff Blashill.

Blashill, the coach of Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, recently won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the American League’s top coach, one season after leading the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship. Unsurprisingly, his success has led to talk of a potential NHL gig — and some of that is coming from Holland himself.

“I believe Blash is an NHL coach in the making,” Holland said, per the Detroit News.

But the Wings GM also offered up this disclaimer:

“Is he ready today? He’s coached in the AHL for two years and he had one year in the [NHL, as Mike Babcock’s assistant].”

Holland’s comments are interesting, especially in light of what CBC’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his most recent 30 Thoughts column:

26. One subject Holland politely refused to discuss: compensation for losing your employees to other clubs. (He will not allow contact with AHL Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who would be a big-time contender for open NHL jobs.) This is a big issue for several teams who strongly believe you shouldn’t lose good people for nothing. This practice ended in 2006, when commissioner Gary Bettman had to negotiate Peter Chiarelli’s move from Ottawa to Boston because Senator owner Eugene Melnyk was mildly unhappy with the whole thing. Bettman ended this.

27. However, according to several sources, there is a movement to create some kind of draft-pick compensation. And it appears support is growing. Don’t be surprised if it’s on the agenda for the GM meetings at the Stanley Cup final. From what I understand, Bettman told the GMs at the last get-together he wouldn’t consider any proposal that left room for interpretation. As mentioned, Holland, who has lost several critical staffers in the past few seasons, wouldn’t discuss it.

The list of staffers Holland’s lost includes a pair of coaches (Paul MacLean to Ottawa, Todd McLellan to San Jose) and front office executives (Steve Yzerman to Tampa Bay, Jim Nill to Dallas). Given Babcock’s standing in Detroit, it’s fair to say the head coaching gig won’t be opening up anytime soon, meaning Blashill would have to look elsewhere for employment.

So you can see why Holland’s guarded in speaking about Blashill. Though, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like anything he says would keep teams from inquiring.

Why? Well, Blashill has plenty of similarities to current Tampa Bay bench boss Jon Cooper. In terms of experience, Cooper didn’t have much more than Blashill upon taking the Bolts gig (Cooper had just three years in the AHL) but the two share a similar track record for success. Like Blashill, Cooper won a Calder Cup (in 2012, with Norfolk) and, like Blashill, has done a tremendous job grooming prospects for the NHL (Blashill coached Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheanhan and Brendan Smith in the AHL; Cooper had Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik and Radko Gudas.)

And, lest we forget, Cooper — in just his second year on the job — was nominated for the Jack Adams as the NHL’s coach of the year.

No wonder Holland’s concerned about clubs poaching his guy.