Holland: Wings offered Babcock max five-year deal, Blashill ‘leading candidate’ for replacement

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Shortly after Mike Babcock announced he’d be leaving Detroit for Toronto — and the 50 million dollars that came with it — Red Wings GM Ken Holland met with the media and unveiled two important developments: 1) Term was an issue in retaining Babcock, and 2) Jeff Blashill, the club’s AHL bench boss in Grand Rapids, is near the top of what will be a short list of replacement candidates.

“My offer last June was for a four-year term, and again in January with a four-year term,” Holland explained of his negotiations with Babcock. “When we started the process, he wanted to go out and talk to teams that had interest, and then I said yesterday [Tuesday] morning ‘Mike, the best I can do is five years.’

“When you’ve been in the same city as long as I have and as long as Mike has, you don’t get much longer term than four or five years. It’s certainly part of the decision-making process for Mike, the term he was able to get in Toronto, versus what we were prepared to give.”

Toronto gave Babcock eight years of term, with a front-loaded contract that could see his average annual salary hit $8 million over his first three seasons.

Shifting away from contract negotiations, Holland said Wednesday was a day of “mixed emotions” while thanking Babcock for his 10 seasons in Detroit. The Wings GM said he didn’t feel like he was “left at the altar” by Babcock, but did acknowledge disappointment in losing him.

Holland was then quick to point out that with Babcock’s decision made, the Red Wings now must make some of their own.

Chief among those will be a replacement head coach, which Holland was asked about at length — specifically, queries about Blashill, who’s long been thought of as the head-coach-in-waiting, having previously served as Babcock’s assistant in Detroit before achieving a high level of success (and a Calder Cup championship) in Grand Rapids.

Holland said that he’ll start devising a shortlist of candidates, but noted that his familiarity with Blashill put him out in front of the field.

“He’s certainly a leading candidate,” Holland explained. “I haven’t made a final decision — I need to spend some time with him before I know anything.

“Certainly with Blash, we’ve worked together.”

Finally, and perhaps fittingly, Holland acknowledged exactly why he had mixed emotions on Wednesday. While he understood that “all good things must come to an end,” he also admitted just how talented a bench boss the organization was losing.

“He’s one of the greatest coaches in the league,” he explained. “If not the greatest coach.”