Mike Babcock and Jim Hiller left some big shoes to fill when they split from the Detroit Red Wings’ bench for Toronto a few weeks ago. But Ken Holland believes they’re finding the right candidates to fill them.
Jeff Blashill, as expected, already took the helm as head coach last week, and is already working towards filling the vacant assistant coaching positions. One obviously was left by Hiller, the other tentatively by Tony Granato when he declined the option in his contract for another season.
Blashill and Holland have both said they want an assistant coach on the staff with deep experiences in most aspects of the game; playing, coaching, and assisting. Granato fits that bill perfectly, and the organization would love to have him back. They’re already in talks with him to get a multi-year deal laid out that works for both sides. They expect to have a decision on his future with the organization early this week.
As reported previously, the Red Wings are also currently talking to former long-time Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios about taking the second assistant coaching vacancy, and expect to have another sit down with him this week, preferably before the scouting meetings. Chelios has already worked as a part-time assistant in Grand Rapids under Blashill, and the Red Wings are hoping that the timing is right for him to take a full time position. A mind like Chelios’ on the bench could help a Detroit defense that has struggled on and off for the better part of three seasons now.
There’s also the matter of the coaching vacancy left in Grand Rapids with Blashill’s promotion. Reports state that short-time Edmonton Oilers coach Todd Nelson is the current front-runner to take the reins with the Griffins. After an admirable effort with Edmonton last season, and his success already as an AHL coach, a few teams have interviewed him for open coaching positions with their AHL affiliates, the Pittsburgh Penguins being one of them. The only other mentionable candidate for the Griffins’ job would be current Toledo Walleye coach Derek Lalonde in the ECHL.
The Red Wings plan to have all the question marks solved by the end of the week, as they move forward into the draft and free agency.