Ken Holland has been with the organization for 30 years. 18 of which he's been the GM. He started as as scout, then the director of scouting, then the assistant GM, then the co-GM, and then the full GM. It's not a coincidence that he was hired just prior to the Wings beginning an epic playoff streak.
To try and dismiss his contributions to the organization as anything less than profound would be an absolutely gross understatement. He's been more important to this team's success then any other individual.
If you hire a GM from outside the organization, you can argue he's riding coattails. But it's a little hard to say that about a guy who's been a member of the Red Wings longer than Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom.
To a lesser extent, this is true of Stan Bowman as well. Sure Tallon was the GM before him. But he started with Chicago in 2001 when they were a garbage team. Unless he was just standing around playing with himself for 8 years he likely contributed to their assent. Is he entirely responsible? No. But he's contributed from the bottom up.
Yzerman doesn't deserve much credit for that first conference finals appearance as he had just come in from outside the organization and had been with the team for less than a year. But he deserves credit for every single other success they've had since.
People will always s*** on Holland and it's pretty sad. No one really knows what we have had the last 20 years until it's gone. He has an eye for talent and continues to pick the correct draft picks year after year. I mean Larkin could have probably been picked top 5 last year at the pace he's at right now. In my opinion he's a huge steal for us.
They said similar things about Dave Lewis too. How'd that work out?
We can find a lot of reasons to help us believe this will or won't work out, but we aren't going to really know until he gets up here and has some real NHL experience. It's a whole different experience than anything he's done before. He may be great, he may be awful. What's more likely is that he'll struggle and grow and perhaps eventually be great. In any event though, we as fans would be wise to manage our expectations so as to avoid disappointment and possibly some knee-jerk reactions if the guy stumbles a bit early on.
And believe me, I'd love to see a nice guy win and a different, more friendly methodology work, just to kill a bit of the idea that you have to be a cold, distant boss who plays mind games to be a winning coach. So I'm rooting for him, and I'm optimistic, but again, we'd do well to try to manage our expectations early on.
And what exactly did Dave Lewis accomplish again before becoming a coach? He retired after playing with the Wings. He went into an assistant coach behind Bowman and won 3 Stanley Cups behind Bowman. He took over the team and lost two years in the playoffs with great rosters. He then went onto Boston and got fired from them after one year due to inconsistent play.
Blash had coached and gained experience for over 10 years. He's won 2008 Clark Cup with Indiana Ice, He coached Western Michigan for a year also and took them to a top-four finish in the CCHA; the best in 15 years. He also won the 2013 Calder Cup. Was the 2011 USCHO Coach of the Year, and was the 2014 AHL coach of the year.
Blashill is no stranger to most of the players on the Red Wings roster. The veterans were around when Blashill was a Red Wings assistant coach in 2011-12 and the younger players know Blashill from his three seasons as coach of the Griffins, Detroit's top farm club.
"He's a great coach," said Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar, who spent one season with Blashill in Grand Rapids. "He's a good talker. He can motivate the players. I feel like the system and how he's willing to play with the players is really good.
"Players feel like they can talk to him. He's somebody who they can trust and feel good. He's really good with the players. I feel like the players can trust him. He's a really good coach."
Tomas Jurco was also on the Griffins' Calder Cup team, scoring 14 goals during 74 regular-season games and then adding eight more in the playoffs. He split the following season between Grand Rapids and Detroit before spending all of last season with the Red Wings.
"I love Blash," Jurco said. "He just understands the game really well. He's a really good guy and you can talk to him and he understands you a person. Great guy, great coach, and I only have great memories of him."
Blashill communicates well with players, according to Jurco.
"Yeah, he's a really good talker and that's one of the best things about him," Jurco said. "Every time he showed me something it was like 'You are right. I can do it differently.' He just understands it so well. He knows what the players can do a little differently.
"He's a great coach."
Nobody on the Red Wings' playoff roster spent more time playing under Blashill in Grand Rapids than forward Landon Ferraro, who played 212 regular-season games with the Griffins the past three seasons.
Ferraro was one of Grand Rapids' top players this season with 27 goals before joining the Red Wings at the end of the regular season and then appearing in all seven playoff games vs. Tampa Bay.
He sees similarities between Blashill and Babcock.
"Just the attention to detail I think is the biggest part," Ferraro said. "They both are really good hockey minds and they care and they want to make sure they give their teams everything to succeed on the ice.
"With Blash, for him it's all about work and if you do your part, it's going to come together and you just got to make sure that happens and when we finally bought into that was his first year, it really turned our year around and it obviously ended up in a championship."
Ferraro, the Red Wings' second-round choice (32nd overall) in the 2009 NHL draft, struggled as a rookie with the Griffins in 2011-12 before blossoming under Blashill the following season.
Ferraro credited Blashill with helping him develop into a regular for the Red Wings during the playoffs.
"He's taken me from a guy that had the tools to get here and get a chance to someone that's actually got here," Ferraro said. "(Blashill) made it clear that I wasn't going to make it right away as a scorer and I got to make sure I'm good defensively and I made a ton of strides with him working with me the last three years.
"I owe a lot to him and it's been good. He's a guy I would pretty much do anything for. I trust him and he's got the respect of the all the guys in Grand Rapids."
In Grand Rapids, Ferraro said Blashill knew the difference between handling younger players as opposed to veterans.
"Some of the younger guys, he's harder on them," Ferraro said. "You kind of want to break that junior mold. You can be a really good goal scorer in junior but you get into the American League and guys are good.
"He did it with Jurco. It took him until Christmas and then he turned it around and was a huge part of our team."
Blashill, 41, is a former goaltender who played four seasons at Ferris State before spending the next three as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs.
He spent six more seasons as an assistant at Miami (Ohio) University, led the USHL's Indiana Ice to a championship in the first of two seasons there and coached at Western Michigan for one year before being hired by Babcock.
In three seasons with the Griffins, Blashill has a record of 134-71-23 (.638).
This season, the Griffins won the Midwest Division championship with a 46-22-8 record and their 100 points were tied for the third-most in the 30-team AHL. They're in the Western Conference Finals.
Blashill is a Michigan native who was born in Sault Ste. Marie.