The Detroit Red Wings made a huge splash this offseason, bolstering a roster and coaching staff that has current players excited for the 2015-16 season.
After coach Mike Babcock’s departure from the organization to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, general manager Ken Holland didn’t have to wait too long to fill the void.
Griffins coach Jeff Blashill had been inked to a new contract last summer as insurance in case Babcock fled. That move ended up paying dividends, as Blashill was officially named the Wings’ new coach on June 9.
At the time, Blashill’s promotion was the worst kept secret in the NHL. Just a short two months later, his players are preparing for training camp by participating in skates at Joe Louis Arena. And there’s a lot of excitement surrounding Blashill’s return to the Wings’ dressing room.
“He was great as an assistant but I think all along, Blash might feel that he’s a head coach and I think he wants things done a certain way,” said Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “And I think it’s great. He went down to Grand Rapids, got the opportunity there, did great, and now he’s got an opportunity here.”
Plus, Blashill hasn’t received anything but good reviews from the former Griffins players.
“He’s had most of the guys in here, most of the younger guys, play for him in GR when they won it and they have nothing bad to say about him,” Kronwall said. “They all got positive things to say about him which is encouraging and it’ll be exciting with a new voice, we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
But Blashill isn’t the only new face that is drawing excitement. The Wings also added two of the NHL’s biggest free agents, Mike Green – a long coveted right-shot defenseman – and veteran center Brad Richards, who is fresh off a Stanley Cup championship with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Green will be a welcome addition at point on the Wings’ power play. Other than the one season that forward Daniel Alfredsson held that position, the Wings haven’t had a steady presence at point since defenseman Brian Rafalski.
Needless to say, Kronwall is looking forward to meeting and playing with the Wings’ new, and very talented, defenseman.
“Really an offensively gifted defenseman, another thing we haven’t had in years,” Kronwall said of Green. “So we’re hoping for him to just come in here and do his thing. Contribute offensively, join the rush when you can and I thought it was a great addition and excited to get to see him and get to meet him and play with him.”
While it’s still uncertain exactly where Green and Richards will fit in the Wings’ lineup, those decisions will be made sooner rather than later. Training camp is just a few short weeks away, and the new faces within the organization may just be the spark the Wings need to not only reach the postseason for the 25th straight season, but also bring the Stanley Cup back to Detroit.