Griffins name head coach


Todd Nelson. Photo via

The Grand Rapids Griffins made a major announcement today.

Detroit Red Wings Assistant General Manager Ryan Martin named Edmonton Oilers Interim Head Coach Todd Nelson the Griffins new head coach, replacing Jeff Blashill. Blashill was named the Red Wings head coach earlier this month.

“It’s really good to be back home,” said Nelson, who was the first player signed in Griffins franchise history. “(Blashill) did an outstanding job. . . . He set the bar high, and I look to carry on with the success.”

The search

Following Blashill’s promotion to the NHL, Martin said he and Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland singled out Nelson as the top candidate.

At first, however, Edmonton declined Detroit’s request to speak with Nelson, before finally allowing the discussion to take place.

“Today is a very important day for the Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins organizations,” Martin said. “The AHL coach is one of the most important people in an NHL team’s organizational chart. The position is instrumental in helping to develop players to the NHL.

“And as I walked in, I noticed some of these faces on the wall here, and a big part of the success that we’ve had in the Detroit Red Wings is a direct result of the development of a number of players who have come through here, like Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Gustav Nyquist, Petr Mrazek.

“All of these players won a Calder Cup down here, and they’re a huge part of the reason why we’ve been able to make the playoffs for twenty-four straight years and been able to maintain a level of success in the NHL.”

Martin said the organization was seeking a coach with three essential character traits: understanding and ability to teach the game; relate to today’s athletes; and knowing how to win.

Nelson “exemplifies all three.”

Martin said following the 2013 Calder Cup playoff series the Griffins won against a Nelson-led Oklahoma City Barons squad, he said Blashill fully endorsed Nelson as one of the toughest coaches he’s coached against.

“That type of endorsement spoke volumes about Todd’s skillset,” Martin said. “Winning is a hard thing to do, and he knows how to do it.”

Playing and coaching experience

Nelson was the first player signed to the Griffins in July 1996 and played parts of four seasons with the team.

A 1989 draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nelson played 887 games during his career in the NHL, IHL and UHL, including several seasons with the Muskegon Fury.

He began his full-time coaching career with the Griffins as an assistant in 2002-2003. He moved on to be head coach of the Fury and won two Colonial Cups in the UHL in 2004 and 2005.

He moved back to the AHL with the Chicago Wolves as an assistant, before taking over as head coach of the Oklahoma City Barons from 2010-15. As an AHL head coach, Nelson is 176-111-12-34.

As the interim head coach for the Edmonton Oilers last season, he compiled a 17-25-9 record. 

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