Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mike Babcock's Scientifically Engineered Clone: Jeff Blashill

I was just poking around the Internet, wasting my life away watching the most obscure hockey videos as possible, as usual. In doing this, I stumbled across the terrific Vimeo account for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Don't know how these guys aren't working for an NHL team in all honesty.

One of the more interesting videos on the channel were these features called "Between the Benches" where cameras followed the team around over the course of a game to see how things transpire from the inside. Embedded clips are below — the first clip is a game against the Lake Erie Monsters, and the second is the Red vs. White game from the Red Wings' training camp.

In the second video, you can see it most clearly, it's like Jeff Blashill (the coach of the Griffins) took an acting class to become exactly like Babcock. His mannerisms, folksy way of talking and straight-up style are almost creepily reminiscent. He even wears those elastic wristbands just like Babcock's famous Livestrong band! Babcock is clearly an elite coach in the NHL, and although it's only two short videos, I have to love how Blashill carries and presents himself. It can all be distilled to the culture of winning that the Red Wings organization has engendered in Detroit and Grand Rapids, and you can sense it in these videos. A sense of structure and purpose to everything both teams do is most certainly present. It's almost as if an unspoken code exists in how to carry yourself.

I know I'm probably bordering on receiving a restraining order from Daryl Morey's representatives, and obviously he's not the most perfect GM ever, but I remembered coming across an interesting quote from him about hiring coaches from around election time last year. He said:
"I would not select a head coach primarily because I agree with his choices for pick and roll coverage. I would select a coach who I thought would be the best leader of the team. His XO coaching philosophy would be important to the selection but not the most important selection criteria."
Most people know this, leadership is an integral part of coaching, it's not all just X's and O's, a coach is a leader of men, and so and so forth. Writing this now actually just reminded me of a great article I read today from the Chicago Tribune about incoming Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman. In it, he laments (paraphrasing, obviously) that forgetting the people around him were actually people and not just means to an end (or wins) and not everything in sports can be distilled to X's and O's and strategy.

I looked into Jeff Blashill's coaching history, and he came to the Wings a year after bringing the Western Michigan University Mustangs back from the dregs of the CCHA. He only coached there for a year, previously being a championship winning head coach of the Indiana Ice in the USHL. He was an assistant for the Wings last season prior to being named the Griffins' coach with the departure of previous coach Kurt Fraser to the Dallas Stars.  I was wondering how much he was trying to emulate Babcock (or maybe he subconsciously soaked it up), so I looked for some videos of Blashill before his Wings stint and I could swear to god he sounds different post-Babcock experience. Maybe it's just me — you can decide for yourself in the videos below. First one is Blashill doing an interview while coach at WMU and then one from this season with the Griffins. I also included a Babcock interview at the end just for good measure. Again, maybe it's just me and I'm just seeing and hearing things, but I thought it was kind of amusing.

1 comment:

  1. As the '14-15 season dawns, and the potential of Blash taking the DRW job grows, this great post looks all the more prescient. one note tho -- WMU are the 'Broncos' of the then CCHA and now NCHC.