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McLellan soars from Aeros to Wings

Todd McLellan has resigned from his position as head coach of the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros to join the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings as an assistant coach, the teams announced Friday. A search for McLellan’s replacement will begin immediately, according to Aeros general manager Tom Lynn.

McLellan, 37, went 154-129-37 in his four seasons with the Aeros and led the team to the Calder Cup championship in 2002-03. McLellan spent the last five campaigns within the Minnesota Wild organization, having coached Cleveland of the International Hockey League in 2000-01. His pro teams have gone 197-161-44 and have never missed the playoffs. McLellan’s 154 wins trail only current Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett’s 165 victories for the Aeros’ franchise lead.

“It’s an exciting time right now,” McLellan said. “Coaches, no matter what they tell you, are just like players, striving to get to highest level possible. This is one more step in that journey. But there’s also the fact that you’re leaving a good organization and some very good people here in Houston. My emotions are a little bit mixed, but it’s mostly excitement.”

“Todd has been an important component of the Wild’s development of players and the Aeros’ success over the last four years,” Lynn said. “Our fans will always remember him as the coach who brought the first Calder Cup to Houston.”

Detroit’s new head coach Mike Babcock knows McLellan well. They coached against each other for six Western Hockey League seasons – Babcock in Spokane, McLellan in Swift Current. McLellan captured the Dunc McCallum Trophy as the WHL’s Coach of the Year in 1999-2000, and Babcock was the runner-up. Babcock also coached AHL Cincinnati in 2001-02, McLellan’s first season in Houston.

After four years at the helm, McLellan still ranked as the second youngest head coach in the AHL, behind only Ryan McGill, hired this week in Omaha.

The Melville, Sask., native played his junior hockey with Saskatoon (WHL), and was drafted by the New York Islanders in 1986. He spent two seasons in the AHL with Springfield, and played five games for the Islanders in 1987-88, recording one goal and one assist. McLellan retired due to injury following the 1988-89 season.