Blashill voted AHL’s outstanding coach

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Jeff Blashill of the Grand Rapids Griffins has been voted the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2013-14 season.

The award is voted on by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

Blashill has steered the Griffins to the second-best record in the Western Conference entering the final week of the 2013-14 regular season despite a large-scale roster turnover. With a 46-22-2-4 record (98 points) and two games remaining, Grand Rapids is closing in on a second consecutive Midwest Division title despite seeing just four of their top 12 scorers from a year ago spend even half of this season with the AHL club. The Griffins, who rank seventh in the league in offense (3.15 goals per game) and second in defense (2.42), have managed to sit in first place in the division since Nov. 3 and have not lost more than two consecutive games in regulation at any point this season.

Blashill’s influence has had a tremendous impact on the success of the parent Detroit Red Wings as well. Thirteen members of the 2013 Calder Cup champion Griffins have skated for Detroit this season and nine Red Wings have graduated from Grand Rapids to make their NHL debuts, helping the club extend its streak of reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs to 23 consecutive seasons. All told, 18 members of Blashill’s 2013-14 Griffins squad were called up to play a total of 391 games in the National Hockey League, including AHL All-Rookie Team members Ryan Sproul and Teemu Pulkkinen, Second Team AHL All-Stars Adam Almquist and Petr Mrazek, and Red Wings goal-scoring leader Gustav Nyquist.

Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the 40-year-old Blashill won the Calder Cup with Grand Rapids in his first season as a professional head coach in 2012-13 after serving as an assistant coach with Detroit the previous season. Before joining the Red Wings organization, Blashill spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Ferris State (1999-2002) and Miami University (2002-08) before landing head coaching jobs with Indiana (USHL), where he won a league championship in 2009, and at Western Michigan University (2010-11).

The Louis A.R. Pieri Award, which was first presented in 1968, honors the late Mr. Pieri, a long-time contributor to the AHL as the owner and general manager of the Providence Reds and a member of the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Previous winners of the award include Frank Mathers (1969), Fred Shero (1970), Al MacNeil (1972, ’77), John Muckler (1975), Jacques Demers (1983), Larry Pleau (1987), Mike Milbury (1988), John Paddock (1988), Marc Crawford (1993), Barry Trotz (1994), Robbie Ftorek (1995, ’96), Peter Laviolette (1999), Claude Julien and Geoff Ward (2003), Claude Noel (2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2005), Kevin Dineen (2006), Mike Haviland (2007), Scott Gordon (2008), Scott Arniel (2009), Guy Boucher (2010), John Hynes (2011), Jon Cooper (2012) and Willie Desjardins (2013).

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 2013-14 regular season ends on Saturday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.