Griffins renew Fraser for two years

The Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday announced that Curt Fraser has signed a new two-year contract to remain the team’s head coach through the 2011-12 season.

Named the eighth head coach in Griffins history on July 23, 2008, Fraser has compiled records of 77-73-10 (.541 points percentage) in the regular season and 4-6 (.400) in the playoffs during his two seasons behind the team’s bench.

With 18 years’ experience as a head coach, assistant coach and player in the NHL, the 52-year-old Fraser ranks first among active AHL coaches in NHL head-coaching experience with 279 games and is the only current AHL bench boss to have over 200 games of NHL experience as both a head coach and a player on his resume.

Currently fifth all time among Griffins head coaches in both regular season games coached (160) and regular season wins (77), Fraser is set to surpass leader Danton Cole’s 208 games coached in the 49th game of the 2010-11 season, while a 40-win campaign would enable him to eclipse Cole’s 116 career victories for the most in franchise history.

In his debut season behind the Griffins’ bench in 2008-09, Fraser led the team to an impressive 43-25-6-6 regular season mark, a 28-point improvement in the standings from the prior campaign, and its first-ever playoff upset, a six-game toppling of Hamilton in the North Division Semifinals.

The 2009-10 campaign represented an anomaly in Fraser’s career as, for the first times in his eight seasons as a head coach in either the AHL or the original IHL, his team missed the playoffs and finished lower than third place in its division. Grand Rapids finished the year with a 34-39-3-4 record.

After compiling a tremendous head coaching resume in the IHL during the ’90s, Fraser was named the first head coach of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers on July 14, 1999. He spent three and a half seasons behind the expansion team’s bench, tutoring such stars as Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk during their first two pro campaigns and helping the Thrashers’ 2000-01 squad improve by 21 points over its debut season.

Fraser’s NHL resume also includes stints as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders in 2003-04 and St. Louis in 2005-06. He also spent two years (2006-08) as the head coach of the Belarusian national team, helping it qualify for last winter’s Vancouver Olympics with a ninth-place finish at the 2008 IIHF World Championship.

In six seasons as a head coach in the IHL (Milwaukee 1992-94 and Orlando 1995-99), Fraser guided his teams to two division titles and four second-place finishes, posting a cumulative 281-158-10-42 record (0.625) and earning at least 40 wins in every campaign. He was selected to coach in the IHL All-Star Game on three occasions, in 1996 and 1997 while with Orlando (Eastern Conference) and in 1993 while with Milwaukee (Western Conference). Fraser led the Solar Bears to the Turner Cup Finals in both 1996 and 1999.

Vancouver’s second pick (22nd overall) in the 1978 NHL Draft, Fraser spent his entire 12-year playing career (1978-90) as a left wing in the NHL, exhibiting a rare combination of scoring touch and toughness. He accumulated 433 points (193-240—433) and 1,306 penalty minutes in 704 contests with Vancouver, Chicago and Minnesota, highlighted by a personal-best 29-goal, 68-point season with the Blackhawks in 1985-86 and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Canucks in 1982.