Saturday, July 9, 2011

Blashill Leaves WMU for NHL

One and done indeed.

Jeff Blashill, who led Western Michigan to 19 wins and the national tournament in 2010-11, won't be returning behind the bench in Kalamazoo this fall. The former Ferris State goaltender and assistant coach just accepted an assistant coaching position with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, who seemed to have been seeking new blood on the bench commanded by head coach Mike Babcock.

The timing is not great for Western, just two months before the start of school, and three months before the start of a much-anticipated hockey season under a coach who led the Broncos to perhaps the best turnaround in all of college hockey last year. It was WMU's first winning campaign since a 19-15-4 mark in 2001-02, and included its first appearance in the CCHA title game since 1986, and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996. The Broncos ultimately finished 19-10-3 after falling to Denver by a goal in the NCAA Midwest Regional.

There's also been a ton of upheaval in Division I lately, with both the CCHA and WCHA set to lose multiple schools to both the new Big Ten Conference and a newly-announced six-team super league that will both begin play in 2013. Where Western will eventually wind up is anyone's guess.

Still, you can't blame Blashill for leaving to join the Wings, the timing notwithstanding. Critics may rail on his lack of NHL experience; but Detroit reached out to him, and the Red Wings have seemed to know what they've been doing for the last 20 years or so. There was no guarantee that Blashill would have had this opportunity next year, or possibly ever again, so he had to take the chance. At least the results he helped WMU attain last season after so many futile winters should make Western a more attractive destination; especially with the bump in pay up to $275,000 he was set to receive, and which will allegedly go to the new coach as well.

Onward and upward now, for both the Broncos and the Red Wings.

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