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If Babcock leaves the Red Wings

Blashill, Bylsma among candidates for head coach job in Detroit

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock works behind the bench during the Winter Classic game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, 2014, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock works behind the bench during the Winter Classic game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, 2014, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT – First, no one is saying coach Mike Babcock is leaving the Detroit Red Wings.

No one can say that because no one knows. No one knows but Babcock himself, his wife, and possibly (hopefully) GM Ken Holland. The rest of us will have to wait a few more weeks for things to become more clear.

Related: Red Wings allow Babcock to shop

Here's what is clear now: There is a real possibility that Babcock will decide to sign with another team. He's put in 10 strong seasons with the Red Wings and likely will become the highest-paid NHL coach in history with whatever team he chooses to sign with next. Holland must have a backup plan if Babcock decides to explore the wonderful world of the National Hockey League.

Here's the rundown on some top prospects for Red Wings head coach:

1. Jeff Blashill

Jeff Blashill (right) as assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings under Mike Babcock (left). He spent one season (2011-12) behind the bench with Babcock before getting the head coaching job in Grand Rapids.
Jeff Blashill (right) as assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings under Mike Babcock (left). He spent one season (2011-12) behind the bench with Babcock before getting the head coaching job in Grand Rapids.

The AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins coach likely will be the top candidate for the job. Blashill signed a 3-year contract with Detroit's AHL affiliate last summer after two full season's behind the Griffins' bench. He was behind the bench for the team's 2013 Calder Cup championship.

Blashill was head coach at Western Michigan for one season, then signed on as an assistant coach for the Red Wings under head coach Mike Babcock. Before Western Michigan, he spent two seasons coaching the Indiana Ice of the USHL, where he won a championship.

The 40-year-old coach is definitely headed to the NHL soon, whether it's to coach in Detroit or somewhere else.

2. Dan Bylsma

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Dan Bylsma has been somewhat of a nemesis for Babcock. They've coached against each other in the Stanley Cup finals and were on opposite benches when Babcock's Canadian team met Bylsma's U.S. team in the Olympics. Babcock actually coached Bylsma when the two were with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Bylsma coached the Pittsburgh Penguins for six seasons until he was fired last year after the team bowed out of the playoffs in the 2nd round. He'll be considered for several head coaching jobs around the league this offseason.

3. Ken Hitchcock

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NHL veteran Ken Hitchcock is still head coach of the St. Louis Blues. However, there are rumors he could be fired after the team's third consecutive first-round knockout this spring. Red Wings fans will remember his days in Dallas when he helped lead the Stars to a Stanley Cup championship in 1999. They returned to the finals the next year with Hitchcock still behind the bench.

Since then, Hitchcock's teams haven't done too much damage in the postseason, but he's still one of the most respected coaches in the league. Babcock had him as an assistant on the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.

4. Dave Tippett

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Dave Tippett still has a job, too. But there's a chance the Arizona Coyotes will part ways with him this offseason. If so, Tippett will be one of the more sought-after coaches in the league.

A 2010 Jack Adams Award winner (NHL coach of the year), Tippett has had strong years behind the bench. In 12 seasons as a head coach in the NHL, his teams have missed the playoffs just four times. He's known for having defensive-minded teams.

After three straight seasons of missing the playoffs in Arizona, Tippett and the Coyotes both might be looking for a change.

5. Claude Julien

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Rumor is Claude Julien could be let go by the Boston Bruins' new GM -- whenever they get one. If so, he'll have many job offers.

Julien coached a very powerful Bruins team for eight seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Bruins went back to the finals in 2013 but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. He was another assistant to Babcock on the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.

Julien's Bruins missed the playoffs this year which ultimately led to the firing of GM Peter Chiarelli. Julien could be next.

NOTE:

Tony Granato was added as Babcock's assistant last July. He started his coaching career as an assistant with Bob Hartley in Colorado. He was head coach for the Avalanche in 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2008-09, posting an overall record of 104-78-17-16. He most recently was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins under Dan Bylsma.

If no one else is hired, Granato could be an option depending on what Holland is looking for. He's already here, at least.


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