Three Things: On the Griffins’ coaching search, the “scouting combine” and Saturday’s HTA equipment/memorabilia sale

Of Red Wings and Griffins-related note this evening:

  1. WOOD TV’s Larry Figurski spoke with outgoing Grand Rapids Griffins coach Todd Nelson regarding his hiring with the Dallas Stars, and Figurski notes that Griffins assistant coach Ben Simon, South Korea head coach Jim Paek and Toledo Walleye coach Dan Watson are among the possible candidates to replace Nelson:

I certainly wish that the Red Wings were able to keep Nelson in the organization, but if Nelson felt that it was best to go elsewhere to stake out on his own (he is 49 and still looking to earn an NHL head coaching position), I wish Nelson nothing but the best. He was a tremendous coach and mentor for the Griffins and he was a pleasure to speak to from a media perspective.

2. In the “future Wings” department, Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff noted that the Red Wings’ front office is attending the NHL’s Scouting Combine in Buffalo, both keeping an eye upon draft-eligible players they undergo fitness testing and interviewing said prospects on a one-on-one (or nearly so) basis:

“By this point, when you get to May, we’ve been watching these players, in some cases 2-3 years and over the course of that time you’re meeting with coaches, trainers, teammates, billet families, strength coaches, people that have had contact with these players throughout their lives, even parents perhaps. You’re painting a picture. So this is not something that is put together over one season, it’s typically multiple seasons. At this point of the year, most of these players, if not all, we will have already interviewed once or more throughout the year.

“When we get into the combine, several of these players we’ve already interviewed multiple times. This is a little different format, eight or nine of us in a room. It’s a little bit more intense of a setting than just meeting a kid after a game in the basement of a rink. It doesn’t carry the day, but it’s one piece of the puzzle we’re putting together, and it can certainly affect a player’s status on our list in terms of moving up or down.”

Duff continues

3. And if you are planning on attending the Red Wings’ annual equipment and memorabilia sale this Saturday in Troy, the Wings are allowing season ticket-holders into Hockeytown Authentics at 9 AM, and the general public in at 10 AM:


Toledo Walleye lose Kyle Bonis to Norwegian pro league

The Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe reports that one of the Toledo Walleye’s most productive players is leaving the ECHL for Norway:

[Kyle] Bonis, who led Toledo with 27 goals this past season, has signed to play for a team in Norway.

The native of Lindsay, Ontario, was an alternate captain for Toledo last season when he tallied 51 points, second most on the team, in 66 games.

Bonis, who holds the Walleye single-season goal scoring record with 36 in 2014-15, will play for a team named Frisk Asker in Norway.

The 29-year-old has played for Toledo in each of the last four seasons. He has tallied 83 goals and 63 assists for 146 points in 172 games with the Walleye.

“Toledo gave more to me as a player and a person than I could ever repay,” Bonis said. “The city, the fan base, the staff for the Walleye, and my teammates made an impact on these four years of my life that I will remember forever.”


Three things: On Liam Kirk, a Drummond Island visit to LCA and Danny DeKeyser

Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:

1. This is more of a rumor than anything else, but there’s been chatter regarding the Detroit Red Wings as one of the suitors for draft-eligible English hockey star Liam Kirk, and that chatter has been going on for the entire 2017-18 season.

The Sheffield Steelers forward told the Sheffield Star’s Bob Westerdale that he’s been in contact with the Red Wings during the NHL’s Scouting Combine in Buffalo, NY:

Detroit Red Wings are among those monitoring Maltby marvel Liam Kirk’s credentials in an NHL assessment camp. The 18-year-old Sheffield Steeler is being tested physically and mentally by potential draft suitors in New York state.

Kirk was interviewed by the Detroit organisation, which included four-time winner of the Stanley Cup Kris Draper, a Wings’ executive. The winger said tests “went well” – they included the Y-Balance Test which checks on strength, control, and flexibility.

He explained that there wasn’t an overly competitive atmosphere among the NHL hopefuls, but he added: “Obviously everyone wants to do their best.

“It’s more about the interviews as of now and everyone is just serious for them.”

2. Justin Abdelkader hosted a group of students from Drummond Island schools today, and the Wings donated books and deck chairs to the school district:

Abdelkader spoke with’s Dana Wakiji about the event:

The Wings worked with the Tigers to get the group tickets to the afternoon game at Comerica Park to make it a full day of fun.

“I try to put myself in their shoes and it’s always tough. But gosh, to have the opportunity to come here in the locker room, get the tour of the brand new facility, to meet a Red Wings player and then gosh, I never went to a Tigers game until I was in high school,” Abdelkader said. “Just for the opportunity to come down and spend a full day here in Detroit, it’s special that they’ve taken the time and commitment to come down here. It’s just really exciting that a reading program like this can stretch as far as Drummond Island. To know that we have a ton of support up there and between the Red Wings and the Michigan Education Savings Program, we can send some things back with them, so I think that will be exciting for them to use.”

Wakiji continues

3. And finally, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan posted an article about Danny DeKeyser’s importance to the upcoming season’s Red Wings defensive corps:

With the Wings expected to get even younger next season – particularly on defense, with prospects Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski not far away, and one or two openings likely – DeKeyser’s veteran presence becomes increasingly vital.

Despite missing the playoffs the past two seasons, DeKesyer believes the Wings aren’t far from the playoffs.

“In today’s game there’s not a whole lot difference,” said DeKeyser, of playoff and non-playoff teams. “If you swing some of those one-goal games and score a few extra goals here or there, get your special teams working a little bit better, it can make a big difference.”

DeKeyser understands the need for a rebuild, and an influx of young players on the roster.

“We missed the playoffs the last two years, you have to look at it like that,” DeKeyser said. “You have to do something, mix things up a bit. It’s not fun for sure when you have to watch other teams play for a Stanley Cup. Our goal is to try to get back there next year and try to give ourselves a chance to get back into the playoffs.”

Kulfan also continues

Todd Nelson explains his decision to leave the Griffins for Dallas

The Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner spoke with now-Dallas Stars assistant coach Todd Nelson regarding his decision to leave the Griffins:

“I felt that I’ve accomplished what I want to accomplish here. I came to Grand Rapids to win a Calder Cup, which we did, and I wanted to re-establish myself as a head coach – a good head coach – and I felt I did that over the past three years,” Nelson said in an interview Thursday with MLive.

The Stars on Thursday morning officially announced Nelson would become an assistant under first-year coach Jim Montgomery.

Nelson said the deal is for three seasons. He will handle the defense primarily and help on the power play.

Nelson led the Griffins to the playoffs all three seasons, going 22-11 and winning the Calder Cup Trophy last season. This year, they bowed out in the first round.

“It was disappointing a little bit this past season,” Nelson said. “But, yeah, short of winning another Calder Cup, what is there more than I can do here? Unless I wanted to stay here for, like, the rest of my life. I have to move on. There is a short window and right now I’m in it. I’m 49-years-old and I’m using this has a platform and hopefully I have success with Dallas.”

Wallner and Nelson continue, and Wallner posted a video of Nelson’s remarks:

The Griffins posted a video of Nelson’s remarks as well:

Update:’s Mike Heika spoke with Dallas personnel regarding Nelson’s hiring:

Todd Nelson, who was named the Stars’ newest assistant coach Thursday, will bring experience and a creative mind to Jim Montgomery’s coaching staff, according to Montgomery and general manager Jim Nill.

Montgomery played with Nelson on the 1995-96 Hershey Bears (AHL) and said he always liked Nelson’s aggressive approach to hockey.

“We were similar players in how we viewed the game, and I love the way he has brought that to his coaching career,” Montgomery told of Nelson, who led the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup in 2017.

“His teams are so well-prepared and so dynamic on the power play, and he brings everything that I want from our team in terms of identity.”

Nill was running the Grand Rapids Griffins when Nelson was an assistant coach there, and has maintained contact since moving on to become the GM in Dallas. He said Nelson’s resume (309-189-63 in the AHL with Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City) is impressive, and his experience will help Montgomery, who is starting his NHL career with the Stars.

“First of all, he’s a good person on and off the ice, but he’s also developed himself into a great coach,” Nill said. “I’ve worked with him in Grand Rapids and I’ve watched his career path as head coach in Oklahoma City playing against our guys in Texas and then in Edmonton and Grand Rapids again. He’s very innovative and he’s always had great success. I think he’s going to be a good fit for Jim.”

Heika continues

Todd Nelson officially named assistant coach with Dallas Stars

From the Grand Rapids Griffins:


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Dallas Stars on Thursday announced the hiring of Todd Nelson as an assistant coach.

Nelson is the fifth Grand Rapids Griffins head coach in 22 seasons to earn a promotion to the National Hockey League. He follows in the NHL footsteps of Jeff Blashill (2012-15), Bruce Cassidy (2000-02), Curt Fraser (2008-12) and Guy Charron (1998-00), who earned coaching promotions with the Detroit Red Wings (head), Washington Capitals (head), Dallas (assistant) and Anaheim Ducks (assistant), respectively.

Nelson, 49, guided the Griffins to the franchise’s second Calder Cup in 2017 and totaled the third-most regular season wins in the AHL since 2015-16 with a 133-78-4-13 (0.621) mark in his three campaigns behind Grand Rapids’ bench. The 10th head coach in franchise history, Nelson ranks third all-time in victories, trailing only Fraser (146) and Blashill (134). The Griffins exceeded 90 points and 40 wins during each of his seasons.

Nelson posted a franchise-record 0.667 postseason winning percentage with the Griffins as part of a 22-11 record – tallying both the second-most playoff wins in team history and the second-most victories in the AHL since 2016. He led the Griffins to the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of his three seasons to extend his stretch of seven consecutive postseason bids in each of his seven full campaigns as an AHL bench boss.

In 2017-18, Nelson helped the Griffins overcome a 10-15-1-3 start to conclude the season 42-25-2-7, including a Central Division-best 32-10-1-4 mark from Dec. 22 onward. Nelson joined Blashill as the only coaches in franchise history to lead Grand Rapids to three straight postseason appearances. The milestones he achieved included: becoming the fifth active AHL head coach with 500 or more games on Nov. 11; becoming the fifth coach in franchise history with 100 or more wins on Dec. 2; and becoming the 20th head coach in the 82-year history of the AHL with 300 or more wins on March 16.

In 2016-17, Nelson directed the Griffins to a 100-point season (47-23-1-5), the franchise’s sixth time hitting the century mark and second since the league went to a 76-game schedule in 2011-12. Grand Rapids shattered the franchise record while leading the entire AHL with a power play efficiency of 24.4%, utilizing a five-forward lineup for 35 of the team’s 80 power play goals (43.8%). Nelson coached the Central Division in the All-Star Classic – thanks to Grand Rapids posting a division-best 0.694 points percentage through Dec. 31 – and became the third coach in Griffins history to coach in an all-star game. His 0.599 winning percentage marked the highest for any head coach in team history through his first two regular seasons. Nelson capped 2016-17 by completing the Calder Cup trifecta and becoming only the third person in AHL history to win the Cup as a player (1994 Portland), assistant coach (2008 Chicago) and head coach, joining Bob Woods and Mike Stothers on the list.

During the 2015-16 season, he led Grand Rapids (44-30-1-1) on separate 15- and 13-game winning streaks – the two longest in franchise history – as the Griffins became the first AHL team since 2009-10 to log multiple double-digit runs in the same season.

Overall, Nelson staked the Griffins to a 70-38-2-4 (0.640) mark at Van Andel Arena, including a club record 14-game winning streak from Nov. 11, 2015-Jan. 15, 2016. Grand Rapids finished 10-0 on home ice during its run to the Calder Cup in 2017, becoming the fourth team in AHL history to compile a 10-game home winning streak in a single postseason.

As coach of the top development team of the Detroit Red Wings, Nelson helped 24 Griffins move on to the NHL (not including conditioning stints), including 14 who made their debuts after playing under him: Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jared Coreau, Kyle Criscuolo (Buffalo), Martin Frk, Joe Hicketts, Nick Jensen, Matt Lorito, Anthony Mantha, Tomas Nosek, Dan Renouf, Robbie Russo, Evgeny Svechnikov and Dominic Turgeon.

Nelson mentored two rookie defensemen to year-end awards during his Grand Rapids tenure. Russo became the first player in team history to earn both All-Rookie and All-Star Team accolades in the same season after he was named to the 2016 Second All-Star Team. Russo led the AHL with a plus-40 rating and his 39 points established a club record for top single-season scoring rookie defensemen. Filip Hronek became the fourth defenseman in team history to be named to the All-Rookie Team in 2018 and the eighth Griffin overall to garner such accolades. Hronek’s 39 points tied Russo’s mark for team first-year blueliner scoring.

In his eight seasons as an AHL head coach, which includes Oklahoma City (2010-15) and Grand Rapids (2015-18), Nelson compiled a 309-189-16-47 (0.607) regular season mark. His 309 wins rank 17th all-time in the AHL. Nelson adds a 42-31 (0.575) record in 73 career Calder Cup Playoff games to tie for sixth all-time in postseason victories.

The original Griffin, Nelson was the first player ever signed to a Griffins contract prior to the team’s inaugural season in 1996. Through parts of four seasons (1996-98; 99-00; 01-02), Nelson amassed 67 points (11-56—67) to rank 16th among franchise defensemen and skated in 236 games, which places eighth among club blueliners. Most notably, Nelson was a member of the Griffins’ 1999-00 squad that reached the IHL Turner Cup Finals. He was an honorable mention IHL All-Star during that campaign after pacing the circuit with a plus-36 rating, and he places eighth overall in franchise history with a plus-53 mark.

Nelson began his coaching career full time as an assistant with the Griffins in 2002-03, helping the team reach the Western Conference Finals after winning the Central Division and posting the best record in the conference during the regular season.

Following in the footsteps of Danton Cole (2002-05), Nelson was the second former Griffins player to be employed as Grand Rapids’ head coach.

Nelson is the fifth former Griffins player or coach to currently hold a bench coach position in the NHL.

Nelson returns to the NHL after leading the Edmonton Oilers to a 17-22-7 record in 46 games during the 2014-15 campaign while taking over for Dallas Eakins as the interim head coach on Dec. 15. Following two seasons (2006-08) as an assistant for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, which culminated with the 2008 Calder Cup, Nelson served as an assistant to the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers from 2008-10 (70-75-12-7 record).

A native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Nelson owns a 475-269-48-47 (0.623) record as a professional head coach.

In 333 games as head coach of the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons from 2010-15, Nelson totaled a 176-111-12-34 (0.598) regular season record, which included the Western Conference’s best record in 2011-12. He tallied a 20-20 Calder Cup Playoff record, including consecutive trips to the conference finals (2012, 2013).

Nelson also spent three seasons (2003-06) as head coach of the UHL’s Muskegon Fury and tallied a 149-58-25 mark (0.696) and consecutive Colonial Cups (2004, 2005). He won his first Colonial Cup with Muskegon during the 2001-02 season while serving as a player and assistant coach.

A fourth-round selection by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Nelson appeared in three regular season and four playoff games with the Penguins and Washington Capitals between 1991-94. During a pro career that spanned 12 seasons (1990-2002), Nelson appeared in 887 career games, logging 391 points (80-311—391) and 599 penalty minutes from his blueline position.

Nelson Career.png

Bob Probert Ride to take place on June 24th with Scott Parker, Meltdown leading the ride’s Liz Thome reports that the annual Bob Probert Ride to benefit Windsor’s Hotel Dieu-Grace will be headed by two “road captains,” former Colorado Avalanche enforcer Scott Parker and WRIF’s Meltdown:

The 8th annual Bob Probert Ride will feature two road captains. Leading the field of over 1,200 participants will be Scott Parker a.k.a. “The Sheriff”, and WRIF’s Meltdown.

“Choosing a road captain for the Ride each year never comes easy. Having been a part of the NHL family, I am always overwhelmed by the support we receive each year from current and retired players,” explained Dani Probert. “I know Big Bob is smiling HUGE today.”

Over the last 7 years, the Ride has supported Cardiac Wellness programs in Windsor-Essex. This year’s ride is already en route to bring the 8 year ride total of monies raised to $900,000.

This year’s Ride takes palce on June 24th, and includes stops at the Fort Fun Centre, Colchester Bar and Grill, Wolfhead Distillery and returns to the final stop at the Ciociaro Club where riders and their passengers will be able to enjoy refreshments and purchase food.

Custance: Wings considering their annual move-down in the first round of the draft

According to The Athletic’s Craig Custance, Red Wings GM Ken Holland is working hard at the NHL’s “Scouting Combine” in Buffalo, meeting-and-greeting both prospects and the agents for Mike Green, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou.

Custance also reports that the Red Wings are considering–as they do every year, it seems–moving down from the #6 spot and/or packaging their other 1st round pick and early 2nd round pick to end up with 2 middle-of-the-draft first-round picks:

It makes Holland and the Red Wings one of the best candidates for a draft-day move up or down early on. Holland said those seeds are starting to be planted now.

“I’ve started to talk to some teams about a lot,” Holland told The Athletic. “As you work your way towards (host) Dallas at the draft, draft movement possibilities — I think at this stage in the game, everybody is kicking tires as to what might be out there.”

The conclusion?

“I’m open to possibly move,” Holland said.

Custance continues at length (paywall), confirming that Todd Nelson will leave the organization to become an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars, updating the Wings’ assistant coaching search and confirming that Xavier Ouellet will not be a Red Wing next season.

HSJ’s mailbag: on the logjam on defense

Among the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ mailbag questions and answers:

HSJ: When I spoke to him at locker clean out day (April 10), Niklas Kronwall sounded like a guy eager to return. He missed the first three games of 2017-18, but played every game after that. He’ll turn 38 midway through next season, and he’s got hard miles on his body, but he is still a smart player, and a team leader. So barring some offseason setback, I see him playing out the last year of his contract.

That said, I’d still expect there to be an opening — there are six regulars under contract for next season, but that includes Xavier Ouellet, who no longer seems to fit into the Wings’ plans. So I do think there there will be at least one fresh young face on the next season’s defense.

St. James continues

The Athletic’s Shapiro reports that Todd Nelson will join Dallas as an assistant coach

Per The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro:

The Grand Rapids Griffins then Tweeted this:

Update: The Athletic’s Craig Custance confirms:

Ben Simon would be a logical replacement. He’s been vocal and visible as a strong assistant coach over the past couple of years.

Also, from the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner:

Last year, he was a finalist for the position with the Arizona Coyotes after the Griffins won the Calder Cup.

Nelson, 48, has taken the Griffins to the playoffs all three seasons, going 22-11 with the AHL championship last season.

Add in his four full seasons with Oklahoma City and Nelson’s teams have made the playoffs eight consecutive seasons.

The one exception was in 2014-15 when he left the Barons to become interim coach with the Edmonton Oilers for his only taste of the NHL. He went 17-22-7 in 46 games.

He has a 309-189-16-47 (.607) regular-season record in seven-plus seasons as an AHL coach, including 133-78-4-13 (.621) with the Griffins.

Update: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan has weighed in:

Todd Nelson appears headed to the NHL.

The successful head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings’ minor league affiliate, will reportedly be named an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars.

Nelson didn’t respond to text messages Wednesday, but several reports out of Dallas indicated he will be named an assistant on new head coach Jim Montgomery’s staff.

Montgomery, who left the University of Denver, was named the Stars’ coach in early May.