Detroit Red Wings: Significant changes coming to Grand Rapids

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

This is expected to be a hectic summer for general manager Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit is expected to be engaged in a plethora of trade talks as the organization appears poised with a stockpile of draft capital and plenty of talented prospects to acquire a superstar-caliber player if they so choose. The NHL Draft is also less than a month away, and the Detroit Red Wings are expected to be active in free agency this summer, which begins on July 1st.

With all that being said, Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings have plenty of work to accomplish regarding their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. The Grand Rapids Griffins still need a head coach.

Former NHLer and current assistant general manager Shawn Horcoff will make many of the Griffins’ decisions. Horcoff serves as the Griffins’ general manager. Horcoff and the Red Wings brass elected to move on from Griffins head coach Ben Simon and much of his staff following another disappointing regular season. Grand Rapids had been coming off the worst regular season in its history, going 28-36-8. Simon had been with the organization since 2015 and was the bench boss over the past five seasons, compiling a respectful 144-137-38 during that time.

Significant changes are coming to the Detroit Red Wings affiliate in Grand Rapids this summer.

Toledo’s Dan Watson seems like someone who could be elevated to Grand Rapids next season after a stellar year leading the Walleye. Still, Horcoff would not speculate or hint toward Simon’s replacement.

"“All of our coaches’ contracts were up, so it’s not like anyone got fired. They just did not get renewed,” Horcoff said during his end-of-season press conference. “They’re hard workers and they’ve faced some tough situations over the last couple of years. The last couple of years haven’t been great, so you have to look at the entire organization and start from scratch.”"

Horcoff also mentioned that the organization would be trying to add more veteran depth to Grand Rapids this off-season. It seems like a wise decision with the abundance of young talent throughout the organization. Adding a few veteran players that can contribute at the NHL level as injuries occur but can help mentor the youth in Grand Rapids will be very beneficial to the organization in the coming years.

"“It’s important to have veteran leadership, guys that not only play well on the ice but also do things the right way off the ice,” Horcoff said. “When you have a young team like we do, it’s important for them to look up to the players and their peers around them.“It’s important for us to surround them with guys that do things the right way. Just having the value of a veteran voice in the locker room that’s been through it before is very important.”"

Many Red Wings fans will point out that Detroit poached many of Grand Rapids’ top players this past season due to many injuries at the NHL level this past season, particularly early on.

Elmer Soderblom, a player expected to make a significant impact with the Griffins last season, won a job in Detroit out of training camp before suffering an injury that sidelined him for a month after playing in the first 13 games. Upon returning to Detroit’s lineup in December, Soderblom enjoyed a six-game point streak but was eventually sent to Grand Rapids to make room for Robby Fabbri. The towering 6-foot-8 forward appeared in 21 games with the Red Wings and 20 with the Griffins before suffering a season-ending injury in early March.

Jonatan Berggren had been another player expected to pace the Griffins this past season but was recalled to Detroit to help fill in for injuries but would quickly become a mainstay with the Red Wings. As a rookie, Berggren scored 15 goals totaling 28 points over 67 games for Detroit.

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Detroit also required the services of Matt Luff, Alex Chiasson, and Austin Czarnik, each for an extended period this past season.