Griffins promote former player Ben Simon to head coach
Ben Simon was the only candidate Detroit Red Wings executives interviewed to be the next coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
So it was no surprise when Simon was announced as the new coach of the Red Wings American Hockey League affiliate at a press conference on June 5 at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena.
Simon, 39, replaces Todd Nelson, who left to become an assistant coach with the NHL Dallas Stars last month.
Simon has been an assistant coach for the Griffins the past three seasons and played with them in 2006-07.
He signed a three-year contract.
A combination of Simon’s track record, what he presented in an interview almost two weeks ago, and the possibility they could lose him to another organization convinced Detroit general manager Ken Holland and assistant GM Ryan Martin, who oversees Grand Rapids, to promote Simon to the team’s head coach.
“Ultimately, this is where I wanted to be,” Simon told www.mlive.com.
The Red Wings actually interviewed Simon on May 25, before Nelson officially left, because the word was already out that NHL teams were talking to Nelson about a job as an assistant or head coach.
“We told Nellie (Nelson) that, as awkward as it might be, for the sake of efficiency we’d like to cover our bases and interview Ben in the event that he (Nelson) were to leave,” Martin said. “Nellie was great. He totally understood, and Ben had already interviewed for one head coaching and was interviewing for a second.
“We were up front with Ben, We told him, ‘We think if Nellie were to leave, you would be a real good candidate to take his place. We can’t say you’d be the only candidate, but we’d like to sit down and talk to you.’ ”
Once Nelson’s move was official last week, Holland and Martin – who were at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo – decided they did not have to look any further.
“Ben did an outstanding job, not only in answering our specific questions that we had but explaining his background and experience with three organizations and how he’d work with the players,” Martin said. “We were convinced.”
Simon was previously an AHL coach with the Rockford IceHogs (2011-13) and Toronto Marlies (2014-15) and also coached the East Coast Hockey League Cincinnati Cyclones to the Kelly Cup Finals in his first season in 2013-14.
He was a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1997 NHL Draft. He played in 81 games with the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL and almost 500 AHL games during his 11-season professional career.
Simon, who is from Shaker Heights, Ohio, also played four seasons at Notre Dame.