Considering the Tampa Bay Lightning just fired a coach they hired as an AHL coaching rock star, it’s interesting that all signs point to Syracuse Crunch head coach Jon Cooper taking over for Guy Boucher.
But Cooper’s a different kind of coach. He’s not gimmicky, and he’s familiar with a good number of players on this roster – essential for selling a novice to the veterans that just ousted Boucher.
The Tampa Bay Lightning is on the verge of hiring Jon Cooper as its new coach. The deal is not finalized, so it is not official, but an announcement is expected either tonight or Tuesday.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman would not confirm the hire, but said, "We're working through the process as quickly as possible and will be ready to announce our new head coach at the earliest time I can. The Tampa Bay Lightning is not saying anything right now."
Cooper has the goods.
Cooper has guided the Crunch to the AHL points lead this season, continuing to collect points even as call-ups ravaged the Crunch's lineup. Last season, he was named the AHL's coach of the year for guiding Norfolk to the Calder Cup. During the regular season, the Admirals won a league-record 28 straight games.
Cooper inspired fierce loyalty among his players because of his sharp wit, hands-on personality and track record of developing players. Several Crunch prospects recalled to Tampa Bay this season have made immediate contributions to the parent club.
Cooper takes a collegial approach to team bonding through various group activities. He encouraged the players to form a bowling league this season. He also took the Crunch to Lake Placid for a few days of practice mixed with some snow-tubing.
There was some speculation that Lindy Ruff, who worked with GM Steve Yzerman on Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics, would be the man down in Tampa Bay. Due respect, but Ruff’s a better fit in a place a little closer to a Stanley Cup. Cooper can grow with this team.
From the Lightning:
Cooper will coach his first game for the Lightning on Friday night versus the New Jersey Devils. Effective immediately, Syracuse assistant Rob Zettler takes over as the head coach of the Crunch while Martin Raymond will join Zettler as an assistant. Dan Lacroix and Steve Thomas will remain behind the bench for tomorrow night's game against the Buffalo Sabres, then continuing as Cooper's assistants with the Lightning.
"We are very pleased to introduce Jon as our head coach today," Yzerman said. "He has had success at every level he has coached and is extremely familiar with our organization, as well as our players. He has a tremendous record at all levels and we feel he is ready to make the move to the NHL."
The Lightning are six points out of eighth with 16 games left in the season. Is that enough time for a turnaround?
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