Two years ago, Jon Cooper was the head coach/general manager of the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers.
By the end of this offseason, he could be sitting behind an NHL bench.
However, the current Norfolk Admirals head coach didn't get picked by either Edmonton or Washington for their vacant head coaching jobs. These decisions could wind up being of amazing benefit to the Blackhawks.
While Chicago has made the playoffs the last two seasons, one major aspect of the team's play that has been lacking since hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2011 is physicality. Cooper brings that in abundance.
The perfect example of Cooper's ability to add grit and hard-nosed play to a team was his work with Reed Seckel in Green Bay for two years. In both of their seasons together, Seckel finished in the top five in scoring for the Gamblers, who finished in first place both seasons. Seckel also finished first and second in penalty minutes in consecutive seasons. His final stats as a Gambler under Cooper were: 114 GP, 34 G, 75 A, 256 PIM.
Seckel is 5'10" and weighs 178 pounds. By no means a typical power forward. However, Cooper's coaching loans itself to physical, gritty play. The exact kind of play the Blackhawks have been missing since John Torchetti left the Hawks' staff.
While Cooper never coached any of the current Blackhawks prospects in Green Bay, he did see a good number of them from the opposing bench in the USHL. Players such as Brandon Saad, Adam Clending, Joe Lavin and Nick Mattson all played against Cooper's Gamblers.
While it seems inevitable that the players have improved, he may have seen holes in their games that still exist. Such knowledge could help turn them from guys seeing regular time in Rockford to everyday Blackhawks.
Finally, Cooper presents a fall-back option should Quenneville no longer be seen as the ideal head coach in Chicago. With the rumors of Coach Q bolting for Montreal stirring back in May, it may be time to find an heir apparent in Chicago. Mike Haviland seemed to hold that position; however, he's currently working on finding a job.
Easily a rising star in the hockey coaching world, Stan Bowman's best free-agent move at this point could easily be getting Jon Cooper to sign on the dotted line.
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