The Tampa Bay Lightning have named Jon Cooper to be the next head coach—less than 48 hours after releasing Guy Boucher of the position. He is the eighth coach in franchise history and inherits a young, talented group that has a big hole (six points out of eighth place) to climb out of if they are going to make the playoffs this season.
Cooper was promoted from within the organization. He was the coach of the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate since 2010. He has started by saying all the right things since the announcement (via Lightning.NHL.com):
There is no other team in hockey that I would rather be coaching than the Tampa Bay Lightning, said Cooper upon accepting the position. It's quite a tribute to Steve Yzerman and Jeff Vinik and the organization they are building that are proud to promote from within. I look forward to getting to know the players and getting to work right away.
This move could draw some significant attention at the trade deadline. Cooper knows the young players on the Lightning well—since he coached them for the last few years. With rumors circulating about some of the veteran guys being shopped, the Lightning will have some decisions to make.
Do you keep the roster intact for the remainder of the season or look to nearly start fresh by shopping the veterans for young talent?
This move also makes the Bolts’ trade that sent Dustin Tokarski away to pick up Cedrick Desjardins intriguing. That move hasn’t paid any dividends yet as Desjardins hasn’t won in his three NHL starts.
Despite no NHL head coaching experience, Cooper has found success on every level. In his seven years as a professional coach, he has led his team to a championship four times including two North American Hockey League titles, one in the North American Hockey League and another in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals (via Lightning.NHL.com).
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.
His (former) Syracuse Crunch team currently leads the AHL with a 39-18-8 record and boasts the league’s best offense (218 goals).
Per the Lightning’s official release, Cooper’s first game as the bench boss will be on March 29 against the New Jersey Devils.
Syracuse assistant Rob Zettler will take over the head coaching duties for the Crunch. Tampa Bay has 16 games left this season and is currently 13-18-1.