Less than 48 hours after Guy Boucher‘s firing, the Tampa Bay Lightning have officially named Jon Cooper as their next head coach.
This isn’t really surprising, as Cooper was extremely successful leading the Lightning’s AHL affiliates. Last season, his Norfolk Admirals set a professional hockey record with 28 consecutive victories. That streak then translated into postseason success, where the team won 15 of 18 games en route to their first-ever Calder Cup.
Cooper’s now doing quite well leading Tampa Bay’s new affiliate in Syracuse, whose 86 points currently top the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
His familiarity with a number of Lightning players also helped, as Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn to name a few are enjoying big league success after playing for him at some point this season.
The only concern might be Cooper’s lack of NHL experience. Boucher didn’t have any upon being hired three years ago, and we all know what ended up happening to him.
Experience isn’t everything though. Just look at current Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. He was hired from the AHL in mid February 2009 and won a Stanley Cup four months later. Yes, he had Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby leading that team, but who says Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis can’t step up and take the Lightning on a similar run?
Tampa Bay hosts the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, but don’t expect to see Cooper behind the bench. Instead, Dan Lacroix, Martin Raymond and Steve Thomas will share the coaching duties.
A news conference announcing Cooper’s hiring is scheduled for Wednesday, with his NHL coaching debut coming Friday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Either way, he’s got plenty of work to do because the Lightning still have slim playoff hopes.