So much for the notion that Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman wanted a veteran NHL coach to take over his moribund team.
So much for all that speculation that Lindy Ruff could jump back into coaching at the helm of Team Stamkos.
He turned to hot coaching prospect Jon Cooper instead, promoting him from his American Hockey League affiliate at Syracuse. Cooper built a sterling 133-62-26 record in the AHL and was drawing attention from other NHL franchises pondering coaching changes.
Yzerman offered this official explanation of the hiring: “When you have somebody in your organization who we work closely with, we know him, and not only do we sit and observe and watch his teams for the better part of the past three seasons, we get to know him, how he fits with us in the organization. There is no denying he has done a tremendous job in Norfolk and again this year in Syracuse. He’s just done an outstanding job coaching the team, developing the players and building relationships with the players.”
This Lightning squad will look familiar to Cooper, who coached 10 of the current Tampa Bay players at some points this season in Syracuse.
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2010, offered this ringing endorsement to the Tampa Tribune: “He has definitely made my game better. This is the best hockey I have played in my whole life, and he’s definitely a part of that. He’s just a very good players’ coach. I’ve learned to be a go-to guy on a very good hockey team. He has kick-started my professional career.”
Perhaps this signals a shift in Yzerman’s thinking. Perhaps the Lightning will focus on building with young players -- a process that hasten the exit of some of the current veterans.
Other NHL general managers may want to shop accordingly.