Each week this season, ESPN Florida has been highlighting prospects in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization making an impact for their respective teams.
This week’s star goes to:
Jon Cooper, Head Coach, Norfolk Admirals (AHL)
While not a Lightning prospect in the true Bolt Prospects definition of a Lightning prospect, Admirals Head Coach Jon Cooper is certainly an NHL prospect. His name was mentioned when the Montreal Canadiens were searching for a new bench boss and with Edmonton and Washington needing coaches, it’s being mentioned again – especially after Cooper’s Admirals won the Calder Cup on Saturday afternoon. The bottom line is he’ll be in the NHL soon.
The job the reigning AHL Coach of the Year did this season was legendary. It would be hard to argue that Cooper is not as hot a young coaching prospect now than Guy Boucher was when the Lightning signed the former Hamilton Bulldog leader. The biggest difference could be that Boucher’s resume was built in hockey media-rich Canada so it was more publicized.
In fact, Cooper’s resume is more impressive.
As the Buffalo News highlighted this week, in the last nine years Cooper has four league championships in three leagues: AHL, United States Hockey League, North American Hockey League (2). He was also named Coach of the Year in all three leagues (twice in the NAHL). His record is 401-164-31, including three regular season titles. This year all he did was win 70 of 94 games (43-3 in his last 46), and break a North American pro hockey record with a 28-game regular season win streak (which is still going, incidentally).
I had the pleasure of meeting Coach Cooper at training camp in September and he couldn’t have been nicer. The quote that still sticks with me the most from my conversation with him is “winning is the best development.” Well, if an AHL coach’s job is to develop players, and he believes winning is the best development, can this year be considered more successful than it already is?
Cooper also told me, in a question related to Richard Panik, that it’s the coach’s job to find what makes individual players play their best. Everyone is different. Did anyone on the Admirals this season underperform? In short, and taking injuries out of the equation, the answer is “no.”
You really can’t ask for anything more from a prospect coach.
For daily updates of Lightning prospects in all leagues during the season, as well as off-season analysis and news, visit www.boltprospects.com.