While the buildup to today’s firing of Guy Boucher in Tampa was building, there were already speculations about who the replacement would be. The obvious choice seemed to be the head coach of the Syracuse Crunch, Jon Cooper. The Crunch is the AHL Affiliate of the Lightning, and Cooper is currently in his 3rd season as coach of the affiliate that moved from Norfolk last season.
However, Bob MacKenzie tweeted out today that he felt a more experienced veteran would be needed in Tampa:
Everyone I’ve spoken to this morning says Tampa situation cries out for an experienced hand. New guy has to get immediate buy-in from vets.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 24, 2013
Far be it from me to go against what the NHL media guru says, but I think that it will be Cooper. He has been interviewed by NHL teams for vacant head coaching jobs in the past, and is commonly referred to as the next great AHL coach to get the promotion. The fact that he is already in the Tampa system and is familiar with many of the players on the Lightning roster gives him the upper hand in my opinion.
If it was any other team, I might give the veteran such as Lindy Ruff the edge over an AHL coach, but with Cooper’s edge of having coached at least 10 current members of the Lightning roster and an AHL Calder Cup with many of them last season makes the transition a little easier. Yes, the Lightning went with an AHL coach last time that was the “next one” and it didn’t work out so well, but I don’t think Steve Yzerman will avoid going to that well again, especially when it is within his own organization (Boucher was hired out of the Montreal organizaition) this time around.
If Yzerman does choose to go the route McKenzie suggested, then Lindy Ruff would be at the top of his list. But without a solid goaltender, the likelihood of success in Tampa is not great, despite the offensive potential. Besides, I have Ruff waiting for the day John Tortorella gets fired in New York, which could be the next axe to fall.