A press release has just been sent out by the Tampa Bya Lightning announcing that former Norfolk Admirals head coach Jim Johnson, who has been with the Lightning since February 25th, is being sent back to the Norfolk Admirals.
These moves are an attempt to bolster Norfolk's playoff chase as well as create roster space for players in Tampareturning from injuries.
It's also a waving of a proverbial white flag by Lawton. The firing of Wes Walz and promotion of Johnson to the Lightning had been met with confusion, disdain and bitterness from fans (in Norfolk and Tampa Bay alike) as well as Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet.
The complete press release can be found below the jump.
LIGHTNING ASSIGN ASSISTANT COACH JIM JOHNSON TO NORFOLK AS HEAD COACH
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have assigned Assistant Coach Jim Johnson to the position of Head Coach of the Norfolk Admirals today, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced. The move comes as the Admirals are one of four teams battling for three spots in the push for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Norfolk trails Wilkes Barre-Scranton by three points and are two points behind Bridgeport as well as Lowell though they have a game in hand on each team. The Admirals are currently in Binghamton for a 7:05 p.m. game tonight.
"I am extremely excited to get back behind the bench tonight for the Admirals," said Johnson today. "We have a great group of players in Norfolk and I am excited to get there with them as we push towards making the playoffs."
Leigh Mendelson, who served as head coach after Johnson joined the Lightning, will return to assistant coach while Ben Eaves returns to the position of strength and conditioning/video coach.
A native of New Hope, Minnesota, Johnson was named assistant coach of the Lightning on February 24, 2010. He served in that role for 17 games. Johnson was previously named head coach of the Admirals on January 16, 2010, after beginning the season as the team’s associate coach. Once taking the reins of the Admirals, Johnson gave the team a newfound fire and direction, leading them to a 13-2-2 record during his 17 games behind the bench. The Admirals improved from 17-23-2 and seventh in the AHL’s East Division to 30-25-4 and third place in the East Division, firmly entrenched in the playoff race, with Johnson serving as Head Coach.
Johnson had a lengthy NHL career as a defenseman, playing 829 games with 29 goals and 166 assists with stops in Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Dallas, Washington and Phoenix. He also represented the United States in international competition on seven occasions including the 1991 Canada Cup.
Following his retirement, Johnson spent four years with the Phoenix Coyotes as a consultant to the general manager, broadcast analyst and an assistant coach. He has also served as a U.S. National Junior Team Assistant Coach at the IIHF World Junior Championships on three occasions. Johnson has been involved with USA Hockey development programs at the state, regional and national levels as a coach, evaluator and presenter. He was named 2006 USA Hockey Volunteer Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the United States Olympic Committee Coach of the Year.