As expected since the Norfolk Admirals won the Calder Cup, NHL coaching rumors have been swirling around about head coach Jon Cooper. The two head coaching jobs that were open were with the Edmonton Oilers and the Washington Capitals. Unsurprisingly, the hockey media and bloggers for those two teams are talking about Cooper possibly taking the job for their respective teams with some enthusiasm.
As of today, one of those jobs has been taken. Adam Oates was named the head coach of the Washington Capitals. He had previously been an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. However, it had been leaked last week by ESPN's Pierre Lebrun on Twitter that Cooper had indeed been interviewed for that position as well:
Apparently all inquiries are going through Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman. While the draft and then free agency may have distracted some general managers, there has obviously been interest in Cooper. If there weren't, you'd have to wonder why.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cooper taking the job in Washington could have been a bit more problematic for them than if he'd had the opportunity to work in Edmonton. At this point, the Caps are still in the Southeast Division, which may or may not exist next season after the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been hammered out. However, as they're in the same geographic region, whether they're in the same division or not, it's a fair assumption that they'll likely still see a lot of each other.
It is also reasonable to assume that as Cooper had clear success with the system they were running in Norfolk that he’d probably keep using that system. Which is, of course, is the same system that head coach Guy Boucher devised. You know, the exact same one that the Lightning are using?
Boucher’s system is high risk, high reward hockey. Just imagine Alex Ovechkin playing it. Yeah, that could have been a problem. A big problem.
Of course, Cooper would've had to convinced Ovechkin that playing that way was a good idea first. Just as he would've had to convinced the rest of the Caps to buy into it as well. Boucher’s had some success with running his novel system, but he never had the same level of success that Cooper did in Norfolk. A lot of that may have to do with the fact that minor leaguers are more open to changing their game than established NHLers are, however.
Yzerman obviously didn’t get in the way of Cooper’s job aspirations, when he was offered the opportunity. But, on the other hand, if the league re-alignment doesn’t change all that much, would he want another coach in the same division playing the game in the same way? Probably not.
But it's definitely to Steve Yzerman's credit that he didn't let his team ambitions get in the way of allowing an employee of his to take advantage of an opportunity to advance his career, even if it's with another team like the Capitals.