The latest member of the Lightning's player development department is Trent Cull, who joins the Syracuse Crunch as assistant coach under new head coach Rob Zettler this season. Cull has history with the Crunch, both as a player and a coach. He played 98 games on defense for the Crunch over the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. He then served as an assistant coach under Ross Yates starting with the 2006-07 season, when the Crunch was an affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He joins the Lightning after three seasons serving as head coach for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. Coach Cull took a few minutes of his time to talk about joining the Lightning, what he brings to the organization and returning to the city where he remains a fan favorite.
What's it like, coming back to Syracuse as a coach with the Crunch?
I'm just excited. I know for me to be a part of the Tampa Bay organization is just a great opportunity and it's funny that the American League affiliate just happens to be in Syracuse. To be a part of the Lightning, working for Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois, some great guys, some great coaches on staff and especially with Rob (Zettler, Crunch head coach). And for it to be in Syracuse, it's just an added bonus.
What do you bring to the organization as a coach?
I used to be an assistant head coach in the American league. Now I've gone away and gotten three years head coaching experience. I think that's just refined me in a sense that I can walk into the office and know exactly what the head coach is thinking. I may not have all their knowledge but I think I can bring something to all aspects of the team. I'm well versed now. Just because I used to play as a defenseman, doesn't mean that's all I know. With my experience, I know now how to coach forwards. I know what it's like to have the responsibility of coaching a whole team now, not just one area.
In your short time here so far, have you noticed any major differences in the player development philosophies of the Columbus and Tampa Bay organizations?
It's too soon to tell. I just got here. I've literally only been on the payroll a couple of days. I was offered the job, I think, on Monday and I took it on Tuesday or maybe it was Wednesday, I don't even know. And then I just signed my contract when I got here the other day. It's been a quick turnaround. But for me, it's always all about the personnel. I think being with Rob, he's just a really good person, great hockey experience, playing so much in the NHL, coaching in the NHL for so long. That is certainly something I don't have on my resume and it's a great opportunity for me to learn from him. And then dealing with Steve Yzerman and Julien BrsieBois. These are high end guys. Very intelligent hockey guys, great hockey IQs. And that's the stuff. If I can just spend time working around these guys for a while, I'll learn by osmosis, just being around them.
This group of guys that make up the core of the Crunch have established themselves as a pretty dynamic unit in the AHL, first with a Calder Cup winning squad in Norfolk two years ago and making it to the finals in Syracuse this past season. Any expectations for the upcoming season?
I barely even know the roster yet. As of a week ago, I was travelling and working on things for the Sudbury Wolves (of the OHL). So for me, it's still very, very early. And you know what? I kind of like not having any preconceived notions. I think it's good for me to come in fresh. From all accounts, we've got a great group of guys, with a great team mentality and atmosphere. It's going to be great to just be a part of these guys. Hopefully I can help them along and I'm sure they can help me too.
Any familiar sites in Syracuse you're looking forward to seeing again?
Just friends, I guess is the biggest thing. I have a couple of good buddies there. My wife's family is from Pennsylvania so it's a lot more centrally located for her. My family is excited. I have three young boys but they know Syracuse. So if I was ever going to move somewhere from Sudbury where we've been the last three years, it's great to go back to a place we all know so we're all excited.
Don't be surprised if you get a big welcome on opening night at the War Memorial. From what I can tell, you still have a lot of fans in Syracuse and they're very happy that you're coming back.
Ah! That's great! I'm looking forward to it.