Following the departure of Rick Bowness as an assistant coach, General Manager Steve Yzerman and Head Coach Jon Cooper have promoted Jeff Halpern into an assistant coach role for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 42-year-old has spent the past two seasons working for the Syracuse Crunch, first as a development coach and then as an assistant coach last season under Head Coach Benoit Groulx.
The appointment was initially reported by Joe Smith of The Athletic. For once, it sounds like “rumblings” turned into a real thing!
Hearing rumblings that Jeff Halpern may be joining #tblightning staff. Halpern, the former Lightning forward, has been an assistant with AHL Syracuse. Yzerman would not get into specifics on coaching staff search.— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) June 22, 2018
Of course, Halpern is more known for his 976 career NHL games, primarily with the Washington Capitals and Lightning. He also spent time with the Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers. The Washington, DC native played as a checking center for the majority of his career, totaling 152 goals, 221 assists, and 641 penalty minutes in those 976 games.
Since we have advanced stats data dating back to 2007, I looked at Halpern’s 126 games with Tampa Bay, and he had an even Goals For % Relative to his teammates, despite only being given a 42.22% zone start ratio. And as a cherry on top, he was a positive penalty differential player in a time where that was pretty rare in a bottom-six guy.
Going back to Halpern as a coach, the official press release says Halpern “worked closely with the organization’s prospects in Syracuse to assist with individual development.” This is a sentiment echoed by Raw Charge Associate Editor Alex Ackerman, who described his role as one that “focused mostly on player needs, especially helping the younger players — whom the Crunch had 11 of this past season — navigate the professional world of hockey for the first time.” In a conversation she had with Crunch COO Jim Sarosy, she recalled being told that Halpern “has been a big help with the younger guys, especially as a sounding board in their professional and personal lives.”
In a conversation Halpern had with Lindsay Kramer of Syracuse.com at the beginning of his tenure with the Crunch, he joked about how he acted more like a coach than a player late in his career. In that article, Halpern talked a lot about his teaching philosophy, especially with younger players, and how it has evolved as he’s gotten older:
I still have a big passion for the game. More than anything, I enjoy the teaching side of it. I look forward to working with players. It’s a neat coaching experience being in the AHL because when players get the call to go to the NHL there’s a lot of enjoyment in that and there’s a lot of anxiety in that too because you’re seeing some of your players go and perform at the NHL level. You kind of hope that they’re ready, almost no different than with your kids.
So far, it is unclear what Halpern’s role will be with the Lightning specifically. The Lightning parted ways with defensive coach Rick Bowness and press box coach Brad Lauer earlier this summer. While this is purely speculation, Halpern seems like more of a fit for something similar to Lauer’s role given his limited coaching experience. But the Lightning have a history of giving opportunities to coaches without much (or any) NHL experience, so it’s also possible he could be taking a larger role on the coaching staff.
Whatever the exact role, this is a big step forward for Halpern in his career and he should provide a new energy and excitement to the Lightning coaching staff.
Joe Smith once again provides us new on this matter. Per his tweet, Todd Richards will shift over from handling the forwards to managing the defense and penalty kill. Halpern will get a chance to oversee the forwards, which include young centers Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli, as well as any rookies who make the team out of camp.