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Lightning Round: Ben Groulx reportedly interviewed for Arizona Coyotes head coaching position

Could the Syracuse Crunch head coach finally be in line for a NHL gig?

Scott Thomas Photography

Benoit Groulx has been the head coach of the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate since the 2016-17 season. In those five seasons he’s coached 322 games with a record of 180-100-42 and taken the Crunch to the playoffs every season there has been a postseason highlighted by a trip to the Calder Cup Finals in his very first year.

That’s a pretty impressive run at any level, but even more so considering the constant turnover AHL teams go through as they develop prospects for their NHL partners. Groulx and his coaching staff have played a key role in preparing Lightning prospects for their eventual call-ups to the NHL. Mathieu Joseph, Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli, Cal Foote, Erik Cernak, and Ross Colton all began their professional careers under the tutelage of Groulx. The fact that they were all able to jump into Tampa Bay’s line-up and hold their own for the most part is testament to his coaching skills.

So it was just a matter of time until other organizations came calling. According to Lindsey Kramer from Syracuse.com, Groulx interviewed for the open head coach position in Arizona. Kramer based his report on a post by Craig Morgan, who runs the Arizona Insider site (subscription required), detailing who the Coyotes had reportedly interviewed to replace the departed Rick Tocchet.

Groulx did not return a call from Kramer so at this point it can be considered an unconfirmed report, but Joe Smith of The Athletic is also reporting it so there is likely some fire to all of this smoke. It’s honestly surprising that Groulx hasn’t received more interest from around the league based off of the success he’s had in Syracuse. He has interviewed for at least one open coaching job in the recent past, but for which team that was is a mystery.

While he did just re-sign a three-year contract with the Crunch last month, there is likely an out clause if a NHL job is offered to him. As important as he has been to the development of the young players in the organization, the Lightning aren’t likely to deny him the chance to pursue what has to be a dream opportunity. Groulx has professed his love for the organization and would be happy to stay, but the chance to coach a NHL team doesn’t come along that often and if he’s offered the chance, he should take it.

Arizona would be an interesting destination as he would be working with a team that has a mix of veteran talent and youth. It would be a good opportunity for him to instill his style of play - aggressive forechecking and face-paced play - on a team that could benefit from a change of styles. In Syracuse he has leaned on his veteran players as an additional resource for the younger players, he’s often had a “leadership team” in the locker room that helps the rookies and youngsters get used to professional hockey. It would be interesting to see if that’s something he would continue in the NHL.

He also has held his players accountable for their performance on the ice, whether it’s in games or in practices. Groulx hasn’t been adverse to scratching players, even his best ones, from games if they aren’t abiding by the system he has installed. While he does like his players to have an offense-first mindset, he expects them to play reasonably on defense as well. He had no problem bumping forwards down to the fourth line or putting them on the penalty kill in order to help develop their defensive skills.

His departure would leave a void in the Lightning’s organization as he would likely take most, if not all, of his assistants with him. The Crunch could fill from within (Jeff Halpern would be my number one choice) in order to maintain some sort of continuity within the franchise.

There is a good chance that Groulx stays with the Crunch, after all it seems to take three or four interviews before non-retread coaches finally get a shot at the NHL. Still, he’s eventually going to get a shot at the NHL, a shot he most certainly deserves.

Lightning Links

It took the Islanders basically playing a perfect game and the Lightning fumbling the puck around in order for New York to take Game One. While unforced errors are never fun. there is no reason to panic just yet according to Matt.

One of the keys to last season’s successful Stanley Cup run was the offense provided from the blue line. Remember those glorious moments when Victor Hedman went into Beast Mode and skated circles around folks? Those were good times. This season has been a different story as the blueline has scored exactly 0 goals so far. Eduardo Encina takes a look at what’s going on with the defense’s lack of offense.

Good Guy Mikhail Sergachev

Congrats to the Colemans! Perhaps another Baby Coleman in the Stanley Cup photo is in the future?

Hockey Highlights

A really cool move by the AHL as they named the head athletic trainers of all of the franchises as their Yanick Dupre Memorial Award for their contributions to their local communities. The league recognized the extraordinary efforts the training staffs went through in dealing with the COVID protocols in addition to their usual work of keeping the players healthy and ready to play. Brad Chavis was recognized for the Syracuse Crunch.

As for the NHL’s version of a similar award, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy was awarded to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. San Jose’s Kurtis Gabriel and New Jersey’s P.K. Subban were the other two finalists.

Head Coach alert! One gig it doesn’t look like Ben Groulx will be getting is the New York Rangers job. Former Bolt Gerard Gallant is reportedly heading to the Big Apple to become their new head coach. Gallant has had successful, if short, tenures behind the bench in Florida and Vegas (and a so-so record in Columbus). Now he’ll be responsible for returning the Rangers to glory. Good luck with that.