Cooper promotion draws scrutiny away from Yzerman... for now
Jon Cooper's familiarity with so many players already on the roster and his well-documented success coaching those players raises the bar of expectations considerably higher than that of most rookie head coaches. Standing to reap immediate benefits from that is general manager Steve Yzerman.
Few situations inspire more anxiety for sports fans than when their team is without a head coach, no matter how long the position is vacant. Once someone, anyone, is hired, they relax a little because at least there's a leader, someone to steer the ship. Undoubtedly, Lightning fans are breathing easier with the now-officially-announced appointment of Syracuse Crunch head coach to replace Guy Boucher, who was fired less than 48 hours ago.
In most cases, whoever assumed the role would be given something of a "grace period" that would have extended well into next season, the logic being that someone new is going to need time to adjust to the new surroundings, get to know the players and begin implementing his own systems and policies. Results that are similar or even less impressive than his predecessor's would likely be shrugged off with an attitude of "well, it's not like he inherited that much to work with", at least for a while.
That's not to imply that fans would be satisfied. While waiting for the new coach to get up and running, focus would shift to the general manager, with close observation of his efforts to improve the roster and grumbling directed toward him if those efforts were deemed less-than adequate. In the event that the new coach never really did work out, the coach would eventually catch heat, but not nearly as much as the general manager would for hiring consecutive "failures" to lead his team.
That's how things might have played out if Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman had hired someone from outside of the organization as the new coach. In the short time since Boucher's dismissal was announced, some angry criticism was already being directed toward Yzerman. This will not be the case now that Jon Cooper takes the reins.
Cooper is not an outsider, having been among the first people hired by Yzerman back in 2010. He's not only familiar with several players already on the roster, as well as the next batch ready to move up from the AHL soon, he's had considerable success coaching them. Seven of the players on the Lightning now played for him with the Calder Cup-winning Norfolk Admirals last year, Seven of them have played for him this season in Syracuse for the Eastern Conference-leading Crunch.
His familiarity with those players and his success coaching them sets the bar considerably higher than most coaches stepping into a similar situation. Granted, he has never coached Lightning veterans like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and, Ryan Malone among others, but some fans who had written off the 2013 season before Boucher was fired have been heard whispering, "we're only five points out, you know...".
None of this is to suggest that it's reasonable to expect anything resembling a repeat of the magnificent 28-game winning streak and dominant postseason performance by last year's Admirals team, but since when are fans' expectations required to be reasonable? Nobody is going to try to run Cooper out of town if the Lightning don't make the playoffs this year, but if the team finds itself in the same position next year, fans are likely to be less understanding and tolerant than if someone like Lindy Ruff had been given the job. No, what it does suggest is that if nothing else, Steve Yzerman has steered the glare of scrutiny away from himself, at least for a little while. Probably long enough to complete this season (however/whenever it ends) and get to the upcoming amateur draft without too much undue notice
What's your expectation for the rest of this season for the Lightning with Jon Cooper as head coach?
|Win the division, wreak havoc in the playoffs||10|
|Sneak into the playoffs, probably knocked out early||18|
|Just barely miss the playoffs; can't wait for training camp||26|
|Don't care about wins and losses, just want better play...for now||47|
|Low expectations; the team just isn't good||12|
|Low expectations; not happy with the hire||2|