Lightning Round: Could this be the year Ben Groulx lands a NHL Deal?
Will he nab one of the five open jobs?
Every summer we go through this. As other teams in the league decide the services of their head coach are no longer needed, the potential that Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx finally gets a shot at a NHL gig potentially grows larger. With five teams currently without a coach (and the possibility that Toronto may part ways with Sheldon Keefe) will Coach Groulx have to hire a moving company this offseason?
It's kind of hard to believe that he's already been behind the bench for the Crunch for seven seasons, taking over in Syracuse after Rob Zettler missed the playoffs in two of his three full seasons as head coach. Since then, Coach Groulx has led the Crunch to a playoff berth in every full season he's coached (no playoffs in 2020, and 2021 was an opt-in year) and has won more games than any other coach in Syracuse's history.
The 55-year-old has interviewed for open NHL posts in the past, the most recent in 2021 when he spoke with Arizona about the opening that eventually went to his friend Andre Tourigny. Oddly enough the interview came about a month after he signed his most recent extension with the Lightning organization.
Now we all know that nothing helps you get a NHL head coaching gig more than being an ex-NHL head coach. Of the 11 head coaches that have been hired over the last year, only 3 (Lane Lambert, Luke Richardson, and Derek Lalonde) had no previous head coaching experience at the NHL level. Yet, the last two Stanley Cup winning coaches (Jon Cooper and Jared Bednar) were with their first team, so go figure.
There a few teams where he may not be a good fit. The Washington Capitals, Calgary Flames, and New York Rangers are likely to be looking for a coach that can handle an experienced team. It is possible that the Caps may still take from the Lightning's cupboard of coaches as assistant coach (and former Capital) Jeff Halpern has interviewed with them.
Columbus has a host of young talent that should be bolstered with another high draft pick. According to Aaron Portzline at The Athletic Blue Jackets' general manager Jarmo Kekalainen wants to fill the role "sooner rather than later", possibly before he heads over to the IIHF World Championships on May 21st. It seems that Pascal Vincent might be in the lead for the spot, although it's possible that they will interview Gerard Gallant if they receive permission from the Rangers.
A better fit for Coach Groulx and his ability to develop young players while getting all he can out of veterans may be in Anaheim. Not only do they have an exciting young roster, but their general manager has firsthand knowledge of Groulx's work. Pat Verbeek was the assistant general manager and director of player personal with the Lightning when Groulx was hired in 2016.
There would also be the added bonus of Groulx being able to coach his son, Benoit-Olivier, a forward in their system.
Losing Groulx would be a huge blow to the Lightning's developmental system. His ability to have players ready to perform at the NHL level has been a key factor in their ability to maintain their success over the years. However, that shouldn't let them prevent him from pursuing a NHL job. Nor does it seem they would stand in his way. When asked at his exit interview, Julien BriseBois said that any staff members would be "granted permission to explore those opportunities if they want to."
Coaching openings should start closing soon as organizations get their houses in order prior to the draft and free agency. While there hasn't been any concrete news about Benoit Groulx interviewing with other teams, it wouldn't be a surprise if he has or will.
Lightning / NHL News
Perbix and Raddysh emerge as developmental success stories [Tampa Bay Times]
While they aren't in the mode of the traditional under 22 years-old rookie success stories, Darren Raddysh and Nick Perbix are indeed success. Imagine where the Lightning would have been if they hadn't been able to hold their own at the NHL level?
Projecting the forward lines for the 2023-24 Lightning [Bolts by the Bay]
An early look at how next season's lines may look using players that are already in the organization.
Fatherhood, no sleep, and a playoff game [The Athletic]
After spending 13 hours with his wife as she had the couple's first child, William Karlsson grabbed a 4-hour nap, and then played 19 minutes in a playoff game against the Edmonton Oilers. Not a bad 36-hour stretch for the Vegas forward.
Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 over Edmonton Oilers (Vegas wins 4-2)
Another season, another early exit for the best player in the game. Conor McDavid scored his 8th of the playoffs, but it wasn't nearly enough as old friend Jonathan Marchessault potted a natural hat trick in the second period to lead the Golden Knights into another Western Conference Final.
World Championship Review:
USA 7-1 over Hungary:
Nick Perbix played over 17 minutes and had 2 shots while Michael Eyssimont had an assist as the US moves to 2-0.
Canada 5-2 over Slovenia
Jan Drozg had 2 goals for Slovenia, but it wasn't enough as 5 different players recorded goals for the Canadians.
Denmark 4-3 (OT) over France
Patrick Russell scored just a minute-and-forty-three seconds into overtime to give the Danes the win.
Switzerland 3-0 over Norway
Robert Mayer posted a 14-save shutout while old friend Tanner Richard had an assist. The Swiss have yet to allow a goal in this tournament.
Sweden 5-0 over Austria
Jesper Wallstedt had an 18-save shutout while top-five draft prospect Leo Carlsson had one of Sweden's goals.
Czechia 5-1 over Kazakhstan
Dominik Kubalik had two goals while Lucas Sedlak had 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) as Czechia moved to 2-0 in the tournament.