Maybe not the first choice, but the better choice for the Norfolk Admirals
Jon Cooper is having praise heaped upon him, being voted the AHL's most outstanding coach, and deservedly so for the job he has done with the Norfolk Admirals this season. Though, it should be for the job he's done since becoming Ads coach on August 9th, 2010. His record (through 73 games this season) is 91-43-1-17.
With these good times, we can reflect. Back in 2010, the AHL head coaching position was not that big a deal in the eyes of the Lightning fans - it was an accessory while the focus of franchise transformation as at the NHL level. We didn't get that it was an entire organizational shift going on here - total competitiveness, not just the NHL team.
With hindsight, you know Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois plans for Norfolk and with who was leading the Ads mattered very much. .
But Jon Cooper wasn't the first name associated with the job.
The first weekend of August 2010 had rumors swirling about who would be leading the Ads. Jon Cooper's name wasn't mentioned. The name in the rumors was Pascal Vincent, who was head coach and general manager of the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL at the time.
On Monday of August 9th (the day Jon Cooper's hiring was announced), Vincent partook in a radio interview in Montreal and spoke about the rumors - turning down the job (note: the original radio interview with Vincent has been taken off the web, but the URL that represented that article can be found here). It wasn't that simple, though. He played up the need for Norfolk's head coach to be a showman, "flamboyant", with the competitiveness of the team being an afterthought.
Two years later, Vincent has since moved up from juniors to the NHL as an assistant coach in Winnipeg. His name is being tossed around as one of the potential new head coach for the Montreal Canadians.
Meanwhile, Jon Cooper is potentially on his own path to the NHL, as he'll be in consideration for other head coaching opportunities in the league.. But he's got business to attend to In the AHL first. Business such as closing out the Admirals season on a high note (25's a fluke. 26? 27? 28? That would be a streak). And after that, Cooper's attention will be on the 2012 Calder Cup playoffs.
If Norfolk needed a flamboyant coach, a showman, it got the best type of one you can find: One whose showmanship is having his team compete and win.