Lightning's Cory Conacher on new coach Jon Cooper: "He hates to lose more than he wants to win"
There was plenty of excitement around the Lightning locker room Tuesday at the hiring of Jon Cooper as the new coach, but especially among the players he had in the minors.
"He's passionate on the bench and during games," said left wing Cory Conacher, who was with Cooper last season in Norfolk as the Admirals won the Calder Cup championship. "We all want to work as hard during games because he's a guy who hates to lose more than he wants to win. I think the guys will realize that as soon as he gets here."
Added center Tyler Johnson, who played for Cooper in Norfolk and this season with Syracuse: "I'm pretty excited. He's a great guy to have around. It's going to be fun playing for him again, especially at this level."
It had been believed the Lightning might also be looking at former Sabres coach Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. But GM Steve Yzerman said that in the case he ever had to make a coaching change, his first choice always was Cooper.
"I have no doubt this is the way I wanted to go," Yzerman said. "He's been in our organization three years and has done a great job. I've watched him and thought for a long time this guy is going to be an outstanding coach. I've got him right here. This is the guy I want to go with."
That said, Yzerman acknowledged he called Ruff to inform him of his decision. And while Yzerman would not say if Ruff had expressed interest, it's not a stretch to believe he had given Yzerman thought it necessary to call him.
While Cooper's players were excited, the veterans struck a more even tone.
Captain Vinny Lecavalier said he was "excited" at Cooper's hiring, he admitted there is a bit of a question about a coach who has no NHL experience. But at the same time, "He has so many good things about him, I think it's a great choice. From what I hear, he's a great guy and a real good players' coach. He's a lot into team chemistry."
"He wouldn't be here if he didn't have a good track record," defenseman Matt Carle said. "If a guy like Steve Yzerman thinks he deserves to be here, why would I question that at all. I'm sure everyone just wants to see what the future holds for us."
Conacher said it is an aggressive, fast-paced system that has a little bit of "run-and-gun."
"A lot of physical play," Conacher added, "a lot of swagger on the ice. He lies fast-paced. He likes jumping on their D, being aggressive, that kind of stuff."
"It's going to be fast-paced hockey, quick transitions, aggressive in the offensive and even in the defensive zones and create as much speed as possible," Johnson said. "I really enjoy playing for him. he gives you a lot of room to make the skill plays you need to make and he creates a lot of speed. It's awesome to play under him."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Assistant coaches Steve Thomas and Dan Lacroix will be behind the bench tonight for the Lightning against the Sabres. Assistant Marty Raymond already is on his way to Syracuse, where he wil lhelp out new coach Rob Zettler. yzerman stressed sending Raymond to the AHL was not a demotion. "We needed someone to help Rob in Syracuse and we asked Marty if he'd be willing to go down there. He thought about it and said he'd like to do it." ... Yzerman admitted the Lightning is "a ways away today" from contending for a Stanley Cup and, "This move wasn't made to try to save the season. It's a long-term thing." ... Yzerman said he did not elevate Cooper to keep from losing him over the summer to another organization. "If I was going to make a change at the end of the season, the reality is he was under contract until June 30, so I didn't do this because I was worried about losing him. The timing was more affected by what was happening right now." ... Newly signed defenseman Andrej Sustr was on the ice for the first time. Cool story was that Sustr, of the Czech Republic, was at the Lightning's games against the Rangers in October 2008 in Prague. "As I was sitting in the stands, I never thought I'd be in the same locker room with them," Sustr said. "It's definitely something special. I'm just trying to soak in every moment." The plan under Boucher was for Sustr to practice for three or four days and then get into at least one game. We'll see how it goes with Cooper. Either way, Sustr said Tuesday was "somethin special. It's something you always dream of to be skating with an NHL team," he said. "It was kind of a dream come true, especially next to guys like Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. It just feels a little surreal to me." ... Yzerman said he is interested in bringing Jaroslav Janus back from Slovakia. ... B.J. Crombeen said he should be ready to go Friday against the Devils. Said left leg sore after hip check from Mike Methot against the Senators.