Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jon Cooper signs Lightning contract extension

Jon Cooper has never had a losing record as a coach, so the Lightning’s struggles this season are new for him. “When it’s not going so well, it opens your coaching mind a little,” he says. “It’s invigorating.”


Jon Cooper has never had a losing record as a coach, so the Lightning’s struggles this season are new for him. “When it’s not going so well, it opens your coaching mind a little,” he says. “It’s invigorating.”

SAN JOSE, Calif. — General manager Steve Yzerman checked an "important item" off his to-do list Friday.

No, not that one.

The Lightning announced a contract extension for coach Jon Cooper, 48, whose current deal was set to expire after this season. The extension is believed to be for at least three years.

Though Cooper's status had created nowhere near the attention as that of captain Steven Stamkos, also in the final year of his contract, this deal ensures continuity and certainty for both sides.

"There's no place I'd rather be," Cooper said. "For this to happen, I couldn't be happier."

Cooper said Yzerman first approached him in the offseason and there were no "bumps in the road" in negotiations, no doubt a deal would get done. Yzerman said there's no significance to the timing of the announcement, which comes as the Lightning (12-11-3) is struggling after reaching the Stanley Cup final in June.

Cooper is 112-70-23 since taking over in March 2013 and was a finalist for the league's coach of the year award in 2014.

"I'm very pleased with the job Jon is doing," Yzerman said. "I like the way our team plays. I like the style of hockey we play. I think it's a style that is conducive to having success in the NHL."

Stamkos said players were happy for Cooper, though many had no idea he was up for renewal.

"He's had tremendous success in the league as a coach so far," Stamkos said. "Our team this year has struggled a bit, but look at what he's done in his career. He's deserved what he's got, so we're very happy for him."

The Lightning's season so far is unfamiliar territory for Cooper, who never has finished with a losing record in stints in the USHL, NAHL, AHL, and NHL. He led the Lightning to the playoffs in each of his first two full seasons. Cooper said "our script isn't written yet" and the team shouldn't be judged through 26 games heading into tonight's game against the Sharks.

"I look at myself personally and as a coach. I've been on a pretty good run here for quite a number of years," Cooper said. "This is different. It's a different challenge. Is there a sense of urgency after 25 games that we never really had to worry about? There's no question. We can find out a little bit about ourselves throughout the year.

"Not that you ever want this to happen, but it's definitely opened my eyes. When you're winning and everything is going right, you keep your same routine, same things going on because it's working. When it's not going so well, it opens your coaching mind a little to say, 'Okay, what can we do different; how can we fix this?' Don't dwell on the problem, find the solution. That's what we're trying to do as a team. It's invigorating."

Players and staff say Cooper's demeanor and systems haven't changed. "I think that rubs off on the players' minds knowing their head guy is not panicking and he's going to stay the course," assistant coach Steve Thomas said.

But Stamkos said Cooper has shown more of a stern side.

"I think it's obviously very easy when things are going well," Stamkos said. "When things aren't, there are times, obviously, when our play hasn't been great that he's had to step up in his disciplinary style, and obviously a lot of people don't see that side of him. You see the joking side of 'Coop,' (and) a lot of guys respect him because of that. But at the same time, behind closed doors, he demands a lot of us, and we've seen that side a little bit more in the past because our record hasn't been that great. We deserved that negative stuff."

Cooper said that for the most part, his contract saga wasn't a distraction: "You're human, so there's something on your mind. I knew I had a deal expiring at the end of the year. We've been on the same page since Day 1, just a matter of inching a little either way."

Cooper called it a privilege to coach in the NHL and an honor to be with the Lightning, noting the respect he has for Yzerman and owner Jeff Vinik. He appreciates how he and his family have been treated.

"You want to be part of that."

. Tonight

Lightning at Sharks

When/where: 10:30; SAP Center, San Jose, Calif.

TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

Key stats: The Sharks entered Friday having won seven of their past nine overall but are 4-7-0 at home. … San Jose was 24th in the league on the power play (17.1 percent) and third in faceoff winning percentage (52.4 percent). … C Joe Pavelski led the Sharks, who played a late game at the Ducks, with 12 goals and 12 assists. … The Lightning split the teams' two meetings last season, winning 5-2 in San Jose. … C Tyler Johnson (undisclosed) and C Cedric Paquette (upper body) are doubtful to play this weekend, coach Jon Cooper said.

Jon Cooper signs Lightning contract extension 12/04/15 [Last modified: Friday, December 4, 2015 11:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Anthem protest, the latest: Jerry Jones joins Cowboys on field in show of solidarity


    As President Donald Trump continued tweeting Monday about his displeasure with NFL players for staging demonstrations during the national anthem, the Cowboys took a knee on the field just before the anthem was performed on Monday Night Football. Dallas players were joined by owner Jerry Jones, and they quickly …

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, center, joins the team in taking a knee before the national anthem Monday night. They stood and linked arms for the anthem.
  2. Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says players who kneel have team's support


    TAMPA — Receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were the only Bucs players kneeling during the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Vikings, but DT Gerald McCoy said the team supports their protest "100 percent."

    Bucs tight end Cameron Brate pulls in a touchdown catch as Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo (34) hits him in the back of the head.
  3. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Luke Del Rio regains UF starting job, for now


    GAINESVILLE — Luke Del Rio is once again the starting quarterback for No. 21 Florida.

    Luke Del Rio provided a needed spark when he replaced starter Feleipe Franks and rallied Florida past Kentucky.
  5. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-name prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times