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Lightning's Gwozdecky has knack for working with young players

George Gwozdecky coached at the University of Denver the past 19 years, and his former players include Lightning defenseman Matt Carle.

Denver Post

George Gwozdecky coached at the University of Denver the past 19 years, and his former players include Lightning defenseman Matt Carle.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper was adamant at the June draft that he wanted to hire another assistant with NHL experience.

But after considering the number of young players the team used last season and how that influx is expected to continue next season, Cooper said he concluded that having a coach who specializes in relating to that demographic was advisable.

Besides, Cooper said of George Gwozdecky, whose hiring was officially announced Friday, "(he is) a communicator and a winner, and those were two things we couldn't pass up."

Gwozdecky, 60, was a college head coach for 24 years, including the past 19 at the University of Denver, where he went 443-267-64 and won national championships in 2004 and '05.

The Pioneers are the only Division I team with at least 20 wins in each of the past 12 seasons, and Gwozdecky is the only NCAA coach to win national titles as a player (Wisconsin, 1977), an assistant (Michigan State, 1986) and a head coach. Still, Gwozdecky was fired in April after Denver exited early from the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

Lightning defenseman Matt Carle, who played for Gwozdecky from 2003-06, acknowledged Gwozdecky's transition to the pros will be "kind of a wild card" but ultimately will be "good for our team."

"He did a good job (at Denver) with a lot of guys, developing them into men," Carle said. "We have all these young guys down in the minors who have had a lot of success. We need those guys to develop, so this is going to be a huge help for the younger guys."

Gwozdecky, who will handle the forwards, completes a staff that includes Rick Bowness, who will handle the defense, and Steve Thomas, who will observe from the press box during games.

"With Rick and Steve being in the league for so long, George can bring a little bit of a different viewpoint," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "We're very excited to have him."

Lightning's Gwozdecky has knack for working with young players 08/09/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 9, 2013 10:30pm]

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