The Lightning has signed coach Jon Cooper to a "multi-year" contract extension, the team announced this morning.
Cooper was in the final year of his current contract, with talks on a new deal seeming to heat up earlier this season. Cooper said talks began in the offseason, and he's "extremely excited" to get it done.
"There's no place I would rather be," Cooper said. "I couldn't be happier."
Cooper has a 112-70-23 record and .602 winning percentage since taking over as Lightning coach near the end of the 2012-13 season. He was a Jack Adams Award finalist for the league's top head coach in 2014, and led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
"I'm very pleased with the job Jon is doing," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "I like the way our team plays. I like the style of hockey we play. I think it's a style that's conducive to being successful in the NHL."
Yzerman said Cooper's extension was an "important item" on his agenda, and he had no doubts it would get done. Captain Steven Stamkos said the players are "happy" for Cooper, noting he's had "tremendous success" in the NHL so far.
"I'm just a tiny little piece of this whole thing," Cooper said Wednesday. "We've built such a team-first attitude that's one thing from our staff, our team, no one is sitting there saying we're taking credit for this or I'm taking credit for this. We're taking credit for this. And that's what has kept us together espeicallly in difficult times."
This season, with the Lightning playing below expectations at 12-11-3, might be the toughest challlenge of Cooper's coaching career.
"I don't know if humbling is the right word," Cooper said. "I just look at myself personallly, I've been on a pretty good run here for a quite a number of years. This is different. It's a different challlenge. Our script isn't written yet. Have we put ourselves in a situation where we know these last 55 games, there's no margin for error anymore, is there a sense of urgency already after 25 games that we never really had to worry about? There's no question.
"This is a new challenge. And I've been extremely fortunate to coach and have success. This is different. We can find out a little bit about ourselves throughout this year. I don't think we can commpletely judge what's happened in first 25 games. Not that you ever want this to happen, but it's definitely opened my eyes to when you're winning, everying is going right, you keep doing your same routine, same thing going on because it's working. When it's not going so well it opens up your coaching mind up a little bit to say, 'Okay, what can we do differently. 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."
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