Going into this off-season, the San Jose Sharks wanted to get some NHL experience behind bench boss Todd McLellan. They’ve passed those tests with flying colors as they added veteran coach (and Hall of Famer) Larry Robinson as an “associate” coach and long-time NHL blueliner (and seasoned assistant) Jim Johnson to the mix as an assistant. Johnson is the most recent addition, as the Sharks named him to the staff tonight.
(Jay Woodcroft is an assistant as well.)
Johnson most recently served on Dale Hunter’s coaching staff with the Washington Capitals. Here’s a write-up on his coaching career via the Sharks:
A 14-year NHL defenseman, Johnson, 49, most recently was an assistant coach on Dale Hunter’s staff with the Washington Capitals. He has also served as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 and interim head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes in 1999-2000.
Prior to arriving in Washington in 2011, Johnson was coaching for Switzerland’s HC Lugano. While working with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, he also served as the head coach for the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals during the 2009-10 season and as development coach for the Lightning in 2008-09.
Johnson also spent three seasons (2000-02) as an assistant coach with the U.S. National Junior Team.
Some quite reasonably believe that the Sharks’ Stanley Cup window is closing rapidly, but adding some top-notch help for McLellan could help the team get the most out of a still-talented roster. Johnson should be a good addition in that regard.
After some soul searching, the Washington Capitals decided to go with a first-time head coach (and one would think, offense-first guy) in Adam Oates. Darren Dreger provides an fascinating wrinkle to that decision-making process, though: the Caps also interviewed “Iron” Mike Keenan before choosing Oates.
Mike Keenan interviewed for head coaching job in Wash. McPhee called to tell him he was out, just before news broke Oates had been hired.
There are so many different things to take from that scenario. The most obvious one is the mind-blowing concept of Keenan working with Alex Ovechkin. Yup, that would have been … interesting.
Regardless of how serious the Capitals really were when interviewing Keenan, it reveals how much of a fork in the road Washington GM George McPhee was at after Dale Hunter left. He could have gone in a similar – possibly more restrictive – direction with Keenan, but instead he opted for a (seemingly) more player-friendly guy in Oates.
That shouldn’t stop you from picturing the hockey “Odd Couple” that would have been Keenan & Ovechkin. How well do you think they could have worked?
Judging by Dale Hunter’s decision to bolt for the London Knights, it doesn’t seem like the Washington Capitals were the ones hoping to make his stay as head coach a short one.* Either way, John Shannon makes an interesting point that Adam Oates received a greater commitment to be the team’s head coach in the form of a three-year contract.
Now, if you’re familiar with the laughable job security that professional sports coaches “enjoy,” you know that a three-year deal won’t necessarily guarantee that Oates will keep his job that whole time. Still, it’s a bigger commitment in that they’d have to pay him for those years – under certain circumstances, anyway.
It’s been a great day for Oates, no doubt, but the stability of getting a three-year contract might be the most underrated part of it. He’ll probably bask in that whole “Hall of Fame” thing a little bit more, though.
* – Or at least Hunter was the most adamant about it being a one-year thing …
Weeks after leaving his post with the Washington Capitals, Dale Hunter is returning to the head coaching ranks.
Just not in the NHL.
The London Free Press reports Hunter will resume bench boss duties with the OHL’s London Knights next season. He’ll replace his brother, Mark, who led the Knights to the Memorial Cup final last season while Dale was off taking the Caps to within a game of the Eastern Conference finals.
While it was somewhat surprising when Hunter abruptly left the Caps on May 14, there was little surprise when he bolted straight back to London. He’s both the co-owner and president of the team and has been named OHL coach of the year three times in his 11 years behind the Knights bench.
Over that time, London’s become a factory for first round NHL draft picks. Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Kane, Sam Gagner, John Carlson and John Tavares are all products of the Hunter-led Knights.
By now you know Mike Knuble won’t be returning to the Capitals next season. After spending three seasons in Washington, he’ll be looking for a new team next year, but he leaves giving some advice to GM George McPhee on what kind of coach they should hire next.
Knuble tells Katie Carrera of The Washington Post that finding a happy medium between their last two bench bosses would be in their best interests.
“Finding someone who can go between Bruce’s style and Dale’s style, I think, is key,” Knuble said. “The Caps have a lot of skilled players who don’t have to play so conservatively all the time; you can be a little more aggressive at the start of the game. I think you’ve got to let them go be the world-class talents that they are. Then you work to get everybody playing defensive when the situation calls for it.”
Operating between the extremes of Bruce Boudreau’s “run and gun” kind of hockey and Dale Hunter’s “bore you to tears” style has all the makings of a real good idea. Scoring and strong defense? Sounds pretty ideal. As for who the contenders are for the vacant Caps job, that’s another story entirely as McPhee isn’t really talking about who he’s aiming for. Hey maybe Knuble wants to coach some day.