The Most Interesting Man In Hockey: Jon Cooper

Jonathan Willis
June 11 2012 02:23PM

For what it’s worth, my belief is that the best candidate for the Edmonton Oilers’ head coaching position is Jon Cooper, currently the head coach of Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk.

Jon Cooper has never served as an NHL coach – head, associate, or assistant. All of his experience has come in other leagues. But when I first profiled Cooper back in March, I was highly impressed by the experience he does have.

He left his previous career (Cooper was a lawyer) to take up coaching full time in 2003 in the North American Hockey League. In five seasons he won the league championship twice, coach of the year honours twice, and compiled a 223-93-17 record. For good measure, he also helped develop an NHL’er (Matt Taormina) in a league that rarely produces them.

In the summer of 2008, Cooper was named coach and general manager of the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. The year prior, the Gamblers went 13-41-6 with a minus-94 goal differential. In Cooper’s first year with the team they led the league in regular season points and managed a plus-72 goal differential (a shift of 166 goals in a 60-game season). The next year, the Gamblers again led the league in the regular season and won the championship as well. In two USHL seasons, Cooper was named G.M. of the year twice and coach of the year once (and was roped into performing in the videos sprinkled throughout this piece). That got him a head coaching job in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals.

In Norfolk

Norfolk, under the guidance of a new coach (Cooper) and general manager (Julien BriseBois - recently passed over for the Montreal Canadiens' G.M. position), may have only managed a first round loss in 2010-11, but that represented the best season any affiliate team of the Tampa Bay Lightning had experienced in a decade and a half:

Season Team W L OTL T PTS GF GA GD Playoffs
2010-11 Norfolk 39 26 15 --- 93 265 230 35 Rd. 1 loss
1996-97 Adirondack 38 28 2 12 90 258 249 9 Rd. 1 loss
2009-10 Norfolk 39 35 6 --- 84 208 214 -6 N/A
2003-04 Hershey 33 34 5 8 78 203 218 -15 N/A
2001-02 Springfield 35 41 2 2 74 213 237 -24 N/A
1997-98 Adirondack 31 37 3 9 74 245 275 -30 Rd. 1 loss
2008-09 Norfolk 33 38 9 --- 75 236 269 -33 N/A
2002-03 Springfield 34 38 1 7 76 202 243 -41 Rd. 1 loss
2007-08 Norfolk 29 44 7 --- 65 213 267 -54 N/A
1998-99 Cleveland (IHL) 28 47 7 --- 63 248 310 -62 N/A
2006-07 Springfield 28 49 3 --- 59 181 268 -87 N/A
2005-06 Springfield 28 43 9 --- 65 220 312 -92 N/A
2004-05 Springfield 27 47 9 --- 57 161 255 -94 N/A
1999-00 Detroit (IHL) 22 52 8 --- 52 163 277 -114 N/A
2000-01 Detroit (IHL) 23 53 6 --- 52 184 311 -127 N/A

Tampa Bay's farm teams have been miserable for years; the 2010-11 squad coached by Cooper (in bold) was easily the best of the bunch despite a middling record.

In 2011-12, BriseBois and Cooper took things further. Norfolk improved their goal differential to a whopping plus-93, won 55 games to put them first in the AHL during the regular season (10 more wins than second-place Oklahoma City) and then dominated the AHL playoffs, never allowing a series to go the distance and sweeping both the Eastern Conference and Calder Cup Finals. The club also set a record for the longest-ever winning streak in professional hockey, with 28 consecutive wins, 10 more than the previous pro hockey record and 11 more than the previous AHL record.

Experience matters, no question. But experience has never been as important as the combination of ability and success. Cooper has been a rock star at every level since going into coaching; he’s experienced nothing but success. While team success is an imperfect measure of coaching ability, the evidence strongly suggests that Cooper is highly capable. The facts that he is an educated man and a Western Canadian to boot (Cooper’s originally from Prince George) don’t hurt him either.

The Oilers have a chance to land a home run here. There are a variety of excellent candidates available, but none as compelling as Cooper. I don’t get a vote when the Oilers hire their next head coach, but if I did I’d be voting for Cooper.

This week by Jonathan Willis

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#1 Archaeologuy
June 11 2012, 02:29PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
5
props

But what about Brent Sutter? If you ignore everything he's ever done in professional hockey as a coach he's good too!

Avatar
#2 bdiddy18
June 11 2012, 02:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
2
props

I'm sold - all the guy does is win - the exact attitude you want the young studs to have.

I concur Willis... Cooper it is!

Avatar
#3 Lummeropenet
June 11 2012, 02:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Law degree huh?

Maybe he's been a big fish in a small pond or he's just plain old lucky or both.

WTF, should be a great NHL coach then.

Avatar
#4 Bucknuck
June 11 2012, 02:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Yeah but Jon Cooper has never worked with Tambellini or Lowe at any level before, so he won't get the job.

Scotty Bowman v2.0 wouldn't get a look from this head office unless they had already worked with him.

It's a sad state of affairs, and I am shocked that Katz lets this farce go on.

Avatar
#5 Dman09
June 11 2012, 03:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The doesn't need to coach, he could probably make more money as a lawyer. I think he coaches because he just simply loves it and that is probably part of the reason he has so much success, that and the fact he knows that if his hockey career doesn't work out he has a great fall back option. No pressure just passion for the game. I would be doing what ever I can to sign him. I like Krueger but I think the team needs new faces plain and simple. Nothing better in my opinion to have a young coach with a young team so they can grow together. Unity wins

Avatar
#6 TigerUnderGlass
June 11 2012, 03:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

What about international experience? What about his level of poise?

Your analysis now, as it was before, is woefully incomplete.

Avatar
#7 Zed
June 11 2012, 03:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Written before the Oilers have officially named their next head coach.

JW, you are setting yourself up to a big ol "FU man. I told you so" to management.

Something we all aspire to do.

Correct or not, I like this article.

Avatar
#8 RexLibris
June 11 2012, 03:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

bididdy18's comment sounds a bit reminiscent of what was said about Hall in Oil Change prior to his being selected in the draft.

Might Krueger be given the head coaching title with Cooper brought aboard as an associate coach?

Tambellini might be more inclined to this arrangement as it would give Cooper an apprenticeship of sorts in the NHL.

Would Cooper be interested? Given the shelf life of many NHL coaches, perhaps. In my opinion the most significant selling point would be the talent available and stability of the organization with which he would be working.

The delay in hiring a head coach might also be explained if it turns out that the Oilers have interest in Cooper joining the team.

Avatar
#9 Pucker
June 11 2012, 03:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

hhmmm Oiler Nation choices seem to centre around Cooper, Krueger or Sutter. (Maybe Todd Nelson but he may not be NHL ready yet)

They should know what they have with Krueger. Cooper looks like a potential home run and cerntainly rates consideration. Sutter, I don't know how he would have done in Calgary without The Kipper.

I'd be good with either of the first two. Possible miracles here. Sutter would be a safer choice. Wait-and-see for me.

I wish they'd put their interviews on youtube.

Avatar
#10 Dman09
June 11 2012, 03:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Pucker wrote:

hhmmm Oiler Nation choices seem to centre around Cooper, Krueger or Sutter. (Maybe Todd Nelson but he may not be NHL ready yet)

They should know what they have with Krueger. Cooper looks like a potential home run and cerntainly rates consideration. Sutter, I don't know how he would have done in Calgary without The Kipper.

I'd be good with either of the first two. Possible miracles here. Sutter would be a safer choice. Wait-and-see for me.

I wish they'd put their interviews on youtube.

Nelson has already stated that he is happy with where he is right now and wants to stay with OKC. I say go for Cooper and if it can't be done then give Krueger a shot. Cooper's success throughout his career is just too good to ignore and I think that gives him a step up on Krueger.

Avatar
#11 Quicksilver ballet
June 11 2012, 03:39PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

As per the info you provided Jonathan. His collective record still looks to be a sub .500.

Avatar
#14 Dman09
June 11 2012, 03:45PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Quicksilver ballet wrote:

As per the info you provided Jonathan. His collective record still looks to be a sub .500.

Might want to check that record again.

Avatar
#15 Smokey
June 11 2012, 03:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Im fine with Coop. But then I`m fine with any coach that is more articulate and better looking then a Sutter, which is every coach.

I can`t watch the Sutters, they make the Gino Odjicks, Tim Hunter, and Tiger Williams look like pornstars.

Avatar
#16 Evilas
June 11 2012, 03:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I have thought all along, the only reason for the delay in hiring a coach was to wait for the right one to be available. If I were a betting man, I would put money on Cooper and I would expect them to make the announcement by mid-next week, just in time for the draft.

Avatar
#18 Dman09
June 11 2012, 03:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

five seasons coached St. Louis Bandits 223-93-17

Green Bay Gamblers, 39-17-4 and 45-10-5

Admirals , 39-26-15 and 55-18-1

Avatar
#19 WhattaMike
June 11 2012, 03:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I liked your article a lot J.W and Jon Cooper seems like a very strong candidate to become the next Oiler coach.

A winning record such as that, at various levels does provide prevalent attributes to making the Oil a playoff team.

I alos like that krueger could be the next coach and even Sutter as well. Both have outstanding records albeit not winning a Stanley cup as coaches just yet.

I also looked Todd Nelson and found out he wants to stay in Oklahoma City as head coach of which is an excellent idea. His track record these last two years on the farm team there is excellent and the Oil should wrap him up with a nice two or three yr contract immediately.

IMO, I am sold on these three contenders of either Sutter, Cooper or Krueger. Just win baby and get us into those damn playoffs!!!!!!

Avatar
#20 Dman09
June 11 2012, 04:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Jonathan Willis wrote:

If I'm doing the math correctly, Cooper's record since becoming a full-time coach is 401-164-44. That's just a hair above 0.500.

Ya a hair from an 80 year old man that has never shaved a day in his life. hahahahaha the guy basically has a decade of winning seasons at various levels. He will be in the NHL very soon if not with the Oilers then with another team.

Avatar
#21 Zed
June 11 2012, 04:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@Jonathan Willis

I'm surprized you disagree with me. So you're saying if this Cooper fellow one day becomes coach of the year in the NHL and the Oiler's are bottom dwellers with *insert coach's name here*, you'll just say "Well he was a good candidate"?

Yeah ok buddy.

That would be a missed opportunity to lower yourself with the rest of us.

Avatar
#23 jake
June 11 2012, 04:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Cooper is 44 years old. Not sure if age should or shouldn't be a factor but he may just be a nice fit with this young team.

Avatar
#24 Dman09
June 11 2012, 04:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@Jonathan Willis

The next Ruff or Babcock would be nice though. A decade of post seasons with the same coach would be an awesome present to patient fans.

Avatar
#26 Dman09
June 11 2012, 04:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Jonathan Willis wrote:

No arguments here. Not in the least because that kind of coaching longevity would mean the team had finally turned the corner.

How slow are the blogs and such going to be when the team is consistently doing good and people don't have as much to b*tch about.

Avatar
#27 YoungOil
June 11 2012, 05:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

I'm quite new to the Nations network and only read few of the recent articles but this site is actually very informative. Especially the one about Latendresse and this one. Great job JW!

Avatar
#28 DK0
June 11 2012, 05:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

@Dman09

If there's anything i know about Wanye is that he'd burn this website to the ground if it meant the Oilers would win a cup. So if we start winning for a decade straight and everyone stops commenting, he'll be living in an alley crushing bud lights with a giant smile on his face.

Avatar
#29 geoilersgist
June 11 2012, 05:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

those videos are pure gold. Hire him now!!

Avatar
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Ha! Willis, you're assuming the current Oilers' management group is aware of Cooper's successes.

Can't blame ignorance! Or can you?

Avatar
#31 Copperblueandwhite
June 11 2012, 05:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Great piece Jon...11 days to draft day and no coach...Dithers has been spotted (and given an extension) and MacT is the VP of Hockey Ops...uh huh...and it's 11 days to the draft...just sayin',...the more things change ..they don't...Cooper is perfect and they're high fivin' because everyone has been accounted for...sorta'!

Avatar
#33 Oiler Al
June 11 2012, 05:29PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Who knows what Dithers is thinking or doing [not], but if it was Sutter or Kureger, don't you think they would have announced the hire by now? If its Cooper or Stevens, then I understand the delay.I like the idea of bringing in new blood into the organization. This guy is younger as well and might have fresh ideas on motivating and running the team.

Avatar
#34 Wanyes bastard child
June 11 2012, 05:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props
Dman09 wrote:

How slow are the blogs and such going to be when the team is consistently doing good and people don't have as much to b*tch about.

Have you read Canucks army lately?

Avatar
#35 Quicksilver ballet
June 11 2012, 05:45PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Appologies Jay Dubya.

Didn't read the fine print. You're right, the Oilers could sure use this kind of guy on the coaching staff.

Avatar
#37 David S
June 11 2012, 06:41PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
TigerUnderGlass wrote:

What about international experience? What about his level of poise?

Your analysis now, as it was before, is woefully incomplete.

Are you kidding me man? Have you checked out those ads? POISE-WISE, THEY'RE OFF THE CHART!

#Yelling

Avatar
#38 michael
June 11 2012, 06:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Snowballs chance in hell. No experience at the NHL level? No way is Tambo hitching his wagon to that kind of nag.My money is on Sutter.

Avatar
#39 kevin
June 11 2012, 07:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Dream on Jonathan we have the three blind mice running the show. That said without the right product on the ice it won't matter who's coaching this team. Savy managed teams are making player movements now. Note the wings moving their free agent. We're looking for a coach. Yes you need a coach but you need two plus to assess? Let's be real this is no where near a playoff team. To be quite honest we shouldn't even be talking about a coaching vacancy. Renney was quite able for where this team is at. Oh well more venting

Avatar
#40 striatic
June 11 2012, 07:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

with MacT as a reserve option if the wheels fall off, i think you go with Cooper.. but i want to know WHY he's a good coach.

.. beyond the ability to blow magical gold dust out of the palm of his hand.

Avatar
#41 oilredemption
June 11 2012, 07:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

cooper yak shultz and latendresse and resign smyth and get extensions to gagner and dubynk and petry and this offseason will be an absolute success... now is this too much for u Tambo?

Avatar
#42 striatic
June 11 2012, 07:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

by which i mean that Willis has done a good job of detailing Cooper's track record and coaching experience in an awesomely thorough but succinct manner but i'd like to hear if his approach to coaching is notable, remarkable, unique, creative etc.

Avatar
#43 nathan
June 11 2012, 07:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

"THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN HOCKEY"

Was more thinking of Cooper joining MacT in the society of uncompromising men... clap clap

Avatar
#44 a lg dubl dubl
June 11 2012, 07:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@oilredemption

I picture Dithers saying something like this:

"you want me to do more than just say 1 name on draft day!?....o botha(winnie the pooh voice included)

Avatar
#45 TigerUnderGlass
June 11 2012, 07:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
David S wrote:

Are you kidding me man? Have you checked out those ads? POISE-WISE, THEY'RE OFF THE CHART!

#Yelling

I'm just saying that I think it is preposterous that Willis would go on record regarding the best candidate to coach the Oilers without addressing the issue of Poise.

Which candidate has the most poise - which candidate has shown that he can develop poise in young players - which candidate inspires poise in the teams veterans - which candidate will play Khabibulin a minimum of 45 games to demonstrate the poise of a champion to the youth - these are questions too big to ignore.

Avatar
#46 godot10
June 11 2012, 08:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Before "we" get ahead of ourselves....

1) Cooper supposedly has two years left on his contract. Steve Yzerman would have to give permission for the Oilers to talk to him.

2) Unlike the NFL, the NHL does not have firm rules about what compensation is involved if one hires people away from another organization. So Yzerman could demand compensation.

Note: In the NFL, if you offer the coach a promotion, there is no compensation required. The NHL has no rules. Yzerman could demand the first pick in the draft, for example.

Avatar
#47 BlacqueJacque
June 11 2012, 08:27PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Attaboy, Willis. Fight the good fight.

Just be sure that the coaching job will go to some other ex-Oiler buddy of Katz. ;)

Avatar
#48 DSF
June 11 2012, 09:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Jonathan Willis wrote:

Well, we won't get to start talking about free agents and the draft until May and hopefully June, so I think we'll be even busier! It really stinks, as a writer, running out of game action to talk about in April every year!

December.

Avatar
#49 stevezie
June 11 2012, 09:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Would he take an associate coach job if it came to that? The Oilers can't be the only team concerned about his total lack of any NHL experience, getting some as an associate might be more to his benefit than ours.

Avatar
#50 Walter Sobchak
June 11 2012, 10:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I was all in favor of hiring Krueger, but the more I thought about it and the recent hiring of Mac-T have changed my mind.

Tambellini will hire the most experienced coach, if nothing but to save his own arse.

Sutter’s résumé is the best of the three coaches’s talked about here, especially with youth.

After all, what’s the difference between Cooper and Nelson? I wiould consider hiring Cooper a slap in the face to Nelson.

Comments are closed for this article.