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Jon Cooper was an emerging star who was fresh faced when he coached his Norfolk Admirals team to the American Hockey League Calder Cup title in 2012. This came after a 28-game win streak.
He is now just one victory away becoming the second coach under the NHL’s salary cap to win the Stanley Cup twice in a row.
Cooper sees many commonalities between his nine-year tenure at Norfolk and Tampa Bay. He admits, however, that he is much more proficient at his job due to nearly a decade of being behind the bench for the top hockey league in all of the world.
Cooper stated that he is a more experienced, seasoned and better coach now than he was in his youth. “I have gained a lot of knowledge from coaches and watching them coach. It takes time to see the tendencies and areas you need to improve on, as you get older. It’s why it’s called “experience.”
This moment is built upon the experience gained in 2012. Cooper was not the only key player in the Admirals’ success. Lightning forwards Tyler Johnson (ondrej palat) and Alex Killorn (ondrej palat) were also crucial.
Only three Norfolk players had more points during that playoff run than Johnson. Johnson rose up in the lineup after Killorn was hurt in the final against Montreal. He played in a lesser role in 2020 bubble playoffs.
Cooper was not surprised when Johnson scored twice to put Tampa Bay ahead 3-0 going into Game 3.
Cooper explained that Tyler Johnson’s trophy box is quite full because Tyler Johnson was an outstanding team player. “We never lost our faith in Tyler Johnson, and he never lost his faith in himself.” Tyler has shown that adapting to changing roles is essential.
Johnson, Killorn and Palat are all links to Tampa Bay’s run to the 2015 final where the Lightning lost against Chicago. They were able to see how difficult it was to win it all and that helped fuel them for the finals last year.
Johnson stated, “Don’t know how many opportunities you’re going get.” “It was so much fun last year, and I’m sure it will be again. It’s a great feeling to be this close.
Cooper recognizes many similarities between 2021 Lightning and the 2012 Admirals. Andrei Vasilevskiy working towards the goal, Dustin Tokarski leading like Norfolk captain Mike Angelidis. Steven Stamkos also leading like Norfolk captain Mike Angelidis.
Cooper, who was nominated for Washington’s head post in the summer 2012 and was then promoted to Tampa Bay coach. Both teams had goaltending. They also had strong Ds, and both had forwards. However, the most striking thing about them was their mental toughness. It was possible to go into games as early as a game and feel like the lead.
It has been so against the Canadiens. Through three games, the Lightning have never trailed and had an opportunity to cap it off just like the Admirals — with a sweep in the final.
Cooper, the 53 year old attorney, was able to make all of this possible. He quit his job as an attorney in 1999 to work full time as a coach.
Ryan McDonagh, a veteran defenceman, said that it is possible to paint a black-and white picture many times. He can be specific and analytical and keep things in perspective. “He does a great work of keeping that message positive. “We know that when he takes things apart, he’s going set ourselves up and set the team up for success.
Stamkos, one the few Lightning players who were there before Cooper, feels as though he has adopted the confident coach’s attitude. His approach to playoffs and series certainly shows that.
Stamkos stated, “He wants guys go out there to do what their best at and feel confident in doing so.” “He’s grown as a coach in Tampa. However, he’s kept that expectation: that men go out and play with what’s helped them get to this point.”
Cooper is expected to be the leading candidate for Canada’s Olympic Team Coach, assuming that the NHL and Canada reach an agreement to send their players to Beijing. He would then get the chance to coach Lightning star Brayden Point, Canadiens goalie Carey Price and defenseman Shea Weber, and maybe Stamkos and against the likes of Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman.
This is a shorter tournament than the longer test. Cooper has already passed the exam for handling the lengthy NHL season and playoffs.
McDonagh stated that McDonagh is “one of the best at making adjustments within a series, or adapting to things in a season… and handling any adversity in a different manner, whether it’s a man getting hurt or slump in our play.” “Just has a great sense of where the room’s at at all times and when to step back and let the players handle it or when he needs to step up and let his voice be heard.”