Yzerman touts Cooper's familiarity with Lightning organization - WFLA News Channel 8

Yzerman touts Cooper's familiarity with Lightning organization, players

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Jon Cooper has never been on an NHL bench before as either a player or a coach.  But his success in the Lightning's minor leagues have made him a hot coaching candidate around the NHL before the Bolts hired him Monday night.

While fans and media speculated if Cooper or former long-time Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff should succeed Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay, there was no debate for Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

"To be perfectly honest with you, I called Lindy to let him know what I was doing," Yzerman said at a Tuesday press conference. "I had made my mind up and that we were going with Jon Cooper."

Like Boucher, Cooper comes up from the Lightning's minor leagues. But Yzerman still considers Cooper the best hire, instead of simply a safe hire.

"Most importantly, he was in our organization. I worked with him closely for three years," Yzerman said. "He's watched all our games. He knows all of our players."

Cooper knows many of the Lightning's younger players firsthand. This season alone, Cooper has coached ten players on the current Lightning roster.

Rookie Cory Conacher played for Cooper in Norfolk last season, and he said to expect a physical style of play. "He likes the character guys. We might not have had the most skilled team last season, but we so much character," said Conacher. "We had guys who block shots with one second left in the game even if we were up 6-0."

That Norfolk Admirals squad raised the Calder Cup last season after winning the AHL championship. Cooper's most recent team, the Syracuse Crunch, currently owns the best record in the AHL.

Still, Cooper's didn't take the usual path to the NHL.  Before he went into coaching, Cooper was a criminal defense attorney. "Yeah, he is definitely a lawyer," said rookie Tyler Johnson, who also played for Cooper earlier this year. "He's one of those guys who you don't want to get into a little [debate] with because he'll make you feel silly. He's a really smart guy."

And you can even find Cooper on twitter at, what else, @Cooperslaw.

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