There was some moving and shaking in the Central Division today as new faces will be behind benches and in pressboxes whenever the next NHL season begins. It’s not unusual to see new coaches joining NHL squads in the offseason, but today is usually the end of the second month of the NHL season as opposed to any sort of offseason. Since it is the offseason currently, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets were busy today as they introduced new staff who will help guide their teams to the playoffs and beyond with these new brains adding knowledge and information to the teams.
We’ll start in Chicago where they were the busiest of the two teams as they introduced three new members to Chicago fans. The first new coach likely needs no introduction to NHL fans after her amazing showing at the NHL All-Star Game, but Kendall Coyne Schofield’s amazing career with Team USA should supercede that one instance because she’s been an amazing player for a long time. On top of that, her work on NBC Sports broadcasts of NHL hockey shows she has a deep knowledge of the game as well, so it makes sense for the Blackhawks to hire her as a coach.
Kendall Coyne Schofield was hired today to serve as the Player Development Coach and Youth Hockey Growth Specialist for the Chicago Blackhawks. Along with the second coach I’ll discuss in a second, Coyne’s main role with be working with the Rockford IceHogs’ coaches to develop the skill sets of the Chicago prospects in Rockford. In her role as a Youth Hockey Growth Specialist, Coyne will be oversee and administer “grassroots youth hockey programs and clinics, implementation of girls’ hockey programming and the continued enhancement of her namesake all-girls program ‘Golden Coynes.'” Coyle seems very qualified for skills development roles thanks to her consistent training for the US Olympic Team that has made her one of the best players on the planet, and having her as a role model for youth and girls’ hockey in the US is a great move by the Blackhawks thanks to her celebrity.
The second coach I mentioned above is former NHL player Erik Condra who was hired as a Player Development Coach as well. Condra is likely known from his time with the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Dallas Stars, so he likely will know the ins and outs of what skills are needed and valued in NHL circles. Condra’s walked the walk, so his experiences will go a long way in helping the prospects on the IceHogs become better players with NHL-ready skills.
The Blackhawks weren’t done there, though, as they hired Juan Gonzalez as the Rockford IceHogs’ Strength and Conditioning Coach. Gonzalez comes to the Blackhawks after working with the USA Hockey National Development Program as a strength and conditioning advisor for the U17 and U18 hockey teams. Gonalez is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and has worked with athletes from a number of sports as a certified trainer.
“Adding talented people with diverse and multi-faceted backgrounds like Kendall, Erik, and Juan enhances our operations as we assess the changing landscape of hockey at all levels and continue to build and maintain a system of elite hockey,” Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman said today. “Each of these individuals brings unique experience to their position, and we are excited to welcome them to the Blackhawks family.”
The other team doing some adding to their bench today was the Winnipeg Jets who hired Brandon Wheat Kings head coach Dave Lowry as their new assistant coach to replace Todd Woodcroft after he took the head coaching job at the University of Vermont. If you’re wondering about this Lowry guy and Jets centerman Adam Lowry being related, the answer is yes, father Dave will now coach son Adam at the NHL level.
“I’d totally understand if he wasn’t comfortable with me coming in and being part of the staff,” Dave Lowry explained today, “this wouldn’t have been something I continued to pursue. With Adam’s blessing, I recognize that he’s an established player in the National Hockey League, and it should be an easy transition.”
According to reports, Jets head coach Paul Maurice had wanted Dave Lowry on his staff as far back as 2016, asking Dave to join the Jets at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. After discussions, both agreed that it wasn’t the right time for the elder Lowry to take a spot on the bench with his son’s NHL career just beginning. Apparently, Dave, Adam, and Paul all agree this is now the right time.
Lowry had a long NHL career, but his coaching career saw him joined the Calgary Hitmen as an assistant coach in 2005 before becoming the head coach with the WHL Calgary squad in 2008 where he led the Hitmen to a 59-9-4 record before losing in the WHL Final. In 2009, he joined the Calgary Flames as an assistant coach where he served for three seasons before he took the head coaching position with the WHL’s Victoria Royals. He spent five seasons as the head guy in Victoria where he posted a record of 209-124-27, but never advancing past the WHL’s second playoff round. From there, he spent two seasons in Los Angeles as an assistant coach before taking the head coaching position with Brandon last season where he went 35-22-6 before the season was stopped.
If there’s a positive, Dave Lowry’s work as a WHL head coach should be commended both for his overall record and for never having a team where he was the head coach miss the playoffs. That’s pretty good when one considers the player turnover on some of the WHL teams, and Dave never missed the playoffs once. Not bad at all, I must say.
Where there may be a negative in Lowry’s work is that his best players have all peaked in the WHL. While a number of them are currently playing in the KHL or battling for NHL jobs, it’s pretty clear that Lowry squeezed the best out of those players while they were 17 or 18. Will he have that same effect on NHL players? It’s hard to say based upon the teams he served on as an NHL assistant coach, but there’s hope he might be able to find some way to elevate players like Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, and Sami Niku who have some limited NHL success.
“The biggest thing is it’s all about building relationships and connecting with players,” Lowry stated matter-of-factly. “For me the big thing is to be there when they need you and to really learn and identify how and what makes each player tick and how do they learn. With an established coaching staff, I’ll be able to pick their brain to be able to figure out how to work and how to teach these individual players.”
We’ll see if the Jets can benefit from Lowry’s experience, but it’s pretty clear that both the Blackhakws and Jets are getting themselves set for a 2020-21 season the best ways they can when it comes to the people giving players the coaching they need. Will it translate to wins this season or in the future will be seen as the seasons play out, but opportunities present hope that things will improve for both these teams.
At the end of the day, both teams improved.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!