Lightning hire Jon Cooper as head coach

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s search for a new coach didn’t last long.

The Lightning announced Monday night that Jon Cooper, coach of the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate, will become the franchise’s eighth head coach.

He replaces Guy Boucher, who was fired by vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman after Tampa Bay’s 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Boucher finished 97-78-20 in two-plus seasons with the Lightning.

“We are very pleased to introduce Jon as our head coach today,” Yzerman said in a release. “He has had success at every level he has coached and is extremely familiar with our organization, as well as our players. He has a tremendous record at all levels and we feel he is ready to make the move to the NHL.”

Cooper, 45, offers a history with the Tampa Bay organization. Before arriving at Syracuse, he coached the Norfolk Admirals, Tampa Bay’s previous AHL affiliate, for two seasons.

In 2011-12, Norfolk won a franchise-record 55 games. As of Monday night, the Crunch led the AHL with a 86 points and a 39-18-3 record. Cooper has earned a 133-62-26 record in his AHL coaching career.

“There is no other team in hockey that I would rather be coaching than the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Cooper said in a release. “It’s quite a tribute to Steve Yzerman, (owner) Jeff Vinik and the organization they are building that they are proud to promote from within. I look forward to getting to know the players and getting to work right away.”

Cooper’s hire comes after Yzerman cited the team’s struggling direction as reason for a change. The Lightning enter a home game against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday as losers of three consecutive games.

They sit in fourth place in the Southeast Division with a 13-18-1 record, nine points behind the leader Winnipeg Jets. They are six points behind the New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Assistants Dan Lacroix and Steve Thomas, who shared coaching duties in a 3-2 loss to the Jets on Sunday, will remain behind the bench Tuesday. Cooper will make his debut at home Friday against the New Jersey Devils.

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