Toronto cut ties with their entire AHL coaching staff a little over six weeks ago – in fact, it was on the same day they announced Kyle Dubas wouldn’t be returning as general manager. Head coach Greg Moore, as well as assistants A.J. MacLean and John Snowden, were let go after the team lost in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs to the Rochester Americans.
Now Gruden, 53, comes in as an AHL rookie. He’s spent the last five seasons in NHL coaching roles, serving on the New York Islanders’ bench for four years from 2018 to 2022 before joining Jim Montgomery’s staff in Boston for 2022-23. Before that, he spent three seasons (2015 to 2018) as an OHL head coach with the Flint Firebirds and Hamilton Bulldogs, as well as four seasons as an assistant coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program (2011 to 2015). There, he was part of the 2012 and 2014 gold-medal-winning teams at the World Juniors, and he also guided Hamilton to an OHL championship in 2018, his final season.
A former NHL defenseman, Gruden amassed 92 games over six seasons with the Bruins, Ottawa Senators, and Washington Capitals. The father of current Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jonathan Gruden, he last played in 2004 in Washington.
Maple Leafs assistant general manager and director of minor league operations Ryan Hardy had this to say:
We’re very pleased to name John as the Head Coach of the Toronto Marlies. John has supported the development and performance of his players throughout his coaching career while delivering team success at every level. His resume from the U.S. National Team Development Program to the OHL and eventually the NHL has armed him with a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be invaluable to both players and staff.
He’ll head up a Marlies roster next season that’s expected to include prospects like 2019 fourth-round pick Nick Abruzzese, 2020 second-round pick Roni Hirvonen, and 2020 third-round pick Topi Niemela. The team has not yet announced his assistants.