When the St. Louis Blues removed Mike Yeo as head coach last month and replaced him with assistant Craig Berube in the interim, experienced hockey mind Larry Robinson left his front office post to assist with the transition behind the bench. Robinson, the Blues’ Senior Consultant to Hockey Operations, took over as an temporary assistant coach, with GM Doug Armstrong noting that it would be for “three weeks to a month”. The brief change of duties lasted a bit longer than expected, but St. Louis has now announced that Robinson has returned to his front office role. A legendary player with the Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings, Robinson was a nine-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Norris Trophy recipient, and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and holds the NHL record for plus/minus at +730. Robinson was also a member of the New Jersey Devils coaching staff that won three Stanley Cups in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. While his coaching experience was surely a big help in the successful changeover process behind the St. Louis bench, the team clearly wants to make use of his full set of hockey knowledge back up in the front office.
- Another interim head coach, Scott Gordon of the Philadelphia Flyers, left an opening at the AHL level, where he had been the head coach of team’s minor league affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. When Gordon was promoted earlier this month, assistant Kerry Huffman took over temporarily while the organization decided on its next steps. Today, the Phantoms announced that the decision has been made to keep Huffman as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Huffman has been an assistant for the Lehigh Valley for three years after making a big jump from the junior level as the head coach of the NAHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. He also skated in more than 400 NHL games with the Flyers, Quebec Nordiques, and Ottawa Senators, bringing ample experience as a pro player. The Flyers have brought in some outside help for Huffman though, adding that Terry Murray has returned to the organization as an assistant for the Phantoms for the rest of the year. Murray, a long-time NHL and AHL coach, has previous stints as the head coach of the Flyers as well as the Phantoms, not to mention time as the bench boss for the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, and Los Angeles Kings. Murray brings an incredible amount of experience and intelligence to Lehigh Valley which should help the team and its young players through this transition.
- One of the more recognizable names at the ongoing World Junior Championships is not on the ice, but behind the bench. Team Finland counts recent NHLer Tuomo Ruutu as one of their assistants at the tournament, which by all accounts is Ruutu’s first official coaching experience. Ruutu, 35, last played in the NHL in 2015-16 and retired from playing after a year abroad in the NLA in 2016-17. A veteran of 735 NHL games, Ruutu was a hard-working, intelligent two-way player over many seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, and New Jersey Devils. Ruutu has all the makings of a good coach and it will be interesting to see where the next stage of his hockey career goes after this World Juniors experience.