Rick Bowness to join Lightning Staff as Associate Coach

Rick Bowness has a new job in Florida.
Screengrab via Canucks.com

Of the three former Canucks coaches who were relieved of their duties two weeks ago, Rick Bowness has become the first to land a new job. As reported by multiple sources including Ben Kuzma in Vancouver and Renaud Lavoie in Quebec, Rick Bowness is poised to join the Tampa Bay Lightning as an associate coach on wonderkid John Cooper’s staff. (Update: those reports have now been confirmed by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston).

There had been ample speculation that Bowness and Vigneault, two coaches who have basically worked together forever, would be something of a package deal this offseason. Obviously with Bowness heading down to Tampa, that won’t be the case. 

Read past the jump for more.

Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Bowness and the Lightning were negotiating a deal over the weekend. He added:

"Tampa Bay has been in the market for an assistant since last month when it announced Dan Lacroix, who handled the defense and penalty kill, would not be given a new contract.

Bowness would give the Lightning what it has lacked behind the bench since assistant Wayne Fleming left the team in April 2011 because of brain cancer — an assistant with a deep resevoir of NHL knowledge. And general manaer Steve Yzerman, after announcing Lacroix’s departure, has said he would look for such a person."

So Bowness will take on the job in Tampa that he held for the past seven seasons in Vnacouver (running the defence). This past season the Lightning leaned heavily on long-time Canuck Sami Salo and Victor Hedman in shutdown minutes, while Eric Brewer and Matt Carle were a secondary pairing. That’s not a woeful top-four, but the Lightning were still an abysmal puck possession club this past season and Bowness will have a tall task ahead of him.

At least the former Canucks assistant will have some serious talent to work with. The Lightning have three legitimate top-four guys on the roster, including one of the best young two-way defenceman in the game in Victor Hedman. There’s a fair bit of talent in the pipeline as well with Mark Barbiero, Radko Gudas, and Onrej Sustr likely to compete for roster spots at Lightning training camp this upcoming fall.

Vancouver’s blueline was criticized for weak defensive coverage this past season, and were deployed in an eyebrow raising way in the postseason. But to Bowness’ credit, his blue-line personnel were always very good at involving themselves offensively during his time in Vancouver. With the likes of Carle, Hedman, Sustr and Salo to work with in Tampa, we can expect Bowness’ blue-liners to be very productive next season.