Thrashers name Anderson coach
The Atlanta Thrashers hired John Anderson as their new head coach on Thursday, promoting him from their American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago.
Anderson has won four minor-league titles as a head coach, including the 2008 Calder Cup with the Wolves earlier this month. Anderson, 51, also guided the Wolves to the Calder Cup in 2002 and the International Hockey League's Turner Cup in 1998 and 2000.
And I really like the move.
Anderson's a winner, just like Bruce Boudreau was, and another long-time minor-league coach that's waited an awful long time for a sniff of the big time.
I had the chance to chat with Wolves GM Kevin Cheveldayoff last month about Anderson, and he had nothing but good things to say about his bench boss as a leader, motivator and as someone who really connects with players.
"John obviously had a very good NHL playing career, and a lot of times, NHL playing careers lead right into coaching," Cheveldayoff said. "In John's case, what makes him unique from a lot of other guys that step into the coaching realm is that John so badly wanted to get into coaching that he went right down to the Southern Hockey League, which was at the time the lowest rung of professional hockey. He worked his way up.
"He coached at every single level you can find."
"John relates well to the players. If you had to categorize him as a coach, he’s a players' coach. One thing he has is an ability to get a lot of different styles of players to come together and play as a cohesive unit. Not unlike every other team, you have ebbs and flows in the season, but one thing that I think with John — and he talks about it all the time — is he treats the players the way he wanted to be treated as a player. That’s the kind of first and foremost characteristic of him. Obviously there’s systematic things, there’s coaching things... from a style standpoint, I think John does get the players to play for him. And in today’s world of free agency and players having to pick and choose where they want to go, that can be a pretty important asset."
Anderson's playing career was pretty decent, as Cheveldayoff alluded to. Drafted 11th overall in 1977 by the Maple Leafs, he played 814 NHL games for Toronto, Quebec and Hartford before retiring in 1994 while in the IHL.
A high-flying left winger, he had 282 goals and 631 points after a prolific junior career with the Toronto Marlboros, where he played with Boudreau as a teenager.
"We'd be like proud parents if he got the opportunity to go on to coach in the NHL," Cheveldayoff said. "I know from John's standpoint, he would obviously welcome the opportunity. Like anybody that's at a level below the top level of the game, you want to get there.
"John and Bruce are, literally, best friends. If you check their cellphone records, back and forth, there's probably not a day that goes by that the two of them don't speak with each other. Bruce's story is not unlike John's, and I think the success that Bruce has had, it is a great story because there are a lot of good coaches that work exceptionally hard [in the minors]."
At least he'll have a chance to go head to head with his old pal in the Southeast Division.