Sports Ben Kuzma: Is there room behind Canucks bench for Green and Lowry?

11:36  21 april  2017
11:36  21 april  2017 Source:   The Province

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In a connect-the-dots business, the level of interest in Dave Lowry becoming part of the Canucks’ coaching staff is understandable.

The former grinding winger was a Vancouver teammate of general manager Jim Benning and director of collegiate scouting Stan Smyl in the mid-1980s. However, it’s what Lowry has accomplished since retiring after the 2003-04 season and logging 1,084 career games with five NHL teams that has piqued the interest as a possible replacement for the fired Willie Desjardins, or to work in some capacity within the organization.

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Utica Comets coach Travis Green has been groomed for the head position and with four AHL seasons to his credit, he’s considered the front-runner. Dan Bylsma, who was fired Thursday by the Buffalo Sabres, was interviewed by the Canucks in the search to replace the fired John Tortorella and could be interviewed again in the due-diligence process.

However, Bylsma has a college connection with Los Angeles GM Rob Blake and could be in contention to replace fired Kings coach Darryl Sutter.

There’s something about Lowry’s connection here and body of work that’s attractive. He was named WHL coach of the year twice in the last four seasons and guided Team Canada in the 2016 world junior championship. At the NHL level, communication and preparation were his strong suits and he wasn’t afraid to stand up to veterans and commanded respect for not giving in.

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If Green lands the head Canucks gig, then Lowry would merit consideration to guide the Comets or perhaps serve in an assistant capacity in Vancouver. That might be a tough sell.

Lowry has paid the coaching dues for a dozen seasons — nine in the WHL with Calgary and Victoria, and three as a Flames assistant — and the 52-year-old Sudbury, Ont., native is convinced he’s ready to run an NHL bench. He has reportedly talked to the Canucks, but hasn’t spoken publicly about his level of interest. But others will speak for him.

Jamie McLennan and Lowry were Flames teammates and then served as Calgary assistants to Brent Sutter from 2009-12.

“You knew he was a smart guy and that he was always going to be in hockey because he had coach qualities with the way he played and understood the game,” said McLennan, a former NHL goalie and current hockey analyst.

“He wasn’t a 50-goal scorer (his career high was 18) and when you’re a guy who’s a role player and maximizes his skill, those guys usually have a better understanding of what it takes to play in the NHL and stay in the NHL. And Dave was that.

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“He was good at identifying what guys needed. Some needed a rub on the back and some needed a kick in the ass and Dave wasn’t shy. It almost felt like he was more suited to be a head coach (with the Flames) than an assistant because a lot of times as an assistant you have to be the good cop.

“He’s a sharp guy. It doesn’t surprise me that his name is mentioned for head-catching situations. And you want to pick the right job and not hitch your wagon to somebody else’s success as an assistant coach. I see Dave as a head guy.”

Lowry was a pain to play against and McLennan is convinced that will help him direct his own bench at the NHL level. He had 176 penalty minutes in the 1986-87 season with the Canucks and had 168 minutes in the 1990-91 season with the St. Louis Blues. He wouldn’t give in on the ice or off of it.

“Some coaches will conform and guys respected him for what he believed in — and he played like that,” added McLennan. “Whatever it took to be effective, whether that was getting under the skin of opposing players or being hard on the goalie in front of the net. He maximized himself and he’s taken that into coaching.”

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How the Canucks view their coaching situation — and how they’re going to replace fired assistants Perry Pearn and Doug Lidster — is open to interpretation because they’re not commenting on the process. They have retained assistant Doug Jarvis and a new coach usually gets to choose an assistant.

Desjardins brought Lidster with him from the AHL Texas Stars and it’s fair to suggest that if Green takes over, he may want Comets assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner to run the defence. That would leave room for another assistant.

The fact Lowry had considerable autonomy with the Flames works for him in understanding the trickle-down effect of command as an assistant and how he might run his own bench, if it comes to that.

“We had a real good dynamic in Calgary because there was a lot of trust from Brent Sutter for people in their roles,” said McLennan. “He allowed a lot of freedom for assistant coaches to voice what they thought was needed and Dave would run-point on a lot of practices and lineups.

“He was kind of like Brent’s right-hand guy and you could see that he was very trusted.”

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