Sharks’ bench to have a Windsor flavour

BlackburnNews.com file photo of former Windsor Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner, July 3, 2015. (Photo by Jason Viau)

There will be a lot of Windsor amongst the San Jose Sharks for the next NHL season.

The club announced its coaching staff for the 2020-2021 campaign, and for Windsor Spitfires fans, there are a couple of familiar faces, both with track records of success in Windsor.

The Sharks confirmed Tuesday that they have retained Bob Boughner as their head coach, and Boughner has brought on Rocky Thompson as an assistant.

Boughner served as the Sharks’ interim bench boss for 39 games this past season after Peter DeBoer was let go. In the pandemic-shortened campaign, San Jose did not qualify for a playoff spot, but general manager Doug Wilson said Tuesday that Boughner was the right person to carry on.

“Bob did a tremendous job last season, getting our group back to playing with an identity and structure that we need in order to be successful,” said Wilson in a statement. “We saw a marked improvement in our play in several key areas during the second half of the season, before losing some key players to injury.”

Boughner is a familiar name in Windsor-Essex, having grown up in the area. Once he retired from the NHL, he went to coaching, taking the helm of his hometown Spits and guiding the team to Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010. He remains a part-owner of the club.

In the NHL, Boughner was an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets for one season and was previously an assistant with the Sharks. He was head coach of the Florida Panthers from 2017 to 2019 but did not guide them to the playoffs. Boughner then rejoined the Sharks organization.

Thompson is best known in Windsor for coaching the Spitfires between 2015 and 2017, with a Memorial Cup title in his second year of coaching. He spent the next three years as the head coach of the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights. He guided the Knights to a Calder Cup Finals appearance in 2019.

For San Jose, Thompson will focus his expertise on defence and the power play.

The Sharks’ coaching staff is rounded out by assistant coach John Madden. The University of Michigan alum played 13 NHL seasons, winning two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils and one with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was previously an assistant with the Florida Panthers.

The other San Jose coaches will be Dan Darrow handling video, Evgeni Nabokov as goaltending coach, Charlie Townsend as hockey analyst and coaching staff assistant, and Mike Ricci as NHL development coach.