Shortly after it was announced that former Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris would not have his contract renewed by the Kings, Dean Lombardi spoke with LA Kings Insider, saying “His number one interest now, after eight years, is the next challenge. I think it’s important that he go and pursue that right now. There are five or six teams out there, and that’s what he wants to do. We’re fine with that.”
“I think he’s going to get a number of opportunities, and he’s ready for the next step.”
Lombardi was correct in his assessment of both the job market and the readiness of the former Monarchs coach. The winningest coach in Manchester history and the first hockey coach to win 300 games at both the professional and collegiate level, Morris has been hired by Florida General Manager Dale Tallon to serve as an assistant coach under Gerard Gallant, who was hired as the 13th head coach in Panthers history last month. Former Vancouver Canucks assistant coach and Saint John Sea Dogs head coach and general manager Mark Kelly was also hired by Tallon to join a staff that already included John Madden, an assistant coach, and Robb Tallas, the club’s goaltending coach.
“We are pleased to welcome Mike and Mark to our coaching staff,” Tallon said as part of a statement. “They bring to our club a wealth of hockey knowledge and experience and will be the perfect fit to work together with Gerard, John and Robb.”
This is obviously a great step up for Morris, who coached eight players (Quick, Fraser, Voynov, Martinez, Nolan, Lewis, King, Clifford) who won two Stanley Cups with Los Angeles and has proven himself as an astute developer both in the American Hockey League and at Clarkson University, where he coached inbound Panther Willie Mitchell.
Morris served as a special assignments coach and an interim strength and conditioning coach under Marc Crawford with the Vancouver Canucks in 2002-03. In seven seasons with the Monarchs, he posted a record of 338-224-27-39.
In May, Morris told LA Kings Insider, “We’re fortunate to see those kids come along and turn into Stanley Cup winners. It makes me very proud to know we were a part of this.”
CAMPBELL SIGNS WITH ARIZONA: 26-year-old defenseman Andrew Campbell, who made his NHL debut by playing all three games on a late season Vancouver-Calgary-Edmonton swing, will join a new organization for the first time in his career. Manchester’s captain last season, Campbell, affectionately known as “Soup” or “Soupy” to his teammates, has totaled 77 points (13-64=77) in 414 AHL games since he was selected by Los Angeles in the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft. Coyotes GM Don Maloney referred to Campbell as a defenseman with “size and muscle” and noted there will be a good chance for him to earn playing time in the NHL, as Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reported. He’ll get an opportunity to face his former teammates right off the hop when Los Angeles and Arizona open up the preseason with a split-squad set at Staples Center and Jobing.com Arena on September 22.