In the NHL parity era, where breed franchises belong to a bygone era, Tampa Bay has been one of the league’s most successful teams since Cooper took charge behind the bench near the end of the 2012-13 season.
For five of those years, from 2013 to 2018, Cooper helped Rick Bowness, a veteran defensive coach who left for Dallas at the start of the 2018-19 season. He was named the Stars’ interim head coach midway through the season, following Jim Montgomery’s sacking.
Bowness was also in the 2011 Finals with Vancouver and the 2015 Tampa team.
“Three kicks in that – the past nine years – it’s disappointing,” he said. “When sitting here as a coach, you have to beat the punches. We don’t rule out anyone’s effort or commitment. We faced a short team. We lost to a better team.”
Cuper is currently the longest-running coach in the league. Under his leadership, the club has now made the playoffs in six of its seven full seasons, reached the Eastern Conference Finals twice and lost to Chicago in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals before finally finishing the job this year – the Sun Belt championship team made dreams come true in an empty square in Northern Alberta.
“It’s easy to talk about now,” said Cooper. “Bottom line, there are some talented people that I think success finds right away. But in team sports, I really believe failure – you have to feel it before you can achieve success.
“You wear bumps, you wear bruises, you wear heartache,” he continued. “You wear emotions, you wear them on your sleeve and they keep you awake at night, but they also push you. It almost becomes – fear of losing is greater than the joy of winning, and we will not be denied.
“Our players are not going to be deprived. We had to get up here and talk about and own what happened last year, but the players took it on a chin, and I couldn’t be happier for these guys because they deserve it.”