After Jeff Daniels was relieved of his coaching duties last spring, many anxiously awaited the name of his replacement. Mark Morris, who most recently served as an assistant for the Florida Panthers, was named by the Hurricanes last week as the Checkers new head coach.
Morris has been touted for his proven win record at the AHL level and as a leading coach in NCAA. The statistics I find even more impressive than winning percentage, however, is the ability to develop championship players at the AHL and NHL level.
Morris’ AHL coaching experience comes from the Manchester Monarchs, where he spent eight seasons, becoming the winningest coach in Manchester history. The Monarchs were a part of the LA Kings organization (the club is moving to Ontario, California next season to become the Reign). During Morris’ tenure in Manchester, many of his players graduated to the NHL and won two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 (with the potential for more in the future.) A few of Morris’ former players in Manchester who won championships with the Kings include:
Jonathan Bernier, Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser, Martin Jones, Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Jonathan Quick, Tyler Toffoli, Slava Voynov, and Kevin Westgarth
Last month, the Monarchs won the AHL’s Calder Cup, and while Morris was no longer the coach in Manchester, his fingerprints are all over the 2015 championship (just like they are on the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cups) through the players he spent eight seasons developing.
During Morris’ tenure in Manchester, the NHL club changed coaches a number of times. From Morris’ winning record with the Monarchs, it’s shows that he was able to adapt to new coaching styles from the parent club, and continue to develop players in the vision of the Kings organization. Earlier today, Morris affirmed it would be a continuing trend. “We’re going to play Carolina’s systems, there’s no doubt about that.”
When asked about his experience with Manchester, Coach Morris was very candid.
“Winning is hard. You just can’t flick a switch. It takes time. You’ve got to work on fundamentals of the game. There’s no secret to it other than the fact that you have to be thorough,” Morris said. “Without good players, it’s hard to make it happen, but you can take players that perhaps don’t have the confidence and pull them up and raise them to another level. You have to keep people accountable and responsible and make them realize that, in the end, it’s how hard they play for one another. We can wish winning to happen, but in the end good teams win because they play hard for each other.”
Now – a more personal explanation of why I’m excited about Morris’ upcoming debut in Charlotte. I was born in L.A. I’m a Kings fan, through and through, so clearly, I like seeing someone with ties to that organization come to Charlotte. But more than that, when I look at the past five or six seasons in the Kings organization at both the AHL and NHL levels, I see a pattern of success and growth. A winning NHL team doesn’t always equal a winning AHL team, or vice versa. With the way many teams develop prospects, often the NHL team may struggle while the AHL thrives with young talent on their way up. The reverse of course, can also be true, but during Morris’ time in Manchester, both the AHL and NHL squads in the Kings organization were thriving, despite being thousands of miles apart.
Morris is a development coach. It’s something I believe the Checkers has lacked over the past five seasons. Morris is a teacher, a mentor, a true young man’s coach. From his days in the NCAA and AHL, he has learned how to work with young players.
“What I’ve learned over time is that people develop at different rates. You can never count a kid out,” Morris said, “Sometimes you may think a guy’s career has a ceiling, but I’ve learned over time that you just have to be patient as an organization, specifically as a coach. “
Can this be something in the Checkers future? I believe so. With the continued strong relationship between Charlotte and Raleigh and a new vision from Coach Morris, the future looks bright.
“The important part is creating that expectation that we’re going to win,” Morris said, “We expect to win and we’ll find ways to make that happen. There’s no shortcuts.”
I can’t wait until November 7… can you?