Portland Winterhawks billionaire owner Bill Gallacher opened up his wallet to ease his fan base into the organization’s next chapter. He convinced Jamie Kompon to leave his assistant coach position with the Chicago Blackhawks to replace Mike Johnston, who left Portland to become the bench boss of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as the club’s head coach and general manager.
“I believe the time was right, the opportunity was right to come to an organization like Portland,” said Kompon at the press conference of his introduction. “I think it’s the right time and the right fit.”
It goes without saying that Kompon has big shoes to fill in Portland. Following inheriting the worst team in the league in 2008, Johnston helped lead the Winterhawks to the finals the last four years in a row. He put together such powerhouse lineups because of his strong record at recruiting his drafted and listed players.
Nonetheless, if anyone can fill Johnston’s shoes, it seems it is Kompon. He spent the last nine years as an assistant coach between the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings. He has two Stanley Cup rings to show for it, winning one with the Kings in 2012 and other with the Blackhawks in 2013. Kompon, however, will have to adjust to coaching teenagers; he has never coached at the major junior level before.
Kompon has inherited a team with a full cupboard. Portland has an elite offense built around Winnipeg Jets prospects Nicolas Petan and Chase De Leo and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand, a strong back end led by Vancouver Canucks prospect Anton Cederholm and 17-year-old Keoni Texeira and a stable goaltender in Phoenix Coyotes prospect Brendan Burke.
Kompon stated at the press conference that the Winterhawks will remain playing their effective high-tempo style. He likens his style of coaching to his predecessor.
“The way Mike coaches and the way the Winterhawks play is my style to a tee,” said Kompon. “My style is Mike Johnston's style…. a high-tempo style. Defence is going to be a key, playing sound defensively and smothering them defensively."
With Johnston moving on from Portland about two weeks ago, the Winterhawks’ search for their new GM-head coach was quite short.
There was speculation Gallacher may make a push to have Travis Green, who led Portland to a WHL championship in 2013 as an interim head coach when Johnston was suspended for player-benefit violations, return to Oregon. Green, though, seems set on staying put with the AHL’s Utica Comets as he turned down an assistant coach offer from the Penguins.
With Green out of the picture, Kompon was the clear-cut best candidate for the job in Portland's eyes because of his impressive hockey resume and a strong reference from Johnston, who was very familiar with him as they coached together within the Kings organization in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen
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