Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Thursday the organization will begin a search for a new American Hockey League coach, as Rocky Thompson is taking a job with an NHL club.
Thompson had been the coach of the Chicago Wolves the past three seasons, the now-former AHL affiliate of the Golden Knights. Thompson stepped down from Chicago on May 16, with signs pointing to him joining the Silver Knights in Henderson.
That will not be the case, and the search for a new AHL coach is underway.
“We’ve had real good contributions from the Wolves, most notably as this season ended, most notably this season with Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Roy becoming real strong players on our team, both of who spent quite a bit of time in Chicago during their early pro careers,” McCrimmon said. “Thank you to Rocky and good luck with his next step.”
McCrimmon said there’s no set timetable to hire the first coach in Silver Knights history, given there’s no clarity on the NHL’s critical calendar beyond this season. The AHL canceled its season May 11 amidst concerns involving COVID-19.
The Wolves were fourth in the Central Division at the time of the pause and were looking to make another run in the Calder Cup Playoffs; Chicago made the Cup Final last season before losing to the Charlotte Checkers in five games.
“I believe it’s going to be a really attractive job,” McCrimmon said. “I think we’ll have some good candidates. It’s an important position in an organization. We’ll make this a priority in terms of the effort we put in cultivating candidates, doing due diligence, references and all that goes with hiring a person like this. How long that will take exactly I’m not sure, but it will be a priority for us.”
Sportsnet reported last July that the Toronto Maple Leafs were trying to nab Thompson for their coaching staff, but the Golden Knights would have to release him from his contract.
At 42 years old, Thompson is one of the rising coaching prospects in hockey. After a run with the Windsor Spitfires that culminated in the 2017 Memorial Cup, Thompson coached the Wolves to consecutive division titles and the aforementioned spot in the Calder Cup Final.
Darren Dreger reported Thompson is set to join the San Jose Sharks’ coaching staff. If he does join the Golden Knights’ biggest rivals, he will be added to Bob Boughner’s staff, as Dreger reported the Sharks are preparing to offer Boughner, who replaced the fired Peter DeBoer on Dec. 11, a contract extension. The Mercury News followed that with general manager Doug Wilson not confirming anything involving the coaching staff.
Wherever Thompson ends up, he’s earned the right to an NHL job after a 113-71-18-11 stint with the Wolves.
“I really evaluate myself at the end of the day whether I’m doing that or I’m not doing that,” Thompson told the Chicago Sun Times in May. “I can walk away from this experience in the last three years in Chicago really happy with the evolution of where I am as a coach, and that I continue to move in the right direction and I continue to learn, which is so important, so when I do get the opportunity at the next level, I’ll be ready for it and I can be successful at it and do the best that I could to get to that position.”