The Devils named two to John Hynes’ coaching staff to replace Geoff Ward, who left to take a position on the staff of the Calgary Flames and Ryane Clowe, who took the head coach’s job with the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL.
The new coaches are Rick Kowalsky, formerly head coach of the AHL’s Binghamton Devils and former NHLer Mike Grier.
Kowalsky joins Hynes’ staff after more than a decade with the organization. The 46-year-old played for the Trenton Titans in 2005 (where he was captain) when he won a Kelly Cup in his final season as a pro hockey player. He had played in the ECHL for the Roanoke Express, the Hampton Roads Admirals and the Titans. He also spent some time in the AHL with the Cornwall Aces, Portland Pirates and Norfolk Admirals.
He was named to the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2017.
He began his coaching career in the ECHL as a player-assistant with the Express in 2001-02 and got his first head coaching gig with the Titans in 2006-07. He was promoted within the organization when he took over the Albany Devils in 2010-11 and moved with the team to Binghamton last season.
In 2009, while coaching the renamed Trenton Devils, he was named the John Brophy Award winner as ECHL coach of the year. He won the 2016 Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL coach of the year in 2016 with Albany. Both those years, he coached his teams to the playoffs in their respective leagues.
His AHL coaching record, according to the Devils’ press release, was “281 wins, 249 losses and 82 overtime/shootout losses in 612 games.”
Kowalsky, a native of Simcoe, Ontario, played junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds where he won OHL championships in 1991 and 1992. He was captain of the Sault Ste. Marie team that won the Memorial Cup in 1993. He was the Sabres’ tenth pick, 227th overall in 1992, but never played in the NHL.
The other coach added to the Devils staff today was former NHLer Mike Grier. Grier played 1,060 games in the NHL over 14 seasons from 1996 to 2011. Playing for the Oilers, Capitals, Sabres and Sharks, he had 162 goals and 221 assists totaling 383 points along with 510 penalty minutes in his career. His best season came in 1998-99 with Edmonton when the right winger amassed 20 goals, 24 assists for 44 points. He played in 101 Stanley Cup Playoff games totaling 14 goals and 14 assists (28 points) and 72 PIMs. Although he never won the Stanley Cup, the press release notes that “(h)e made the playoffs in 11 of his 14 seasons” in the NHL.
He was drafted 219th overall in the ninth round of the 1993 NHL Draft by the Blues. Prior to being drafted, the 43-year-old Detroit native played at Boston University. He and Hynes were teammates on the Terriers in college. Grier was an NCAA East First All-Star Team member in 1994-95 and also won the Walter Brown Award that year “as New England’s top player.” That season Boston University also won the Hockey East and NCAA championships.
Grier never played a game in the minors, going straight from college to the NHL with the Oilers. He represented the USA at the 1995 World Juniors and the 2004 World Championship (where he won a bronze medal).
Prior to being hired by the Devils, Grier was a pro scout with the Blackhawks for the last four years and was an assistant coach at his high school alma mater, St. Sebastian’s High School in Needham, Massachusetts. He was also the coach of the Boston Junior Terriers.
On Kowalsky, John Hynes had this to say via the press release: “Rick will be a great addition to our team and this is well-deserved. He and I have had a strong relationship over the past three seasons and he’s done an excellent job in developing our young players. Rick is a high-energy, hard-working coach, great communicator and a tactician who has a great mind for the game.”
On Grier, Hynes said: “We are looking forward to having Mike join our organization. Having played 14 years and over 1,000 NHL games as a forward, Mike will lean on his experience in leadership roles to work with our players. He was a highly-respected teammate and had the ability to relate to all players with his personality, demeanor and experience. These attributes will be valuable in communicating and developing our players, as we continue to build a strong culture.”
Congratulations to both men on joining the NHL coaching ranks and good luck to them as the new season gets underway.