After a successful eight-year stint with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, Mark Morris is heading for greener pastures as he makes the jump to the National Hockey League where he will be as assistant coach for the Florida Panthers.
Morris has been the bench boss of the minor-league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings since the 2006-07 season and during his time in Manchester, proceeeded to become the winningest coach in club history.
In his maiden season with the Monarchs, Morris lead his team to a league-best (and tying for a franchise-best) 51 wins during the regular season. This past season, Morris lead the Monarchs to 48 wins, which led the entire American Hockey League.
When it was announced that Mark Morris would not have his contract renewed by the Kings to coach in Manchester for a ninth season, Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi spoke with LA Kings Insider, saying, "“His number one interest now, after eight years, is the next challenge. I think it’s important that he go and pursue that right now. There are five or six teams out there, and that’s what he wants to do. We’re fine with that.”
“I think he’s going to get a number of opportunities, and he’s ready for the next step.”
In his eight seasons in Manchester, the 56-year-old native of Massena, New York, led the Monarchs to the playoffs seven times and to the Conference Finals twice. While he was unable to guide the Monarchs to a Calder Cup win, Morris was integral in the development of eight current Kings: Colin Fraser, Slava Voynov, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Dwight King, Alec Martinez and Jonathan Quick.
If Mark Morris should be remembered for anything in regards to his stint in the Kings organization, it should be for his impressive track record with developing key pieces to Los Angeles's two Stanley Cup wins and not his inability to leave the Manchester Monarchs to the Promised Land.
From promising youngsters Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson to an experienced netminder in Roberto Luongo to multiple Stanley Cup-winners in the freshly-signed Dave Bolland and (former King) Willie Mitchell, the Florida Panthers are definitely heading in the right direction on the path to success, even if they didn't do too well last season.
Mark Morris's addition to the coaching staff seems to come not a moment too soon as there is plenty to be excited about if you are a fan of the Florida Panthers. Who knows, maybe this will mean drawing more fans to their games.
Manchester's (and Los Angeles's) loss is Florida's gain and I sincerely wish Mark Morris nothing but the best in his new role with the Panthers. Best of luck.