The Toronto Marlies have been absolutely dominant to start out their first season under Rebuild Number We’ve-Already-Lost-Count; the baby Leafs have gone 14-3-1 to not only pull to first in the AHL’s North Division, but to pull into first in the AHL altogether.
They’ve got even more exciting news for fans this fall, though.
The team has hired retired forward-turned-hockey-writer Justin Bourne as the team’s new assistant coach, where he’ll be working with the team’s video coaching. As a stats-accepting former pro, Bourne brings yet another insightful voice to the club’s developmental team as they head into the middle of the season.
Hearing Bourne will join Marlies coaching staff, with video coach Ryan Ward moving up to join the Leafs. Another loss for the media wing.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) November 25, 2015
Undrafted at the NHL level, Bourne spent four seasons skating for the University of Alaska-Anchorage following his junior career with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Predominantly playing in the ECHL during his time in the pros, the 32 year old Kelowna, BC native has 16 games of AHL experience in the middle of his three year post-collegiate skating career. He never made it to the big show, but does boast an NHL training camp invite from his time pre-retirement.
Since skating off the ice, Bourne has picked up writing; he’s been featured over at The Score as both a thoughts columnist and a systems breakdown analyst. He’s looked at everything from how a type of shot can beat certain goaltenders to whether or not certain players truly do ride passenger to their linemates; he broke down how the Canadiens were beaten with their own forecheck, talked about why Brad Marchand isn’t a product of Patrice Bergeron, and recently talked about what he thought the answer was to the increasingly-irritating ‘more scoring’ debate around the NHL.
Of course, he hasn’t just been writing.
Bourne worked with the Toronto Maple Leafs proper over this past summer, so he’s both fresh off a brief stint working in the coaching world and someone the Leafs liked enough to bring back. He’s got the kind of perspective that the Leafs likely want to see; a former player, but also someone who gets how statistics work in hockey. He’s analytical, but he also knows what’s realistic – and applicable – and what isn’t.
I’ve liked how the Leafs have assembled their staff at each level of hockey this year; they aren’t just looking at their AHL and ECHL development as an afterthought, and that’s hugely important. Adding a guy like Bourne at the minor league level is almost more important than adding a guy like him to the NHL coaching staff this year; he’ll be working with the kids of the future, and that makes him (and the rest of the team’s minor league coaching staff) pretty crucial this season.
If you follow Bourne on Twitter, you’ve seen that he’s approachable and open to new ideas; that’s promising for the Marlies. This is a well-deserved hire; I like it.