By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The Windsor connection remains strong inside the Oshawa Generals organization.
Following the departure of head coach DJ Smith, leaving to take an assistant coaching position with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Gens’ administration took only eight days to name Bob Jones as Smith’s replacement and the 29th coach of the franchise.
“We went through a lengthy process in a short, condensed time and we did a lot of interviewing and had a lot of applicants and we always came back, our hockey administrative staff came back and Bob was always the one as the leading candidate we had,” said Oshawa Generals owner Rocco Tullio during the press conference on June 24 to make the announcement.
Jones has been with the Windsor Spitfire for the past eight years, and was beside Smith on the bench when the club won back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010.
Jones said he’s honoured to be a part of the Generals organization, especially after the boys in red hoisted the Memorial Cup in May.
“I’m truly honoured to have this opportunity. As a coach in a league, you look for stability and when a team wins a Memorial Cup, that’s the ultimate stability that they’re a solid franchise,” he said.
A coaching resume that spans nearly two decades, Jones has spent time behind the bench of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Brampton Battalion and the Sudbury Wolves. In his 20-year coaching career, Jones has only missed the playoffs once. As well, he’s reached the conference finals in eight of those years.
“His credentials speak for themselves,” Tullio says. “But what we like best about him is that his coaching style is very similar to what we like here in Oshawa.”
Having spent time coaching with Smith, Jones says their coaching styles are very much aligned.
“We coached together for a lot of years and we have the same philosophies,” Jones says. “We both like to have a lot of fun around the rink, we both make it inviting to want to play here and make sure everybody feels a part of it.”
Tullio also said Jones fits the organization in more than just his coaching style.
“We like a coach that is passionate, shows emotion on the bench,” he said. “He’s very structured, defensive minded, and that’s important to our organization.”
For assistant coach Eric Wellwood, the process of working with a new coach will be much the same as when he started with Smith.
Wellwood played under Jones during his time with the Spitfires and says the two have remained close over the years.
“We were friends back home. He’s from Windsor where I live, so I’m very good friends with him. As far as transition period, I think it will be fairly seamless between him and I,” Wellwood said.
Looking ahead to next season, the Generals are set to see the departure of several players, including overagers Dakota Mermis, Chris Carlisle, and captain Josh Brown.
The Gens could also see the departure of several players moving off to NHL clubs or their AHL or ECHL affiliates.
Jones says a priority for the upcoming season will be to develop the young talent coming into the organization.
“I think we’re going to get a lot younger as the year goes on,” Jones says. However, he adds that’s essential for success down the road.
Wellwood is on the same page as his new leader.
“Knowing that we’re going to have a younger team than we did last year, it’s going to be more of a development year and to instill our systems, the way we want to play,” Wellwood says.
And for those fans concerned, the defense-first Generals, complimented with their hard, chip and chase forecheck, will more than likely make their appearance at the start of the season in September.
“There’s going to be some growing pains, and I think you’re going to see a predominantly younger team, but as far as structural stuff, like I said, I’m not going to come in here and change what isn’t broken,” Jones says.
Jones will make his debut behind the bench on Sept. 25 when Oshawa travels to Guelph to take on the Storm in their season opener.
Oshawa opens their season at home the same weekend, on Sept. 27 against the North Bay Battalion.