With three of the four head coaches returning, not much will change behind South Division benches this season.
The only new coach on the block is Regg Simon, who has taken the reigns of the two-time defending Robertson Cup champion St. Louis Bandits.
Simon, who spent the last three seasons as the head coach and general manager of the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers, replaces NAHL Coach of the Year Jon Cooper behind St. Louis’ bench.
Simon cites a couple of reasons for his decision to continue his coaching career with the Bandits.
“One, the organization is run first-class, from the ownership to the front office to how well the players are treated,” he said. “That was really impressive to me.
“Second, it was all about the people. To be associated with people that have the same principles and values as me was important.”
With 13 of last season’s players committed to Division I schools on top of the team’s NAHL regular-season championship and USA Hockey Tier 2 Junior A national championship, Simon wants nothing more than to uphold the Bandits’ strong tradition of development.
“My expectations are to develop our talent and make sure our young men improve as players and citizens throughout the year,” he said. “I think that if you can do that, the results you’re seeking in terms of wins and losses follow.”
After spending the last three seasons as the head coach and general manager in Des Moines where he coached New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo and first-round NHL pick Trevor Lewis, Simon is also high on the prospects of the NAHL as a continued breeding ground for top-end college and professional talent.
“The NAHL continues to put a highly-competitive, quality product on the ice that truly gives players the chance to develop,” he said. “The league continues to grow and so does the talent level. There's a reason the amount of players moving onto college hockey from this league grows every year.”
As for the returning coaches in the South, Scott Langer is back at the helm of the Topeka RoadRunners. Langer guided the NAHL Organization of the Year to its first South Division title last year and their first-ever Robertson Cup Championship Tournament berth. Four of Langer’s players from last year’s team have committed to Division I schools for either the coming fall or the 2009-10 season.
In Wichita Falls, John Bowkus returns for his second season after leading the Wildcats to a third-place finish in the South Division last season. Bowkus also helped place two of his players in the Division I college ranks: NAHL scoring champion Adam Cardwell (Alaska-Fairbanks) and Luke Salazar (University of Denver).
Springfield Jr. Blues headman Chris Wyler also returns for his second season. He guided the Jr. Blues to a postseason berth last year where his squad upset the No. 1-seeded North Iowa Outlaws with a first-round sweep. A pair of Wyler’s players has made college plans for the coming fall.
Next week, NAHL.com will profile the league's West Division coaches.