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Army ready for another crack at head coaching post

Longtime NHL assistant was named Iowa's bench boss on July 19

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- For new Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army, this weekend's Traverse City Prospects Team offers the veteran bench boss a fresh start.

Army hadn't been hired yet when the Wild had its annual development camp in St. Paul in July, so this will be his first opportunity to work with many of the players he will lead this season in Iowa. 

It also offers him another chance at being a head coach after seven seasons working as an assistant, both in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, and last season in his lone campaign with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL.

The 55-year-old Army has twice as much energy as a man half his age and will embark on his 31st year as a coach when Iowa opens its season against the Manitoba Moose on Oct. 5. 

He's been a head coach for nine of those seasons but hasn't served in that capacity since the 2010-11, when he finished a six-year run at his alma Mater, Providence College.

That year, the Friars went 8-18-8. Providence had just one winning season in his six years there, but Army says he's a much different coach -- and a much different man -- than he was the last time he held a head coaching job.

"I was a control freak when I was at Providence," Army said. "When I was younger and I coached in Portland [of the AHL], I tried to do everything. And I was the same way at Providence. It was immaturity, in a sense, and not as a person but as a coach."

After leaving Providence, Army went to back to the NHL, where he had served nine years as an assistant coach for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Washington Capitals between 1993 and 2002. 

With the Avs, Army worked for three different head coaches, including two under Joe Sacco, three with Patrick Roy and one with Jared Bednar. 

Moving back to an assistant role allowed Army a chance to take a breath and re-evaluate some of the tendencies he showed in his first couple chances at being a head coach.

Roy was especially helpful. 

Army was an inherited assistant for the Hall of Fame former player, who was beginning his NHL head coaching career. Despite his on-ice pedigree, Army said Roy was open to change and was a great listener when it came to trusting his assistants.

"You begin to re-define yourself," Army said. "You trust other opinions, you want that input, you want to delegate, you want everyone to get better, you want everybody to have a hand in it."

One of the first calls Army got after accepting the job with Iowa was from Roy, who provided him with a simple message: Let them play.

"My relationships with players has changed," Army said. "When I was at Providence, the younger kids were changing a bit. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, it's just different. I think you have to create your relationships with players now where you're working together because you're working toward a goal and an evolution with that player."

A baby boomer, Army admitted that he struggled to connect with the millennial player when he was a head coach at Providence. He said he suffered from an old-school mindset -- one he was brought up and played in -- where players play and coaches coach. 

He referenced working with Craig Berube when he played for Army with the Capitals.

"Back then, you'd just go tell him, 'Chief, we need you to this or you're not going to play,'" Army said. "And he'd say, 'Yes sir,' and he'd go out there and do it."

Army says current young players have been coached longer than they were when he was coming up, and have more tools -- video, nutrition, camps -- at their disposal in becoming a better player. 

That makes today's player more invested in the quality of their game and more sensitive after a tough outing. 

In the old days, a player would get brought into the coach's office and get reamed following a tough night. That used to be Army's strategy.

Now, he's learned to give players more rope, allow them to make mistakes and to help them learn from those errors in a more constructive manner. 

"If they come into your office and you say, 'Let's look at those three defensive breakdowns,' you can feel the shoulders go back, you can feel that wall there," Army said. "Now, I've tried to flip it. Let's work from the positive. We can always work from the deficient areas, but they're here, they were drafted because of this, so we need to keep encouraging this and will fill in the rest."

Patience is another area where Army says he's grown, calling it a natural evolution as a person. It's a trait critical for the head coach of an AHL team, which doesn't know from a night to night basis who could be in and out of the lineup.

While making the playoffs and pushing for a championship are certainly goals for Iowa and every team in the AHL, developing players to help their parent NHL teams remains the top priority. 

Army, and assistant coaches David Cunniff and Brett McLean -- both holdovers from last season -- will aim to accomplish both.  

"Prospects are going to make mistakes, that's the reality of it," Army said. "We gotta give them the opportunity to improve and get better and [our players] will be given every opportunity to continue to grow and become better players."


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