The Albany Devils at long last have a coach.
Rick Kowalsky has been named as Albany’s head coach, Albany and Trenton Devils general manager Chris Lamoriello announced on Tuesday,
A pair of former Albany River Rats have new assignments in the New Jersey organization as well as Tommy Albelin will serve as an assistant coach with Albany and Kevin Dean has been named as Trenton’s head coach.
Kowalsky is certainly no stranger to the New Jersey organization as he served as Trenton’s head coach for the past four seasons.
“I was happy at the ECHL level and I hadn’t pursued anything at the AHL level thus far in my career just because I liked the way things were going,” Kowalsky said. “I knew that the Devils really made me feel a part of this organization, especially after the last couple of years. Just knowing (New Jersey President, CEO and General Manager) Lou Lamoriello’s history of promoting from within, I knew this could potentially arise.”
The organizational moves come after New Jersey skipper Jacques Lemaire retired and John McLean was named as head coach.
Kowalsky becomes the seventh head coach in Albany at the AHL level, joining Robbie Ftorek (1993-94 to 1995-96; 2003-04 to 2005-06); the late John Cunniff (1996-97 to 2000-01); Bobby Carpenter (2001-02); Red Gendron (2002-03 to 2003-04); Tom Rowe (2006-07 to 2007-08) and Jeff Daniels (2008-09 to 2009-10).
Kowalsky takes over the coaching reigns just months after the Devils’ AHL franchise moved from Lowell, Mass.
New Jersey’s AHL affiliate moves back to Albany after it was housed for 13 seasons (1993-94 to 2005-06) here.
Last year in Lowell, the Devils reached the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Without knowing all the facts, I think there are a lot of good young prospects coming out,” Kowalsky said. “With that said, Lowell had a pretty young, exciting team last year. There are probably eight to 10 players in Albany that I had in Trenton for at least a year — some of them for a year and another small group for two years.
“So I have an idea what the landscape might look like in Albany, but there is still a lot I need to be informed on.”
Kowalsky compiled a 138-122-28 record with Trenton and was honored as the ECHL’s top coach with the John Brophy Award in 2009.
“Rick has been with us for four years and he brings great passion, great intensity; that was the type of player he was,” Chris Lamoriello said. “ … So developmentally he’s been through the process. He’s comfortable with us and our objective and, certainly, we are comfortable with him and his objectives.”
Kowalsky’s pro playing career spanned 12 seasons with six different teams in two leagues.
A right wing, Kowalsky played in 183 AHL games with Cornwall, Portland and Norfolk. He totaled 516 games in the ECHL with Hampton roads, Trenton and Roanoke.
He served as a player/assistant coach with Roanoke while generating a career-high 83 (35 goals-48 assists) points in the 2001-02 season.
In his last campaign as a player, he captained the Trenton Totals to the 2005 Kelly Cup championship.
“He’s a coach who challenges himself as well,” Chris Lamoriello said. “He’s not only looking for the players to be better, but for himself to be better.”
Joining Kowalsky behind the bench in Albany is the 46-year-old Albelin, who joined New Jersey’s coaching staff as an assistant in July of 2007 following an 18-year career in the NHL.
A veteran of 952 regular season games with Quebec, New Jersey and Calgary, Albelin skated on the Devils’ Stanley Cup champion teams in 1995 and 2003.
Albelin, who appeared in nine games with the River Rats, as well as a pair of stints with the Utica Devils, went on to become just the fifth player in New Jersey franchise history to rejoin the team.
Dean, 41, is entering his fifth season as a coach in New Jersey’s system after serving as an assistant coach for the Lowell Devils for the past four seasons.
The former defenseman is a veteran of 331 NHL games with New Jersey, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago, including 198 with the Devils.
In 1995, Dean was the only member of the New Jersey organization to win a Stanley Cup with the Devils and a Calder Cup with the Albany Riv
er Rats as he served as team captain of the AHL champions.
Dean appeared in 146 games over the course of five seasons with Albany.
“Hockey is hockey and I enjoy it,” Dean said. “I love hockey and I’ll enjoy it at this level as well.”