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Slaney, Potvin candidates to replace Van Ryn as Roadrunners coach

Photo: Tucson Roadrunners/ Twitter

PHOENIX — The Tucson Roadrunners have begun the search for a new coach to replace Mike Van Ryn, Roadrunners general manager Steve Sullivan said Wednesday. Van Ryn is leaving the team to join the St. Louis Blues’ as an assistant coach.

“There is no timeline because I don’t think it would be fair to anyone in the process to rush this, but you don’t want it to drag on,” Sullivan said. “We’ll be proactive and we have already received a lot of resumes from a lot of qualified people. It should be done in a timely fashion.”

Sullivan said the team has a “short list” of coaching candidates that includes current assistants John Slaney and Steve Potvin. Slaney was an assistant with the Coyotes for two seasons under previous coach Dave Tippett, and also served as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Portland Pirates for four years, the Coyotes’ previous AHL affiliate. Potvin was the Coyotes skills coach for one season before joining the Roadrunners last season.

“We think that we’ve got two really good candidates in Slaney and Potvin. They’re two great people, great character guys that have done a tremendous job with our group,” Sullivan said. “Mike set the culture and they were there to see it so we know they would continue it. They’re definitely part of the small group we’re looking at.”

Van Ryn spent two seasons with the Coyotes organization. In 2016-17, he was the team’s development coach. In Van Ryn’s only season as coach in Tucson, the Roadrunners won the Pacific Division with a record of 42-20-5-1 and advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The Roadrunners were the AHL’s youngest team last year with an average age of 23.08, but improved by 24 points over their first season in Tucson.

“Mike’s goal is to become a coach in the National Hockey League and this is a step up for him,” Sullivan said. “If you look at his track record the last few years, he’s been on the move. I don’t think he’s had the same title for the last seven-plus years. He’s goal-driven, he understands what he needs to do to get to his goal and he’s on the path to doing so.”

Van Ryn played 69 of his 353 career NHL games for the Blues from 2000-03. His departure means the Roadrunners will have their third coach in three seasons of existence. Mark Lamb coached the team in the 2016-17 season.

“Obviously, it’s not something you want to do every year,” Sullivan said. “You want to get some continuity for your players that are down there and a face that they are familiar with maybe back-to-back seasons. But we also understand that it is a development league, and not just for our players, but for our staff. We welcome the opportunity for them to get better at their craft and for them to want to move on. As much as it will be a process to find the next coach, we believe this is going to be one of, if not the most important positions in our organization: the head of the development team.”

Sullivan said the Blues requested permission to speak to Van Ryn “a few weeks ago.” Sullivan said several other teams also called about Van Ryn so the Coyotes had “a pretty good idea” they would need to find a replacement

“Mike is an unbelievable coach and he did a tremendous job with our group this year,” Sullivan said. “He’s young but he’s got a lot of experience for a young guy and he’s on a fast track. It’s a great opportunity for him.”

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