by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
There’s not much that Doug Gilmour doesn’t know about hockey. The American Hockey League is one of the few things that fall into that category.
That’s understandable, since the all-time great never played in the league. So it’s a good thing that he has someone with first-hand knowledge of that topic nearby.
Gilmour’s daughter, Maddison, is the long-time girlfriend of Grand Rapids forward Evan McGrath. When Gilmour was pondering whether to take an assistant coaching job with the Marlies, he went to McGrath for something of a scouting report.
Nothing too deep, like player tendencies or strategies. Just little stuff, such as scheduling and those infernal bus rides. The last time Gilmour used that method of transportation for hockey games was when he was in juniors in the early 1980s.
"He’s never really seen much of the AHL. It’s definitely different traveling-wise,” McGrath said. "I was trying to tell him a little bit about what we see (in the AHL) instead of (the NHL). Obviously, bus rides aren’t the most fun. But I don’t think he’s focusing on that.”
That’s for sure. In taking the job as an assistant with Toronto, Gilmour, 45, has far more important things in sight.
For the past two seasons, Gilmour has been a professional development advisor for the Maple Leafs. While that worked out just fine, Gilmour said he lacked passion for that job and wanted to move a little closer to the ice. That spark was fueled by a stint as an assistant coach on Canada’s Spengler Cup team last year, and when the spot of Marlies assistant Jim Hughes opened up over the summer, Gilmour was a natural choice.
"For me, personally, I wanted to be more of a teacher. To get a resume, you have to start somewhere,” he said. "By being where I was the past two years, speaking to a lot of ex-NHL players, I felt it was the right time. I know where I want to go.”
That, ultimately, is to a head-coaching job in the NHL. Gilmour has given himself a seven-year window to hit that finish line. He’ll lug a variety of coaching influences toward that quest, ranging from what he described as the authoritarian styles that were dominant among bench bosses in the 1980s to the more catering attitudes en vogue with the coaches of the 1990s.
Well, there’s all that — plus his 1,414 points in 1,474 career NHL games.
"I know there’s a lot of work ahead of me. I’m not scared of that,” Gilmour said. "A lot of that teaching is through experience. I know what it takes to get there, what a struggle it is.”
And if he has any questions, he always knows where to turn. Until North Division rivals Grand Rapids and Toronto lock horns, that is.
"We’ve gone over that quite a bit. I think I’ve threatened a couple of times to shoot a couple of pucks at him. At the same time, he’s threatened to throw a couple of water bottles,” McGrath said. "You’ll compete a lot harder. You don’t want to lose those games.”