Drew Bannister has played 18 seasons of professional hockey, parlaying the skills learned at that level into an impressive run in the OHL. Now, the Blues have announced the successful Greyhounds coach as their newest AHL coach. Bannister is set to start with the San Antonio Rampage next season. One look at the coaching credentials in the Rampage’s press release should make you happy:
Bannister, 44, led the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to a franchise-best 55-7-3-3 mark in 2018, and a Hamilton Spectator Trophy as the OHL’s regular season champion. The Greyhounds also earned the Bumbacco Trophy as West Division winners, and posted a 23-game winning streak en route to the OHL Finals. In addition to the team’s success, Bannister was awarded the OHL’s 2017-2018 Coach of the Year and was named the Canadian Hockey League’s 2017-2018 Coach of the Year.
Bannister’s teams have made the playoffs each of the six seasons since his coaching career began in 2012. In three seasons as head coach of the Greyhounds, he accumulated an overall record of 136-50-13-5. Prior to joining the Greyhounds, Bannister spent three seasons as an assistant coach for the Owen Sound Attack (OHL).
The importance of having a high-quality coach at the AHL level cannot be overstated, as these are the prospects that the Blues need to groom for the NHL team. Poor habits in the minors translate into poor habits in the NHL.
Another aspect of Bannister’s hiring that cannot be stated enough is that it brings a continuity to the development of prospects that the Blues haven’t had since they were affiliated with the Peoria Rivermen. Affiliation with the “we don’t have to listen to the NHL” Chicago Wolves, and then a split quasi-affiliation between the Wolves and Rampage last season did not lead to a cohesiveness of message. If a team wants their players to be prepared to play a specific way in the majors, they need to teach them that in the minors for a seamless transition when these players are being called up. Not having a concrete affiliate or a coaching staff on the same page is a massive hinderance to that and placed the Blues at a disadvantage. This is an excellent fix.