The University of Vermont, and new head coach Todd Woodcroft, announced addition to their coaching staff on Wednesday. Former assistant coach Jeff Hill was retained from the previous staff in Burlington.
Joining the team as a volunteer assistant coach is former NHL defenseman Mark Stuart. Stuart was a standout defenseman at Colorado College before a 12-year NHL career, the latter portion of which was spent as an alternate captain of the Winnipeg Jets, where Woodcroft was an assistant coach.
The team still has an assistant coaching vacancy that will be filled at a later date.
But the biggest name in the new coaching staff announcement, ironically, came from the smallest position. Former NHL head coach Mike Babcock will join the staff as a volunteer advisor to the coaching staff.
Babcock was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs this past November, but remains the highest paid coach in the sport. Though his position with Vermont is unpaid, the Maple Leafs will still pay him $5.875M for each of the next two seasons, so he shouldn’t be under much financial strain.
Babcock’s connection to Vermont comes via Woodcroft, who was an assistant coach under Babcock at the 2004 IIHF men’s world championships, in which Canada won a gold medal.
Though Babcock left Toronto in ingnominous fashion under a cloud of abuse allegations, his position at Vermont appears to be an excellent fit. The Catamounts potentially reap the benefits of Babcock’s unquestioned coaching acumen and the prestige of a big name NHL coach working with their program as they look to repair the program’s reputation in the recruiting world, while his position working with the coaches than with the players day-to-day allows Vermont to avoid questions about some of the darker parts of Babcock’s history. Babcock, meanwhile, is able to stay involved the game while he potentially looks to repair his reputation.