Dan Watson. The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Longtime Toledo Walleye assistant coach Dan Watson said Toledo hockey fans deserve a winning team.
Watson will be back to help facilitate that process as the Walleye's associate head coach, the team announced on Monday.
Watson took over as head coach of Toledo's ECHL hockey team for the remaining 21 games last season. Watson, 35, was named the interim coach after Nick Vitucci resigned in February when the team had struggled to a 16-31-4 record.
The Walleye named Derek Lalonde the team's new head coach last month. He selected Watson to be his associate head coach. Watson has been the team's assistant coach since the Walleye’s inaugural season in 2009-10.
“I'm really excited to be back,” Watson said. “Toledo hockey fans are starving for a winning team. That's not just making the playoffs, it's making a nice run. I want to bring a winning team here. We're setting ourselves up to do that.
“After meeting with Derek, I was convinced this is a perfect fit. The great fans of Toledo should be excited.”
Watson played seven professional seasons as a defenseman in the American Hockey League, United Hockey League, and ECHL. Watson was an assistant captain under Vitucci in the last season of the Toledo Storm.
The Glencoe, Ont., native led the Walleye to a 5-13-3 record. He was among the finalists to be the new head coach.
“I'd like to see us have success here in Toledo,” Watson said. “Derek's philosophies and views are similar to mine.”
Watson will continue to make a daily 100-mile commute to his job from North Ridgeville, Ohio, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.
In 447 pro games, Watson scored 23 goals, to go along with 66 assists, and 394 penalty minutes.
PROTECTED PLAYERS: The Walleye announced a list of 20 players from last season's roster that the team may elect to offer a contract to this summer.
The team is entitled to reserve the rights to eight players from the list by extending a qualifying offer no later than July 1.
The list of protected players includes 14 forwards: Kyle Rogers, Brett Perlini, Travis Novak, Kyle Gibbons, J.P. Burkemper, Matt Abercrombie, Jesse Messier, Kristoff Kontos, Stephon Thorne, Alden Hirschfeld, William Rapuzzi, Mike Seidel, A.J. Jenks, and Trevor Bruess.
The six defensemen on the list are C.J. Chartrain, Ken Peroff, Tyler Elbrecht, Tyler Hinds, Cody Lampl, and Corey Fienhage.
Of the eight players that are offered contracts, no more than four can be veterans with 260 professional hockey games. The qualifying offers must remain open until Aug. 1.