"We're very pleased to name John as the Head Coach of the Toronto Marlies," said Ryan Hardy, Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager, Minor League Operations. "John has supported the development and performance of his players throughout his coaching career while delivering team success at every level. His resume from the U.S. National Team Development Program to the OHL and eventually the NHL has armed him with a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be invaluable to both players and staff."
Gruden, 53, joins the Marlies after serving as assistant coach this past season with the Boston Bruins and previously held the same position from 2018-22 with the New York Islanders. As head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL), he led the club to the 2018 OHL Championship and compiled a record of 76-45-8-7 through two seasons (2016-18). Gruden also served as head coach for the Flint Firebirds (OHL) during the 2015-16 season.
He began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the US NTDP Juniors (USHL) from 2011-15, helping lead Team USA to gold medals at both the 2012 and 2014 U18 World Championships.
The Virginia, Minnesota native appeared in 92 NHL games and 175 AHL games after being selected in the eighth round (168th overall) of the 1990 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins. Prior to his professional career, Gruden recorded 104 points (40 goals, 64 assists) in 155 games at Ferris State University and was named NCAA (CCHA) Best Offensive Defenseman and to the NCAA (CCHA) First All-Star Team and NCAA (West) First All-American Team in 1993-94.
With a great deal of NHL experience, the Marlies have chosen a professional coach in both senses of the word. He has been behind the bench for pro teams for years. He worked under GM Steve Staios in Hamilton in the OHL, a team owned by Michael Andlauer, so the Leafs will have to fend off poaching from the Ottawa Senators.
Gruden also has a long history with the NTDP of USA Hockey, which would have put him in charge of developing top prospects. He seems like an all-around excellent choice.
The Marlies also need to hire at least two assistant coaches as well. And, of course, the Leafs need at least one new assistant.
Gruden's son is an AHL-level player coming off a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, so someone is going to get a good player when they sign the other Gruden as well.