On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they were hiring Jim Hiller, D.J. Smith and Andrew Brewer as assistant coaches to help Mike Babcock behind the bench next season. They have also hired Matthew J. Herring as the club’s head strength and conditioning coach.
“I’m excited to have them join the organization,” said head coach Mike Babcock. “We have a lot of work ahead of us but are all thrilled to be part of the Maple Leafs. We’re grateful for the cooperation afforded to us by the Detroit Red Wings, Oshawa Generals and San Antonio Spurs.”
Hiller, 46, spent last season as an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings in 2014-15, under Babcock. He was in charge of the league’s best powerplay. Prior to his time in Detroit, Hiller spent five seasons as head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans, where he compiled a record of 210-124-11-15 and led the team to four playoff berths, two division titles and a WHL Finals appearance from 2009-14. Hiller was recognized as the Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year and the WHL Coach of the Year in 2011-12 after guiding the Americans to a 50-18-2-2 record.
“I’m excited at the opportunity of working again with Mike, and to also add to the value that both D.J. and Andrew bring,” said Hiller. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many great organizations – most recently the Red Wings – and am grateful for the chance to now join the Leafs.”
Hiller also gained experience as head coach of the WHL’s Chilliwack Bruins (2006-09), head coach with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs (2005-06) and an assistant with Tri-City (2002-04).
As a player, Hiller played in 63 NHL games with Los Angeles, Detroit and the New York Rangers after being selected by the Kings 207th overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He also played professionally in the AHL, the IHL, Germany and Italy.
Smith, 38, has spent the last three seasons as head coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals. During the 2014-15 season, Smith compiled a regular season record of 51-11-2-4 en route to winning both the Ontario Hockey League Championship and Memorial Cup Title. Smith was named the OHL’s Coach of the Year during the 2013-14 season after leading the Generals to a regular season record of 42-20-0-6. Over his three seasons with Oshawa, Smith amassed a record of 135-53-3-13 – twice posting the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“I would like to thank Rocco Tullio and the entire Oshawa Generals organization as well as our great fans for supporting myself and my family over the past three seasons,” said Smith. “I am excited to begin a new chapter with the Maple Leafs and work alongside Mike Babcock, Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer.”
Prior to his time with the Generals, Smith was an assistant coach with the Windsor Spitfires for six seasons. During his time in Windsor, the team won back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships.
As a player, Smith appeared in 45 career NHL games as a defenceman with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche. He also spent parts of six seasons with the St. John’s Maple Leafs (then AHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs) from 1996-2002. Smith was selected 41st overall by the New York Islanders in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He played his junior hockey with his hometown team, the Windsor Spitfires from 1994-1997.
Brewer, 29, spent last season with Mike Babcock as a Red Wings Assistant Coach, coordinating the team’s coaching staff. Prior to joining Detroit, the Fredericton, New Brunswick native spent three years with Hockey Canada as their video coach for several international events including Canada’s gold-medal team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia as well as the 2012, 2013 and 2014 IIHF World Championships. Before this, Brewer was an assistant coach at the University of New Brunswick, and helped the Varsity Reds capture national championships in 2008-09 and 2010-11.
Herring, 29, spent the last two seasons as an Athletic Performance Associate with the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association. With the Spurs, his responsibilities included strength & conditioning, sports science and nutrition. The Bermuda native was a part of the Spurs organization during their NBA Championship season in 2013-14.
Herring holds a BSc in Sports Science from the University of Wales (Swansea) as well as an MSc in Strength and Conditioning from the University of Edinburgh. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.