NHL coaching carousel one-stop shop
A look at the NHL's coaching carousel in the offseason of 2013.
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OUT: Joe Sacco was the bench boss for four seasons in Colorado and things got off to a pretty good start. He was a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy in his first season when the Avalanche, somewhat surprisingly, made the playoffs. They haven't been back since. After the Avs showed some growth last season, enabling Sacco to return for the 2013 truncated campaign, they went backward in a big way, finishing with the second-worst record in the NHL and winning the lottery to grab the first selection. Overall he ended his time in Colorado with a 130-134-30 record in 294 games.
IN: Patrick Roy comes back to the NHL after a decade spent back in Quebec after his retirement. He didn't stay idle long, getting involved with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, serving both as a coach and as general manager. He comes back to Colorado, where he starred and helped the Avs win two Stanley Cups, not only as the coach but also with a role in hockey operations and will be active in player personnel decisions, including being the point-man on trades.
WHAT WE THINK: It's a tad risky by the Avalanche, but not incredibly so. There have been other coaches who have stepped up to the NHL level from juniors and had success, Devils coach Pete DeBoer being one recent example. Roy has a pedigree with some coaching success. Still, it's a gamble, especially bringing a fiery personality like Roy to a young team like the Avs. But it seems like the organization is ready to give Roy time and patience so they will grow together. Not sure if Roy being behind the bench will equal a lot of success for the Avs, but it should be highly entertaining.
OUT: Ralph Krueger only had one year on the job as the head coach in Edmonton but new general manager Craig MacTavish thought it best the Oilers go in a new direction. He wasn't completely new to the organization, having served as the associate head coach since 2010, but he ascended to the top spot after Tom Renney was let go last offseason. In just 48 games with the Oilers he had a 19-22-7 record as the Oilers finished third in the Northwest Division. The young team just didn't show enough improvement for MacTavish's liking.
IN: Dallas Eakins comes onboard for his first job as the head coach in the NHL. Eakins had been viewed as one of the hottest coaching prospects in the game, coaching for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL before Edmonton hired him. MacTavish seemed to know that Eakins was the he wanted for the job going forward as he was hired less than two days after Krueger was somewhat surprisingly fired.
WHAT WE THINK: It's hard to know too much what to think of Eakins as an NHL coach because there is little track record, but the man was highly coveted by teams for a reason; he has shown himself well in the AHL. The big benefit and reason why it seems like a good fit is that Eakins has shown he can work with and help young players grow. He most notably had a lot of success in Toronto with Jake Gardiner, among others. The natural fit being with an Oilers team that is bursting with elite, young talent ready to break out.
OUT: After some tumultuous times in Manhattan, John Tortorella was fired after the Rangers' season ended in the second round of the playoffs to the Bruins in just five games. In total he spent four and a half seasons with the Rangers, taking over the job late in the 2008-09 season for the Rangers. He did lead the Rangers to the postseason in each of the past three seasons but after the team made it to the conference finals in 2012, the lackluster regular season and disappointing playoffs represented a regression, especially with such high expectations. The team couldn't generate offense consistently enough, particularly in the playoffs, as they became a very defensive-minded team. There was plenty of debate whether or not Torts should/would come back but ultimately the answer was no.
IN: The Rangers have tabbed Alain Vigneault to come in and take the reins. He comes to New York after leading the Canucks for the past seven seasons and taking them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. The day he became available he was immediately the biggest name coach on the market and the Rangers being in one of the biggest markets, swooped in and got him.
WHAT WE THINK: This is a really good transition for the Rangers. There were plenty of indications/rumblings that Tortorella's act had begun to wear very thin on the team and they just weren't playing the way many expected. Vigneault comes in with a pretty different approach than Tortorella, or at least that's what we saw in Vancouver. What many are interested to see is if Vigneault brings his attention to zone starts that the Canucks exhibited under him; was that his philosophy or the organization's? It helped lead his teams to a more open and offensive style so the hope and expectation is that the Rangers will get more offense under Vigneault. And presumably a better power play. Combine that with the strong defense backed by Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers should make for a nice pairing with Vigneault.
OUT: Alain Vigneault was let go after the Canucks were swept in the first round by the Sharks, the second straight year since they went to the Cup Final that Vigneault's Canucks went down with not even a whimper (they lost in five games to the Kings in 2012). It led to a hard look at the franchise by GM Mike Gillis who said that the organization had to really reconsider its approach, not seemingly placing the blame on Vigneault. Still, Vigneault was let go, seemingly as much a case of his time in Vancouver runnings its course. After all, the Canucks won their division in six of Vigneault's seven seasons there.
IN: The trade is complete with the Rangers as John Tortorella comes over from Manhattan. It's his third stop in the NHL after also coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning -- and leading them to the Stanley Cup.
WHAT WE THINK: It's quite a change in approach by the Canucks, that's for sure. Tortorella has plenty of experience and with a veteran Canucks team that still believes it's window is open, that's an important ingredient. They are still in win-now mode and Tortorella is the coach go get for a win-now team, at least among the options they had to chose from. That all said, if Tortorella has the Canucks playing the same way he had the Rangers playing -- in a more defensive system -- it could be a rough go. The Rangers' offensive players were a bit stifled under Torts so it's going to be interesting if the same happens to Vancouver's stars such as the Sedins. It's going to be really fun to watch play out, Torts in Vancouver, that's for sure.
OUT: One of the very first things that new general manager Jim Nill did when he took over the Stars was to say good bye to coach Glen Gulutzan. He was only on the bench for two seasons in Dallas after being promoted from AHL Texas and he had the same results as the past few coaches before him; not quite good enough to make the playoffs, not quite bad enough to be a playoff team. But when Nill came on, the writing was on the wall for Gulutzan. Most GMs prefer to get their own guy in as coach. In two seasons under Gulutzan the Stars were 64-57-9, hanging in the playoff race in the very competitive Pacific Division but not making it.
IN: The Stars have hired Lindy Ruff to become the 22nd coach in franchise history. Ruff replaces Glen Gulutzan, who was dismissed following the 2013 season.
Ruff, the long-time coach in Buffalo, was fired 17 games into the season after the Sabes stumbled out of the gate with a 6-10-1 record ending what had been the longest coaching tenure in the NHL.
WHAT WE THINK: Ruff spent parts of 15 seasons in Buffalo and compiled a 571-432-162 record that included eight trips to the playoffs.
"I am honored to be joining the Dallas Stars organization," Ruff said. "After speaking at length with Jim Nill, it was clear that all the right pieces are coming together to return this club to the upper-echelon of the NHL. I look forward to leading its resurgence."
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