No one with the Vancouver Canucks should feel safe right now.
With the Canucks season going completely off the rails, one thing that has to be considered is a change at head coach.
Travis Green and his staff were on an upward trajectory until the beginning of the 2020-21 season. After a flurry of offseason moves, the expectation was that this team would rediscover its playoff form from 2019-20.
Instead, it’s been more of the same from last season.
The Canucks have limped to one of the NHL’s worst records at the quarter mark. Factions have reportedly developed in the front office. Green was already on hot seat rankings before the season started. Now, ambers are starting to burn beneath his cushion.
Right or wrong, one of the easiest public relations moves the Canucks can make is firing the coach. If they decide to go that route, here are 17 coaches they could consider.
1. Brad Shaw
This would be the easiest move to make. Brad Shaw has been an NHL coach for 17 seasons, but he’s only spent 40 games as an actual head coach. That was way back in 2005-06 when he took over from Steve Stirling as bench boss of the New York Islanders.
If the Canucks do promote Shaw, look for this move to be a temporary stop gap. This might be a move they consider in case they’re targeting some current NHL assistants with other teams.
Experienced free agents
2. Mike Babcock
While hiring Shaw might be the easy PR move, bringing in Mike Babcock would be a PR nightmare.
Babcock ranks ninth all-time in wins by a head coach, but he’s been out of the league since November 20, 2019 after being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Allegations of verbal abuse and bullying have been brought forth by multiple players in the aftermath, and Babcock has been more defensive than apologetic in recent interviews.
3. Claude Julien
In February 2021, Claude Julien was fired by the Montreal Canadiens, even though the team was in a playoff spot. It was an odd decision that seemed more related to special teams play as opposed to effort at even-strength.
The Montreal Canadiens, who just fired their coach, are the best team in the league at 5v5 whether you look at expected goals or ACTUAL goals. They are bad on special teams, as they have been for years.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 24, 2021
Julien clearly has ties to Benning. Both were with the Boston Bruins when they defeated Vancouver during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
4. Bruce Boudreau
There’s one constant about Bruce Boudreau-coached hockey teams… they win in the regular season.
Among coaches with at least 900 games behind an NHL bench, Boudreau has the second-highest winning percentage of all time, trailing only the legendary Scotty Bowman.
He’s been out of the NHL since being fired by the Minnesota Wild in February, 2020. Boudreau is currently an analyst for the NHL Network.
5. Rick Tocchet
Considering the middling roster and tumultuous state of the Arizona Coyotes, it’s hard to fault Rick Tocchet for his lack of success behind the bench. He coached them for four seasons before mutually parting ways with the club during the 2021 offseason.
Tocchet is currently an analyst for NHL on TNT.
6. David Quinn
It’s easy to understand why Canucks fans might be frustrated by a lack of change, especially when seeing what the New York Rangers did earlier this year.
The Rangers fired both general manager Jeff Gorton and head coach David Quinn, despite the team making steady improvements after announcing their rebuild in 2018. Both Gorton and Quinn had shorter tenures than Jim Benning and Green.
Much like Green, Quinn coached a team that improved in three straight seasons. However, he didn’t get to stick around to see the Rangers actually make some noise in the playoffs.
7. Dan Bylsma
The 51-year-old’s coaching career started with a bang in Pittsburgh. He won a Stanley Cup in 2009, and became the fastest coach to reach 200 wins.
There have also been some black marks on his resume. He was fired by the Buffalo Sabres after two seasons after reports surfaced that Jack Eichel wouldn’t sign an extension if Bylsma remained coach.
Bylsma is currently an AHL assistant for the Charlotte Checkers.
Assistants on the rise
8. Kirk Muller
It’s always more difficult for current NHL assistants to move teams midseason, so some of these candidates are more realistic targets for the offseason.
Kirk Muller was fired along with Julien by the Canadiens in February. He’s currently an associate coach with the surging Calgary Flames.
9. Lane Lambert
Barry Trotz’s has mentioned that Lane Lambert, his longtime assistant, is “well overdue” for an NHL head coaching job.
10. Jim Montgomery
The 52-year-old was regarded as one of the brightest coaches in college hockey when he was hired by the Dallas Stars in 2018. He led the team to the second round of the playoffs in 2018-19, and was on track for a second straight playoff appearance when he was fired for concerns about his drinking.
Montgomery could be in line for a redemption story. He’s currently back behind the bench as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues.
11. Todd Nelson
Todd Nelson, is probably someone who deserves another crack at being an NHL head coach.
Nelson never missed the playoffs as a head coach in the AHL and UHL, winning three championships in 10 seasons. His only NHL head coaching stint was back in 2014-15, when he coached an awful Edmonton Oilers team for 46 games.
12. Mike Vellucci
Mike Vellucci is the current assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and has won championships in both the OHL and the AHL. It’s fair to wonder if the Canucks want to roll with another coach who has limited experience behind an NHL bench.
13. John Tortorella
This one seems extremely unlikely considering how bad it went for John Tortorella in Vancouver. However, he did have success with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and this Canucks team is entirely brand new. Not one player remains from the 2013-14 Canucks squad that Tortorella coached.
14. Manny Malhotra
Manny Malhotra left the Canucks after the team’s playoff run in 2020, as he took on a bigger role on the Toronto Maple Leafs bench.
The 41-year-old is considered a promising young coaching candidate, but could he get a head coaching shot from a team who let him go?
15. Marco Sturm
One of the shortest-tenured Canucks of all-time with only six games for the organization, Marco Sturm has been climbing the coaching ranks. The 43-year-old continuously delivered results above expectations during his three-year run as coach of the German men’s national team. Sturm is currently an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings, where he’s been since 2018.
Outside the box candidates
16. Rikard Grönborg
The NHL has only had two European-born head coaches ever. Hiring Sturm or someone like Rikard Grönborg would buck that trend.
The 53-year-old is considered one of the best European-born coaches available. He’s previously coached Sweden’s men’s national team, where he has worked with many talented NHLers, including the Sedin twins.
Grönborg currently coaches the Zurich Lions of Switzerland’s top hockey league. He’s previously flown to North America to interview for head coaching positions, and his current contract with Zurich has an NHL-out clause.
17. Patrick Roy
One of the best netminders of all time, Patrick Roy has been out of the NHL since 2016, when he left the Colorado Avalanche. He’s been head coach and GM of the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL since 2018.