Trevor Linden did the expected last week, firing head coach John Tortorella. Once Linden hires a new general manager, possibly before then, the Canucks will hire a new head coach as well.
I liked some of what Tortorella brought to the Canucks, the team showed a lot more grit and hustle under him, but the results speak for itself. The Canucks finished 25th out of 30 teams this season. Injuries and a tough division are not enough to forgive that kind of drop-off. Torts wasn’t the right coach for this team and letting him go was the right decision.
But enough about that. It’s time to pick the next head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. Here are the top 10 candidates, in no particular order, according to yours truly:
McLellan will likely be at the top of everyone’s list if he gets let go by the Sharks. McLellan has been very successful with the Sharks, despite not being able to get them over the hump. The Sharks play an aggressive, exciting style that would likely be a good fit with the Canucks roster.
McLellan won a Stanley Cup as Mike Babcock’s assistant in Detroit and has been to two conference finals with the Sharks.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, he hasn’t been fired yet and Doug Wilson doesn’t sound like he has any plans on firing him. There remains a possibility that Sharks ownership cleans house (Wilson and McLellan) after their epic playoff collapse to the Kings.
McLellan took over from Graham James for his first full-time coaching gig in 1994, proving that he can follow anyone.
Image: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
The Preds missed the playoffs in each of their first five seasons, which is to be expected for an expansion team. After that, Nashville made the playoffs in seven of eight seasons. Trotz managed to do that despite the cash strapped Preds regularly losing key players to free agency. He is known as a players’ coach, which might be a nice change from Tortorella.
Trotz is the only head coach the Nashville Predators have ever had, so he must have done something right. The problem is that playoff success isn’t one of those things (Nashville has only won one playoff series in their history).
He has no neck.
After some impressive seasons in junior and the AHL, Boucher took the NHL by storm in 2010-11. Tampa was a surprise team in Boucher’s first season, making it to game 7 of the conference finals.
The following two seasons the Lightning came crashing back to earth. Some may say that was because the league figured out Boucher’s 1-3-1 trap system, but he was also given very little to work with in goal (41 year old Dwayne Roloson) and on defence.
The dreaded 1-3-1.
After playing more than 1000 games as a player, Dineen paid his dues as a coach of the Portland Pirates of the AHL for six seasons. His first season in the NHL was extremely successful, leading a sub-par Panthers team to the playoffs (Tomas Fleischmann was his top scorer and Jose Theodore was his goaltender).
Reality sunk-in after Dineen’s first season with the Panthers and he didn’t last much longer in South Florida.
He coached Jason Garrison during his breakout 16 goal season with the Panthers.
As the 17th highest scoring player in NHL history, it goes without saying that Adam Oates has a great mind for offence. The Capitals had the #2 ranked power play in the NHL this season and the #1 ranked power play last year, up from #18 the prior to his arrival. Oates was able to return Ovechkin to be a 50 goal scorer again as well.
Oates, like most coaches, will probably be a better head coach in his job than his first.
Oates doesn’t have a proven track record. The Caps missed the playoffs this season and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the prior.
Oates is a former teammate of Trevor Linden, during Linden’s 34 game stint with the Capitals.
Hamilton (AHL): 2003-05
With the Boston model all the rage these days, you knew I would put a Bruins assistant coach on this list. While Bruins assistant Doug Houda is getting most of the publicity lately, Jarvis has the more complete resume. Houda has never been a head coach at any level, while Jarvis coached Hamilton for two seasons in the AHL as well as being an assistant coach in the NHL for 22 years with Minnesota/Dallas, Montreal and Boston. He won the Stanley Cup with Dallas (1999) and Boston (2011) as a coach and won four Stanley Cups with Montreal as a player.
The fact that Jarvis has been almost exclusively an assistant coach in his career raises a red flag for me. Does his personality not lend itself to being the man in charge?
Jarvis is the NHL’s all-time iron man record holder, playing every single one of his 964 NHL games consecutively.
Binghamton (AHL): 2012-present
Richardson has experience as an assistant coach with the Senators as well as being the head coach for one of the best teams in the AHL for the last two seasons.
He doesn’t have any NHL head coaching experience and his teams were upset in the first round of the AHL playoffs in consecutive seasons.
He has 2055 career penalty minutes, leaving no doubt that he could beat-up Bob Hartley (though he probably won’t attempt it).
Grand Rapids (AHL): 2012-present
A career coach, Blashill paid his dues in the CCHA and the USHL before becoming Mike Babcock’s assistant with Detroit in 2011-12. He won the Calder Cup last season in his first season as head coach of Grand Rapids and has his team in the second round of the playoffs this year.
Detroit might not let him leave, as Elliotte Friedman explains:
One subject Holland politely refused to discuss: compensation for losing your employees to other clubs. (He will not allow contact with AHL Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who would be a big-time contender for open NHL jobs.) This is a big issue for several teams who strongly believe you shouldn’t lose good people for nothing. This practice ended in 2006, when commissioner Gary Bettman had to negotiate Peter Chiarelli’s move from Ottawa to Boston because Senator owner Eugene Melnyk was mildly unhappy with the whole thing. Bettman ended this.
Personally, I find it very hard to believe that the Wings wouldn’t allow Blashill to advance his career, given that Mike Babcock is likely to keep his job for the foreseeable future.
At age 40, Blashill would be one of the youngest head coaches in Canucks history.
Remember him? Stevens was thought to be the front-runner for the Canucks head coaching job last offseason until the team eventually chose John Tortorella. He was successful as a head coach in Philadelphia, getting the Flyers to a conference final in 2007-08. He also won a Calder Cup as head coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms and won the Stanley Cup in 2012 as an assistant coach in Los Angeles.
He hasn’t had a head coaching job since 2010 which makes me wonder why no other team has wanted to give him another chance.
Perhaps he can make the Canucks defense remotely as stingy defensively as the LA Kings.
Muller has a great reputation from his playing days and as an assistant coach with Montreal, but so far that hasn’t transferred to his head coaching career. Did the Hurricanes struggle the last three seasons because of a sub-par roster or was Muller to blame also? Cam Ward was injured/terrible the last two seasons, which compounded things for Muller.
The Hurricanes were terrible from head to toe. They gave up goals, didn’t score many and were terrible on special teams.
A good Kingston boy, Muller would solidify the Canucks in Don Cherry’s good books.