NHL Coaching Carousel Continues

By Greg Higgins
John Tortorella
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

While most of the NHL is fixated on the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins, there are still a few teams trying to figure out personnel moving forward. The Coloroado Avalanche hired ex-goalie Patrick Roy to lead their team forward, while the Phoenix Coyotes finally gave Dave Tippett a contract extension. The Edmonton Oilers hired Dallas Eakins for their head coach vacancy. That left three teams without a coach.

This week, those vacancies were filled. The Dallas Stars hired Lindy Ruff to take the place of recently departed Glen Gulutzan. Ruff was let go by the Buffalo Sabres earlier this season after leading the team to three Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Finals in his 14 years. Ruff and the Sabres lost to the Stars in 1999 on the infamous Brett Hull goal.

The New York Rangers hired Alain Vigneault to replace John Tortorella behind the bench. Vigneault was let go by the Vancouver Canucks after a disappointing playoff run in 2013. The Canucks were swept by the San Jose Sharks in the opening round despite finishing in first place in the division. He spent seven seasons in Vancouver before ultimately being let go. The Canucks made the playoffs in six of the seven seasons and went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, losing to the Bruins in seven games.

News came out on Friday that the Canucks have agreed with John Tortorella as their new coach. Obviously, he will be replacing Vigneault behind the Canadian bench. Spending five seasons with the Rangers, he could never lead them over the hump. The closest he came was in 2012, when they lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. That doesn’t mean Tortorella can’t lead a team to victory. He was the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 when they won the Stanley Cup.

The coaching carousel in the NHL is in full swing. Most teams and general managers have a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude. Barry Trotz, the Nashville Predators head coach, is the longest tenured coach in the NHL. Hired in 1997 to be the coach of the expansion team, he has been with them ever since. After him, the coach who has been with the same team longest is Mike Babcock with the Detroit Red Wings. Babcock was hired in 2005 by the Red Wings. Of the 30 coaches, 21 of them have been hired since 2011.

These numbers don’t bode well for Ruff, Vigneault and Tortorella. Basically, if they don’t win and win quickly, history would suggest that we could see three new coaches in these positions sooner rather than later. Of course putting some wins up on the scoreboard will go a long way in making sure they keep their jobs and keep coaching for their respective teams.

Greg Higgins is a NHL contributor for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @greghiggins457

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