Analyzing the Five Most Intriguing Coaching Hires in the NHL
Which Five NHL Coaching Hires are the Most Intriguing?
It happens every offseason, like clockwork. The second the regular season comes to close, more than a few coaches are handed their pink slips. Whether it’s the result of a rebuilding project doing more damage than improvement or just coming up short, barely or significantly, of the goals management set for their team.
Once these coaches get axed, it's then up to the teams to find a replacement behind the bench. Sometimes a coach that just got sent packing from one team answers the want ads from another club. Or you may find an up-and-coming assistant finally getting the shot to run his own team.
We’ve seen instances of both in this recent offseason. The Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks all sent their coaches to the unemployment line.
The Oilers hired Dallas Eakins, fresh out of the AHL after he spent years coaching the Toronto Marlies. One of the longest tenured coaches in sports, Lindy Ruff was finally let go from Buffalo, only to be signed up by Dallas a little while later. The Canucks and Rangers made an even swap, with John Tortorella joining the Canucks after being fired by the Rangers. That job was open thanks to Vancouver firing Alain Vigneault, who took the Rangers opening.
You follow? If not, the Avalanche made it easy for you, hiring former goalie and NHL legend Patrick Roy to take charge in Colorado.
These five coaching updates are definitely the most intriguing. Let’s take a look at each and figure out who’s got the easiest job this coming season and who has their work cut out for them.
Lindy Ruff - Dallas Stars
That awkward moment when the team that beat you in your one and only Stanley Cup Finals berth ends up hiring you as head coach 14 years later. This is the case with Ruff, who, after 16 years behind the bench in Buffalo, was finally let go this offseason. He found work soon after, now as head coach of the Stars, who defeated Ruff’s Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final on the now-famous Brett Hull crease goal.
It’ll be very odd seeing Ruff running another team this coming season, and his job won’t be very easy. The Stars seem to be very middle-of-the-road right now. They aren’t in complete rebuild, but they’re also a couple years away from being legit contenders. If newly acquired Tyler Seguin can reach the ceiling he’s been struggling to find, it’ll go a long way. For now, though, expect Ruff and the Stars to miss the postseason for at least this year.
Patrick Roy - Colorado Avalanche
One of the greatest goalies in the history of the NHL will now be a first-time head coach. Roy, who had a Hall of Fame career with both the Montreal Canadiens and the Avalanche, will now take over as Colorado’s head coach and general manager.
It’s a big responsibility for Roy, whose previous coaching experience includes time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league with the Quebec Remparts. Moving from the minor leagues to the NHL as both a coach and GM is a heck of a change. The Avs are also coming off a miserable year and definitely a ways away from competing.
The hiring of Roy definitely comes off as a way to bring fans back after a bad season. The return of a Colorado legacy will certainly excite supporters, but if they’re expecting a complete turnaround, this season will be a big wake up call.
Dallas Eakins - Edmonton Oilers
This is by far one of the more intriguing hires of the offseason. Eakins has spent plenty of time in the AHL and is finally getting his shot at NHL head coaching. And he’s doing so with a roster that is both very young and very talented.
Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, all first overall draft picks, are all on the Oilers. In fact, this offseason was the first time in three years Edmonton didn’t have the first pick in the draft. Consider that a big step forward.
Now, Eakins will get the opportunity to see if he can get these youngsters to the promised land. They still have some holes, but the Oilers can definitely make a leap this year. If Eakins can take advantage of the skilled youth on his roster, Edmonton may finally return to the postseason after dealing with years where the NHL Draft is the biggest highlight.
Alain Vigneault - New York Rangers
Speaking of intriguing, this is another hire that could yield some solid results. Under Tortorella, the Rangers played a very defensive style, at times focusing more on blocking shots than taking them. As his tenure neared its completion, it was very obvious that he had the wrong strategy for the New York roster.
Now, however, the Rangers have Vigneault behind the bench, fresh off a few years with a Canucks team that could score and score often. And instead of dealing with a goalie who had more than a few mental issues in Roberto Luongo, he now has the pleasure of working with Henrik Lundqvist, one of the best goalies in the world.
The Rangers were a playoff team last year, and I expect them to return to the postseason again this season. Vigneault will have a lot of talent to work with and may have a playing strategy that is much better suited for them.
John Tortorella - Vancouver Canucks
On the other end of this swap you have Tortorella heading to British Columbia as the new coach of the Canucks. Where Vigneault may have a style that fits his new team, Tortorella might be in a different situation.
Tortorella has never been one for run-and-gun. Meanwhile, the Canucks have had a very offensive identity for the past few years, which doesn’t include much in the way of shot blocking or grit. For instance, in their Stanley Cup Finals appearance against the Boston Bruins, they had no answer for when Boston started playing tough and physical. Now they have a coach who prides himself on running a team that way.
Also of note, the Canucks are coming off a playoff stint that was over before you knew it, leaving many to wonder if their window has closed. To the casual observer, it’s easy to see there could be some clashes here. Tortorella may be a solid coach, but Vancouver may not be the team that will allow him to show that off.