As the Stanley Cup Finals reach their conclusion, the business of hockey hasn't stopped for non-playoff teams. So the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars are all making decisions on the next head coaches for their franchises.
As was previously reported, the Senators have hired Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean to replace Cory Clouston. The Stars went with Glen Gulutzan, the head coach of their AHL affiliate Texas Stars, to replace Marc Crawford, according to Mike Heika. The formal announcement will come after the anti-LeBron rally NBA title parade for the Mavs.
Former Edmonton Oilers Coach Craig MacTavish hasn't been hired by the Minnesota Wild, but Michael Russo of the Star Tribune reports that he's had "had numerous conversations with Chuck Fletcher during the general manager's two-month search" for a head coach, including a second interview last weekend. He's the leading candidate for the chance to replace Todd Richards.
Are any of these guys the right man for these particular jobs? There are pros and cons.
Ottawa Senators and Paul MacLean
Pro: MacLean spent 11 seasons in the NHL and has worked the past five years as an assistant in Detroit, working with Mike Babcock, which is never a bad thing; especially when MacLean intends to bring a Red Wings-style puck possession game to an Ottawa team with a personality deficit. From the Senators:
"Paul represents a big part of the change we needed to bring to our hockey club," added Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. "The fact is we are a very different looking hockey team compared to a year ago. Bryan and I agreed it was important for him to bring in someone who is a solid communicator, can easily build a strong rapport with our players and has a proven track record of winning NHL games and Stanley Cups. Paul represents all of this, and I'm pleased to welcome him to Ottawa and the Senators organization."
He's waited for years to get this gig, and has a wealth of experience from which to draw. Plus, he has a mustache that won't quit — ironic when one recalls he was the runner up to Joel Quenneville in 1997 for the St. Louis Blues gig …
Con: … which is to say that he's never actually been an NHL head coach before. He was a head coach in the IHL with Kansas City and Peoria. He was the head coach of the United Hockey League's Quad City Mallards. The Ottawa Senators are not the Quad City Mallards, despite their equal number of Stanley Cup banners.
Some coaches are better coordinators than they are head coaches, and that's the main concern with MacLean.
Dallas Stars and Glen Gulutzan
Pro: Beyond that fact that for a team without an owner, this hiring will cost a fraction of what Ken Hitchcock would have?
Glen Gulutzan has won everywhere he has gone as a coach and he's familiar to the organization, and those are two big advantages in his candidacy to become the next head coach of the Stars.
Gulutzan has been the head coach of the Stars' AHL affiliate for the past two seasons and has an 87-56-17 record. He led the Stars to the AHL Finals in 2010, and he did that with what would not be seen as one of the most talent-rich lineups in the league. Instead, he found his strengths and gave his team a strong identity.
The Texas Stars in 2010 had a veteran defense and a couple of solid goaltenders, so Gulutzan gave his team a game plan that would allow winning low-scoring games. This season, he let the reins out a little more, as he had a few more skilled players.
He's also seen as a player's coach, which was going to be a requirement for any bench boss in Dallas who followed the polarizing Marc Crawford.
Gulutzan would continue the NHL trend of hotshot AHL coaches getting their chance; all that remains is whether he's the next Boudreau/Boucher or the next Gordon/Clouston.
Con: This is a team that lost a playoff spot on the last day of the season, lost star center Brad Richards(notes) to free agency, and has seen its share of empty seats inside of the arena in the last few years. And as a response to all of this, they've hired an AHL coach whose name sounds like a German ice wine.
Look, winning is the end-all for a coaching hire. Hitchcock would have been good business for nostalgia's sake, if not for the company's bottom line. Gulutzan is getting good marks from the media; does he get Dallas fans excited about the coming seasons, or is this a harbinger of a rebuild?
Minnesota Wild and Craig MacTavish
Pro: Ask around hockey circles, and MacTavish is considered one of the premiere candidates available this summer. From Russo:
Known as a players' coach and strong communicator, MacTavish began coaching the Oilers in 2000 and didn't leave until a mutual departure in 2009. He went 301-252-103 during the regular season, made the playoffs three times and coached the Oilers to within one victory of the 2006 Stanley Cup before losing to Carolina in Game 7.
One of the great defensive forwards of his time (he won three Stanley Cups as a player with Edmonton, one with the New York Rangers), MacTavish is known as a defensive-oriented coach. But he played with enough offensive stars (Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and others) and checked enough of them to know he has to open things up offensively as well.
He's also known as a strong in-game bench manager who can adjust to his opponent. For example, in 2006, MacTavish coached a passive trap for the first time because he felt it was the only way to upset the mighty Detroit Red Wings. It worked.
He's a proven commodity, one that could command some instant respect — honestly, two things lacking in the previous coach.
Con: While not a trap-happy coach, he's a defense-first guy. Granted, a return to a defensive style of hockey may be a welcome change for the Wild after two years of Richards' more offensive scheme … but it's still a return to a defensive style.
Speaking of defensive style, the Devils haven't talked to Ken Hitchcock. Yet.