The NHL’s coaching carousel took an unexpected twist Tuesday when the Calgary Flames decided to part ways with coach Bob Hartley.
Until then, much of the offseason coaching drama was predictable.
• Dave Cameron was fired by the Ottawa Senators so new general manager Pierre Dorion could put his mark on the team. Also owner Eugene Melnyk’s recent comments about Cameron’s style made it seem like the writing was on the wall at the end of the year. Ottawa didn't make the playoffs this year.
• After Bruce Boudreau lost a Game 7 at home for the fourth straight year with the Anaheim Ducks, the organization decided to look for someone else, firing the popular Boudreau.
• The Minnesota Wild have continued to debate the merits of keeping interim coach John Torchetti over going after a bigger name. Torchetti slowed the Wild’s fall this season after the team fired Mike Yeo. With Torchetti as coach Minnesota took the heavily favored Dallas Stars to six games in the playoffs and during that stretch the Wild didn’t have forward Zach Parise, who missed the entire series with a back injury.
Calgary’s choice on Hartley, the 2014-15 Jack Adams Award winner, threw a wrench into offseason coaching decision. Even during Calgary’s darkest times general manager Brad Treliving never indicated Hartley was in trouble. Much of their problems this past season were blamed on their still unsettled goaltending situation, not the coach.
The Flames are now arguably the most attractive destination for a coach looking to jump into a team with young, high-end talent and salary cap flexibility. They have goaltending troubles – Joni Ortio is their only NHL-level netminder on roster – but Treliving has indicated this as a position of need and will address it in the offseason.
We’ll take a look at all the coaching openings in the league.
In four full seasons with the Ducks, Boudreau won four Pacific Division titles. It’ll be hard for the Ducks to find a coach that gets more out of his players, at least in the regular season, than Boudreau.
He was well liked by his roster, and a lot of them credit him for taking their games to another level. During the news conference that announced Boudreau’s firing, Ducks general manager Bob Murray spoke glowingly of a coach in the mold of Tampa Bay Lightning bench boss Jon Cooper, and said he didn’t believe in going back to an old-school disciplinarian. This would probably nix the possibility of Randy Carlyle, who took the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup.
“You cannot do what the old guys did in the old days. I don’t think you can, and I even think some of those guys that are older that are still coaching in this league, that are good, have changed their ways somewhat to deal with the new modern athlete,” Murray said. “There’s a bunch of guys out there. This is a huge choice for us. We’re going to take our time; do all our homework.”
Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are still elite players, even though their reputations have taken a hit the last couple of years due to postseason flameouts. The Ducks also have up-and-coming stars like defenseman Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell.
If Anaheim trades the rights to restricted free agent goaltender Frederik Andersen, they could make a nice addition at a position of need.
Ducks assistant coaches Paul MacLean and Trent Yawney have been mentioned, as well as the team’s AHL coach Dallas Eakins, a former bench boss of the Edmonton Oilers.
Former Duck Travis Green, currently coach of the Utica Comets of the AHL, was rumored by the LA Daily News.
Who gets the job?: Yawney’s name was rumored to take over earlier in the season if Boudreau was fired in October or November. Green fits the mold of ‘up-and-coming’ coach in the Cooper mold. Murray has always been solid at doing his background checks and coming up with the right person. Don’t expect an established name for this, but someone who still makes sense.
The Flames’ rebuilding process is near completion and the team has some of the better NHL-ready young talent in the league.
Second-year winger Johnny Gaudreau notched 78 points in 79 games this season. Center Sean Monahan is just 21 years old and has two seasons of 62-or-more points. In his first full year, 19-year-old Sam Bennett scored 18 goals. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is just 22 and has two years with 10-or-more goals and 42-plus points.
Defensemen T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano are two of the better puck-movers in the NHL. Outside of goaltending,
Calgary general manager Brad Treliving believed his roster as constructed could have performed better and he's probably right.
From a puck possession perspective, the Flames were the third-worst team in 5-on-5 CF% in 2014-15 at 44.4 and ranked 22nd this year at 48.0.
“You go through that process and ask if we’re going to be able to maximize the ability of the players as we’re currently constructed. The answer was no,” Treliving said about Hartley as coach.
Goaltending is an issue with this team that Treliving will need to address before it becomes a legit contender, but ultimately a lot of pieces are there for the right coach to mold into a solid playoff-level group for years to come.
Who gets the job?: Boudreau was fired by the Ducks on Friday and then the Flames got rid of Hartley on Tuesday. Treliving said the choice had nothing to do with Boudreau’s availability, but really this appears to be the perfect fit for the coach. Boudreau is known as a boss who gets talented offensive players to buy in quickly and gives them a long leash to be creative.
Out of all the current openings, the Flames have the highest probability of lengthy success based on roster age, experience and salary cap constrictions.
The Wild have a lot of talented younger players who haven’t quite taken the next step. They also have several effective core players over the age of 30 on long-term contracts. This is a playoff team, but is it a contending group and can the right coach make it a Stanley Cup threat?
A lot of that depends on if players like Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Jason Zucker and others take the next step.
Granlund was once considered a budding star, but has never eclipsed 44 points in a full season. Brodin’s a minute cruncher (20:25 per-game last season) but hasn’t turned into that No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman the Wild hoped when he was a rookie. Zucker’s best year came in 2014-15 when he had 21 goals in 51 games. He had just 13 scores in 71 games this year.
The Wild went 15-11-1 with John Torchetti as interim coach and players seemed to enjoy his firebrand style over former coach Mike Yeo’s more cerebral approach.
Who gets the job?: According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was in Southern California early this week to meet with Boudreau. This hire is important to Fletcher, and he’s likely putting the hard sell on the best candidate out there.
Notes the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Fletcher is usually patient and methodical. The fact he's being so aggressive here shows the urgency of the situation.”
The publication also points out Carlyle is another person Fletcher’s looking at, as well as MacLean. He’s already spoken with Torchetti.
ESPN Radio in the Twin Cities area points out local hero Phil Housley as a nice fit. Housley's currently an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators.
This is going to come down to whether Fletcher can sell Minnesota’s present and future on the next coach, as a team that’s a ready-made contender with young talent primed to take the next step. This was a team that was 20-10-6 before the New Year and then swooned dramatically in the second-half of the season.
Will this be enough to sway Boudreau? Potentially. Also owner Craig Leipold has shown little caution when throwing his money towards his team, which could include coaching.
When all the interviews are done and everything settles, it seems like it will be between Boudreau and Torchetti for this job.
Since Jacques Martin’s longstanding tenure behind the Ottawa bench, the Sens have gone through six different coaches since the start of the 2005-06 season. The last several years, the Senators have seen most of their troubles on the defensive end.
Since the start of 2011-12 (when the Sens moved past their rebuilding stretch) Ottawa has finished 24th, 27th, 13th and 26th in goals allowed per-game in full seasons played. The one outlier was the lockout shortened 2012-13 year where the Sens finished second in goals allowed per-game.
Ottawa is known as a group that relies mainly on defenseman Erik Karlsson to man their attack. And when he’s not on the ice, the group sees a large drop-off. A new coach will need to correct this problem.
According to the Ottawa Sun, Dorion is looking to add a name with NHL cred that can help the team get stronger on the defensive side of the puck.
The Sun also reported former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher and former Dallas Stars coach Marc Crawford are in the mix.
Who gets the job?: Yeo seems to be the best fit. He’s had some success at the NHL level and preaches a strong defensive structure. The only issue is that his defensive leanings hurt the offense of his group. In Yeo’s five years, Minnesota ranked 30th, 22nd, 24th, 12th and 22nd in goals per-game.
After they lose a job, most good coaches go back and try to re-examine the error of their ways. If Yeo did this then he’ll probably arrive at his next destination understanding he needs a more balanced approach from his group.
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY
- - - - - - -