Three cities with three very different situations are in the market for new bench bosses for the 2012-13 season. The Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames suffered through seasons of regret. Coaching changes are what both the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames are facing, with the Edmonton Oilers likely joining them. That's where the similarities end.
The Edmonton Oilers have a future unparalleled with the rest of the league, the Montreal Canadiens will be expected to win at least one playoff round next season while the Calgary Flames likely will continue their strategy of "get in and see what happens."
GM: Jay Feaster
Previous Head Coach: Brent Sutter
Reason for Dismissal: Mutual parting of ways with team
In his three seasons in Calgary, Sutter guided the team to 90, 94 and 90 points respectively. The franchise is under the mandate from ownership to win now, and its position has been that anything can happen in the playoffs, which is true to a certain extent. The team has also relied on goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff and his ability to steal games.
Sutter and the team mutually parted ways following this season's 9th place finish in the Western Conference.
Last year's roster was the 7th oldest in the league, with stars Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff aging. WHL star Sven Baertschi will make the team next season and likely be given a scoring role. Roman Cervenka, signed after a brilliant KHL season, will also take a scoring role with the team.
Next year's group will be expected to make the playoffs after three consecutive early summers. A candidate with previous NHL coaching experience should be favoured.
Which Team Is Closer to a Stanley Cup?
How will they win? The Flames, lacking young scoring forwards and being one of the older teams in the league, will have to rely on sound defence as opposed to fire wagon hockey. The team still has one of the better goalies in the league, and a solid group of defencemen that includes Mark Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester.
Names to Consider:
-Bob Hartley, Head Coach, Zurich Lions (Swiss-A)
-Dallas Eakins, Head Coach, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
-Craig MacTavish, Head Coach, Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Of all the names, Hartley's name has been the most talked about, and he is my prediction to become the Flames' next head coach. He brings plenty of NHL coaching experience having won 329 games with the Colorado Avalanche and Atlanta Thrashers. He won a Stanley Cup with the Avs in 2001.
Recently he guided the Zurich Lions to the Swiss-A league championship this year.
Hartley's style is defence-first, with a premium being placed on play away from the puck. He is also known to be a disciplinarian, and a coach that demands accountability from his players. A defence-first style is what needs to be implemented given the conditions of the Calgary Flames roster and the mandate to win now, and Hartley brings that along with a wealth of experience and a Stanley Cup ring.
GM: Steve Tambellini
Previous Head Coach: Tom Renney
Reason for Dismissal: Renney's contract has expired; team has not indicated whether he will return
This may be the NHL's most attractive coaching vacancy should Renney not be back. The roster brims not with average, but elite young talent that promises to contend soon. The Edmonton Oilers have fallen on hard times recently, but feature the NHL's best collection of young talent led by Taylor Hall.
The team, after three seasons in the bottom 10% of the league, will be expected to challenge for a playoff spot next season. Anything beyond that will be a bonus.
In this case, a coach with NHL experience isn't a top priority. With much of the team's core still unable to buy a drink in the US, the ability to teach and work with young players will be a vital trait.
How will they win? The Oilers will win by using their strengths, which are a group of young, offensive forwards. The new head coach should implement a system that allows Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and others to exploit their offensive talents while still being accountable defensively.
The coach also needs to know how to work with young players, making candidates from junior hockey more attractive perhaps.
Names to Consider:
-Brent Sutter, Head Coach, Canada (World Hockey Championship)
-Todd Nelson, Head Coach, Oklahoma City Barons (AHL)
-Todd McLellan, Head Coach, San Jose Sharks (NHL)
While McLellan is a long shot, Brent Sutter is the leading candidate to take over behind the bench in Edmonton. The situation has been set up perfectly: Sutter gets names Head Coach of Team Canada by Kevin Lowe, who is the Oilers President.
The team features Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Devan Dubnyk. Ryan Murray, thought of to be the Oilers main target at this year's NHL Entry Draft, also makes the team despite being a tender 18 years old. Add in Sutter's experience in the WHL where he coached Nugent-Hopkins and there's a definite trend.
GM: Marc Bergevin
Previous Head Coach: Randy Cunneyworth
Reason for Dismissal: Was relegated to assistant coach after being in term head coach during regular season
After suffering through one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Canadiens will look to regain a playoff spot next year. The team already has several building blocks in place, including Carey Price and PK Subban. Max Pacioretty is another young player that brings reasons for optimism. As seen by the backlash surrounding Cunneyworth, the new head coach will need to be bilingual.
The Canadiens will not be entering a rebuild, and have good reason to expect to contend next season.
How will they win? The last three seasons have seen the Canadiens ranked 12th, 8th and 14th in the league in terms of goals against. A younger roster composed of talented but not overly skilled forwards, the team will win by playing a complete, two-way game. Grit will be a key factor as well.
Louis Leblanc and Brendan Gallagher will push for roster spots in training camp.
Names to Consider:
-Patrick Roy, Head Coach, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
-Marc Crawford, TSN Analyst
-Joel Quenneville, Head Coach, Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
While Roy is the sexiest of the names, Quenneville may be the leading candidate for the position. Elliott Friedman of CBC has reported that Stan Bowman has given the Canadiens permission to talk to Quenneville. It has been reported that Bowman and Quenneville don't have a great working relationship, and Bergevin knows Quenneville from his days as the Blackhawks Assistant GM last season.
Quenneville has a Stanley Cup ring. His teams are known to be more offense-oriented, and unlike Chicago he will have a proven netminder in Carey Price. Quenneville's hiring would almost ensure a return to the playoffs in La Belle Province.
Follow Salim Valji on Twitter