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Wayne Gretzky and the 15 Worst Players-Turned-Coaches in NHL History

John B MathesonCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2017

Wayne Gretzky and the 15 Worst Players-Turned-Coaches in NHL History

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    Adam Oates was recently named the latest coach of the Washington Capitals (TSN), following in a long line of players-turned-coaches.

    Many have seen great success in the transition from on-ice player to bench boss. There are many more who have failed horribly as coaches.

    For Adam Oates, time will tell if he will be remembered as a great player who transitioned into a great coach—or a horrible flop.

    Even "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, took a stab at coaching, only to flop—hard. It takes more than just on-ice talent to make a good coach.

    Some players who turned into coaches were not even very good players, and those on this list probably would have had less headaches if they had simply retired.

    In the slides that follow, we look at 15 players who went on to become coaches with abysmal records.

Wayne Gretzky

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    He will always be remembered as "The Great One" for his on-ice ability.

    During his career, Gretzky never met a record he did not break. When he finally hung up his skates for good, the Brantford native became a part owner of the failing Phoenix Coyotes.

    Gretzky took over the role as head coach for the 2005-06 season and remained behind the Coyotes bench for four seasons.

    He posted a win/loss record of 143-161-24 during his tenure as a coach in Phoenix. Not even "The Great One" could save the struggling franchise.

    His record was just under .500—which isn't bad for this list.

    Luckily, he will be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time, rather than as another failed player-turned-coach. 

Lou Agnotti

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    Lou Angotti started his playing career back in 1955. His career spanned two decades, as he finally retired from playing at the end of the 1974-75 season.

    He was never a prolific player during his time and played for six different leagues including the AHL, WHA and NHL.

    After playing his final year in the NHL in 1974, he signed on to become the head coach of the St. Louis Blues, whom he had played for the year previous.

    Angotti managed only 32 games before being replaced.

    He once again returned to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1983-84 season. Angotti coached a career total of 112 NHL games and had a record of 22-78-12.

Paul Holmgren

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    Paul Holmgren played in the NHL for 10 seasons from 1975-76 to 1984-85, the majority of which he spent with the Philadelphia Flyers.

    He finished his career playing for the Minnesota North Stars before returning to Philly as head coach.

    His first season behind the bench was his best, with a record of 36-36-8.

    That would be the only time that Holmgren would coach a team into the postseason. The Flyers lost in the conference finals with him at the helm.

    He coached the Flyers for another three seasons before finally being replaced. Holmgren moved on the next year to the Hartford Whalers.

    He went on to coach parts of four seasons, which included a stint as GM of the Whalers, before being let go.

    His career coaching stats for the 425 games he coached were 161-219-45.

Jim Anderson

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    Jim Anderson played just one season in the NHL—and only for seven games. He was part of the first-year roster for the expansion Los Angeles Kings.

    He spent most of his playing career in the AHL before trying to transition into a head coach.

    Anderson retired from playing in 1970, and began a coaching career in the AHL. He never spent more than one season in any league he coached.

    The height of his coaching career came when he was named as the first head coach of the expansion Washington Capitals.

    The Caps would be the only NHL team he would coach. He ended his tenure as a head coach in the NHL with a 4-45-5 record.

Butch Goring

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    Butch Goring played for the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, with whom he won the Stanley Cup four times.

    His playing career in the NHL lasted from 1969 to 1985, and he retired after 10 games in the AHL during the 1986-87 season.

    Goring coached two NHL teams during his tenure as a head coach—Boston and the New York Islanders.

    Over the course of four seasons, Goring coached 240 games in the NHL, ending his career as a coach with a sad record of 83-126-27, including four overtime losses.

    After his attempt to become a player-turned-coach, he has moved to the broadcast booth for the Islanders.

Vic Stasiuk

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    Vic Stasiuk played for Chicago, Detroit and Boston during his career, tallying 183 goals and 254 assists in 745 games between 1949 and 1962.

    He was also on the Stanley Cup-winning team three times with Detroit.

    Stasiuk moved behind the bench to start coaching after he retired from playing. Over his tenure as an NHL head coach, he worked with three different teams.

    None saw success with Stasiuk at the helm.

    Stasiuk coached the Philadelphia Flyers, California Golden Seals and the Vancouver Canucks each for one season or less.

    He totaled 307 games as a head coach and finished his coaching career with an abysmal record of 88-153-66.

Rick Bowness

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    Rick Bowness played for four NHL teams in his professional career as a winger. He never became a great player and failed to score more than 25 points in a season in the NHL.

    After completing the 1983-84 NHL season, he spent a few more seasons in the AHL before retiring.

    In 1988, Bowness took over as head coach midseason for the Winnipeg Jets, where he coached only 28 games.

    He spent one season coaching Boston in 1991-92; it was his only season as a coach with a winning percentage over .500.

    His record in Boston was 36-32-12.

    He went on to spend four lackluster seasons in Ottawa, two with the Islanders and one with Phoenix that lasted only 20 games.

    His career record as a coach for the five teams was 123-289-48, with three overtime losses.

Larry Regan

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    Larry Regan spent 10 years playing in the minors before getting his shot in the NHL, where he spent five years with two teams.

    He played two full seasons with Boston before being traded partway through the 1958-59 season to Toronto.

    Regan played a total of 280 games at the NHL level, tallying 136 points.

    His coaching career began during the 1961-62 season as a playing-coach for the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets.

    He then joined the Los Angeles Kings' staff as the head scout. Regan coached the Kings from 1970 until partway through the 1972 season.

    The most notable feat he accomplished while head coach was punching a referee and being fined $1,000.

    In total, Regan coached 88 games with a 27-47-14 record.

Alfred "Alf" Pike

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    Alf Pike began his NHL career in 1939 with the New York Rangers. He played a total of 234 games, all with New York, amassing 119 points over six seasons.

    A licensed mortician in the offseason, Alf Pike was nicknamed "The Embalmer." There was also a break in his professional career between 1943 and 1945 due to the war.

    Pike began coaching in 1952, but did not become an NHL coach until he became the bench boss for his former team in 1959.

    He started 18 games into that season, and retained the job until the end of the next season. After two years without a postseason and a record of 33-66-21, Pike was let go from the Rangers.

    That would be the only time he would coach at the NHL level.

Wayne Maxner

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    Wayne Maxner only played 62 games with Boston from 1964 until 1966. During that time, he scored eight goals and notched nine assists.

    He bounced around various minor leagues until his retirement in 1973.

    Maxner coached from 1973 to 1994, mostly in the various minor leagues. In 1980, he was behind the bench for the Adirondack Red Wings for 20 games before taking the helm in Detroit.

    He completed the 1980-81 season as Detroit’s coach and continued for part of the next season.

    Before taking the reins in Detroit, Maxner had only coached two minor league teams to a slightly-better-than-.500 winning percentage.

    Not even with the Adirondack team did he have a .500 winning percentage, though it was close, at .475.

    His two part seasons with the Red Wings may not have been the worst-ever seasons for Detroit, but they were still embarrassing.

    Maxner finished his tenure in Detroit after coaching 129 games with a 34-68-27 record. That would be the only NHL coaching job Maxner would have.

Ted Harris

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    Ted Harris had a long NHL career as a player that spanned from 1963 until 1975. He played a total of 788 games, totaling 198 points and 1,000 penalty minutes.

    Harris played for five different teams during his time as a player, and was on the Stanley Cup-winning team five times. Four were with Montreal and one was with Philadelphia.

    One of the more notable moments in his career came when he was Bobby Orr’s opponent for Orr’s first regular-season fight in the NHL.

    When he finally hung his skates up, Harris waited one year before taking the head coaching job in Minnesota for two full seasons and part of a third.

    In 179 games, Harris had a coaching record of 48-104-27. He was fired by Minnesota after only 19 games in 1977 and a 5-12-2 record.

    The North Stars were the only NHL team Harris ever coached.

Trent Yawney

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    Trent Yawney began his NHL career in 1984 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He would play until 1999 for three teams.

    He returned to the Blackhawks for his last two playing seasons and became an assistant coach the next season.

    By 2005, Chicago decided to give Yawney the job behind the Blackhawks bench. He only lasted little over a season before being removed in 2006.

    Yawney coached a total of 103 games during his tenure, posting a 33-55-15 record before being shown the door.

    Chicago was his only head-coaching job in the NHL, though he was an assistant coach with San Jose until 2011.

Glen Hanlon

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    Glen Hanlon was drafted in 1977 by the Vancouver Canucks. He debuted in 1977, playing only four games.

    Hanlon would also suit up for the St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings during his 477-game NHL career.

    One of Hanlon's biggest moments was being in net when Wayne Gretzky scored his first NHL goal.

    He served as an assistant coach for Vancouver and Washington before going to the Portland Pirates of the AHL as head coach.

    In 2003, the Capitals had a miserable start and GM George McPhee brought Hanlon in to finish the season.

    The only thing of note that his 15-30-9 record garnered was the first overall draft pick, Alexander Ovechkin.

    Hanlon returned behind the bench in 2005, as the 2004-05 season was lost due to the lockout.

    In 2007, he only managed 21 games as coach before being replaced.

    In his career as an NHL head coach, Hanlon’s record was a pathetic 78-122-9 with 30 overtime losses.

Curt Fraser

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    Curt Fraser was drafted by Vancouver in 1978 and began his career with the Canucks the following season.

    Between 1978 and 1990, Fraser played for three teams: the Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota North Stars.

    In 704 career games, Fraser notched 433 points.

    He also played a large role, with linemates Thomas Gradin and Stan Smyl, in Vancouver’s 1982 Stanley Cup run.

    By 1990, he retired and spent the next nine years coaching in the minor leagues. When Atlanta was given its second franchise in 1999, Fraser was named their first head coach.

    He coached the Thrashers for just under three-and-a-half seasons, making it 33 games into his fourth year before being replaced.

    In the 279 games Fraser coached for Atlanta, he had a pitiful record of 64-169-31 with 15 overtime losses.

Ebbie Goodfellow

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    Born Ebenezer Goodfellow, Ebbie began his NHL career in 1929. He played for 14 seasons, all with Detroit, until he retired in 1943.

    He helped the Red Wings win three Stanley Cups, including back-to-back titles in 1936 and 1937.

    During his career, Goodfellow won the Hart Trophy as league MVP for the 1939-40 season, making him the first Red Wing to earn this honor.

    When coach Jack Adams received a suspension during the playoffs in 1943, the injured Goodfellow took the reins for the duration of the suspension.

    Nearly seven years after his retirement, Goodfellow returned to the NHL as a head coach, this time for the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

    Goodfellow only coached two seasons for a total of 140 games behind Chicago’s bench. His coaching record is still considered among the worst in history, at 30-91-19.

Steve Ludzik

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    After an exceptional junior career with the Niagara Falls Flyers, where Steve Ludzik tallied 125 goals and 358 points, he was drafted in 1980 by Chicago.

    His career totals with Niagara Falls still stand today.

    In his 424 NHL games, Ludzik scored 46 goals and 93 assists, playing all but 11 games with Chicago. Ludzik retired from playing in 1993 and began coaching the following season.

    He reached the NHL once more in 1999 behind the Tampa Bay Lightning bench, where he served for one-and-a-half seasons.

    His record for the 121 games he coached in Tampa was 31-67-14 with nine overtime losses.

Conclusion

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    Some coaches on this list may make Wayne Gretzky look like a Jack Adams recipient.  This was not a ranking from least-to-worst, but just a compilation.

    These players-turned-coaches may not have been the absolute worst—but they are among them. 

    There have been many coaches who have had worse records but did not play in the NHL. There have also been coaches who have had some success with a few teams, but completely bombed with others.

    Further, there have also been coaches who have made much worse decisions over their careers. The preceding list was just a sample of 15 of the worst from throughout the long history of the NHL.

    Please feel free to list players-turned-coaches you feel were omitted from this list.

     

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