Having a great leader behind the bench can play massive dividends in hockey.
A smart hockey coach who can figure out strategic edges for his team and then convince his players that he is correct in his assessment has a huge advantage over his opposing number.
It's not enough for a coach to be a smart guy who figures out a fresher or more effective strategy. He must have the personality that sells that strategy to his players.
All the coaches on this list have led teams to Stanley Cup championships. However, not all Stanley Cup-winning coaches are on this list. Take Darryl Sutter, who was hired last year when the Los Angeles Kings got off to a terrible start. He took over, straightened the Kings out and they won the first Stanley Cup in their history.
That means Sutter did an excellent job, but it doesn't mean that he's the smartest guy in the room.
In his past coaching positions, Sutter was known as a snarling, stubborn my-way-or-the-highway kind of coach. He may have relented a bit last year, but he did not author any great strategic moves worth of being labeled as one of the smartest coaches in the league.
Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres, Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators and Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks are near misses. All three are excellent and intelligent leaders deserving of honorable mention status.
Don't look for Vancouver's Alain Vigneault.
This piece is about the smartest head coaches, not the smuggest.