The Greatest Coach in Every NHL Team's History

Brad KurtzbergContributor IOctober 24, 2012

The Greatest Coach in Every NHL Team's History

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    Coaches have always held a special part of hockey lore.

    Some coaches, like Don Cherry, are known for being colorful. Some made innovations, like Roger Neilsen, who became known as "Captain Video" for using videotape to scout opponents' tendencies.

    Most fondly remembered are the coaches who just won. Guys like Toe Blake, Al Arbour, Scotty Bowman, Glen Sather and Punch Imlach are best known for sustained excellence and leading teams to multiple Stanley Cup championships.

    So here is a team-by-team look at the best coach in each club's history. Some of these are bound to cause a little controversy. Feel free to disagree, but let me know why you feel your pick is the better choice.

    I hope you enjoy this look at each NHL team's best coach.

Anaheim Ducks: Randy Carlyle

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    Randy Carlyle is the runaway choice for the best coach in the history of the Anaheim Ducks.

    In six seasons behind the Anaheim bench, Carlyle accomplished a lot:

    1) He won the only Stanley Cup title in franchise history

    2) Carlyle reached the playoffs five or his six seasons with the Ducks

    3) He led the Ducks to a trip to the Western Conference Final the year before winning the Stanley Cup

    4) Never finished below .500 in any season coaching Anaheim

     

    By far, that makes Randy Carlyle the best coach in the history of the Anaheim Ducks.

Boston Bruins: Art Ross

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    The legendary Art Ross served as coach and GM of the Boston Bruins for most of the time between 1924-25 and 1944-45.

    Ross won 371 behind the Bruins' bench, including an incredible 38-5-1 record in 1929-30, a win percentage of .875. That included a then record-setting 14-game winning streak.

    He led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final four times, winning a title in 1940-41.

    Ross was also the first coach to pull his goalie for a sixth attacker with his team trailing late in a game, a tactic that is now commonplace in hockey.

    You can see Ross roughly 40 seconds into this video on the old Bruins.

Buffalo Sabres: Lindy Ruff

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    Lindy Ruff has served as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres since the 1997-98 season. He holds nearly every meaningful Sabres coaching record.

    Ruff led Buffalo to four appearances in the Eastern Conference Final and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1998-99, when his team lost in six games to the Dallas Stars on Brett Hull's controversial double-overtime goal.

    The Sabres have reached the postseason eight times under Ruff's leadership, and he has won a total of 565 games for Buffalo.

Calgary Flames: Terry Crisp

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    It was a tough choice to select an all-time coach for the Calgary Flames, as the team has had a lot of turnover at that position.

    The finalists were "Badger" Bob Johnson, who led the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final in 1986, and the eventual winner, Terry Crisp.

    While Crisp was behind the Flames' bench for only three seasons, they were all very successful years, and he is the only coach to lead the Flames to a championship.

    Calgary never finished with fewer than 99 points in Crisps' three years as coach. They won their only Stanley Cup in 1989, beating the Montreal Canadiens in the final.

Carolina Hurricanes: Peter Laviolette

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    Peter Laviolette is the choice for the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise.

    He is the only coach to lead the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup title, which he did in 2006.

    Overall, the native of Franklin, Massachusetts spent four-and-a-half seasons behind the bench in Raleigh, winning 167 games for the Hurricanes.

    He is presently the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Chicago Blackhawks: Billy Reay

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    The Blackhawks were a tough team to choose an all-time coach for, but in the end, longevity and consistency won out, and the choice was Billy Reay.

    Reay spent nearly 14 seasons running the show in Chicago and with the exception of his final, partial season in the Windy City, he had a winning record in every one of them.

    Reay took over in 1963-64 and remained behind the bench in Chicago through the 1976-77 season. He helped lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1965, 1971 and 1973.

    He had stars like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito leading a talented and successful club.

    The footage shown in this video doesn't show Reay, but it is all from his era coaching in Chicago.

Colorado Avalanche: Bob Hartley

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    Bob Hartley is the greatest coach in Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history.

    Hartley was at the helm in Colorado from 1998-99 through the midway point of the 2002-03 season.

    During his tenure, the Avs won a Stanley Cup in 2001 and reached the Western Conference Final on three other occasions.

    He never had a losing season during his time in Colorado. Even when he was let go in 2002-03, his team had 33 points in 31 games.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Ken Hitchcock

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets haven't had a lot of on-ice success since entering the NHL during the 2000-2001 season. As a result, they have had seven head coaches during their 11-year existence.

    The Jackets qualified for the playoffs only once, during the 2008-09 season, and they were summarily swept by the Red Wings in the opening round.

    Their coach that year was Ken Hitchcock. Hitch spent two full seasons and two partial seasons behind the bench in Ohio's capital and is the most successful coach in franchise history.

Dallas Stars: Ken Hitchcock

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    Bob Gainey was a close second, but Ken Hitchcock is the greatest coach in the history of the Dallas Stars (and Minnesota North Stars).

    Hitchcock took over as coach in Dallas in 1996-97 and remained behind the bench through the first part of the 2001-02 season.

    During his time in Dallas, Hitchcock led the Stars to their only Stanley Cup championship in 1999. One year later, they again reached the Stanley Cup Final, only to fall in a tough series with the New Jersey Devils.

    Dallas topped the 100-point mark in each of Hitchcock's five full seasons as their coach.

Detroit Red Wings: Scotty Bowman

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    Jack Adams started it all, Sid Abel served a long time and Tommy Ivan won three championships, but the best coach in Red Wings history is Scotty Bowman.

    Bowman won three Stanley Cup championships during his nine-year run in Detroit, and each year he was there, the Red Wings were serious Stanley Cup contenders.

    Steve Yzerman was the captain of Bowman's Red Wings' teams which won Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002. He also reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1995 before losing to New Jersey.

    Bowman is considered one of the greatest bench bosses of all time. In addition to Detroit, Bowman won Stanley Cups with Montreal and Pittsburgh and led the Blues to the Final three consecutive seasons from 1968-70.

Edmonton Oilers: Glen Sather

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    The Edmonton Oilers won four Stanley Cups in five years from 1984-1988, and Glen "Slats" Sather was the coach for each of those championships.

    The Oilers featured a cast of young and talented players who all came up together in the early 1980s, and Sather was able to get the most out of all of them. Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey were among the stars during the Oilers' dynasty.

    Sather stayed on as GM of the Oilers after stepping down as coach and was in the front office when Edmonton won their fifth title in 1990 under John Muckler.

    Sather is now the GM of the New York Rangers.

Florida Panthers: Doug MacLean

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    The Florida Panthers are another franchise who have struggled on the ice since they entered the NHL in 1993.

    The Panthers best season was 1995-96 when they went on a run to the Stanley Cup Final where they lost in four straight games to the Colorado Avalanche. That year was led by the outstanding goaltending of John Vanbiesbrouck and the fans' showering the ice with rats every time the Panthers scored a big goal.

    Their coach that year was Doug MacLean. He followed the Stanley Cup Final run up with a return trip to the postseason the following year.

Los Angeles Kings: Bob Pulford

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    It wasn't easy choosing an all-time head coach for the Los Angeles Kings. Candidates included Barry Melrose, who led the team to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1993, and Darryl Sutter, who led the franchise to their first Stanley Cup title just last year.

    But Melrose only lasted three seasons in Los Angeles and only made the playoffs once during his tenure, while Sutter has coached the club for less than a full season so far.

    The most consistent coach in Kings history was Bob Pulford. "Pully" coached the Kings from 1972-73 through 1976-77. Under his leadership, the Kings qualified for the postseason for four straight seasons and advanced to the second round twice.

    The Kings also had their best regular season record in 1974-75, winning 42 games and accumulating 105 points.

Minnesota Wild: Jacques Lemaire

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    One coach has left his imprint on the Minnesota more than any other: Jacques Lemaire.

    The former Habs center coached the Wild for their first eight seasons and led them on their longest playoff run, a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2003.

    Lemaire was also behind the bench when the Wild had their best regular season, finishing with 104 points in 2006-07.

    Lemaire's defense-first style and use of the neutral zone trap became standards of the Wild franchise during his tenure there.

Montreal Canadiens: Toe Blake

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    The Montreal Canadiens have had more success than any other team in league history, and they have had some very successful coaches along the way. While Dick Irvin and Scotty Bowman each won several Stanley Cups, Hector "Toe" Blake is the greatest coach in Canadiens history.

    Montreal won eight Stanley Cups during Blake's tenure, which started in 1955-56 and lasted through 1967-68.

    Blake was behind the bench when Jacques Plante became the first goalie to wear a mask during an NHL game. In fact, Blake initially refused to allow Plante to don facial protection, but the goalie insisted.

    The Habs won five consecutive Stanley Cups in Blake's first five seasons with stars like Rocket Richard, Jacques Plante, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Doug Harvey and Henri Richard.

Nashville Predators: Barry Trotz

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    Of all the teams in the NHL, the Nashville Predators were the easiest of all to choose the best all-time coach.

    Since they entered the league in 1998-99, the Predators have had exactly one head coach: Barry Trotz.

    Under Trotz, the Predators have made the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons and won a series for the past two seasons, marking the first time in the franchise's history Nashville advanced past the opening round of the playoffs.

New Jersey Devils: Jacques Lemaire

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    The New Jersey Devils have won three Stanley Cups in their history, each with a different coach. While Larry Robinson and Pat Burns have each won a title in New Jersey, the best coach in Devils history is Jacques Lemaire.

    Lemaire took over behind the bench in New Jersey in 1993-94. The Devils reached the Eastern Conference Final that season before losing in an historic series with the Rangers.

    The following season, New Jersey won its first championship, upsetting the Red Wings in four straight games.

    The Devils had three 100-point seasons under Lemaire's leadership and played a defense-first style that usually featured the neutral zone trap.

    In 2010-11, Lemaire once again took over as head coach in New Jersey mid-season and nearly got the team into the playoffs after they had one of the worst starts in recent memory. Lemaire retired at the conclusion of that season.

New York Islanders: Al Arbour

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    There is only one realistic choice for the all-time head coach of the New York Islanders: Al Arbour.

    Arbour took over the club at the start of its second season in 1973-74. One year later, he led them to the Stanley Cup Semifinals after coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.

    The Isles won four straight Stanley Cups under Arbour from 1980-1983 and reached the Stanley Cup Final again in 1984 before falling to the Edmonton Oilers.

    Arbour retired after the 1985-86 season, but he returned to coach the club again from 1989-90 though 1993-94.

    In 1993, Arbour led the upstart Isles to the Eastern Conference Final and upset the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. To this date, Arbour remains the last head coach in Islanders history to win a playoff round.

New York Rangers: Emile Francis

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    Lester Patrick helped create the Rangers, and Frank Boucher and Mike Keenan won Stanley Cups for the Blueshirts, but the best coach in Rangers history was Emile "The Cat" Francis.

    In 1965, Francis took over as coach and GM of the club that had missed the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons.

    Francis turned the team around, rebuilt the organization from top to bottom and created one of the strongest teams in the NHL by the time he left New York a decade later. Several times, "The Cat" tried to step down as coach, but nobody else could motivate his players like Francis could, and he always ended up back behind the bench.

    The Rangers topped the 90 point mark for seven straight seasons under Francis' tenure as coach and GM and defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions three years in a row from 1972-1974.

    Francis' club reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1972 but fell to Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins in six games.

    Francis later had successful tenures in St. Louis and Hartford, but he left his mark on Broadway as coach and GM of the New York Rangers.

Ottawa Senators: Jacques Martin

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    Jacques Martin stands as the greatest coach in the history of the modern-day Ottawa Senators franchise.

    Bryan Murray led the Senators to their only appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, but he only spent two seasons with Ottawa.

    Martin was behind the Senators' bench for more than eight seasons. In four of those seasons, the club topped the 100-point mark. Eight times, the Sens reached the playoffs.

    The Senators were still an expansion team when Martin took over. By the time he left Ottawa, the team was a Stanley Cup contender.

Philadelphia Flyers: Fred Shero

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    While Mike Keenan and Pat Quinn had success coaching the Flyers, the all-time greatest coach in the history of the franchise remains Fred Shero.

    Shero led the Flyers to the only two Stanley Cup championships in franchise history in 1974 and 1975. The following year, they reached the Final again before falling to the Montreal Canadiens.

    Shero's Flyers were known as "The Broad Street Bullies," and they were the toughest team in the NHL, brawling their way to success. Players like Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Reggie Leach and Bernie Parent were stars, while Dave Schultz, Don Saleski and Bob Kelly provided muscle.

    "Freddie the Fog" did more than teach his team to fight. He was one of the first NHL coaches to study Russian and European coaching and conditioning methods.

    His son, Ray Shero, is now GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Phoenix Coyotes: Dave Tippett

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    Dave Tippett has had a very successful three-year run as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, and he is the best coach in franchise history.

    The Coyotes have reached the playoffs in each of Tippett's three seasons behind the bench.

    In 2010, Tippett won the Jack Adams Award as the league's Coach of the Year.

    Last year, Tippett led Phoenix to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Dan Bylsma

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have won three Stanley Cup titles with three different coaches. It was tough to pick an all-time great, but in the end, present-day Penguins' Coach Dan Bylsma has the title.

    "Badger" Bob Johnson was the Penguins' first Cup winning coach, but he was forced to step down after one season due to health reasons. Scotty Bowman won the second Cup, but he only coached in Pittsburgh for two years.

    The Penguins have been successful since Bylsma took over midway through the 2009-10 season. They won a Stanley Cup in his first year at the helm and have topped the 100-point mark in each of his three full seasons in Pittsburgh.

San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan

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    It was close, but Todd McLellan won the ranking as the best coach in San Jose Sharks history.  Darryl Sutter and Ron Wilson had success as coaches in San Jose, but they were not as consistently successful as the team's present-day bench boss.

    McLellan coached the Sharks to their best regular-season record in franchise history with 117 points in 2008-09. San Jose topped the 100 point mark three times in McLellan's first four seasons.

    The Sharks reached the Western Conference Final twice in McLellan's tenure behind the bench, the deepest the Sharks have ever gone in the postseason.

St. Louis Blues: Scotty Bowman

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    There were several solid candidates (Joel Quenneville, Red Berenson and Brian Sutter among them), but Scotty Bowman remains the best coach in Blues' history.

    Bowman was the first coach in the franchise's history when they entered the league in 1967. He led the Blues to the Stanley Cup Final in each of the team's first three seasons although they were swept all three times. Incidentally, the Blues have not been back since.

    Bowman later went on to greater success with the Canadiens, Sabres, Penguins and Red Wings, but his first NHL head coaching job came in St. Louis.

Tampa Bay Lightning: John Tortorella

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning have qualified for the playoffs six times in the franchise's history, and four of those times, John Tortorella was behind the bench.

    Torts was also the coach when the Bolts won their only Stanley Cup championship in 2004, the last series before the previous lockout.

    Today, John Tortorella is coaching the Rangers, but the hard-working and hot-tempered Tortorella remains the best coach in the history of the Lightning.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Punch Imlach

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    Conn Smythe and Hap Day came close, but George "Punch" Imlach narrowly won out as the best coach in Maple Leafs history.

    Imlach became coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1959-60 and remained in that position through the end of the 1968-69 season.

    Imlach won four Stanley Cups for the Leafs during his tenure including three straight from 1962-1964. Toronto also reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1960 under Imlach's leadership.

    Among the star players Imlach coached in Toronto were Frank Mahovlich, George Armstrong, Tim Horton, Dave Keon and Johnny Bower.

    Imlach later became the first head coach in the history of the Buffalo Sabres.

Vancouver Canucks: Alain Vigneault

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    The Canucks have had some very successful and popular coaches in their history, including Roger Nielsen, Pat Quinn and Marc Crawford, but the top coach in the franchise's history is Alain Vigneault.

    Vigneault led Vancouver to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and back-to-back President's Trophies as the team with the best record in the NHL in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

    The Canucks have topped 100 points a season in five of Vigneault's six seasons at the helm, including a franchise-best 117 points in 2010-11.

Washington Capitals: Bryan Murray

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    In a very close contest, Bryan Murray edged out Bruce Boudreau and Ron Wilson to be the best coach in the history of the Washington Capitals.

    Murray won because of his consistency. Boudreau put up gaudy numbers over a shorter amount of time, but his teams underachieved badly in the playoffs and had trouble establishing an identity.

    Wilson took the Capitals to their only trip to the Stanley Cup Final but missed the playoffs twice and was eliminated in the opening round of the postseason in his other four seasons in Washington.

    When Murray took over as coach of the Caps in 1982-83, the franchise had never qualified for the playoffs in its first eight seasons in the league.

    Under Murray's guidance, the Capitals reached the postseason for the next seven straight seasons, including three straight years with more than 100 points in the days before overtime losses counted as a point in the standings.

    He also won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's Coach of the Year in 1983-84.

    Murray turned the franchise around from being consistent doormats to consistent winners.

Winnipeg Jets: Bob Hartley

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    The Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise hasn't had much success since it joined the NHL in 1999.

    The pickings are slim, but since the Thrashers only reached the playoffs once (in 2006-07), we will go with the coach from that year, Bob Hartley.

    If the Jets make the playoffs in the near future, this franchise's all-time best coach could quickly change.