3 NHL Coaches Who Could Still Get out on the Ice and Compete

Erik CottonCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2012

3 NHL Coaches Who Could Still Get out on the Ice and Compete

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    As with any sport, the best NHL players don't necessarily translate into successful head coaches.  See Wayne Gretzky's tenure in Phoenix for proof of that.  But are there coaches who could make the jump back to playing and still get out on the ice and compete?

    The list is relatively short, especially when you consider that a lot of former players who've gone on to become head coaches are already well into their 50s.

    It's next to impossible to make an argument that someone that age could still lace them up and make an NHL roster.  A player like Chris Chelios, who played until the age of 48, only comes around once a generation. 

    Ahead, we're going to look at three current coaches who could still give playing again a shot.  They're ranked from oldest to youngest, in the thinking that the youngest one would have the best chance of actually doing it.

3. Adam Oates

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    Adam Oates, who was just named head coach of the Washington Capitals on June 26, was by far the best player in this group.

    Even at the age of 50, his play-making abilities alone would give him an outside chance at making a comeback.  He was still a point-per-game player only two years before he retired in 2004.

    At the time of his retirement, he ranked fifth in NHL history with 1,079 assists and 13th in points with 1,420.

    Hardly known as a physical player, Oates was also never hampered by any serious injuries that might make his return to the ice more difficult.  Stick him on the point for the power play and let him do what he did best, which was passing the puck.

    Oates' success has only continued since he hung them up as well, as he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on the same day the Capitals hired him.

    Would an attempted return to playing fail?  Probably.  Yet at the same time, it's hard to doubt a Hall of Famer.

2. Kirk Muller

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    If the Carolina Hurricanes were looking for a gritty head coach to lead their franchise, they made the right choice when they hired Kirk Muller.  He replaced Paul Maurice on November 28, 2011.

    Muller's age (46) would certainly hamper his chances of returning to the ice.  He's also been out of the game now for almost a decade.  That would be another huge hurdle to overcome.

    However, Muller was able to remain an effective role player for years after his scoring touch seemed to leave him. 

    His career was unique in that in his first 10 seasons, he was a consistent 30-goal scorer who averaged close to 75 points a season.  But then in his last nine years, he only scored 20 goals once and never topped 40 points again. 

    Most players in that situation would have too much pride to go from a scorer to a grinder, and it would most likely lead to an earlier end to their career. 

    His ability to adapt his game is the biggest reason to think he could squeeze out a fourth-line spot somewhere.

1. Joe Sacco

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    Joe Sacco fits the "normal" player-to-coach mold much more than the first two guys we discussed.

    Always known as a strong skater, Sacco was an excellent penalty-killer throughout his 13 NHL seasons.  He wasn't overly skilled offensively, so he had to make up for that in other areas to remain in the league.

    His playing resume resembles that of other former journeymen who went on to have successful coaching careers.  Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks are two that immediately come to mind.

    And even though Sacco's been out of the game since 2003, he's still only 43 years old. 

    The game tends to pass older players by because they can't keep up with the speed.  That was never the problem with Sacco, so his lack of offense would definitely be his biggest hindrance.

    But with that said, all three of these former players know their best chance for success at this point is behind the bench, not on the ice.