Predicting Whether Each New NHL Coach Will Be a Success or Failure in 2014-15
When the 2014-15 NHL season gets underway, 20 percent of the league's 30 teams will be introducing new bench bosses.
Before accepting their new jobs, two candidates were most recently head coaches of other teams, two left their assistant positions with other teams, one's coming from the American Hockey League and one worked most recently at junior.
Securing an NHL head coaching job is reaching the pinnacle of the profession, but the six teams that made changes this summer all did so because they weren't satisfied with their team's performance in 2013-14.
Sometimes, a team's problems run much deeper than the man behind the bench.
Here's a look at each new coach's chance of success or failure with his new team in the 2014-15 season.
Bill Peters: Carolina Hurricanes
What He's Done: Bill Peters joins the Carolina Hurricanes after three seasons working as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, per NHL.com.
Before Detroit, Peters spent two seasons as head coach of the AHL's Rockford IceHogs and three seasons with the Spokane Chiefs, whom he took to a Memorial Cup win in 2008.
What's Expected: Get back to the playoffs. The Hurricanes haven't made a postseason appearance since they went to the Eastern Conference Final back in 2008-09—the longest playoff drought in the Eastern Conference.
Can He Do It? It'll be tough. Replacing Paul Maurice with Kirk Muller 25 games into the 2011-12 season did nothing to improve the Hurricanes' fortunes. There's no evidence that a coaching shake-up has a positive impact on the players in Carolina.
New general manager Ron Francis has basically kept his lineup intact from last season, making only a couple of small changes, according to Davis Harper of NHL.com. Peters is the most important new face. He'll have a tough time delivering better results than his predecessor.
Prediction: FAILURE. The Hurricanes will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
Gerard Gallant: Florida Panthers
What He's Done: Gerard Gallant comes to the Panthers after serving two seasons as an assistant to Michel Therrien with the Montreal Canadiens, per NHL.com.
Immediately prior to Montreal, he was head coach of the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs for three seasons. During that tenure he was named the CHL coach of the year twice and won the Memorial Cup with Panthers young star Jonathan Huberdeau in 2011.
In the NHL, Gallant was head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets for 142 games from 2003-2006 and served as an assistant with the New York Islanders and the Blue Jackets as well as the Canadiens.
What's Expected: Get out of the cellar—Florida finished 29th overall last season. New owner Vincent Viola has opened his wallet for the Panthers, allowing general manager Dale Tallon to trade for Roberto Luongo and sign six unrestricted free agents to fat contracts on July 1, per Alain Poupart of NHL.com.
Now just $5 million from the salary cap ceiling, according to CapGeek.com, the Panthers' roster features an intriguing mix of savvy veterans and talented youngsters.
Can He Do It? Quite possibly. Adding Luongo and Willie Mitchell to strengthen the back end will help, but the Panthers have a big hill to climb after being the second-worst team in the league defensively in 2013-14, per NHL.com. If 2014 first overall pick Aaron Ekblad makes the team on defense, he'll join a group that includes other young stars at forward like Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.
Prediction: SUCCESS. The Panthers might not get all the way back to the playoffs in Gallant's first season, but they'll make some strides and should be a fun team to watch in 2014-15.
Peter Laviolette: Nashville Predators
What He's Done: Peter Laviolette won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, per HockeyDB.com. He also won the AHL's Calder Cup with the Providence Bruins in 1999.
Laviolette has also been head coach of the New York Islanders and, most recently, the Philadelphia Flyers. After reaching the Stanley Cup Final with the Flyers as a midseason replacement in 2010, he was relieved of his duties three games into the 2013-14 season.
What's Expected: Change the culture. Until he was fired after the 2013-14 season, Barry Trotz was the only coach the Nashville Predators had ever played under in their 15-season history. After making the playoffs for seven of eight years from 2004-2012, Nashville failed to qualify for the last two seasons, precipitating the change.
Can He Do It? Laviolette has a reputation for quick success when he takes over a new team. "Wherever he has gone, he has initially breathed new life into the organization," reports Josh Cooper of USA Today. "He has boosted offense and brought innovation, motivation and postseason success."
The coach might have the tools, but does he have the horses? Nashville has brought in new faces like James Neal, Olli Jokinen and Derek Roy, but talent gaps remain in the budget-conscious Predators roster.
Prediction: FAILURE. Laviolette will have a tough time building a winning team atmosphere with the group he has.
Mike Johnston: Pittsburgh Penguins
What He's Done: The Pittsburgh Penguins head coaching job is Mike Johnston's first in the NHL. From HockeyDB.com, Johnston served as an assistant and associate coach with the Vancouver Canucks for six seasons, then spent two years as an associate coach with the Los Angeles Kings before joining the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, where he served as coach and general manager.
Johnston took the Winterhawks to the WHL Final three times in his six years with the club. He was suspended for most of the 2012-13 season after it was determined that the team provided improper, undeclared benefits to players and their families, according to NHL.com.
What's Expected: Oh—just to "chase the Stanley Cup with a coach out of junior hockey," as it was put by Rob Rossi of Pittsburgh's TribLive.
The Penguins have been among the NHL's elite during the regular season. In the playoffs, they have consistently underachieved after winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Both coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero were casualties in 2014 after the Penguins couldn't convert a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers into a second-round win.
Can He Do It? Well, Johnston will be coaching two of the best players in the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And the Penguins hit a home run in free agency when they signed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. But bringing in nearly-retired Jim Rutherford as general manager after five years of failure in Carolina was a questionable move.
We also know Johnston was the management group's second choice after another candidate, believed to have been Willie Desjardins according to NHL.com, chose not to accept the Penguins' job offer.
Prediction: FAILURE. Johnston will have all year to try to get the Penguins pulling on the same rope, but his success won't be measured until playoff time. Only one team can win the Cup; it won't be the Penguins.
Willie Desjardins: Vancouver Canucks
What He's Done: Willie Desjardins became a hot commodity this spring as he coached the AHL's Texas Stars to a Calder Cup win, per HockeyDB.com.
Previously, Desjardins spent two years as an associate coach with the NHL's Dallas Stars and eight years with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, who made two Memorial Cup appearances as WHL champions.
What's Expected: Right the ship. The Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons under one-year coach John Tortorella in 2013-14 and have been in decline since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.
Desjardins' hiring is part of a complete team overhaul that also saw the introduction of new team president Trevor Linden, general manager Jim Benning and a series of player personnel moves including the trading of Ryan Kesler.
Can He Do It? It can't get worse, can it? The Canucks' 2013-14 season was a perfect storm of injuries, underachieving players and distractions caused by a coach that Bruce Arthur of the National Post said has a "genuine anger issue" after he attempted to storm the Calgary Flames' dressing room in January.
If Desjardins can restore some pride to a team that got knocked to the mat last season, the Canucks will improve.
Prediction: SUCCESS. The Canucks won't be winning a Presidents' Trophy again anytime soon, but Desjardins will look like a hero cleaning up in the wake of Hurricane Torts.
Barry Trotz: Washington Capitals
What He's Done: Barry Trotz is five years younger than NHL neophytes Mike Johnston and Willie Desjardins, but he has the most big league head coaching experience of any of the newcomers.
Trotz put together a record of 557-479-60-100 in 1,196 games over 15 years behind the Nashville Predators' bench, according to Hockey-Reference.com. Previously, he won a Calder Cup in 1994, his first season behind the bench of the AHL Portland Pirates.
What's Expected: "It starts with the captain," writes Dan Rosen of NHL.com.
Trotz doesn't want to take away Alex Ovechkin's offensive ability, but he wants to put more responsibility on Ovechkin to play a 200-foot game. Trotz said he has seen a lot of "glide" in Ovechkin's game and he noted his 5-on-5 production has to improve.
The Capitals are looking to get back into the playoff picture, then see if they can finally do some damage. They've never been further than the second round in the Ovechkin era.
Can He Do It? Defensive-minded Trotz and the offensive-oriented Caps are a strange fit, but they just might bring out the best in each other. Trotz has a smart hockey mind and made the best of the cards he was dealt in Nashville. A solid system could reap rewards.
Prediction: SUCCESS. Expect to see Ovechkin respond to a more team-oriented strategy, with positive results.
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