The presence of a solid head coach can keep an NHL team from going into long slumps that can turn a potentially strong season into a disaster.
The Chicago Blackhawks know that Joel Quenneville is a lot more than a solid presence behind their bench. He ranks third on the all-time list of NHL coaching victories, but his win total is just a part of what makes him one of the best coaches in the league right now.
Six current NHL coaches have won at least one Stanley Cup, but two of those coaches have struggled quite a bit in playoff competition since leading their teams to the championship. Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues has been lauded as a top coach since he took over at the helm of the Dallas Stars in 1995-96. He led the Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup, but his teams have failed in six of their last seven postseason series.
Peter Laviolette led the Carolina Panthers to an unexpected Stanley Cup in 2005-06, but he was fired by the Philadelphia Flyers early last season after his team did not make the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. While he led the Flyers to the 2010 Eastern Conference championship, his teams' postseason performances have been uneven.
Mike Babcock, Claude Julien and Darryl Sutter are the only current coaches who rank with Quenneville for consistency.
All four coaches have won at least one Stanley Cup and have regularly been able to get top efforts from their teams. In this feature, we will rate each coach, using these four categories as our guides: strategy, psychology, motivational ability and media relations.