The season hasn't even ended yet, and already, six NHL squads are looking for new coaches. Here's a quick look at the coaching picture so far:
Colorado Avalanche - Joel Quennville
Toronto Maple Leafs - Paul Maurice
Ottawa Senators - John Paddock/Bryan Murray
Atlanta Thrashers - Don Waddell
Florida Panthers - Jacques Martin
San Jose Sharks - Ron Wilson
Now of these six, three are maintaining their roles as GMs. So, let's say that Quennville, Maurice, and Wilson are all in the market for other teams. All three of these guys are quite capable of bringing about change for any organization. At the same time, the NHL is desperately in need of new blood in the coaching department. Sure, you can look at young Therrien in Pittsburgh and what he's done. You can even look at The Great One and Guy Carbonneau and say that they are relatively new, but younger coaches are seemingly more successful than the Old Guard.
But enough about unknown coaches. Ron Wilson is now the newest among the unemployed. I would guess most of the hockey world outside of the San Jose metro area are asking why.
Yes, the Sharks were ousted in the second round for the third straight year. While some would say that San Jose got hot at the best time, I would argue that it was just too early. They finished out the season with an incredible win streak, catapulting them to the division title. However, that push wore out some of their aging stars (Roenick and Rivet). Additionally, and possibly more importantly, superstar net-minder Evgeni Nabokov played, literally, almost every game this season. The Sharks would have been wise to rest him when they wrapped up the division title.
So, maybe a couple things could have changed. Wilson is possibly to blame, but he also had improving records each year, not to mention the highest winning percentage in franchise history. The Sharks may miss his confidence and experience in the coming season. They may be in trouble no matter who's behind the bench.
Only time will tell.
Where does Ron Wilson go from here?
Anywhere he wants, outside of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Detroit.
He'd be stepping into a great situation in Atlanta or Ottawa. Los Angeles is a possibility as well. I think the best place for him, as well as the greatest challenge, lies in Florida. The Panthers are an organization that needs a little rebuilding. Wilson would be the perfect coach to institute discipline and develop a young team. He already has a proven goaltender in Tomas Vokoun and a great young defense-man in Jay Bouwmeester. If he can reign in Olli Jokinen and get him to buy into a strong defensive system, look for the Panthers to challenge the Hurricanes and Capitals for the division crown.
As for the Sharks, I only hope that they find what they need, because Randy Carlyle is not going to take next season sitting down.
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