He holds or shares 61 NHL records; he’s won four Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal (as GM in 2002); he’s a 10-time Art Ross Trophy winner, a nine-time Hart Trophy winner, and an 18-time NHL All Star.
He is the greatest player to ever lace up the skates or strap on a helmet, period.
But after four years behind the Coyotes bench as head coach, finishing with an overall record of 141-163-24 and months of rumors about Gretzky leaving the Coyotes, today Wayne stepped down.
The reason behind his resignation is simple: The fact is no matter how this Phoenix bankruptcy matter works itself out, neither side had Gretzky as the future head coach. Wayne saw stepping down as the best way to move forward.
But how did he fare as a head coach in the NHL?
Some would say he failed just by looking at his losing record as head coach of the Coyotes. But, look back to the middle of January last year. The Coyotes sat in fifth place in the Western Conference and Gretzky’s name was being said in the same sentence as coaches like Claude Julien, with regards to Jack Adams nominees.
You don’t just get thrown into the mix of Jack Adams nominees without proving yourself as a legitimate head coach.
Wayne Gretzky was developing himself as a head coach. As Bill Watters put it on the FAN 590 radio show earlier today, “Wayne was a work-in-progress; he was learning on the job.”
With Gretzky still on the helm and $19 million in cap space still available to the Coyotes, they could have continued to build towards success in 2009-2010.
But instead, Gretzky’s resignation digs them into a larger (of what already was) a massive hole in the ground.
The Next Step for Gretzky
I think at this point Wayne needs to take a back seat for a few days, and as Bill Watters stated, “I can bet that there will be owners lined up to try and align Wayne Gretzky with their organization within the next couple of days.”
So whether it be a front office job or an associate coaching job, Wayne will not be far from the game for long, and soon enough the opportunity will come for Wayne to be the bench boss of an NHL team.
Hopefully that team will have less baggage then the Phoenix Coyotes.
And after seeing what he can do behind the bench of another franchise, we will then be able to judge his coaching abilities.