One aspect of the Islanders' search for a new Head Coach has fascinated me since the day that Garth Snow and Ted Nolan parted. How does the team come up with its list of interviewees? It would have been interesting to be in that room on the day, or days, when Snow settled on a pool of candidates.
The thing is, starting the list is easy. What team in the Islanders' situation wouldn't immediately write down the names Bob Hartley, Joel Quenneville, John Tortorella, Paul Maurice, and Marc Crawford?
But you know that in order to do due diligence, you have to stretch the search a little more. You don't want to overlook the next quality coaching talent simply because there are bigger names available.
That's how you get to names like Mike Sullivan (barely stretching) and Scott Gordon (sensibly stretching).
The hard part is knowing where to finish the list. How do you know when to stop? At what point does Snow decide that he's comfortable with the reach of his search?
Let me give you a name: Brian McCutcheon.
I choose him only because he's someone with whom I happen to be familiar, and he's a good example of why I think this is an important question.
McCutcheon is building himself a textbook coaching resume. Over the last 20 years, he has progressed from being Head Coach at Cornell University, to an Assistant gig in the IHL, and then to head coaching positions in the ECHL and AHL.
After serving as head coach of the Rochester Americans for three seasons from 1997-2000, McCutcheon was promoted to assistant coach under Lindy Ruff with the parent Buffalo Sabres for the 2001-02 season. In 2006, McCutcheon's title was elevated to Associate Coach.
I don't know what Ruff's intentions are, but it's not crazy to wonder if McCutcheon is being groomed to replace Ruff whenever he decides to step aside (the Sabres recently allowed Randy Cunneyworth, the well-regarded recent coach of the Amerks, to take an assistant's job with the Thrashers).
If there is no such progression in place, then you'd have to think a guy like McCutcheon would begin throwing his hat into the ring for other NHL head coaching vacancies soon. He has put himself through the appropriate paces to get a shot.
I want to emphasize that McCutcheon has not interviewed with the Islanders, is not rumored to be interviewing with the Islanders, nor has he to my knowledge expressed any interest in interviewing. This is neither an evaluation of his coaching skills, nor an indication of how well he would fit as the leader of this Islanders team.
But it just makes me wonder how many Brian McCutcheons are out there?
Once you're willing to interview last season's AHL Coach of the Year in addition to the big names, you owe it to yourself to see where else you should stretch.
Certainly there are time restrictions. Furthermore, part of due diligence is using your connections to create a clear picture of who the most well regarded candidates are.
Perhaps that's why some of the lesser-knowns stay lesser known. Whether that picture comes from a depth of opinions or from the thoughts of a few trusted individuals is up to the General Manager.
Either way, we are left to assume that Snow has a comfort level with the scope of his search. If given the chance, I'd like to ask him how he got there.
In the meantime, if this goes on too much longer I'll have to start coming up with lists of Wildest Wild-Card Candidates. Anybody check in with Mark Messier lately?
(And all of New York cringes.)
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