NHL Power Rankings: Ranking The 30 Current Head Coaches
An often overlooked and under appreciated part of an NHL hockey team is the Head Coach. An often thankless position, the tenure of a Head Coach does not tend to be very long. In fact, of the 30 head coaches in place to start the 2010-11 season, only six coaches have completed the last three full seasons in their current position.
There seems to be quite a high amount of turnover in the profession, even for successful head coaches. A sign of this is with the thirty head coaches in place, only seven have earned the highest prize of all, the Stanley Cup. And of those seven, only four have done so with the team they currently coach.
Let's take a look at how I rank them from 30 to 1, ranking them by their NHL careers thus far, and we'll throw some stats and tidbits in wherever and whenever we can.
(All win-loss records and statistical information is as of the start of the 2010-11 season)
I look forward to your comments and debates as to why a coach may be ranked to high or too low......
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30: Scott Arniel, Columbus Blue Jackets
Years as an NHL Coach: First season, no record as of yet
Hired this past offseason, there isn't a whole lot in terms of an NHL head coaching resume for us to utilize in differentiating between the five brand new first-time Head Coaches who were hired this summer.
Scott Arniel played parts of 11 seasons (730 games) in National Hockey League and a playing career that ended in the IHL in 1999, Arniel became an assistant coach for the Manitoba Moose and eventually the Buffalo Sabres under Lindy Ruff. He would later return to the Moose where he was the head coach for four seasons for the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Included in those four seasons was a trip to the Calder Cup Finals in 2008-09
Arniel will be expected to work with the talent the Blue Jackets have in place as the team looks to recover from a disappointing 2009-10 season that definitely saw the Blue Jackets take a step backwards. A significant part of that backwards step was goaltender Steve Mason, who had some struggles in his second NHL season, after an unbelievable rookie season in 2008-09 that won Mason the Calder Trophy. There are building blocks there for sure, with star winger Rick Nash, and veterans Kristian Huselius, R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette, along with backliners Mike Commodore and Fedor Tuytin.
Arniel has his work cut out for him a bit, but he should be given a little bit of a leash to work with too.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Considering he just got hired, you would think Arniel should be pretty safe this year.
29. Craig Ramsay, Atlanta Thrashers
Years as an NHL Coach: Third season, 16-27-6, .388 win %
Ramsay is a bit of an "off the radar" type candidate. I only say that because the trend has been to hire younger coaches, of which Ramsay definitely does not qualify. He has a long distinguished career as a player and then both as a scout and assistant coach with the Sabres, Senators, Stars, Lightning, Panthers and Flyers.
His playing career of 1077 games was all with the Buffalo Sabres, including an impressive run of 776 consecutive games from 1974-1983. He also won the Selke Trophy in 1983 and made the All-Game in 1976. His statline totaled at 252 goals, 420 assists and never was a negative player in plus/minus, all in all a pretty impressive career for Ramsay, a player considered one of the better defensive forwards of his time.
His coaching in Atlanta is a bit of an uphill battle, with a franchise that has been through a bit of turmoil after trading away its marquee player Ilya Kovalchuk last year, as well as the replacement of both the head coach (John Anderson) and GM Rick Dudley replacing Don Waddell. There definitely is some young talent for Ramsay to work with, so how he works with these players, and how well he can keep his players accountable will give a good indication of how he performs. There is definitely an age gap between his players and the 59-year old Ramsay, but that can sometimes work either way.
Let's hope the youngsters like Evander Kane, Patrice Cormier, Zach Bogosian and veterans like Nik Antropov, Johnny Oduya, Chris Mason and Frederik Modin mesh well to help Atlanta improve and get itself back into playoff contention.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Considering he just got hired, you have to think Ramsay should get a little time to work with his team, even through his track record shows Ramsay hasn't had much time to work with his teams in his previous tenures as a coach.
28. Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning
Years as an NHL Coach: First season, no record as of yet
Boucher was a highly sought after coaching prospect this past offseason, before coming to terms with the Tampa Bay Lightning and GM Steve Yzerman, and join them as their new Head Coach. He was in line to be offered the Columbus job but instead chose to join the Lightning.
Boucher inherits a team with a ton of talent, especially up front, led by Vincent Lecaviler, Martin St. Louis, Simon Gagne and young studs Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
His background in hockey does not come from extensive time as a player, but a transfer to and the realization that his success would lie in the coaching profession. He spent about eight seasons in the QMJHL as an assistant, before his head coaching break with Drummondville in 2006 and won the President's Cup and coached his team in the famous Memorial Cup tournament. He also participated as a coach in the U-18 and U-20 tournaments for Team Canada between 2006-2009.
In June 2009, Boucher was named Head Coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. He won the AHL's Coach of the Year award after an impressive 115-point season for the team. Boucher would go on to utilize that success to get his first chance at the NHL level with Tampa Bay this offseason.
He currently is the youngest coach in the NHL.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Considering he just got hired, you would think Boucher should be pretty safe this year, as it seems Yzerman and Boucher are both trying to build a strong foundation in Tampa Bay.
27. John MacLean, New Jersey Devils
Years as an NHL Coach: First season, no record as of yet
John MacLean certainly has paid his dues as a Devil. After a distinguished career with New Jersey lasting for parts of 15 seasons (one year missed due to injury) as a player, MacLean also spent seven years behind the bench as an assistant coach for the team after his retirement as a player in 2002. He holds many records in team history as a player, as well as scoring one of the biggest goals in team history in 1988.
After several times possibly being overlooked for the Head Coaching job, MacLean spent last season as a head coach for the first time, with the Lowell Devils in the AHL. He had a pretty successful season, bringing the Devils AHL affiliate to a playoff spot for the first time in five seasons, despite a lot of player turnover due to injuries at the NHL level.
He has won a Stanley Cup as a player (1995) and an assistant coach (2003) and is now looking to turn the tide as a head coach. It certainly is shaping up to be an interesting rookie season for MacLean, with the salary cap problems the team is enduring. With a roster including the likes of Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Anton Volchenkov, Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott, there appears to be a lot of talent for MacLean to work with. Let's not also forget he endured the "Summer of Kovalchuk," so MacLean definitely has talent, especially up front, in place.
MacLean appears to have been groomed for this position for several years by GM Lou Lamoriello as well as the coaches he served under as an assistant coach. He is the first former Devils player to be a head coach for the team and is still a possibility to have his No.15 hanging from the rafters one day. Success as a head coach would only increase those chances.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Despite the history of the Devils and their turnover of Coaches, I think MacLean should be safe for awhile, barring a total team collapse of some kind.
26: Davis Payne, St. Louis Blues
Years as an NHL Coach: Second season, 23-15-4 in first season (.595 win %)
Davis Payne was hired by the St. Louis Blues to replace Andy Murray, inheriting a team that was struggling greatly. Payne was able to turn things around a bit for the Blues, as they played well above .500 for the last 42 games of the season. However, most of that was done with a team that had little to play for, as a playoff spot wasn't very realistic when Payne took over.
Payne has a pretty young and talented team to work with, anchored by stars in the making like Erik Johnson, David Backes, Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie and Andy MacDonald. Most of these players all are defensively responsible for the most part, while being able to contribute offensively as well, a vital trait for a team under Payne's tutelage. Whether or not the Blues are still a player or two away remains to be seen, but there are prospects like Alex Pietrangelo who should help the Blues grow as a franchise.
Payne was originally a seventh-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 1989, but never saw anytime with the parent club. He did see 22 games with the Boston Bruins over two seasons (1995-95 & 1996-97), picking up one assist and 14 penalty minutes. He made his coaching debut in 2000 with the Pee Dee Pride. In 2003, he moved on to the Alaska Aces to be their Coach, where he had a ton of success, including winning a Kelly Cup Championship in 2005-06. In July 2008, he was promoted to head coach of the Peroia Riverman, the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues, where he remained until his hiring with St. Louis in January 2010.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Considering he just got hired, you would think Arniel should be pretty safe this year.
25. Todd Richards, Minnesota Wild
Years as an NHL Coach: Second season, 38-36-0-8, .512 win %, Playoffs, no record
The Minnesota Wild had Jacques Lemaire as their only head coach until after the 2008-09 season when Lemaire retired. A long interview process was undertaken and Todd Richards was hired to be the head coach of the Wild on June 16, 2009.
Richards was born in Minnesota and played at the University of Minnesota, so it's a natural fit for the former defenseman. He would only get a cup of coffee essentially (11 games with Hartford over two seasons), but played professionally over 13 seasons combined in the AHL, IHL and overseas, picking up a good amount of information and knowledge along the way.
After retiring as a player, Richards became an assistant coach at the AHL level, with the Milwaukee Admirals for four seasons. In 2006, he became the head coach of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Penguins, before rising to the NHL level as an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks, a position he would be at until his hiring as head coach of the Wild.
The Wild are an interesting team that in recent years have seemed on the verge of a breakout but have not been able to get over the hump. Obviously, the franchise peaked in 2003, when they lost in the Conference Finals, and have not been able to get near that stage of success again since. There is some definite strong talent in place with the likes of Nicklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu, Martin Havlat and Marek Zidlicky, as well as some young talent trying to breakthrough in the NHL, and some secondary veteran talent like John Madden, Andrew Brunette and Matt Cullen.
The question is do they have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference? That remains to be seen, and is the task the local Minnesota product Richards will have to work towards this year, a ticket to the playoffs.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Considering Richards is only the second coach in the history of the Wild, and in his second season, you'd think Richards job is safe for now.
24. Brent Sutter, Calgary Flames
Years as an NHL Coach: Fourth season, 137-88-0-21, .600 win %, Playoffs, 4-8
Brent Sutter is an interesting coach to look at. He was a target from many NHL teams before finally relinquishing and taking the job with New Jersey before the 2007-08 season. GM Lou Lamoriello had finally gotten a Head Coach he had targeted for many years and thought he would be in place for years to come. Unfortunately, Sutter had a hard time dealing with being away from his Alberta ranch, his businesses and most importantly his family. While it's hard to take issue with it at face value, for Sutter to join up with his brother to become Head Coach of the Flames just a few weeks later, doesn't really pass the smell test, does it?
Let's not overlook the success Brent Sutter had as a player, playing in 18 seasons with the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks, where Sutter played in 1,111 games, scoring 363 goals and adding 464 assists, all while winning the Stanley Cup twice with the Islanders in his first two seasons. Sutter was a hard-nosed, two-way player, who looks to have this teams play in the same mold. He hasn't been able to match that playoff success as a head coach in the NHL however, where he lost both series he participated in with the Devils.
Some might say Sutter has gotten what he deserved, to an extent, in Calgary, with a team that appears to be underachieving and of which some have labeled as malcontent. I'm not sure how fair a judgement that might be, but then again, the team is considered to have underachieved last year, by not making the playoffs. With a team with the talent it has, injuries aside, you would have expected a better result last season. With a year of adjustment under their belt, it will be interesting to see what happens this year with Brent Sutter and the Flames.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Both Brent Sutter and his brother are having some people think they could potentially be on the chopping block this season without a strong start. Sutter had some success in New Jersey in the regular season, but didn't come close to matching that his first year in Calgary. Let's just say, his brother isn't likely to fire him, but if the GM goes, it's likely Brent Sutter is sent packing too.
23. Peter DeBoer, Florida Panthers
Years as an NHL Coach: third season, 73-67-0-24, .518 win %, Playoffs, no record
Peter DeBoer came up through the ranks a bit, first as a player, he played for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL for four seasons and then the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL for two-plus seasons before retiring as a player after the 1990-91 season.
He started his coaching career, first as an assistant and then head coach for the Detroit Whalers, an OHL team. He stayed there through 2000-01, making two trips to the J. Ross Robertson Cup finals. Afterward, he moved on to the same position with the Kitchener Rangers, also of the OHL, where his track of success continued, including winning OHL Coach of the Year on two occasions, before being noticed enough by the Florida Panthers to be offered the head coaching job on June 13, 2008.
Thus far, with a limited roster, DeBoer has done an ok job with the Panthers. In his first season, the Panthers posted 93 points and missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker to the Montreal Canadiens. Looking to build off that bit of success, I'd have to say the Panthers were a bit of a disappointment last year, but some of that can be attributable to some serious injuries to the likes of David Booth, Tomas Vokoun, Nathan Horton and Cory Stillman. It also must be pointed out that the Panthers lost out on their prized defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who departed for the Calgary Flames in the off-season before.
Add it all up, and the Panthers are now a pretty re-worked team, as the likes of GM Dale Tallon has and will continue to change the roster. However, the Panthers are still hoping to make a playoff push this year, so DeBoer has his work cut out for him, as they try to build up something in Miami.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: With an unstable franchise like the Panthers, it's tough to feel too comfortable. Then again, they are trying to build something with GM Dale Tallon now in charge. Since DeBoer isn't Tallon's hire, you'd think if he disappoints, he could be replaced, as to put someone Tallon wants long-term in place.
22. Marc Crawford, Dallas Stars
Years as an NHL Coach: 14th season, 507-392-103-67, .554 win %, Playoffs, 43-40, Adams Trophy 1995-1996 (w/COL), Stanley Cup - 1995-96 (w/COL).
Marc Crawford came up as a player through the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, playing three seasons with the Cornwall Royals before being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the fourth round of the 1980 NHL Draft. He joined the Canucks in 1981-82 and played a role on a team that made it to the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the New York Islanders. For his NHL career, Crawford played 176 games and posted 19 goals with 31 assists. He also spent time in the minor leagues with the Milwaukee Admirals (IHL), Fredricton Express (AHL) and Dallas Blackhawks (CHL).
After retiring as a player, Crawford became head coach for his former team, the Cornwall Royals, now in the Ontario Hockey League. After two seasons there, Crawford got a job in the AHL with the St. John's Maple Leafs. In his second season, he took the Leafs to the Calder Cup finals, before bowing to the Adriondack Red Wings. Crawford did earn the AHL Coach of the Year award in 1992-93, which likely helped him get a Head Coaching job with the Quebec Nordiques for the 1994-95 season.
At age 34, Crawford became the youngest coach ever to win the Jack Adams Trophy and in his rookie coaching year to boot after a season that saw the Nordiques win 30 of 48 games in the lockout shortened season. Showing his first year of success was not a fluke, Crawford coached the newly minted Colorado Avalanche (after relocating from Quebec) to their first Stanley Cup title in 1995-96. After two early playoff exits the next two seasons, Crawford would resign to move on elsewhere.
He would move on to the Vancouver Canucks, where he replaced Mike Keenan as Head Coach. He helped revive a bit of a rebuilding team, molding them into the fast-paced style Crawford had his teams play, and the team built up success in the regular season, but was unable to duplicate it in the postseason. He would be let go after six and a half seasons as the all-time winning coach in Canucks history. But, he also was involved at least to some extent, Todd Bertuzzi essentially ended the career of Steven Moore.
He went on to coach the next two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, before being hired by the Dallas Stars at the beginning of last year. He seems to be living a little off the early success he had with the star studded Avalanche team he inherited and hasn't been able to duplicate that success, especially in the playoffs and is probably on his last opportunity to regain the magic.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Crawford has a history of wearing out his welcome in places, but being only one season into his tenure in Dallas, I would think he has at least another year to go with the Stars.
21. Cory Clouston, Ottawa Senators
Years as an NHL Coach: Third season, 63-43-0-10, .586 win %, Playoffs, 2-4
Cory Clouston was destined to become a coach. After graduating from the University of Alberta in 1993, he jumped into coaching as an assistant with the Powell River Paper Kings of the BCJHL. His next stop was as GM and head coach of the Grande Prairie Storm of the AJHL, where he took home the Coach of the Year award in 1995-96. After, he moved on to the Western Hockey League as an assistant coach with the Kootenay Ice for five seasons, before being promoted to Head Coach in 2001.
He put up an impressive .655 win % for the Ice, and picked up another Coach of the Year award as well as a trip to the WHL finals in 2004-05.
He also spent time in international play with Team Canada for the World Junior Championships (asst in 2005, HC in 2006). He joined the professional ranks in 2007 as head coach of the AHL's Binghamton Senators, where he served parts of two seasons before the Ottawa Senators named him as a replacement for head coach Craig Hartsburg on April 8, 2009, earning his first position in the NHL.
Clouston's teams play a much more aggressive, attacking style than the Sens may be accustomed to, and its interesting to speculate how Clouston would have done with the super talented Senators squads of the early 2000's that featured stars like Marian Hossa, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Havlat, Alexei Yashin and Zdeno Chara. From that list, only Spezza and Alfredsson remain with Ottawa, and this may be Alfredsson's last NHL season.
Clouston has had some success as coach, bringing Ottawa back to the playoffs last season before bowing to Pittsburgh in the first round. His coaching resume brings back memories of Tom McVie, in that he's been through a lot to get here, and doesn't seem like the kind of Coach who will take crap from anybody, so how long that approach will last at the NHL level will be interesting to watch.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Clouston has done decent work with the Senators thus far in the regular season, and should be on pretty solid ground as long as the team doesn't flounder.
20. Tom Renney, Edmonton Oilers
Years as an NHL Coach: 8th season, 203-170-9-46, .539 win %, Playoffs, 11-13
Tom Renney is a coach with deep roots in Western Canada. Hailing from British Columbia, Renney started out his coaching career in the Western Hockey League with the Kamloops Blazers, where he led his team (featuring Scott Niedermayer) to consecutive President's Cup championships in the WHL and Memorial Cup champions in the CHL. In his two seasons at Kamloops, Renney amassed a ridiculous .714 win percentage.
He went on to join Hockey Canada where his stint included a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
After working with Team Canada for a couple of years, Renney earned a job with the Vancouver Canucks as Head Coach in 1996-97, replacing Pat Quinn, who relinquished his coaching position to focus on his GM duties. He only lasted one plus season with Vancouver before being replaced by Mike Keenan.
Renney then went to work in Player Development for the Glen Sather and the New York Rangers. With twenty games left in the 2003-04 season, Renney was named head coach by Sather, who also wanted to concentrate on his GM duties. Renney would coach parts of five seasons with the Rangers, with three playoff appearances, but just two first round wins. He was fired on February 23, 2009.
Later that year, Renney joined the Edmonton Oilers to serve as Associate Coach under Pat Quinn, so Renney's career came full circle when Quinn resigned a year later and Renney was named head coach on June 22, 2010. Renney is in his ideal situation, working in western Canada and working with and molding young NHL talent. He is a smart and demanding Coach that tends to translate better with younger guys and gives them a good foundation. The be blunt, Renney is a good teacher.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Renney was brought in as associate head coach when Pat Quinn was hired, so you would think it was done for the long haul. Renney should have a lot of time to work with a young team in Edmonton and I think he works pretty well with the younger guys and is a good teacher.
19. Scott Gordon, New York Islanders
Years as an NHL Coach: 3rd season, 60-84-0-20, Playoffs, no record
Scott Gordon was a star goalie at Boston College and was part of a major first, along with (at the time) Chris Terreri of Providence College; they both were the first to utilize a water bottle on the ice during a hockey game, during a three overtime game in the 1985 NCAA hockey tournament.
After his college career, Gordon moved on to an eight year professional career, highlighted by 23 games over two seasons (1989-90 & 1990-91) with the Quebec Nordiques. Around those two seasons, Gordon spent time with the Fredericton Express, Baltimore Skipjacks, Johnstown Chiefs, Halifax Citadels, New Haven Nighthawks, Nashville Knights, Atlanta Knights and Knoxville Cherokees of the AHL, ECHL and IHL.
Immediately after his retirement as a player, Gordon went into coaching, becoming an assistant coach for three seasons with the Atlanta Knights and Quebec Rafales, before becoming a head coach for the first time with the Roanoke Express of the ECHL. With two seasons with some success, Gordon moved on to the Providence Bruins, where Gordon spent almost three full seasons as an assistant coach. Gordon was promoted to head coach with nine games left in the 2002-03 season. He spent the next four seasons with limited playoff success, highlighted by a .731 win percentage in 2007-08.
Gordon parlayed that into his big break with the New York Islanders, where he has spent the last two seasons. With his ability to teach and work with young players, I believe Gordon is a good fit on Long Island, with a franchise that is rebuilding around young talent like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey, amongst others, Gordon has a lot to work with, and I expect the Islanders to make a push towards the playoffs, if not this season, then definitely next one, and Gordon should be a big reason why.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Gordon has been shortchanged a bit in terms of the position he was put in by his team. I think Gordon has done a great job working with the talent he has had available, and is going to be given the chance to grow with the team for the long haul.
18. Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks
Years as an NHL Coach: Sixth season, 219-139-0-52, .598 win %, Playoffs, 34-22, Stanley Cup - 2006-07.
Randy Carlyle played a long solid career, and was tough as nails on opponents in the NHL, lasting 17 seasons and 1055 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets. He won the Norris Trophy with Pittsburgh in 1980-81 and appeared in four All-Star games. He retired after the 1992-93 season and spent time with the Winnipeg Jets organization, including a stint as an assistant coach in 1995-96. He spent four plus seasons as the head coach of the Manitoba Moose of the IHL, where he made the playoffs each season but only won two rounds in four years.
Carlyle would move on to the Washington Capitals, where he spent two years as an assistant coach, before returning for one more season as head coach with the Manitoba Moose, now an AHL team. After that season, he was hired by the Anaheim Ducks to be Head Coach. He won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 but hasn't really been able to match that success in the last couple of years, and the team is in danger of a little regression. This is a key season for the Ducks, as any hint of a step backward could have the Ducks looking to make a change.
However, with talent like Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Whitney, Teemu Selanne and Jonas Hiller anchoring the team, you would think this Ducks team has a real chance of going deep into the playoffs with Carlyle at the helm. As the all-time leader in wins for a Duck coach, and the Stanley Cup on hi resume, you would think it would be almost difficult for Carlyle and the Ducks to no only make the playoffs, but be in a position to make a deep run towards Lord Stanley's prize before it's all said and done.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Carlyle was the Coach for the franchise's only Stanley Cup. That has allowed Carlyle to survive this long. With Scott Niedermayer returning, you wonder how much of an impact that will have on the team, and it could put Carlyle at risk if the team does not have success. I'd put Carlyle in the top 10 amongst coaches most likely to get fired during this season.
17. Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks
Years as an NHL Coach: Third season, 104-38-0-22, .701 win %, Playoffs, 10-11
Todd McLellan is a coach who has a good long background in the game. After playing with Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, he was drafted in the fifth round of the 1986 draft by the New York Islanders. He played his way up but only played five games at the NHL level. A shoulder injury ended his North American playing career after the 1998-99 season.
After returning to school for a year, McLellan played in the Netherlands for three years and became a player-assistant coach, giving McLellan his initial coaching opportunity. He returned to Canada in 1993, where he went full-time into coaching, with stints with the North Battleford North. Stars (SJL), and Swift Current Broncos (WHL), where he won both WHL Executive of the Year (1997) and Coach of the Year (2000).
He joined the professional coaching ranks with the Cleveland Lumberjacks, of the now defunct IHL, an affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. After the IHL folded, he was transferred to Houston, to be coach of the Aeros, who he led to a Calder Cup in 2003. In 2005, he made it to the NHL level, becoming an assistant coach under Mike Babcock in Detroit.
Three years later, McLellan was hired as head coach of the San Jose Sharks, replacing Ron Wilson. McLellan has had extraordinary success thus far in the regular season as Sharks coach, with 104 wins in his first two seasons, including two division titles and a Presidents Trophy award. However, he has been unable to get the Sharks over the hump in the playoffs, winning two series and losing two series, including getting swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in last year's Western Conference Finals.
With the star studded roster including Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Danny Heatley, there have been championship aspirations. It is up to McLellan to draw from the successes he has had elsewhere and lead the Sharks to the one thing they have missing from their resume—a Stanley Cup. At this point, it pretty much is Stanley Cup or bust for the Sharks.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: McLellan must advance the Sharks deep into the playoffs, and if GM Doug Wilson thinks the team is not positioning itself well for the playoffs at any point, McLellan could find himself removed.
16. Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals
Years as an NHL Coach: Fourth season, 141-56-0-28, .689 win %, Playoffs, 13-15, Adams Trophy 2007-2008
Boudreau is a coach who had a long 20 year professional career and played a long time in the minors, and could've been a player compared to fictional baseball player Crash Davis. Boudreau played 30 games in the WHA, and 141 games in the NHL, but that's barely a fraction of his career as a whole. He was a prolific minor league scorer, with a best year of 50 goals and 72 assists in 80 games for the St. Catharines Saints of the AHL in 1982-83. He is also eighth on the all-time minor leagues scoring list.
Boudreau didn't even end his playing career before he began his coaching career, as he was player/assistant coach with the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL in 1990-91. He became head coach of the Muskegon Fury in the Colonial Hockey League in 1992-93, before moving on to to the Fort Wayne Komets for a year plus. Next was three seasons with the Mississippi Sea Wolves, where Boudreau won an ECHL championship in 1998-99. After, he took a job in the AHL two seasons with the Lowell Lock Monsters, and then four with the Manchester Monarchs. He moved to Hershey to coach the Bears, where in 2005-06, they won a Calder Cup and almost repeated the following season, bowing in the finals.
On November 22, 2007, Bruce Boudreau was named interim head coach of the Washington Capitals, and got the permanent title a little over a month later. He led the Caps to a division title (the first of three consecutive), but has only one 1-3 in playoff series over that time. Boudreau is looking to match the regular season he has had in the playoffs. With a team with the talent they have in the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Mike Green and Alexander Semin the expectations are high and should be. It's a question of how well Boudreau and the Washington Capitals live up to those expectations.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Boudreau is a coach that needs to do better in the post-season to stick around. He's been great in the regular season, and takes advantage of the good amount of talent he has been blessed with, but he must be able to lead them when it counts the most. I don't see him not lasting this year, but another playoff disappointment could lead to a turnover in the off-season.
15. Paul Maurice, Carolina Hurricanes
Years as an NHL Coach: 13th season (second tenure with Carolina), 412-413-99-53, .499 win %, Playoffs, 25-28
Paul Maurice is a two-time head coach of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise and got replaced and subsequently replace the same coach, Peter Laviolette, which is something that you don't see too often.
He was a player in the Ontario Hockey League who was forced to retire with an eye injury during a charity hockey game, an injury that Maurice still suffers from on occasion. It forced him into a coaching career as Maurice took over as Head Coach of the Detroit Junior Red Wings in 1993-94 of the OHL and lasted two seasons. He moved up to the NHL as an assistant with the Hartford Whalers, and a season later, took over as head coach at the age of 29. It was a rough first three seasons, which included the franchise's relocation to Carolina.
Maurice lasted eight plus seasons with the Hurricanes before being replaced after an 8-12-8 start in 2003-04. He would then reappear as head coach of the Toronto Marlies in 2005-06, before taking over for two seasons as the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In two non-playoff seasons, Maurice's record was just over .500, but it wasn't enough to be retained by GM Cliff Fletcher.
Maurice was re-hired by the Hurricanes on December 3, 2008 to replace Peter Laviolette and immediately helped Carolina to the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in four games.
There is talent in Carolina, in the likes of Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Brandon Sutter, Jeff Skinner and old grizzly vets like Sergei Samsonov, Erik Cole and Joe Corvo for Maurice to blend together to get the Hurricanes back in the playoffs. Some might say he has his work cut out for him a bit, but I think with Maurice at the helm, Carolina has a shot.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Maurice appears to be well-liked in Carolina and is working with a team that appears to be in a bit of transition after losing veterans Rod Brind A'Mour and Ray Whitney. It would take a big step backward in my opinion for the Hurricanes to think about a coaching change.
14. Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
Years as an NHL Coach: Eighth season, 252-164-10-58, .591 win %, Playoffs, 21-21, Adams Trophy - 2008-2009.
Claude Julien started out as a journeyman defenseman who played four seasons in the juniors, two-plus seasons in the IHL, two seasons in the CHL, seven-plus seasons in the AHL, a year in France, and also played in 14 games at the NHL level with the Quebec Nordiques (1 in 1984-85 and 13 in 1985-86).
Julien began his coaching career with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL in 1996-97, a team that featured future NHLer Peter Worrell, who posted an incredible 495 penalty minutes in 62 games, as well as Martin Biron. The team posted an amazing .707 win %. He later was Head Coach for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL for two plus seasons, before being promoted in-season to the Head Coach position with the Montreal Canadiens. He would last roughly two full seasons over three years (159 games), before being fired and replaced by GM Bob Gainey on January 14, 2006.
His next coaching was with the New Jersey Devils for the 2006-07 season. Well. almost the entire season, as Julien was let go with three games to go in the season, and there have been many rumors that have hit the Internet about why it was done (rumors of Scott Gomez firing a puck at him and it being ignored, as well as personal issues/disputes, etc) while the Devils were in first place, but Julien was indeed let go with three games left in the year, to shake-up the team, and ultimately it didn't do a whole of good as the Devils fell short of the Stanley Cup hopes that year, whether or not it was because of Julien is up for anyone who would want to debate it.
After being let go by New Jersey, Julien was brought in to lead the Boston Bruins, where Julien has had moderate success. His best season was 2008-09 when Julien won the Adams Trophy and the team posted 116 points, but didn't get past the second round of the playoffs. In three years, the Bruins have won only two playoff rounds. With his mild personality, there have been questions of Julien's ability to keep a team motivated within his defensive first system, and it seems like he could potentially be headed down that road again. It's too early to say yet, but Julien needs to avoid a long losing streak to keep his job in Boston.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Julien has had some success in Boston, but has not been able to get a team past the second round of the playoffs, which definitely leaves a lot of questions yet to be answered. This will be a big year for Julien, with a talented team in Beantown, it could easily potentially put him in jepoardy if they disappoint.
13. Jacques Martin, Montreal Canadiens
Years as an NHL Coach: 16th season, 556-439-119-66, .550 win %, Playoffs, 47-57, Adams Trophy 1998-99 (w/Ottawa)
Jacques Martin has a long history of some success at the NHL level. Like many coaches before him, he has not been able to win the ultimate prize—the Stanley Cup, at least as the head coach that is. Martin's playing career peaked at the college level, where Martin played goalie at St. Lawrence University, where he played with future fellow NHL coach Mike Keenan.
As a former goaltender, it isn't too surprising to realize or be surprised with Martin's defense-first approach, and to instill and demand discipline from his teams. Martin began his coaching career in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes, where he spent two seasons as an Assistant Coach, beginning in 1983-84. He followed with one season with the Guelph Platers, a team that featured future NHLers in Steve Chiasson and Gary Roberts. After, he got his NHL debut as a coach, for two playoff seasons with the St. Louis Blues.
He followed with two seasons as an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks and three with the Quebec Nordiques as the associate coach, before moving to the AHL season as head coach of the Cornwall Aces in 1993-94, a team that had three future NHL goalies in Jocelyn Thibault, Garth Snow and Stephane Fiset. After, he rejoined the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche as an assistant for two more years, where the team eventully won a Stanley Cup in 1996.
Martin was hired by the Ottawa Senators to take over for Dave Allison in 1996, and eight plus seasons in the role. While he always had a star studded roster, they struggled to achieve the success some thought they should have, with the closest they came to a Stanley Cup being a Game 7 loss in the 203 Eastern Conference Finals to New Jersey.
Martin spent three seasons starting in 2004, where he worked with his former college teammate Mike Keenan, who was the GM. Martin would take over two years later as GM, when Keenan would resign. Martin was removed from his dual position in 2008.
He reappeared as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens this past season, and led a team who caught a hot hand to defeat the top seeded Washington Capitals in the first round, and make it to the Conference Finals before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. The Canadien fans are tough, and are waiting to see what Martin and his Habs will do in year two in Montreal.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: After a strong playoff year with Montreal, I'd think Martin should be in good position with the Canadiens. However, in the tough market of Montreal, things can change rather quickly. That being said, I don't think it will change that much this season.
12. Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks
Years as an NHL Coach: Ninth season, 291-232-35-36, .550 win %, Playoffs, 21-23, Adams Trophy 2006-2007
Alain Vigneault seemingly knew pretty early what he wanted to do in his professional life, and at age 25, after retiring as a player, he began his hockey coaching career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Trois-River Draveurs for one season, and five with the Hull Olympiques and earned coach of the Year honors in 1987-88.
He broke into the NHL in 1992-93 with the expansion Ottawa Senators as an assistant coach, lasting for three straight last place finishes. He would return to the junior ranks with the Beaufort Harfangs.
He got a big break and was named head coach of the Montreal Canadiens at just age 36, and lasted three full seasons, and was an Adams Trophy finalist after the 1999-00 season, before being let go just 20 games into the 2000-01 season.
Once again, Vignault would return to the QMJHL, where he would coach two seasons with the Prince Edward Island Rockets. He then spent time with Vancouver's AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, before being promoted to become Head Coach of the Vancouver Canucks before the 2006-07 season, replacing Marc Crawford.
Vignault is entering his fifth season with the Canucks and has had a ton of regular season success, amassing three division titles and an Adams Trophy award in 2006-07. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to get past the second round in the playoffs as of yet. He has instilled a defensive first philosophy with the Canucks, which has definitely positively impacted Roberto Luongo's career, but hasn't hindered the likes of Daniel or Henrik Sedin either.
That is something he will need to look to change, even with three years left on his contract, as expectations are high in Vancouver, the Canucks fans are salivating over the possibility of a Stanley Cup.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Vigneault should be feeling a lot of pressure in Vancouver this year. With the boat load of talent in place, and the extra pressure of being a talented Canadian franchise, there is a lot of pressure on Vigneault to bring Vancouver deep into the playoffs this year. Any kind of major struggle will put Vigneault to the potential chopping block.
11. Ron Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs
Years as an NHL Coach: 17th season, 582-499-101-73, .533 win %, Playoffs, 47-48, Stanley Cup - 2008-2009.
Ron Wilson was a product of Providence College, where he starred for four years, including a ridiculous 87 points in just 27 games in 1974-75. He was drafted in the eighth round of the 1975 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would play parts of three seasons. He spent the next six seasons bouncing between the Minnesota North Stars, HC Davos of the Swedish Elite League and playing for Team USA at the World Championships. Wilson had some impressive numbers overseas, posting 186 goals and 244 assists for 430 points in 249 games. He retired after the 1987-88 season with HC Davos.
He immediately went into coaching, spending two seasons as an assistant with the Moncton Hawks of the AHL. His next stint was a three-year gig as an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks under Pat Quinn. He was then hired as the initial Head Coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim franchise, where he lasted four seasons, bringing the expansion team to the playoffs for the first time in his last season. However, he wasn’t retained after the 1996-97 season, and moved on to the Washington Capitals.
Before that, Wilson coached Team USA in the World Cup, where the Americans rode a hot goalie in Mike Richter to win the Gold Medal, which wasn't exactly the Miracle on Ice, but it was a shining moment in USA Hockey history.
Wilson coached five seasons with the Capitals, highlighted by an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals his first season but was unable to duplicate that success, or even win a playoff series (0-2) the next four years, before being let go by the Caps. His unemployment did not last long, when the San Jose Sharks hired Wilson 25 games into the 2002-03 season but was unable to get the Sharks to the playoffs in his first year. Over the next four plus seasons with the Sharks, Wilson was able to get to Round 2 in each year but was only able to win in Round 2 once, which ultimately was his demise when GM Doug Wilson (no relation) fired him after the 2007-08 season.
He once again was not out of work for long, when the Toronto Maple Leafs came calling and hired Wilson to become Head Coach. It's been an up and down two seasons for the Leafs, but there definitely has been a significant upgrade in the level of talent for the Leafs, so the immediate future is looking brighter for Toronto, and he has been reunited with his former Providence teammate, Brian Burke, who is the GM for the Maple Leafs.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Wilson has a good history in the international part of the game and is widely respected throughout the NHL. Even in a highly volitale environment like Toronto, Wilson should be pretty safe to last the season, especially considering he is working for such a long-time friend in GM Brian Burke, and with a team that is looking to develop itself and its young talent.
10. John Tortorella, New York Rangers
Years as an NHL Coach: 10th season (not including 4-game stint as interim coach in 1999-2000), 289-265-37-51, .519 win %, Playoffs, 27-25, Stanley Cup - 2003-2004 (w/TB).
John Tortorella played hockey at the University of Maine from 1978-81 and had the fortune of playing alongside his brother Jim, who was the goalie for the team. Tortorella was a good solid player for Maine but was not good enough to make it to the NHL, although he did play four seasons in the ACHL. Included during his time with the Hampton Roads Gulls, was playing alongside Oren Koules, a man who would end up being his boss with the Tampa Bay Lightning when he purchased the team.
When his playing career ended at age 28, Tortorella went into coaching with the Virginia Lancers of the ACHL, where Tortorella coached 73 wins in just 101 games. He followed it up with a season as the assistant coach for the New Haven Knighthawks of the AHL in 1988-89. This was followed by six seasons as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.
He went back to the AHL to get some head coaching experience, where he led the Rochester Americans to a Calder Cup in 1995-96 in his first season with the club. The following year, Tortorella made it to Round Two, but was unable to lead his team to another title. He would then spend the next two seasons under Jim Schoenfeld, as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, and in 1999-2000, became the assistant coach for the New York Rangers, under John Muckler, where Torts would get his first taste as an NHL coach, coaching the last four games of the season as an interim coach, posting an 0-3-1 record.
Tortorella got the head coaching job in Tampa Bay before the 2001-02 season and spent the next six seasons there, highlighted by the Stanley Cup title in 2003-04. It was the clear highlight, as the other five seasons saw three playoff years, and only one playoff round win. He has the reputation of being very emotional and is known for some outbursts on occasion, highlighted by this top 10 list.
After being removed as Lightning coach, he moved on to the New York Ranger, taking over for Tom Renney on February 23, 2009. Tortorella and the Rangers had the misfortune of missing out on the playoffs last year when they lost a shootout on the last day of the season to the Philadelphia Flyers.
It's a crazy time for the Rangers, as salary cap problems leave the Rangers without some depth, especially at the center position. Tortorella will have to earn his top 10 billing in this list by the job he is able to do this season with the Blueshirts.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Tortorella may have lived highly off his Stanley Cup title to climb into the top ten. The biggest negative against Torts was that he may eventually have his team tune him out. He is a big disciplinarian, and likes to change or shake things up when the team is under-performing. You'd have to think if the Rangers are in danger of missing the playoffs again, Tortorella could definitely be at risk.
9. Terry Murray, Los Angeles Kings
Years as an NHL Coach: 15th season, 440-341-89-31, .555 win %, Playoffs, 48-47
Terry Murray was drafted by the California Golden Seals in 1970. He would play games for the Golden Seals, Philadelphia Flyers (twice), Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals, in a career that spanned 302 games over eight seasons. Murray, a defenseman, scored four goals and added 76 assists in his career, and his plus/minus rating ranged from -43 in1973-74 with the Seals, all the way up to +46 with the Flyers in 1980-81.
He joined his brother Bryan, as his assistant coach for the Washington Capitals in 1981-82, making them the first brother combination behind the bench in NHL history. He ended up replacing his brother as head coach of the Caps in the middle of the 1989-90 season after serving a stint as head coach of the AHL's Baltimore Skipjacks. He coached parts of five seasons with the Capitals, before being replaced by Jim Schoenfeld 47 games into the 1993-94 season.
After a stop with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL, Murray was named head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, where he had an impressive run for three seasons, which included two division titles and a trip to the Stanley Cup finals before being reassigned to a scouting position. Different theories and rumors have appeared regarding Murray's removal as Flyers Coach.
He moved on to work with his brother for a solid two seasons with the Florida Panthers before being removed 36 games into the 2000-01 season and replaced by Duane Sutter. He then spent the next years as a scout for the Flyers before taking an Assistant Coach position for the next four seasons.
He took over for Marc Crawford as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings before the 2008-09 season and has helped vault the Kings to one of the elite teams in the league. Murray's career has spanned the likes of Rod Langway, Scott Stevens and Larry Murphy in Washington, to Eric Lindros and John LeClair in Philadelphia, Pavel Bure in Florida and now Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson in Los Angeles, quite the impressive array of talent coached by Terry Murray.
High expectations are around the Kings this year and deservedly so with the talent assembled by GM Dean Lombardi (the Summer of Kovalchuk aside).
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: It seems Terry Murray has been around almost forever. The 60-year old has had a distinguished career but hasn't yet gotten the big prize. There is a good amount of talent for Murray to work with, and unless there is a big disappointment, I would think Murray would be able to see it through for the Kings.
8. Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche
Years as an NHL Coach: Second season, 43-30-0-9, .579 win %, Playoffs, 2-4
Sacco impressed a lot of people in his first season with the Colorado Avalanche, posting a 43-40-9 record in his first year. Sacco grew up in Massachusetts and attended Boston University, where he played with future NHLers like Tony Amonte, Mike Sullivan and Shawn McEachern. He started out profesionally with the Newmarket Saints of the AHL before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs. He would go on and play in the 1992 Winter Olympics, as well as an NHL career that lasted 13 seasons, with the Maple Leafs, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, where Sacco posted 94 goals and 119 assists in 738 career games.
Two years after his retirement as a player, Sacco joined the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters as an assistant coach, serving under Tom Rowe, and served two seasons. He then served as head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters for two seasons, an affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. After the 2008-09 season, when Tony Granato was let go, the Avalanche promoted Sacco to fill their Head Coach position.
Sacco is a generally speaking young coach who works well with young players, making him and the Avalanche a great fit. With young talent like Matt Duchene, Paul Statstny, Chris Stewart and T.J. Galardi, Sacco has a lot to work with. He's got a tough to act to follow after the 26-point turnaround the Avalanche posted last season, before bowing to the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs. Sacco was a finalist for the Adams Trophy, losing out to Dave Tippett, also of the Phoenix Coyotes.
You would guess that Sacco would be a finalist again at some point, as he seems to be one of the more promising coaches in the NHL today.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Sacco made a big impression on the league in his first season in Colorado and earned the right to stick around, barring a collapse of some kind. I would expect Sacco to easily last the year as well as a few more ideally as the young talent matures around him.
7. Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
Years as an NHL Coach: Third season, 65-31-0-11, .659 win %, Playoffs, 23-14, Stanley Cup - 2008-2009.
Bylsma is a head coach who certainly can't take issue with his timing, as he took over for Michele Therrien during the 2008-09 season and led a very talented team to the Stanley Cup. The product of Bowling Green State University had a nine-season career as a player with the Los Angeles Kings and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, where he posted 19 goals and 43 assists in 429 NHL games, with stints at the AHL and IHL along the way.
He went into coaching after he retired as a player, serving as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in 2004-05. He followed that up with a year as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders. In 2007-08, he was the assistant coach with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins , before becoming the Head Coach with the team the following year. After just 54 games, and an impressive 35-16-1-2 record, Bylsma was summoned to replace the departed Therrien, and the rest as they say, is history, as an 18-3-4 record to finish the regular season, spring-boarded the Penguins to the playoffs, where a 16-8 record allowed them to drink from Lord Stanley’s sweet chalice.
Last year, the regular season success continued, but the team lost in the second round in a rugged seven game series to the Montreal Canadiens. With his rookie season and its result, Bylsma has set the bar high, not to mention expectations are very high with all the talent the Penguins have on their roster,with all the hype around star power like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and others. Bylsma will be expected to continue his strong performance on a year in, year out basis.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: With the talent Bylsma has access to, and the pressure in a new arena, you never know, but you'd think the Stanley Cup winning coach would have a bit of a leash to work with, as long as the team stays in tune with the leadership of Bylsma.
6. Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes
Years as an NHL Coach: Eighth season, 321-181-28-44, .622 win %, Playoffs, 24-30, Adams Trophy 2009-2010
Dave Tippett was one of the nice "feel-good" stories on the 2009-10 season. After a long run in Dallas, where Tippett fell short of the success of his predecessor Ken Hitchcock, Tippett was let go after the 2008-09 season. The Phoenix Coyotes, a team in financial dire straits, were looking to replace Wayne Gretzky, who suddenly resigned to the season. The Coyotes jumped all over Tippett, and not only did he pull together a "rag tag" team and climb from the bottom of the standings in the Western Conference to near the top, posting an impressive 50 regular season wins.
Tippett was a solid NHL player who played in parts of 11 seasons with the Hartford Whalers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. His statline included 721 NHL games, scoring 93 goals and adding 169 assists. He was also the Captain of an NCAA Championship team at the University of North Dakota in 1982 and was part of two Canadian Olympic teams in 1984 (Sarajevo) and 1992 (Albertville, silver medal). His career ended with one season with the Houston Aeros of the IHL, where Tippett ended up becoming an assistant coach the following season when his playing days ended.
He took over as head coach of the Aeros one season later, where it culminated in a Turner Cup championship in 1998-99. Tippett then went on to be the assistant coach in Los Angeles for the Kings for the next three seasons before being recruited for the Dallas Stars Head Coaching job. Tippett would last six seasons in Dallas, where the team had the theme of a successful regular season, but reputation of disappointing in the playoffs.
His hiring in Phoenix really seemed to recharge Tippett's batteries, and it was beneficial for a Phoenix franchise that hadn't seen the playoffs since 2002. The attention to defense and goaltending is what helped Ilya Bryzgalov become a Vezina Trophy finalist seemingly overnight, and the team to be near the top of the Conference standings. The question is, what do they do for an encore?
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Tippett should be able to stick around with a team forced to be as budget conscious as the Coyotes are. The one knock on Tippett's resume has been his lack of success in the post season, but he should have a little time to work with (at least this year that is) to work around that blemish.
5. Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers
Years as an NHL Coach: Eighth season, 272-208-25-39, .559 win %, Playoffs, 34-26, Stanley Cup - 2005-06 (w/CAR)
Laviolette is an interesting coach, who has a pretty good track record of success in his three stops in the NHL. In what is a bit of a running them through these rankings, Laviolette was a career minor leaguer in the IHL and AHL, playing in 12 NHL games for the New York Rangers in 1988-89, in the midst of 11 seasons bouncing around the minor leagues, more so for the Providence Bruins than any other franchise.
He began his coaching career in the ECHL, coaching the Wheeling Nailers in 1997-98 and taking his team into Round 3 of the playoffs. He followed that up the following season winning a Calder Cup with the Providence Bruins. After another successful season at Providence, Laviolette served the 2000-01 season as an assistant with the Boston Bruins. He parlayed that into his first NHL head coaching job, with the New York Islanders, where Laviolette lasted two seasons, including two straight first round playoff losses.
He was hired midseason 2003-04 by the Carolina Hurricanes to replace Paul Maurice and coached parts of five seasons with the Hurricanes, highlighted by the 2005-06 Stanley Cup. Oddly, it was the only season with Carolina that he coached in the playoffs. In a strange twist, he was replaced by Paul Maurice, the very coach he was originally hired to replace, lasting just 25 games in the 2008-09 season.
Laviolette was brought in to be Head Coach of the Philadelphia Flyers this past season, coaching the last 56 games after replacing John Stevens. Laviolette fit the Flyers like a glove as the team caught fire in the post-season, including an incredible comeback from down 3 games to 0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bruins. Even though the Flyers lost to the Blackhawks in the Finals, you'd have to say Laviolette did a great job bringing the team together. I think he's a great fit with the Flyers squad and is a great playoff tactician, noted by his playoff successes. Since leaving the Islanders, both times his teams have made the playoffs, they've made the Stanley Cup Finals, and that's quite an accomplishment, it will be interesting to see what type of encore Laviolette can put together with Philadelphia this season.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: As reigning Stanley Cup finalist, it's tough to see Laviolette being removed from the Flyers. However, if he were to have his message lost to the win-now Flyers, that could quickly change. That being said, I don't see that happening this year.
4. Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks
Years as an NHL Coach: 14th season, 535-327-77-60, .604 win %, Playoffs, 67-59, Adams Trophy 1999-2000 (w/St. Louis), Stanley Cup - 2009-10.
Joel Quenneville had a long NHL career that spanned 803 games over 13 NHL seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs (who drafted him in the 2nd round of the 1978 NHL draft), Hartford Whalers, Colorado Rockies, New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals. He didn't really stand out statistically but was solid enough to contribute to his teams, and clearly picked up a lot of hockey knowledge along the way, because he's been a very successful Head Coach in the NHL.
After his playing career, Quenneville became an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche, before becoming a hot coaching candidate and was hired by the St. Louis Blues in 1996. He would go on to make the playoffs his first seven years with St. Louis, including winning the Adams Trophy in 1999-2000. In his eighth year, the Blues struggled, and Quenneville was fired in 2004.
His next move was to become head coach for the Colorado Avalanche, where he had three solid, but not spectacular seasons at the helm. He left the Avalanche and joined the Blackhawks organization in September 2008. Shortly thereafter, after firing coach Denis Savard, the Blackhawks reassigned Quenneville to become Head Coach. In his second season with Chicago, he was finally able to win the big one, as the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and was able to celebrate his first NHL championship as a head coach.
Quenneville had a very talented team last season, but it was forced to endure a ton of changes, like sending out playoff heroes Dustin Byfuglien, Annti Niemi and other contributors like John Madden, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg, amongst others. It certainly will make repeating a big hurdle to climb for Quenneville, but as long as the core of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Towes and Duncan Keith is in place, this team should continue to be a strong competitor each year.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: As reigning Stanley Cup champion, it's tough to see Quenneville not having a lot of leash to work with. But, in the NHL, you never know. That being said, expect Quenneville to stick around for awhile.
3. Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators
Years as an NHL Coach: 13th season, 411-371-60-60, .522 win %, Playoffs, 8-20
When the Nashville Predators entered the NHL as an expansion team before the 1998-99 season, they needed a head coach. They hired Barry Trotz, who previously was a two-time Calder Cup winning coach with the Portland Pirates of the AHL. Who knew then that Trotz would still be in place as coach today? (Currently the second longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Buffalo's Lindy Ruff)
It can't be easy to stay on board or to remain wanted by the same franchise for that long and still have your message remain heard and more importantly, be followed by the players. Trotz has been able to do that by treating his players with respect and sometimes, more importantly, listening to them. He is well known for having the ability to keep his team focused and has been a finalist for the Adams Trophy, but on the other hand, has yet to be able to win his first playoff series.
In the beginning of his tenure, Trotz was counted on to make a lot out of a little, trying to groom young talent like Mike Dunham and David Legwand into a competitive team. While that wasn't always successful (especially in the playoffs where the Predators are a woeful 8-20), Trotz has mostly stayed the course, and the dividends are beginning to pay out.
The Predators feature some young talent either on the verge of stardom (or already there) in guys like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter anchoring a very promising team that has a very clear goal for this year—win at least one playoff round.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: When you are the only coach in the team's history, it's a safe bet to think Trotz has earned the right to leave on his own terms after 12 full seasons and counting.
2. Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
Years as an NHL Coach: Eighth season, 326-163-19-66 .642 win %, Playoffs, 63-38, Stanley Cup winner 2007-08)
After becoming a free agent after the NHL lockout, after two successful seasons as head coach of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Mike Babcock seized an opportunity to take the job as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings on July 15, 2005, a job Babcock had been interested in for some time. He has gone on to become the first coach to win 50+ games in his first four seasons with a team (2005-06 to 2008-09), including winning the Stanley Cup in 2007-08.
Babcock earned his stripes working his way up through the ranks, starting at Red Deer University in the college ranks in 1988, where he coached three seasons, before moving his way up the junior ranks, with stops in Moose Jaw (two years), University of Lethbridge (one year), Spokane (six years), and Cincinnati of the AHL (two seasons) before the NHL came calling with his stop in Anaheim for two seasons.
Babcock is hard working and well-respected and utilizes the great two-way talent his team features with players like Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, all of whom are at the top of the league in their play at both sides of the rink.
The resume of Mike Babcock is tough to beat. He's won Coach of the Year honors at a few levels and has put up in some cases, just ridiculous numbers as a winner. He's been to the Stanley Cup finals three times as a head coach in just seven seasons, and has won four division titles. His .642 winning percentage in the regular season is also unbelievable. It's hard pressed to come up with a better head coach than Mike Babcock, although there is one I personally rank ahead of him.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Babcock just signed a four-year extension with the Red Wings, and there's no reason to think he won't fulfill that obligation, unless for some reason (which I can't think of at the moment), he decides to walk away.
1. Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres
Years as an NHL Coach: 13th season (all with Buffalo), 483-361-78-62 (.562 win %, playoffs, 54-40, Adams Trophy 2005-06)
Lindy Ruff at this point in his career, is pretty much the barometer that other active coaches should be judged, with one obvious void on his resume, and that's the Stanley Cup. After a good career that spanned 691 NHL games over 12 seasons, Ruff went into coaching.
He first started as an assistant with Florida for four seasons, and made it to a Stanley Cup final before becoming the 15th Head Coach in Buffalo Sabres history on July 21, 1997. He has been in place as the coach of the Sabres since, and has seen and done a lot. In just his second season, he would help lead the team to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost on the disputed Brett Hull goal, and while they haven't experienced the same kind of success since, the Sabres continue to find themselves usually right in the hunt.
In 12 seasons, Ruff has guided the Sabres to the playoffs seven times, losing just twice in the first round. Let's not also forget, the Buffalo Sabres have no always had the same resources available to them that some of the bigger market teams do like the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers or Toronto Maple Leafs. Ruff just lines up his team and puts forth the effort year in and year out. He's a highly respected individual who demands top effort and discipline from his team.
His final resume includes a Gold Medal from the 2010 Olympics, a Stanley Cup final appearance, four conference finals, two regular season division titles and one Adams Trophy. All in all, there isn't anyone coaching in the NHL today, based on the resources he has been able to utilize, that I would pick over Lindy Ruff if I had my choice of coaches.
Odds of surviving 2010-11 season: Ruff has been around long enough and is so highly respected in Buffalo, you would think anything short of a total train wreck would keep Ruff in place as coach in Buffalo.