Eight NHL Assistant Coaches Who Will Soon Be Head Coaches
Sometimes the best coaches in the NHL are helped out dramatically by the great work done by their assistant coaches.
When the New Jersey Devils made the Stanley Cup Finals in June against the Los Angeles Kings, head coach Peter DeBoer relied heavily on assistant coaches Adam Oates and Larry Robinson to get the most out of the players.
Oates, who was elected to the Hall of Fame shortly after the Devils lost the Finals, was hired as head coach of the Washington Capitals.
He capitalized on his great run to get his first head coaching opportunity. Robinson, another Hall of Famer, has moved on to an assistant coach role with the San Jose Sharks.
Robinson was previously a head coach with the Devils and is certainly capable of running a franchise again.
Here's a look at eight assistant coaches who should soon be head coaches in the NHL.
Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils
It shouldn't be long before Scott Stevens gets an opportunity to be a head coach in the NHL.
Stevens was a special assistant coach for the Devils and now moves into the role of becoming one of Peter DeBoer's primary assistants since Adam Oates and Larry Robinson have moved on to other opportunities.
Stevens is a Hall of Famer who was respected for his talent and his leadership ability throughout his career. That leadership ability should make him a natural behind the bench.
Within a year or two, he should hone all his coaching skills. But when it comes to getting respect from his players, Stevens has clearly earned it during his playing days and it will carry over in his his coaching.
Tony Granato, Pittsbrugh Penguins
Tony Granato is Dan Bylsma's right-hand man with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He has been with the Penguins since 2009. Prior to that, he had two head coaching stints with the Colorado Avalanche.
Granato understands all the nuances of offensive hockey and he excels at drawing up plays for Pittsburgh's very talented players.
He recorded a 72-33-17-11 coaching mark with the Avalanche. He scored 248 goals during his playing career with the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
He clearly has the know-how to run the bench and get a team fired up. His hard-edged style may rub some the wrong way, but he is a capable leader.
Doug Weight, New York Islanders
Doug Weight was one of the most respected players in the league throughout his playing career.
As he turned to coaching following the end of his playing career, it would be shocking if he did not become an NHL head coach in the foreseeable future.
With one year under his belt, he might be able to lead a team within a year or two. Perhaps moving on from the Islanders might help his cause because it seems unlikely that he will be with a playoff team anytime soon, but he is a clear leader who can get the most out of his players.
Throughout his 19-year NHL playing career, he was a respected leader and that clearly translates well in the coaching world.
Craig Berube, Philadelphia Flyers
Craig Berube is Peter Laviolette's top assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers.
He had a chance to be named the head coach of the Washington Capitals after Dale Hunter quit, but the Capitals opted to go with Oates.
Berube was head coach of the minor league Philadelphia Phantoms prior to becoming an assistant with the Flyers in 2008. He was a tough-minded role player during his career as a player, and as an assistant coach he is a very sharp and detail-oriented.
Craig Ramsay, Florida Panthers
It seems that the only thing keeping Craig Ramsay from being a head coach in the NHL right now is bad luck.
Ramsay was the head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers in their final season in the south before moving to Winnipeg and becoming the Jets. Ownership wanted to start fresh after bringing the team north of the border and Ramsay was not included in the plans.
However, he landed on his feet with the Florida Panthers coaching staff. Ramsay was brought in by general manager Dale Tallon and the Panthers won the Southeast Division last year.
Prior to his one year as head coach in Atlanta, Ramsay had most recently been with the Boston Bruins where he had excelled for three seasons.
Mike Kitchen, Chicago Blackhawks
Mike Kitchen is an assistant on Joel Quenneville's staff with the Chicago Blackhawks and has the potential to be a solid head coach in the NHL.
He knows how to break down film well, find weaknesses in the Blackhawks' opponents and then can devise a strategy to take advantage of those weaknesses.
Kitchen has worked with Quenneville for many years and has many of his boss's attributes, including planning and attention to detail.
Kitchen has received criticism in recent seasons for the Blackhawks' performance on penalty kill and in some defensive aspects, but that may be the result of political infighting from within. He is a solid hockey man who understands the game.
Doug Houda, Boston Bruins
Doug Houda is a key assistant on Claude Julien's staff with the Boston Bruins.
With Claude Julien having signed a contract extension to remain with the Bruins, it is expected that Houda will be brought back to remain with the team (source: MetroWestDailyNews.com).
Houda understands and coaches the finer points of defensive play, and he helped raise the Bruins to a championship level during the 2010-11 season when they won the Stanley Cup.
Houda served an apprenticeship with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League before coming to the Bruins.
Larry Robinson, San Jose Sharks
Larry Robinson enjoyed a brilliant, Hall of Fame career with the Montreal Canadiens and is widely recognized as one of the greatest defensemen to ever play the game.
While Bobby Orr owns the title as the best defenseman ever, Robinson is either second or third on that list. If he is third, it's behind Ray Bourque, another former Bruins great.
Robinson has had a long career as both a head coach and an assistant coach in the NHL. He handled many of the defensive responsibilities for Peter DeBoer last season as the New Jersey Devils went to the Stanley Cup Finals.
This year he has joined the San Jose Sharks. San Jose is one of the most talented teams in the league but they have never made it out of the Western Conference playoffs. If Robinson can tighten the defense, they may be able to reach that goal and that could earn Robinson another head coaching opportunity.