This offseason brought many changes in the NHL. We witnessed a successful World Cup, a new team being introduced (with an amazing arena), plenty of players shuffling around the league, and five teams acquired a new bench boss. Four of the five new coaches have experience in coaching an NHL team. They all bring different coaching styles to very diverse teams, but who can take their team to the next level?
On June 17, 2016 the Calgary Flames announced the hiring of Glen Gulutzan, a little over six weeks after former coach Bob Hartley was relieved of his duties. Gulutzan has some experience in coaching, he was a former bench boss for Dallas and also spent the last three seasons in Vancouver as an assistant. Neither of his seasons in Dallas resulted in making the playoffs, but had some significant success with the Las Vegas Wranglers (ECHL) and went to the Calder Cup Finals with the Texas Stars. He also was Tortorellas’ assistant in his first year with the Canucks along with a guy named Mike Sullivan whom you might have heard of. One reason why he will be successful with the Flames is his capability to connect with the young guys. The Flames have a plethora of young guys like Gaudreau, Hamilton, and Tkachuk who will all benefit from his guidance. The Flames not only hired someone who has had success with the young guys, they hired someone known for his communication with kids and “open door” policy. Pair this with consistent goaltending and you have a mix for success. While the Flames have only made the playoffs once in the past seven seasons, I think that Gulutzan will be able to bring them back to the post-season.
Jared Bednar was hired by the Colorado Avalanche on August 25, 2016 two weeks after Patrick Roy announced his resignation. Many believe that Roy was out the door this year due to his lack of success and disconnect with the players. Bednar is the interesting one of the five new guys in the bunch in that he has zero NHL coaching experience. He won a Kelly Cup with the S. Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL in only his second year of head coach. He then had a few stints in the AHL as a coach, including the Columbus Blue Jackets AHL affiliate. His most recent success was with the Lake Erie Monsters last season, where he won the Calder Cup. He brings a fresh view to a “re-tooling on the fly” team that has had sub-par coaching in the last few seasons. I think that Bednar brings an element that Patrick Roy and none of the other new coaches bring, and that’s innocence. Bednar doesn’t have a past NHL record following him, and he is riding high off of the Calder Cup win. While this doesn’t always translate into NHL wins, I think the players are going to be more than willing to listen to the new voice in the room.
Boudreau is interesting pickup for the Minnesota Wild. He has had great success in the AHL and the ECHL. He has been a head coach for Washington and Anaheim, piling up eight division titles and 409 wins out of 681 games coached. There is no doubt that he is a fantastic coach, but he has yet to win a Stanley Cup in his ten years in the NHL. He is known for his game seven “chokes” and many think he doesn’t have what it takes to get the guys to take the next step. To be frank, this Minnesota Team hasn’t exactly seen success. They have made the playoffs four of the last five years but haven’t gotten past the second round and haven’t even pushed a team to the brink of elimination (the Hawks are pretty pesky). I think that a fresh face is about the only thing he brings to this team and eventually the players have to start being held accountable for their losing ways.
The next guy, I have to admit, I am VERY bullish on. The Ottawa Senators hired Guy Boucher on May 8th 2016. The next day Boucher announced that Marc Crawford would be his assistant. These two guys have pretty good ties in that both spent the past few seasons coaching in Switzerland. They even wished each other good luck on interviewing for the Sens vacancy, and clearly planning to go into this season together. Boucher has some experience in head coaching. He spent two and a half seasons manning the Tampa Bay Lightning squad, and made it to the Conference Final in his first season while failing to make the playoffs the second season. I think that he is going to be successful in Ottawa because they have a solid coaching tandem. These two guys mesh well and both bring excellent coaching experience from the QMJHL, AHL, NHL, and Swiss League. He plans to bring more offense to the Sens and given their roster, consistent offense outside of Karlsson should be a given. He has guys like Turris, Hoffman, Stone, and Ryan to guide. The team is very open to Boucher and his ideas and with their historic run two seasons ago, they crave success. I think Boucher and Crawford have the capabilities to bring the Sens team to the next level.
The final new guy on the block, in my opinion, is a very boring one. On June 14, 2016 the Anaheim Ducks re-hired Randy Carlyle to replace Boudreau. Carlyle is a very well-known man in Anaheim, leading them to a Stanley Cup in 06-07 and coaching a total of 552 regular season and playoff games. After Anaheim he had a short stint in Toronto, making the playoffs one time. While Carlyle has been a successful coach in the NHL, he is going back to a completely different Ducks team, and sometimes the second time around isn’t always a good thing. The cup winning Ducks had the likes of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne. Getzlaf and Perry were also a decade younger. The rest of the core group like Ryan Kesler, Jared Boll, and Kevin Bieksa are also over 30 years old. I think this recycling of a coach is not what the Ducks need to get over the Game Seven hump. They need a fresh face that doesn’t bring any old tricks with him. I don’t anticipate different results with the Ducks this season. Carlyle is a great coach that can give the youth a much needed improvement, but outside of that, not much else.
All five of these guys will bring variety to the NHL and we may see a few of them have success in their first year behind the bench. Hopefully, with the right systems in place their respective teams will move forward in the right direction and strengthen the league as a whole. Here’s to the last year as a 30 team league!
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