Remember the days when your favourite team would fire their head coach and you would turn to your buddy and say “ok, what coach is available?”
You’d spend the next little while rattling off names of well known coaches that are sitting in a broadcast booth somewhere waiting for their phone to ring with a job offer (ie “hello, Mike Keenan speaking”).
Those days seem so long ago! Goodbye unemployment line, hello American Hockey League.
Take a look at the evidence. The Penguins hired Dan Bylsma from their AHL affiliate (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins); in three seasons he has a Stanley Cup ring and a Jack Adams trophy.
61 games after coaching the Capitals AHL team, Bruce Boudreau won a Jack Adams trophy in 2008. That was a year after former AHL coach Alain Vigneault won the award.
Only two of the six new bench bosses were coaching in the NHL last season. The other four were behind the bench in the AHL.
It’s not uncommon to hear knowledgeable hockey people say “who?” when they hear the name of a new coach. To help those people out, let’s take look at the six new coaches going into the 2011-12 season.
Where was he last year: Texas Stars (AHL)
Where he is this year: Dallas Stars
Who he replaced: Marc Crawford
Gulutzan spent two years in Texas, leading them to the playoffs in both seasons and the Calder Cup finals in 2010. He has already promised to focus on the defensive structure of the Stars. They finished 15th in team defence last season under Crawford and with the loss of Brad Richards to free agency, expect Gulutzan to focus his team on helping goaltender Kari Lehtonen as much as possible.
Where was he last year: Houston Aeros (AHL)
Where he is this year: Minnesota Wild
Who he replaced: Todd Richards
Yeo has 80 games of head coaching experience, and they all came last season with the Aeros. Before that he was an assistant coach for 4 seasons in Pittsburgh. The last 2 years were under another AHL to NHL bench boss in Dan Bylsma. However, Minnesota fans may not be happy to see another rookie head coach after Todd Richards lead the team to back-to-back early tee times.
Where was he last year: Portland Pirates (AHL)
Where he is this year: Florida Panthers
Who he replaced: Peter Deboer
A good way to start feeling old is to see someone whose rookie card is still somewhere in your basement behind the bench in the NHL. Dineen has spent the last 6 seasons in Portland, heading to the playoffs in each year and winning the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL Coach of the year in 2006. Dineen coached teams are known for the physicality, but I believe that he will be a huge asset to the offense. The Panthers finished 28th last year in goals per game, and in his final season on Portland, no team in the league scored more than the Pirates.
Where was he last year: Florida Panthers
Where he is this year: New Jersey Devils
Who he replaced: Jacques Lemaire
DeBoer has coached 246 games in the NHL, the other 5 new head coaches have a COMBINED 24 games!
So he is clearly the “vet” in the bunch, but not when it comes to the playoffs. In three seasons in Florida, he failed to lead them to the postseason. In fact, they missed the playoffs by an average of 10 points during his reign. That’s good enough to get a call from Lou Lamoriello!
Where was he last year: Detroit Red Wings (assistant coach)
Where he is this year: Ottawa Senators
Who he replaced: Corey Clouston
MacLean has been an assistant under Mike Babcock the past six seasons in Detroit and two years before that in Anaheim. During that time he went to the finals once (Anaheim), and won a Stanley Cup in 2008 with Red Wings. Even though he has a ton of experience in the league, he is the only new coach this year that was not a head coach SOMEWHERE last season. In fact the last time he was a head coach was in 2002, and that was in the UHL.
Where was he last year: Manitoba Moose (AHL)
Where he is this year: Winnipeg Jets
Who he replaced: Craig Ramsay
New city, new coach. Claude Noel was an interim head coach in Columbus 2009-10 before taking over in Manitoba for one season leading them to a 43-40-1-6 record. He will have his work cut out for him though, the team hasn’t made the playoffs in 4 years.