The Vancouver Canucks are making progress in their search for a new head coach.
New Canucks general manager Jim Benning has interviewed four candidates including former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, Portland Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston, former NHL head coach Marc Crawford and former interim Florida Panthers head coach Peter Horachek, according to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.
The team is also expected to interview Texas Stars (AHL) head coach Willie Desjardins and current New York Rangers assistant Scott Arniel later this week.
Desjardins is considered to be one of the top candidates for the position. He is coming off a Calder Cup victory with the Stars, who were crowned AHL champions after defeating the St. John’s IceCaps 4-3 Tuesday night.
Bylsma is believed to be one of the most sought after available head coaches around the league. He was fired by new Pittsbugh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford earlier this spring following a disappointing second-round playoff exit. Bylsma won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins during the 2008-09 season.
The winningest coach in Penguins history and a Jack Adams winner as the NHL’s best coach in 2011, Bylsma was reported to be a lead candidate for the Panthers job as recently as Monday. In the wake of Bylsma’s firing, Benning told the Vancouver Sun that Bylsma was “an interesting name, for sure.”
Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Tuesday that the Canucks had asked for permission to speak with Arniel, who has already served two stints coaching in the Canucks’ farm system.
“We’re going to wait until the NHL is done and the AHL is done. We’re going to do our due diligence on this,” Benning told the Sun. “We want to make sure we pick the right guy that’s right for this group. So we’re going to take our time and do the work. It has gone good so far and I expect it to keep going good.”
The Canucks fired former head coach John Tortorella after just one season with the club when Vancouver posted its lowest point total in the last six seasons. They are not expected to officially name a new head coach until after this month’s NHL Draft.