This off-season saw several high-profile head coaches on the move. From Mike Babcock’s departure from the Detroit Red Wings for the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs, to Dan Bylsma taking over the youthful Buffalo Sabres, to Todd McLellan landing in Edmonton…coaches seemingly made more headlines than free agents this summer.
We recently explored coaches who could be on the hot seat to begin the 2015-16 NHL season. With that in mind, we take a look at some potential replacements for when casualty strikes among the coaching ranks.
Career record: 97-79-20
Most recent NHL head coach job: Tampa Bay Lightning
Guy Boucher was rumoured to be in the running for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ coaching vacancy until Babcock took the job. The former Lightning head coach is set to return to his post behind the bench of SC Bern in Switzerland’s National League.
Boucher’s conservative trap system helped the Lightning reach the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, where they fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
The Lightning did not qualify for the post-season in 2011-12. And like that…he was gone. The club severed ties with Boucher after a 13-18-1 start to the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign.
An obvious candidate for a team looking to shore up its defensive game.
Career record: N/A
Most recent NHL head coach job: No NHL experience
If there’s a proven path from junior coaching ranks to the NHL, then Benoit Groulx appears to be on it. The 47-year-old has been behind the bench of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques for 11 seasons, with a two-year stint as head coach of the AHL’s Rochester Americans in between.
After serving as an assistant coach to Brent Sutter at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, Groulx led Team Canada to its first gold medal since 2009 as head coach at the 2015 tournament.
Groulx lays claim to a world junior gold medal, three QMJHL President’s Cup championships, and a Ron Lapointe Trophy as the league’s top coach. Sooner or later an NHL team will come knocking.
Career record: 30-23-7
Most recent NHL head coach job: Washington Capitals
Dale Hunter returned to his gig behind the bench of the OHL’s London Knights following a 60-game turn as head coach of the Washington Capitals after Bruce Boudreau was relieved of his duties in 2011-12.
Hunter took some heat for seemingly transforming the Capitals into a defence-first hockey team. After the Capitals successfully deployed a tighter system under Barry Trotz last season, at least one player was quick to note that the club had been defensively responsible in the past.
“I think we play the right way. I would say it’s two times in the playoffs we’ve been playing the right way — it was this (year) and that time we had Dale Hunter,” Nicklas Backstrom said after the Capitals fell to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-final.
Hunter has it pretty good with the Knights, where he’s guided the club to one Memorial Cup and three J. Ross Robertson Cup titles. If he wants one, there’s sure to be another chance to coach an NHL team in his future.
Career record: 120-109-34
Most recent NHL head coach job: Los Angeles Kings (interim)
Former Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Stevens’ last dance behind an NHL bench lasted just four games. Stevens was named interim coach of the Los Angeles Kings in 2011–12 after Terry Murray was fired, but promptly reprised his role as assistant once Darryl Sutter took the reigns.
Stevens is often mentioned as a candidate whenever an NHL job opens. His experience on Sutter’s staff with two Stanley Cup winning teams makes him an attractive target.
Career record: 446-375-37-78
Most recent NHL head coach job: Vancouver Canucks
John Tortorella walked away from the 2003-04 season with a Stanley Cup championship and a Jack Adams Award. Since then it’s been mixed results.
Let’s face it. The NHL is a lot more entertaining when Tortorella’s behind an NHL bench. Not to mention his post-game press conference performances.
As of right now, Tortorella’s greatest strength is his ability to earn. The Vancouver Canucks handed Tortorella his walking papers after one disappointing season and four years and $8 million remaining on his contract.
We’re not saying hiring Tortorella would necessarily be the correct play, but it would surely be the most contentious move.