NHL Power Rankings: What Does the Coach Say? Edition

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock speaks to reporters during an end of season press conference at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. (Cole Burston/CP)

He is your wise teacher, your greatest supporter, and your harshest critic.

He is your boss, and his words serve as a job review — daily, often publicly.

He is your head coach, for now.

Yes, with GMs (usually) speaking calmly and with less frequency, and with players embracing the safety of the cliché, there are few better ways to gauge the internal temperature of a hockey team.

Without further ado, we present our NHL Power Rankings: What Does the Coach Say? Edition.

As always, the clubs are listed in order of which ones we believe are the most dangerous today.

For the write-ups, we’ve handpicked a recent quote from all 31 bench bosses (thank you, beat reporters everywhere!) that speaks to each team’s current mood.

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1. Tampa Bay Lightning

“The Stamkoses, Callahans, the McDonaghs, the Girardis and Stralmans… you want to put them in positions to have success in those roles, but they have to take pride in that. That’s what the team is doing, taking pride in that.” —Jon Cooper on the depth of Lightning leadership.

2. Calgary Flames

“I think it’ll be good to get the time off for Gio.” —Bill Peters on Norris candidate Mark Giordano’s all-star game snub.

3. San Jose Sharks

“He’s just comfortable. It was a big transition off the ice personally and coming into a new dressing room, getting used to teammates, getting used to how we play and how his game fits inside our structure. There were just 10-15 games of transition in those areas. And since then, he has been excellent.” —Peter DeBoer on Erik Karlsson’s return to awesome.

4. Winnipeg Jets

“Against the teams that aren’t right now in the playoff picture, our record is spectacular. So we haven’t taken anybody lightly. The challenges for us [against Vegas and Nashville this week] aren’t that. It would be playing well against good teams when you’re in the middle of a pretty good grinder missing some guys. Not excuses.” —Paul Maurice.

5. Vegas Golden Knights

“Just a consistent guy that plays the game the right way, face-offs, kills penalties, plays power play, does everything for us. We missed him for two and a half months. But lately he’s been real, real good… and he’s a part of our turnaround after the first 25 games.” —Gerard Gallant on the value of a healthy Paul Stastny.

6. Nashville Predators

“As long as the focus stays at the rink, that’s what we worry about.” —Peter Laviolette on P.K. Subban’s side projects.

7. Washington Capitals

“He’s just an elite, elite scorer that we’re so fortunate to have on our team and, jeez, the league is even fortunate just to have this type of a player that’s a generational talent.” —Todd Reirden on Alex Ovechkin, who leads everyone with 33 goals.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

“I don’t think of it as something special. It’s a number. But I’m honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to be in the game as long as I have. That’s what that number is.” —John Tortorella on his 600th victory as head coach.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

“It’s just carelessness. It’s a lack of diligence in the important parts of the rink. Even though we’re on the power play, we have to have some conscience defensively.” —Mike Sullivan, fuming that his Penguins lead the NHL with 10 shorthanded goals allowed.

10. Boston Bruins

“The standard we expect out of him I don’t think has been there enough lately, period. He’s been told that. We want him to play his way out of it.” —Bruce Cassidy, lighting a fire under Jake DeBrusk this week.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs

“It’s not mentally sharp enough, physically engaged enough either. We’ve only got ourselves to blame. Obviously, myself as the head coach, I’m responsible. We didn’t play well enough, we didn’t play hard enough and the players are the same way. We weren’t good enough.” —Mike Babcock on the Maple Leafs’ 2019 mediocrity.

12. New York Islanders

“They’re a great illustration of what you can be when the strength is in the group, not necessarily in any individual.” —Barry Trotz on the revival of the Islanders’ excellent fourth line (Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin).

13. Montreal Canadiens

“It’s the kind of thing we don’t see much anymore, but I think the players and the coaches appreciated what he did.” —Claude Julien on how Nicolas Deslauriers’ fight with Boston’s Kevan Miller helped boost the Habs to Monday’s big win.

14. Carolina Hurricanes

“It’s him and the rest. What I saw him do here I’ll never forget, and I try to do a lot of the things he taught us.” —Rod Brind’Amour on whom he believes to be the NHL’s best coach, Peter Laviolette.

15. Buffalo Sabres

“At home we get the last change, so we can get the matchups that we want. But on the road, he’s going to be forced to play against players that maybe we didn’t want him playing against, but that’s a great learning lesson in his development.” —Phil Housley on rookie centre Casey Mittelstadt’s struggles away from KeyBank Center.

16. Colorado Avalanche

“It’s time now to put up or shut up here.” —Jared Bednar.

17. Dallas Stars

“It’s everybody. Unfortunately, I’m very frustrated that I have not been able to gain consistency in our performance and I have not been able to change the culture of mediocrity.” —Jim Montgomery, droppin’ bombs.

18. Minnesota Wild

“That was the worst game we’ve played since I’ve been here as coach…. If your best players aren’t your best players, you’re not going to win a game. It’s as simple as that. When I look down and [Joel Eriksson] Ek’s line is the best line that we have out there, then we’re in trouble.” —Bruce Boudreau on the Wild’s 5-2 loss Saturday to rebuilding Detroit.

19. St. Louis Blues

“I hate to use the word desperate times, but we’ve got to win games.” —Craig Berube.

20. Vancouver Canucks

“We’re going to do right by him, but we want him back as fast as he can. He’s a competitive kid; he wants to play. He’s not happy not playing.” —Travis Green on the much anticipated return of Elias Pettersson.

21. Edmonton Oilers

“I’ve only been here 25 games or so. I just know we’re trying to get more and more from people and sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. I just know what it takes to get in and if this is the level we’re going to play at it’s not good enough.” —Ken Hitchcock, squeezing water from a stone.

22. Arizona Coyotes

“If you don’t have your A game, professionalism comes into play: good angles, being smart, living for another shift. Some guys have to learn that sometimes you’re not going to have your A game and you’re going to have to be a little more smart.” —Rick Tocchet, after the Coyotes were roasted 7-1 in Calgary Sunday.

23. New Jersey Devils

“He’s a great example for a lot of young kids on our team and people in the organization. He spent some time in the American Hockey League, he had an opportunity in the NHL and really understood what his role was and what his identity is. This year, he hasn’t veered from it.” —John Hynes on late-bloomer Blake Coleman’s breakthrough season at age 27.

24. Anaheim Ducks

“Dumb question.” —Randy Carlyle, to a reporter who inquired about his job security amidst a now 12-game losing rut.

25. Florida Panthers

“We had some guys, especially some of our big guys, who had very average or below-average games.” —Bob Boughner, calling out his stars after five-game losing skid and an 0-fer trip to Western Canada.

26. Detroit Red Wings

“When you’ve lost as many as we have, the reality is that you get to points where you are fragile. We can pretend that’s not true…. Now, we have control over that. We have control of believing in ourselves and carrying ourselves with confidence. We’ve been here before, let’s go find a way to dig ourselves out.” —Jeff Blashill.

27. New York Rangers

“You’re going to lose hockey games. But you better want to battle somebody. It’s just ridiculous. Three games where we feel good about our effort and our compete, and then we come out here and do that? It’s a freaking joke.

“We failed miserably tonight. Miserably. Our lack of determination in our one-on-one battles, fishing for pucks — you do that in this league, that’s what happens. You get your asses handed to you.” —David Quinn, lit following Sunday’s 7-5 loss in Columbus.

28. Chicago Blackhawks

“I think that that will bring out the best in everyone.” —Jeremy Colliton.

29. Los Angeles Kings

“When you’re in an offensive role, you have to produce offensively. He hasn’t done that consistently enough.” —Willie Desjardins, desperate for scoring and calling out Brendan Leipsic.

30. Philadelphia Flyers

“I just worry about what’s in front of me. I’m not a high-stress guy.” —Scott Gordon.

31. Ottawa Senators

“Right now, he has to battle through what all college guys have to battle through, that grind of so many games in so little time and all the travelling.” —Guy Boucher, explaining why Brady Tkachuk is starting to let my fantasy team down.

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