With John Tortorella not returning to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Arizona Coyotes announcing they’re parting ways with Rick Tocchet – not to mention the Seattle Kraken readying to enter the league – the NHL’s off-season coaching carousel is shaping up to be quite interesting.
The regular-season schedule is winding down, so Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek addressed the topic of bench bosses and potential vacancies on Monday’s episode of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast.
Both Tortorella and Tocchet are leaving under similar circumstances and both could have a shot at landing a new gig before the start of the 2021-22 season, yet would the two hard-nosed coaches be candidates for any of the same openings?
“It’s going to be an interesting off-season because I think a lot of these hirings are going to come down to what these teams are looking for,” Friedman said. “Are they rebuilding? Are they trying to win? And also how much are they willing to spend?”
Tortorella turns 63 in the summer but Friedman said he thinks the two-time Jack Adams Awards winner will make it clear he wants to continue coaching.
“If I’m hiring Tortorella, I recognize that a) I’ve got a good team, b) I’ve got veterans and c) I know I’m doing this with a certain window,” Friedman said.
Could that mean potentially reuniting with one of his former clubs?
Friedman said he thinks New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury is going to listen to his players and make a call on whether or not to move on from current head coach David Quinn.
“I think there would be interest if there was a change in New York in Tortorella,” Friedman said. “I don’t know if he would become the frontrunner, but I do think they would have some interest.”
Seattle’s front office reportedly wants to hire an experienced coach, so it’s possible Tortorella could get some attention from Kraken GM Ron Francis.
Tortorella might not be an ideal replacement for Tocchet in Arizona, though, as the Coyotes are reportedly going to aim to hire a relatively young head coach.
“I don’t know if ageist is the right word,” Friedman said referring to Arizona’s coaching search. “I don’t know if this is ageism because I’m not sure it’s actual age-specific, anti-age prejudice, or it’s simply a conversation about ‘do you need younger people to relate to younger players?’ But I do think that especially the rebuilding teams are going to look at younger coaches.”
San Jose Sharks assistant Rocky Thompson, New York Islanders assistant Lane Lambert and Providence College coach Nate Leaman have been loosely attached to the Coyotes and Friedman also threw out Mike Van Ryn’s name as “one that makes a lot of sense.” The former NHL blueliner has been on the St. Louis Blues coaching staff the past three seasons.
As for where Tocchet might end up, Friedman said he is considered “one of the best around at handling players that are not easy to reach.” Tocchet played with Francis in Pittsburgh. Would his coaching style mesh with Seattle’s plans at all?
Rod Brind’Amour was thought to be a leading candidate for the Seattle job given his history with Francis, but he is working on a three-year extension with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Friedman said Brind’Amour’s annual salary is “well below market value” and suggested “he could do at least double that on the open market” if he wanted to.
Gerard Gallant is another obvious candidate, on paper at least, for the Seattle job. Friedman added that he believes it’s possible some teams may reach out to interview Gallant before he leaves to coach Team Canada at the upcoming world championships.
Marek and Friedman also touched on Travis Green’s future with the Vancouver Canucks, when Cory Stillman might be ready to coach in the NHL, plus a number of other topics unrelated to coaching. LISTEN HERE.