Heck, everyone else in the free world has offered up their opinions of who should be the Thrashers’ next head coach. The decision won’t come for quite a while, I’m sure – Dudley is looking for someone who has “…good communication skills, good teaching skills and good technical skills.” That might seem broad, but when you have players as young as ours are, you need someone very specifically qualified to work with them. Today on NHL Live, Dudley said that Bogosian and Little’s slow development (regression almost for Little) was a large factor in the team’s decisions to let the coaches go. When you have some of the top young talent in the league in Bogosian, Little, Kane, Enstrom, and Pavelec, you have to do everything you need to do to ensure that they mature and learn correctly. They’re our foundation, and you don’t want it poured wrong. There are a lot of former NHL coaches out there who would like to become employed by someone other than TSN again, and there are a few assistant coaches that Rick Dudley has worked with in the past who might just be ready to get their feet wet in the league. After the jump, I take a look… both serious and irreverent.
If you feel the need to read something a professional wrote on this matter, for sure check out Craig Custance’s impassioned recommendation of John Stevens, and Jeff Schultz’s look at a few of the folks he believes should get a glance. Now, in no particular order other than alphabetical, my opinions on the guys who could be in the running for the head coach position (and by could be I mean they don’t have a job or are an assistant coach or something).
- Guy Carbonneau, former coach of the Montreal Canadiens, was fired last March, and inexplicably has not been rehired by someone yet. One has to keep in mind that having a “bad season” in Montreal consists of being in 5th place with a 35-24-7 towards the 2/3rds mark of the season. He is also a 2008 Jack Adams award nominee. I’m sure that he enjoys his HNIC gig, but perhaps he would enjoy getting behind the bench to add to his 124-83-23 record. The question is, would he come to a non-hockey market like Atlanta? We’re not the Stars, where he was assistant GM.
- Kevin Dinneen is currently the head coach of the AHL’s Portland Pirates, who are the Sabres’ affiliates. It is, however, rumored that he is being looked at for the Columbus Blue Jacket’s job, so this former AHL Coach of the Year might have a job elsewhere. That, and we just took a chance on an AHL coach. Do we need to have someone else without NHL experience behind the bench right this second? Yes, sometimes it works and works well, but after firing one AHL coach, hiring another might not be the grandest plan.
- Bob Hartley seems to still be liked by Waddell and management, and he’s been the best coach this franchise has had – which, I do realize, says little. He is responsible for getting us into the playoffs, and the 6 game losing streak the year after was done with a team that one might not consider to be as good. He can also withstand Patrick Roy throwing things and threatening people, so presumably he can withstand whatever this franchise can toss at him. He’s been seen wandering around Thrashers games when not analysing games on RDS. He can whip a team into shape and get rid of the whole vacation vibe from around the clubhouse. He’s very into accountability based on play, and this team could probably benefit from that.
- Ken Hitchcock, who was the former coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, led that team to a shockingly similar record as the Thrashers have. Yes, he has had success, especially in Dallas, but it would be almost a lateral move to have Hitch behind the bench. A plus side, though, is he has been known to motivate players by threatening to eat them. A downside to that is he scares younger players away – see Filatov, Nikita. We need a coach who can work with those guys.
- Mike Keenan. God, I can’t believe that I just typed that man’s name, but Jeff Kincade here in at Atlanta suggested him on the radio yesterday in an interview with Dudley. Possibly not the wisest name to drop, since Dudley canned Keenan when he was GM in Florida. As Ben (of the Blueland Blog, of course) mentioned on Twitter earlier, Keenan has won the same number of playoff series as the Thrashers have these past 11 years. There is a reason no one wants him – he’s toxic to the players, ruins goaltenders, and freaking ruins great teams that could have brought a cup to St. Louis. Ok, that last part might not have a lot of bearing on anything, but I hate that man with a passion and if he’s the coach here I will have a serious issue with him. Yes, he won a Cup with the Rangers in ’94, but a trained monkey could have. No offense meant to trained monkeys, of course.
- Don Lever is currently the head coach of the Chicago Wolves, and coached the Hamilton Bulldogs to the Calder Cup in 2007. Should we just go on and flip flop Anderson and Lever? Lever could relate to the young kids, especially any making the Thrashers from the Wolves at camp this summer. Again, though, I really don’t know if now is the time to call up an AHL coach to fix things.
- Craig MacTavish might encourage people to not wear helmets. No, I’m sure he wouldn’t, but he did encourage a kind of *meh* Edmonton Oilers team to the Cup finals in 2006. He was fired last season after a 38-35-9 record that culminated three years of average and sub-par Oilers play. He’s currently a commentator on TSN, and probably would enjoy a job coaching again.
- Andy Murray is excellent and whipping young teams into shape. Before he was fired in Los Angeles, he helped their young core develop, and he was nominated for the Jack Adams for getting the Blues into the playoffs last year. His shelf-life before players tune him out seems to be about 2 or three seasons at the most, and this is due to his calling out players very much in public and the press, locking them in his doghouse for half a season, and making up and coming talent so scared to play that they regress so much they’re a li’l Swedish fetus. Murray could be useful with the young kids, but I’m unsure if another turnover in a few season’s time is really the best idea.
- Craig Ramsay is currently the assistant coach of the Boston Bruins, and was Dudley’s pick to replace Keenan as coach of the Panthers. That didn’t work out, but he and Dudley still have a good relationship. He does have some head coaching experience for a brief period of time in Buffalo and Philadelphia, preceding Dudley’s job there by 2 years.
- Tom Renney was fired as the coach of the New York Rangers after that team went on a bit of a rough streak in 2009. His team was 31-23-7 at the time of his firing in February, but were in a 2-7-3 rut that threatened to knock them out of playoff contention if it continued. The Thrashers themselves were in worse streaks this year, but a large problem was the fact that the coaches couldn’t motivate the team to snap out of it. He’s still 4th overall on the Rangers’ all time win list, and as an assistant coach in Edmonton, he might be available if there’s a shakeup in Oil country. Which there probably really needs to be. The issue is there is if he’s part of the problem with the Oilers or not.
- Michel Therrien almost killed last year’s Stanley Cup champions’ playoff chances, with the Penguins falling all the way to 10th. That team, in 10th? Wow, did the players hate him or something? Well, considering all the closed door player meetings and whatnot, signs point to duh. I’d really rather not have any more strife around the locker room. We’ve already turned into a middle school lunchroom. I don’t want an elementary school food fight. It would be fun to hear him call Todd White “soff,” though.
- John Torchetti is currently an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks and worked closely with Dudley during his tenure there. The ‘Hawks finished this season second in the West – would he want to leave there to come here? It’s not like he’s Todd McLellan, leaving Detroit to coach San Jose, who is a powerhouse who, yes, still likes to choke. He might be the favorite right now, but I’m not really sure that I would leave the ‘Hawks to sign up here.
- John Tortorella is still the coach of the New York Rangers, but after the playoff miss this season, some people thing his time there’s limited. Why, I don’t know… he only cusses like a sailor in press conferences (which would make them so much cooler than Andersons’, really), attacks opposing teams fans, has obvious issues with his players (Vinny Prospal and Sean Avery come to mind), and usually manages to make some sort of end of the season highlight reel. I know a lot of people who would be upset if he were hired here, some who would even cancel their season tickets. I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d have my big misgivings. I really don’t think that Dudley would go for him, or Waddell or the ownership group would be ok with having him on board.
- John Stevens was fired from the Philadelphia Flyers after a very long tenure with the organization, starting in 1999 when he was named an assistant coach of the then Philadelphia Phantoms. He was named head coach of the Flyers in 2006, and that team was too injury prone to actually even dream of competing. In 2007-2008 he drug the team back to the playoffs and all the way to the Conference finals where they lost to the Penguins. The following year they lost to the eventual Cup champs in the semifinals, and after a 13-11-1 start in 2009, the Flyers let him go. He’s done a lot with little in the past, seems to have always been well liked by players, but not so much that they walk all over him. He’s had a very long career in hockey, and I’m sure that the guys would respect that, especially the youth.