There were four head coaching vacancies in the NHL as the
offseason began and now all four have been filled. Two teams opted to hire
veterans (Calgary and Montreal) while the other teams opted for new faces
(Edmonton and Washington).
It’s an age-old conundrum: try a retread and hope that
he’s a match or overlook inexperience and see if you’re hiring the next smart
bench boss. Only time will tell.
For now, here is a look at the four teams with their new
head coaches and what to expect from them next season.
Bob Hartley is the new head coach of the Calgary Flames
and his No. 1 goal with the team is to make them more entertaining. If anyone
recalls the Colorado Avalanche squads that Hartley coached, they were free
flowing, free skating and skill-oriented. That’s what he’d like to do in
Unfortunately, Hartley also had that plan in Atlanta and
it never worked for the Thrashers. They were doomed by the same probably that
hampers the Flames: they don’t have enough skill.
In free agency, the Flames signed Dennis Wideman and Jiri
Hudler, which should help, but the Flames forwards unit still seem to lack.
Mike Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla are past their primes. Hartley
has some good ideas but the Flames can’t win with the roster they have and need
to rebuild. Patchwork won’t help.
Unless Hartley can guide the Flames through rebuilding
mode, don’t expect this team to change much. At best, they are a first-round
Capitals: Adam Oates
The Capitals coaching position had been a mess as Bruce
Boudreau was canned last season and interim coach Dale Hunter, who got the team
playing better, didn’t return.
We don’t know a whole lot about Oates other than he was
an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils last season. He had held that
position for three years and worked in Tampa Bay before that.
There will be plenty of questions about the hiring. He’s
never been a head coach and is handed the keys to a veteran team who – on paper
– should be competing for the Eastern Conference title.
He was one heck of a hockey player and will be inducted
into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year, but he’s still a question mark as a
head coach. We’ll see if he’s the one that can finally milk the Capitals talent
for all it’s worth.
The Oilers job was one of the sexiest out there as they
have a roster full of young talent that could be ready to compete for a playoff
spot next and maybe a Stanley Cup within year. They’re like the Tampa Bay Rays
of the 2000’s: they’ve had so many high draft picks that it’s only a matter of
time before they get good.
Tom Renney brought over the long-time Swiss national team
coach to be his right-hand man originally and now he takes over the team. He
definitely looks the part of someone who can inspire as he regularly runs in
the mountains and works as a motivational speaker when he’s not coaching.
The Swiss national team tended to overachieve on the
international stage (given their talent) so that’s a good sign. He wants an
attacking team and he’s definitely got the parts for it. We’ll just have to see
what he’s capable of.
Montreal Canadiens: Michel Therrien
The Montreal Canadiens love their French-speaking head
coaches, which means they’re picking from a smaller pool than the other 29
teams. Hence, it’s no surprise that the Habs opted for a blast from the past
with Therrien, who coached the team 2000-03.
The Habs have been one of the softest teams in the league
over the last couple of seasons and that came to a head last year. With as much
talent as they had, they lacked character and toughness, and sunk to the bottom
of the Eastern Conference standings.
If there is one signature of a Therrien-coached team,
it’s toughness and the Habs are going to have it. We can already see a shift in
team ideology as the Habs signed Colby Armstrong, Brandon Prust and Francois
Boullion in free agency. All of those players are going to beef up the roster.
The Habs are still quite talented and if Therrien can add
a backbone, they should be back in the playoffs in 2012-13.