Monday, June 09, 2008

The Coaching Shuffle

We haven't even hit Summer yet and the teams in the NHL are already making their Summer moves in the coaching ranks. Some with due cause and some have been ousted (or possibly hired) with much confusion and concern. Already, seven teams have been firing, hiring and interviewing their head coaching position and questions still remain as to who is going to fill these spots.

Of course, the hot spot of all debate circles around Toronto. On Monday, they should be announcing that Ron Wilson is going to take the job as head coach, long before the team will settle on a full-time, permanent General Manager. This, after the interim General Manager, Cliff Fletcher, decided to can Paul Maurice, well before any major consideration for the hockey operations manager is in place. Maurice, possibly one of the better coaches in the league, had himself a pretty raw deal given to him, with a sub-par team that couldn't finish in last. Wilson is a very good coach that did good things in San Jose, but looks to be dropped into a bigger ocean with even bigger sharks.

Another coaching position that has already been solved is in Denver. The Avalanche hired within the organization after they had let Joel Quenville go, because of a lack of playoff success over the past few seasons. Certainly not a terrible reason to let a coach go, but fortunately for Quenville, he's a marketable guy who can go to a good team and still see success. In his place, the team promoted Tony Granato, who they previously demoted from the position to hire Quenville. A bench coach equivalent to musical chairs, I suppose. A few seasons under Quenville, should have matured Granato into a better top dog, but may see a decline in talent, which could prove to make his job a little more difficult.

The Sharks' management was in the same boat as the Avalanche. A lack of playoff success inevitably cost Ron Wilson his job and made him available to take the Leafs job, which was mentioned already. The Sharks have a boatload of talent and any coach will be fairly fortunate to have players like Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo and Evgeni Nabokov already signed on to play next season. The job for that coach will be to reel all their best players into a system where they can succeed in the playoffs and finally make a deadly name in San Jose. Of course, GM Doug Wilson will also have to compliment his better players with some more good players, which will also make the coaching job a little easier to swallow.

Three NHL teams are all in the same boat going into the Summer. Atlanta, Florida and Ottawa finished the 2008 campaign with their General Managers coaching the team and all three will be interviewing for that same job, likely hoping to get results before the Entry Draft. Don Waddell, Jacques Martin and Bryan Murray are all looking to play full-time GM in the coming season and they all hope the best man for the job is going to be hired for their clubs. With some of the best minds in hockey available for the position, it shouldn't be too long before each team finds their "right guy."

Finally, the other sun belt team is also looking for a coach, since the Lightning fired John Tortorella. Tortorella had much success with the Lightning, winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, but arguably lost the team and the superstars underneath them, as they finished last in the league during the regular season. The Lightning will enjoy getting some new direction and possibly re-challenge for the Southeast title. They should also benefit from drafting Steven Stamkos this summer, who may make the jump to play with the big boys in 2009. With Vincent Lecavalier and Dan Boyle already in the mix, the new coaching staff could be in for a treat this coming season.

On a pool level, coaching can have a serious effect on players and where they should be drafted. Results from players on teams that didn't make any coaching changes should be taken at face value. The seven teams listed above will all have to take their current stable of players and forecast with their new coach's style in mind. Once the dust settles in all of these cities, the forecasting process will also have to take into account free agency and the draft, not to mention all the dealings in between. It may be a good idea to focus your forecasting away from teams with defensive-style coaches, except for goaltenders. They play really well under those circumstances.

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