Good former NHL coaches just aren't in great supply right now

April 16, 2019 - 12:42 pm

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The last person the Flyers hired as their coach came from college hockey and North Dakota in Dave Hakstol. Despite making the playoffs in three out of four seasons, he was fired three-and-a-half years in.

Now, Philadelphia is dipping into the old boys network by hiring former New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.

In addition to five seasons with the Rangers, Vigneault coached in Vancouver and Montreal. In 1,216 games, Vigneault has a points percentage of .588. The playoffs is where Vigneault has had his problems as his playoff winning percentage is .489. 

The reason I bring all this up is I can’t wrap my head around any of the experienced coaches that are out there, including Vigneault or Todd McLellan.

The reason Vigneault was fired in New York is when they traded their good players and went young, he was like a fish out of water. Young players tend to regress under him and that’s not what the Sabres need.

Quite honestly, I’m not real excited about any of the former head coaches that are out there.

Many fans have told me they want Lindy Ruff back. I don’t understand that type of thinking. It seems, in some people’s minds, that they just want to keep going back to the old guard. I think all that is over with and for this organization to move forward, they can’t take steps into the past.

In addition to that, Ruff was not all that successful in Dallas after leaving Buffalo, and right now is quite happy being an assistant with the Rangers..

Jason Botterill is looking for a good communicator and somebody with presence. I’m starting to wonder if the second part of that is even out there. Mike Yeo, Todd Richards, Kevin Dineen, Kirk Muller, Michel Therrien, really? None of those names excite me in the least to bring into Buffalo to turn this team around.

Buffalo could go overseas and try to convince Ralph Krueger to get back into coaching, or see if Swedish National coach Rikard Grönborg would want to come over after leaving the national team, but how much respect would they get from Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian?

I sit here wracking my brain and in the end, I think I would probably head in this direction. I might explore a college coach that was just here in Buffalo and won a National Championship. Scott Sandelin has led Minnesota Duluth to two straight Frozen Four titles.

Sandelin has been coaching the Bulldogs for 19 years and is 21-6 in the NCAA Tournament, 7-2 in the Frozen Four. In the last three seasons, he’s coached Minnesota Duluth to an 82-34-12 record and three consecutive Frozen Four championship games. He has been to five Frozen Fours and won three of them. Sandelin knows the NHL as he played with Montreal, Philadelphia and the Minnesota North Stars.

Sheldon Keefe has coached the Toronto Marlies since 2015. Keefe is known to coach with puck possession in mind. In Toronto, Keefe has helped develop Will Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Connor Brown.

This is his fourth season in Toronto. He won the Calder Cup once, and is 189-87-28 with the Marlies.

Before arriving in Toronto, Keefe coached the Soo Greyhounds and went 98-29-9 in his two full seasons. If you want a coach that coaches to analytics, Keefe is your man.

Chris Taylor would be the other coach I'd consider. He has guided the Amerks to the playoffs in both his seasons behind the bench. Overall, he’s 83-45-24. I think Taylor has done an excellent job in developing Victor Olofsson, C.J. Smith, Rasmus Asplund, Lawrence Pilut and Will Borgen.

If we flip that coin, Brendan Guhle regressed under Taylor, and Linus Ullmark didn’t have a great rookie season in the NHL either.

Taylor has worked hard with Alex Nylander and has made him better. He’s more responsible and seems to have a better attitude, but it remains to be seen if anybody can bring out the best in Nylander. Taylor worked with Tage Thompson as soon as he got down there and Thompson is playing with a lot of confidence. The Sabres are hoping that will translate in the upcoming playoffs. 

None of those coaches have coached in the NHL, but all three have played there. This just doesn’t seem to be a good time to be looking for a coach, but the best three candidates may be Sandelin, Keefe and Taylor.

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