When NHL punditry suggests coaching candidates, it seems like they pick them from a hat. Witness the latest names thrown as Isles candidates since Jack Capuano was fired on Tuesday. Nobody ever seems to bother to drill-down on best fits, pros and cons. So, I will.
Whether fans like it or not, NY Islanders GM Garth Snow looks like he will select the next head coach of the Isles. I have said several times this season that it is highly likely that he gets the space and room for a course-correction from Isles ownership.
Islanders coaching best fit: NHL experienced, good with working and developing young talent, analytics-based head coach that meshes with the Isles drafted skills, talent and puck possession. Must get the most out of key players like Ryan Strome, and the rest of the kids on defense and offense who will be key in the next few years for the Isles long-term future. The delay of the next class, including Strome, has caused severe gaps as veteran players begin to move on. With Barzal, Dal Colle, Pelech, Pulock and more all coming soon and needing to get to the next level, the next coaches ability to work with this while competing is paramount.
NOTE: While Interim Coach Doug Weight could earn the role as head coach, I wouldn’t really expect it. He lacks player development and any kind of coaching acumen, including a spotty record as the Isles powerplay coach. Suffice to say, barring a miracle, we will just skip him altogether.
TOP CHOICES – based on this criteria
Former Edmonton Oilers coach. Head coach of AHL San Diego Gulls, former TO Marlies and then NHL Leafs assistant coach, Marlies HC
Highly analytics savvy.
Has all the right experiences. Got the Oilers to better possession numbers on NHL level. Been at tiller before, but was undermined by a bad front office in Edmonton. Became the fall guy in 16 months due to poor front office decisions, bad drafting and overall team unbalance. When he was fired, Oilers were on an uptick in key analytics metrics. Considered someone who is good with working with and developing younger players.
2nd time at a shot with an analytics front office and analytic-based drafted team could be the charm with the Islanders.
Current Assist coach of Senators, former NHL coach of Avs, Vancouver, Dallas and LA
Pros: NHL experienced coach. Analytics friendly. Already has a relationship with the Islanders GM. Respected for his player development. Helped develop Auston Matthews over in Zurich. Helped develop the Sedins while at Vancouver, Anze Kopitar while in LA, and Jamie Benn when he was in Dallas.
Crawford has been chomping at the bit for another chance to coach on the NHL level.
Assistant coach for Blackhawks. Former NHL coach of the Panthers
Experienced. Considered a players coach and a solid teacher. Been working for the Blackhawks for 2 years, which is a highly analytical organization. Preaches puck possession. Experienced as an AHL coach and developing younger players. Also served as Player Development for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Former Florida Panthers coach. Former Columbus Blue Jackets coach. Former Isles assistant coach 2007-2009. Assistant head coach for Montreal Canadiens
Already has a relationship with the Islanders GM and worked for the Isles organization.
Is he Cappy 2.0? Originally I thought so, but in talking to some NHL folks, I’ve re-evaluated. Has a far better track record than Cappy ever had. Well-liked by players. Learned a bit under Michel Therrien when at Montreal, who is a strong proponent of possession play.
Here is something important: played the kids in Florida, and saw many of them bloom. So he definitely has the development chops and the trust to play them.
Per interviews, he doesn’t seem analytics savvy or a fan of it at all. This said.. words to the press is a lot different than reality. PLUS, each organization’s analytics staff and items are different. He might not have been enamored with Florida’s or certain personnel. So that remains to be seen.
Gallant’s recent citation of needing size/toughness to press seemed to undermine his relationship with Florida’s front office, leading to his firing.
Currently head coach of the Boston Bruins, former coach of Montreal and Devils
Good veteran team coach. However, struggling in Boston blending in new faces with vets. That’s not exactly inspiring for Isles brass who are in that same boat needing strong player development. However, their shooting percentage this year is horrible. So is the Bruins situation a product of the coach? Perhaps not. Their possession game is actually pretty strong. So seems other items are really the story with the Bruins, not the coach.
He also is on record in how analytics “is an important tool”.
MAYBE? – Missing the NHL coaching experience
Marlies coach, AHL
Analytics convert who is part of the Toronto Maple Leafs org as coach of the Marlies. He is the player development arm of the Leaf’s system to work with the kids coming up from the AHL.
PROS: Analytics and player development. Good winning percentages in his CHL and AHL coaching
CONS: No NHL experience.
AHL coach, was linked to Ducks vacancy.
Oversaw AHL development of players, but none really were off-the-charts. Did help get Sven Baertschi back on track. Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, and Hunter Shinkaruk were under his tutelage and all healthy scratches at one time or another. Shinkaruk and Gaunce saw increased responsibilities over course of season.
Believes in internal competition… which is something the Isles brain trust also buys into. Kept the AHL competitive despite lacking talent and personnel.
CONS: No NHL experience.
Former assist coach of Senators. Former AHL coach for Binghamton
Helped develop Senators talent like Mike Hoffman, Stephane DaCosta, and Mark Stone on AHL level.
Not sure on his analytics background. Would need to be analytics-friendly to be considered.
MEH – Not sure they fit criteria
Former coach of Flames and Avs
Pros: NHL experienced coach., Analytics friendly. Already has relationship with GM.
Cons: Not a possession-strong coach. Isles seem to be best as a possession-based team (aka: 2 seasons ago).
Former NHL head coach St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, and Florida Panthers. Currently an assistant coach for the Penguins
PROS: Heavy NHL experience.
CONS: Not very analytics savvy, nor has his tenures been strong on key metrics.
Senators coach from 2014-16, assist coach of NHL Flames
Senators with a 70-50-17 record in less than two full seasons as head coach. However, poor special teams. Gave up lots of shots systematically.
Current Assistant coach for the Ducks. Former NHL head coach of Ottawa Senators, former Jack Adams awards winner (2013), finalist (2012)
Big with “high event hockey” style. Ended up the fall guy for the Senators. However, many veterans underperformed for him in the end. Also dropped in possession under his tenure. Didn’t have the greatest relationship developmentally with Mika Zibanejad, who was many a healthy scratch. Like Capauno, a big penchant for line juggling.
DON’T THINK SO
Former Oilers coach.
Big on “hard work and accountability.” Hmm, where have we heard that before? Seems best as a veteran team coach or international coach dealing with a mixture of different players.
Former head coach of Caps, co-head coach of NJ Devils, currently a hockey skills consultant
Pros: Analytics-savvy. Lead Caps from last place malaise to first place, but was fired because once again they were unable to advance in the playoffs.
Cons: Tried to force Capitols defenders, who were drafted for one thing, to be another. Sound familiar, Isles fans? Did not have a good puck possession track record for Capitals or Devils. Odd lineup strategy and forced Holtby to adjust his playing style, which ended up one of his worst year performances.