11 June 2015

2015 NHL Coaching Carousel: Grading the Hires

Seven NHL franchises have changed their head man this offseason and while most of the teams changing coaches came from teams missing the playoffs (some not being anywhere close), there was one team in the playoffs that will have a new coach. How did these teams do in their coaching searches? Here's my analysis for each.

Buffalo Sabres - Dan Bylsma (formerly Penguins head coach)
It has been four years since the Sabres have last had a winning record, let alone a playoff appearance, and two straight seasons with the worst record in the NHL, there is nowhere to go but up in Buffalo. Fortunately, they landed themselves a pretty good coach to lead their rebuilding effort. Bylsma is a proven winner (with a Cup nonetheless) and he has shown himself how to work with elite talents, and he will likely have one in Boston University center Jack Eichel in the draft.
Grade: A-

Detroit Red Wings - Jeff Blashill (Grand Rapids Griffins head coach)
Blashill has made clear that he is different than his predecessor, Mike Babcock, but there are certainly similarities between the two. However, Blashill is younger by a decade and has the experience working with the organization's prospects and their rising talent. Given that the core of the roster is aging, there is going to be an enhanced focus on their youth and thus Blashill's record with them makes sense for them. He also has been a success everywhere he has been and his AHL record is very strong.
Grade: B+

Edmonton Oilers - Todd McLellan (Sharks head coach)
McLellan was quickly scooped up by the Oilers after parting ways with the Sharks and while McLellan was unable to break through the ceiling of the Western Conference Finals, there is no question that he is a good coach. Edmonton has not seen that much progress in their rebuilding process despite a number of high draft picks, and the top pick this year, and it is a team that hasn't made the playoffs since losing in the 2006 Cup Final and has not had a winning record since 2009. He has a strong developmental background and knows how to win.
Grade: A

New Jersey Devils - John Hynes (Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach)
One in a long line of head coaches from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hynes was connecting to the Devils early with new GM Ray Shero due to their connections from the Penguins and even beyond the familiarity, he is an ideal fit. He has an extensive background in player development which makes sense for a team that is undergoing changes due to such an old roster. But perhaps the bigger change will be in how Hynes will have his team play faster and more aggressively, particularly on the offensive end, while still being strong on the defensive side.
Grade: A-

Philadelphia Flyers - Dave Hakstol (University of North Dakota head coach)
Haktol is the first coach hired right out of college since 1987, only the fourth overall, and thus his hiring was a bit of a surprise. He was tremendous successful during his time in Grand Forks, albeit without a title, but there certainly is a learning curve when a coach is coming straight from the NCAA ranks. And given that the Flyers are amid a long-term process towards being a Cup contender once again, taking a chance on a talented coach like Hakstol makes sense.
Grade: B

San Jose Sharks - Peter DeBoer (formerly Devils head coach)
I think that DeBoer is a better coach than his record (217-200, one playoff appearance) indicates. His teams in Florida lacked talent and the Devils teams declined in talent following their loss in the Cup Final in 2012. He certainly will be able to firm up the defensive end in San Jose but his teams in New Jersey consistently struggled to score and while the Sharks want to start a youth movement of sorts, as SI's Allan Muir points out, but the prospects with the Devils often found themselves stifled by the coach.
Grade: C+

Toronto Maple Leafs - Mike Babcock (Red Wings head coach)
The Leafs reeled in the big fish in the coaching carousel in Babcock, taking a massive contract to do so. And with such a big contract, expectations will be high but it is going to take a couple years for Toronto to be a winner again, having finished 27th in the league this past season. Babcock proved himself to be an excellent coach during his years in Hockeytown and he won a lot of games and a Stanley Cup. The Leafs have been a mess on possession stats over the past several years while Babcock's teams in Detroit have been fantastic in that regard. It is a big, bold move but one that could really pay off for a team that famously hasn't won a Cup since 1967.
Grade: A

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