Sunday, June 6, 2010

Coaching retreads starting to fade out of the game

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the Columbus Blue Jackets have offered their head coaching position to AHL coach of the year, Guy Boucher, who just finished up his first season as a head coach in Hamilton. The Blue Jackets are in need of a new head coach after firing NHL veteran coach and Stanley Cup winner Ken Hitchcock this past season. Hitchcock was fired in large part due to his inability to relate to and work with younger players such as Derrick Brassard, Kris Russell, Steve Mason, Jake Voracek, and especially Nikita Filatov who went back to Russia because his relationship with Hitchcock had become unbearably toxic. This has become a theme in the last 2 to 3 years in the NHL when it comes to coaches and whether or not they can hold onto their jobs. In the salary cap world of the NHL you need to have young cheap assests on your team that can be a big part of your team and coaches need to be able to work with those young players. You need to be able to let them make mistakes and learn from them and be able to balance using tough love but also positive reinforcement and coddling as today's hockey players earn close to and sometimes more then a million dollars their first year in the league and the mentality of today's player is different. There is not only a sense of entitlement from a yound age (ie. Sergei Kostitsyn) but also many seem to be fragile mentally as compared to the old day players don't seem to react as well or willingly to iron-fist tactics of coaches like they used to if the coach's name isn't Scotty Bowman.

Hitchcock was not able to do that with the guys in Columbus and he isn't the only pre-lockout NHL head coach who's ways have become obsolete when it comes to running a bench. Mike Keenan was run out of Calgary after two years because his tactics simply did not connect with his players (interestingly enough his replacement Brent Sutter has suffered the same problem not only during his stop in New Jersey but also this past year in Calgary), Marc Crawford has worn out his welcome in Vancouver and Los Angeles since the lockout ended so how long before his strong arm tactics start to fall on deaf ears in Dallas? Craig MacTavish's inability to work with the young players in Edmonton (ie. Dustin Penner, Joeffrey Lupul, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, etc.) eventually he lost his job and was replaced by the even more old school Pat Quinn who lost the young Oilers players before even a full season was up because he refused to allow them to make mistakes and become better because of them as he ripped them in the media constantly. John Tortorella and Ron Wilson have long had reputations as brutal taskmasters who's first choice as a motivation tactic is to publically and privately rip individual players which works in the short term but will cost them their jobs in the long term (except for Wilson because his buddy Burkie would rather change the players then the coach) and Michel Therrien would also fall into this catagory and Al Murray lasted about two years before getting the ax in St.Louis. While he has saved his job for at least one year with a Cinderella run to the Conference Finals, Jaques Martin once again reinforced his reputation that he started in Ottawa with his handling of Jason Spezza of being unable to work with young players. His handling of Ryan O'Byrne with constantly jerking him in and out of the lineup in favor of the human turnover machine, aka. Marc-Andre Bergeron, and stapling him to the bench after one mistake in games in not condusive to allowing him to grow as a player and it was the same thing with Max Paciorrety whom the Habs eventually had to send back down to Hamilton to try and find him game again under Boucher.

Because of this changing of the guard teams have begun to go in search of new blood for the head coaching ranks of the league either from the CHL or the AHL. Bruce Boudreau, a long time AHL coach, replaced the defensive minded task master Glen Hanlon in Washington three years ago now and the Capitals exploded under his leadership. Peter DeBoer, former coach of the Kitchener Rangers, has done an admirable job with the talent given to him by the aformentioned Jaques Martin during his time as GM in Florida. Cory Clouston, Joe Sacco, Sean Gordon, and of course Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh represent the new wave of head coach's in the NHL who understand and are able to work with the young players in the league today. The smart teams are hiring these guys to work and grow with the young, rebuilding, progressive teams in the league and it's only a matter of time before everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

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