Five intriguing free agent coaches not named Bruce Boudreau
Marc Crawford (Faerjestad BK/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)
Five intriguing free agent coaches not named Bruce Boudreau
Bruce Boudreau is already well on his way to landing his next job, but who fills the rest of the coaching vacancies once Boudreau is hired? Of all the names floating around, here are five of the most intriguing potential bench bosses.
Bruce Boudreau spent a grand total of two days as a free agent coach following his firing from the Washington Capitals in November 2011, and that the former Ducks bench boss is already well on his way to finding his next gig five days after losing his job in Anaheim isn’t the least bit surprising.
The one thing that’s a certainty this off-season, no matter how free agency shakes out, is that Boudreau will end up behind an NHL bench in 2016-17. The only question is where he’ll land, with the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators or Calgary Flames being the three clear options at this point. Boudreau is among the best coaches the league has seen over the past decade, and, poor post-season record or not, he can help right a team’s ship in a hurry. The task in any of his potential landing spots will be more difficult than what he had to work with in Anaheim or Washington, to be sure, but there’s reason to be confident in Boudreau’s ability.
However, once Boudreau is hired, there will be at least three remaining coaching vacancies, including in Anaheim where the Ducks will be looking for Boudreau’s successor. And with Boudreau off the market, the coaching market has several interesting options.
Current: Assistant coach, Chicago Blackhawks
Dineen has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the Blackhawks. One of his duties was to help improve Chicago’s power play. This past season, the Blackhawks rebounded from having the 19th-ranked man advantage in 2014-15 to boast the league’s second-best power play. But Dineen, a veteran of nearly 1,200 NHL games, brings more than special teams acumen.
Dineen has experience as a bench boss in the AHL, NHL and internationally, winning an Olympic gold medal with Canada’s women’s team in 2014. His only foray as a head coach in the NHL came when he patrolled the Florida Panthers bench from 2011 to 2013. He led the Panthers to their first post-season berth in 11 seasons and the 2011-12 Cats team pushed the eventual Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils to seven games in the first round.
There’s some history between Dineen and Brian Burke, the Flames president of hockey operations. During Burke’s time with as Anaheim Ducks GM, Dineen coached the Portland Pirates, who were the Ducks’ AHL affiliate until 2007-08.
Current: Coach, Utica Comets (AHL)
Green took over behind the bench for the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate as soon as the team moved from Peoria to Utica and the turnaround for the Comets has been abrupt. In their final season in Peoria, the club formerly known as the Rivermen missed the post-season by 15 points, but in Green’s first season as an AHL coach, the Comets missed by a scant four points. In Year Two, Green took the team all the way to the Calder Cup final as the top seed in the Western Conference.
Utica wasn’t quite as successful this past season, but Green again led the Comets to the post-season and now it appears he could be ready to make the transition to NHL bench boss. His experience leading the Portland Winterhawks to a WHL championship and Memorial Cup final make his resume incredibly impressive, and that could make Green a great fit for a team looking to land a coach who can work well with young players.
Recent: Coach, SC Bern (NLA)
Boucher’s rise from junior to AHL to NHL was swift. He led the Drummondville Voltigeurs to a QMJHL championship in his third season as the club’s coach and suffered a heart-breaking overtime loss to the eventual champion Windsor Spitfires in the semifinal of the 2009 Memorial Cup. The next season, Boucher went to the AHL’s Western Conference final, and he was coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning to an Eastern Conference final by 2011.
The Lightning missed the post-season the next year, however, and Boucher’s forechecking tactics were part of an infamous moment in which the Philadelphia Flyers played keep-away from Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 attack. Boucher was let go by the Lightning in 2013, and went to Switzerland to ply his trade.
With SC Bern, Boucher was incredibly effective. In his second season, Bern won the Swiss championship, but Boucher was fired mid-season following (but unrelated to) the announcement he would not return to the club next season. However, post-firing, Boucher coached Canada to a Spengler Cup championship. His name has been mentioned in connection with NHL jobs as recently as the 2015 off-season, and Boucher will certainly get a look this off-season.
Recent: Coach, ZSC Lions (NLA)
Like Boucher, Crawford went from NHL castoff to coaching in the Swiss league. Over the past four seasons, though, Crawford has had much more success. He led Zurich to a Swiss championship in 2014, an appearance in the final in 2015 and a first-place finish in 2016. Zurich were again a top contender in the NLA post-season, but were upset in the first round by Boucher’s former club, SC Bern.
The difference between Crawford and every other coach on this list is experience. Crawford has plenty of it. He has 15 years of NHL coaching experience as well as a Jack Adams Award and Stanley Cup championship to his name. He hasn’t been in the league in four years, but Crawford said the time in Switzerland got him “back to the roots of coaching.”
However, Crawford acknowledged the way for him to get his foot back in the NHL door may not be as a coach right out of the gate. If an assistant coaching position opens up, that might be where Crawford fits best for the time being. Expect him to at least be a candidate for one of the open jobs, though.
Current: GM and coach, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
No coach has done more with young talent, and that could make Groulx the perfect option for a young team looking to take the next step.
Groulx has spent all but two of his years as a coach behind the Olympiques bench, and he’s proven he can drive a young team to championship glory. Groulx led the Olympiques to the QMJHL title in both of his first two full seasons as coach, and both times he led the club to the Memorial Cup final. It took until 2008 for Groulx to get the Olympiques back atop the QMJHL, and upon winning his third title he left for the AHL to take over the Rochester Americans’ bench.
In his first season in Rochester, Groulx’s tutelage saw the Americans have an eight-point improvement, but still fall well shy of the post-season. He got storied AHL franchise back to the post-season in 2009-10, however, as Rochester improved by an incredible 25 points. He left following that season, though, and went back to Gatineau where he became both coach and GM of the Olympiques.
Some may recognize Groulx most from his turn with the Canadian world junior squad, which he led to a gold medal at the 2015 tournament. He doesn't have NHL experience, but Groulx could be a fantastic first-year coach if he finds the right fit.