Archive for the ‘Lindy Ruff’ Category

Coach of the Decade: whom to consider

February 3, 2009
Mike Babcock
Record: 231 W – 118 L – 19 T – 42 OTL
Best years: Three division titles; 2002-03 (his lemons to lemonade year: coached an 8th 7th seed who beat Detroit and came within a game of a Cup) and 2007-08 (dominant Stanley Cup year – no team ever put the Red Wings at risk of elimination in the entire playoffs)
Fired?: No, but he left the Ducks for the Red Wings

Babcock is a quality over quantity guy. He’s made the playoffs four out of five years as a head coach. He won one Cup and came within a game of another. His teams usually perform very well in the playoffs. Rarely will you ever find a loss pinned on Babcock.

Lindy Ruff
Record: 340 W – 252 L – 44 T – 47 OTL
Best years: One division title, 05-06 and 06-07 – both seasons ended with Conference finals losses.

Fired?: No

Lindy Ruff is the closest thing the NHL has to a Terminator or cockroach when it comes to being unkillable. As the longest tenured coach in the NHL, Ruff has been with the team since the 1997-98 season. In the last decade, he kept the Sabres from imploding while the club was in financial trouble and helped lead what might be a short-lived return to glory for the franchise.

What hurts him the most is that the team has missed the playoffs four times this decade.

Barry Trotz
Record: 296 W – 261 L – 53 T – 46 OTL
Best years: 05-06 (106 pts, lost in first round) and 06-07 (110 points, lost in first round)
Fired?: No

Barry Trotz is the only coach in the history of the Nashville Predators. Behind the bench since 1998-99, Trotz often made something out of nothing. In fact, with only a few big name guys over the last few years like Paul Kariya and Jason Arnott, the Predators have been remarkably competitive.

They’ve also made it to the playoffs for the last four seasons.

Unfortunately, they’ve also been kicked out before ever seeing the second round. As great a coach as Trotz is, it might be hard to overcome that hurdle.

Ken Hitchcock
Record: 307 W – 202 L – 52 T – 51 OTL
Best years: Three division titles, 99-00 (lost in SCF) and 03-04 (lost in Game 7 of Conference finals)
Fired?: twice

Hitchcock is a bit of a victim of timing in this case. He won his only Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1998-99, the season before “the decade” began. Indeed, the three years before 99-00 were the best years of his coaching career.

That being said, Hithcock still has had an impressive decade. He took two different teams to the Conference Finals and brought the Stars to the Cup finals against the New Jersey Devils.

Perhaps the biggest knocks are that he’s been fired twice and missed the playoffs twice in a row as the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Still, the Stars hit their highest level under his tutelage. And the Flyers were one game away from the SCF because of Hitchcock. Finally, the Blue Jackets are in the mix for this year’s playoffs which would be the first in the club’s history.

Jacques Lemaire
Record: 277 W – 242 L – 55 T – 47 OTL
Best years: One division title, 02-03 (lost in Conf. finals)
Fired?: No

Even if his name will forever be associated with the neutral zone trap, Lemaire is still one of the most respected coaches in the NHL. While his teams have missed the playoffs four times, he’s been able to coax some very successful seasons out of some minimally talented teams.

Ron Wilson
Record: 344 W – 228 L – 52 T – 46 OTL
Best years: four division titles, 03-04 (lost in Conf. finals) and 07-08 (108 pts)
Fired?: Twice

One of the best personalities in the NHL is also one of the best coaches. He lead both the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks from basement teams to perennial contenders. Along with being consistently quotable, Wilson’s claim to fame is being ahead of the pack when it comes to technology.

Wilson shares the unfortunate distinction with Hitchcock of being fired twice in this decade. However, it’s always a sign that you’re probably a worthwhile coach when you barely blink and a new offer is on the table. Both Wilson and Hitchcock barely wasted a month before being chosen as the coach of a different team.

Other possible contenders: Dave Tippett, Claude Julien, Randy Carlyle (too brief), Scotty Bowman (only three years, but did win a Cup) and Joel Quenneville. Maybe even Pat Burns or Pat Quinn?

All-Decade Team: Coach

February 3, 2009

Somewhere in the cosmos, Herb Brooks’ soul just blew a whistle and screamed “Again!” at my taking-the-Finns-lightly self. When imaging an All-Decade Team, how could the coach be forgotten? Stunning.

What makes a coach of the decade candidate? Let me see:

1. Championships

Let’s face it, for head coaches it’s all about raising the Cup. Sure, it takes a hell of a team to win a title, but usually that team will face at least one worthy adversary. At least one bit of turmoil. It’s the great coaches who can mold a lump of clay potential into a vase of victory.

(The lights just turned out. Jim Carrey‘s chubby friend from The Truman Show just looked at coach Brooks with that, “wait, you’re STILL making them do Herbies?” expression and people are barfing on the ice.)

Emmerich to Russell: “Did that chubby guy just call me ‘that chubby friend’?”

2. Longevity

Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno have a lot of great things in common, but there might be one similarity that gets them atop the coaching win ranks: no one in their right mind would fire them. Really, the two goals of any coach is to keep his or her job and win.

(Ted Nolan just nodded sadly)

Lindy Ruff knows nothing of what mere mortals call “unemployment.”

3. Lemons to Lemonade-ability

Sadly, the third category decides an insane amount of Coach of the Year victories. Still, there are stretches where a good coach can make a ragtag bunch of misfits believe they can defeat the finest collection of Russian hockey players ever built.

(Whoops, wait, that’s “Miracle” again.)

ANYWAY, while Lemons to Lemonade-ability isn’t everything … it does say something about a coach. So it at least should be in the discussion.

4. Wins

Not quite as good as championships, but they’re pretty cool too.

Things that will NOT determine Coach of the Decade

1. Jack Adams awards

The sad irony of coach of the year awards is that the “of the year” is quite profound. Those guys lose their jobs like hot cakes. While trophies don’t always go to the rightful owner, it’s usually safe to say that the Norris trophy winner still had at least a very good season. That’s why those awards are listed in those other posts.

But when Scotty Bowman’s only won something twice, you know that it’s either a) insanely difficult to win or b) being decided by sleepy journalists.

Marc Crawford … probably not gonna make it.

2. Sound bytes/looks/other superfluousness

John Tortorella might be a great quote; Ron Wilson fights with the media to the amusement of all. But those two have an equal opportunity to lose to bland coaches like Jacques Lemaire and troll-like coaches including Barry Trotz.

***

So, the idea of including coach of the year literally came to me within the last hour. Besides proving how dumb I am, it provides a big question: which coaches deserve to be considered for Coach of the Decade? I’d love to hear your suggestions. In fact, I think I might be in over my head so any recommendations would earn disproportionate friendliness.

(Screams to doubtful Herb Brooks: I AM A HOCKEY BLOGGER!)