The NHL coaching carousel continues to spin. With 30 of 32 teams in offseason mode, we’ve seen six new coaching hires thus far, while a few other teams (Boston, Detroit, Winnipeg) haven’t yet filled their vacancies.
The new hires so far: Luke Richardson (Chicago) Pete DeBoer (Dallas), Paul Maurice (Florida), Lane Lambert (NY Islanders), John Tortorella (Philadelphia) and Bruce Cassidy (Vegas). Among them, which bench boss will have the most significant impact on his team next season?
Over to you, Daily Faceoff Roundtable.
MATT LARKIN: I’m gonna think outside the box here. I don’t think John Tortorella’s Flyers are going to be a playoff team next season, but I think he’ll improve his team more than any other new hire will. He breeds urgency, competitiveness, self sacrifice and straight-up fitness. Under ‘Torts,’ the Flyers will likely be pretty boring to watch, but they should be a much better defensive team. It won’t be a surprise if he gets career-best work out of defenseman Ivan Provorov and especially goaltender Carter Hart, who should face an easier workload on a Torts team that should be much more committed to limiting scoring chances. The Flyers aren’t going to be contenders next year, but they’ll undergo a major identity change.
CHRIS GEAR: History tells us that Pete DeBoer will have a big immediate impact in Dallas. In his first year with the New jersey Devils in 2011-12, DeBoer took the team to the Stanley Cup Final. In his first year with the San Jose Sharks in 2015-16 following his firing from the Devils, he took the Sharks to the Cup Final. And in his first year with the Vegas Golden Knights following his turfing in San Jose, he took the Knights to the final four. For whatever reason, DeBoer hasn’t had staying power in the markets he’s coached in, but he tends to get the most out of his teams in the early going. I don’t know if Dallas has the roster to help him get as far in the playoffs in his new surroundings as he’s been able to get in the past, but with young stars Jason Robertson, Miro Heiskanen and Jake Oettinger still improving and some solid veterans still in the mix, I think DeBoer moves them closer to contending with Colorado and St. Louis for the Central Division crown.
SCOTT BURNSIDE: I wrote about Paul Maurice on Thursday and I must admit I was a bit surprised this was the direction that Florida GM Bill Zito went when the Panthers decided Andrew Brunette wasn’t their guy. But the game is a better place with Maurice in it. And after failing to get a talented Winnipeg team over the hump – they peaked in the 2018 Western Conference Final – I think this fit works for both teams and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Panthers go on a long-awaited long playoff run next spring. No doubt in my mind that as talented as Vegas is, where Bruce Cassidy landed after being dismissed by Boston, Maurice is the new head coach that inherits the most talent and the best foundation (easy to say after the Panthers won a Presidents’ Trophy I know). He’ll be able to make the subtle tweaks that should carry the Cats to the next level.
MIKE MCKENNA: Of the five teams listed, I only think two truly fit the bill as turnaround candidates. Philadelphia and the Islanders both need a newfound energy and sense of purpose. I think John Tortorella will provide that in spades for the Flyers. The only problem is that I’m not sure how competitive that lineup is going to be unless Chuck Fletcher can do some elective surgery this offseason. Even then, Tortorella has a history of taking mediocre rosters further than anyone expects. Look at his time in Columbus. The Blue Jackets were competitive based on work ethic and attention to detail. So I place Tortorella at the top of my list. As for Lane Lambert – we’ll find out. I can’t bet on him or against him. He’s an unknown in a head coaching role. I had Lane briefly with the AHL Milwaukee Admirals years ago as an assistant coach under Claude Noel, and he made a positive impression. Obviously people believe in him. The remaining three teams – Vegas, Florida, and Dallas – should all be playoff teams and contend for the Stanley Cup. The Golden Knights were crushed by injuries and drama last season. I can’t help but think it’ll be smoother sailing this season under Cassidy. And I think DeBoer will bring structure and consistency to Dallas, both of which were sorely missing with the Stars last season. Maurice to Florida caught me off guard. How can you improve on a Presidents’ trophy? The only answer is to win the Stanley Cup. That’s a tall task, no matter how rich the Panthers are in terms of talent.
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