Caps coach: Help wanted, experience preferred

Caps coach: Help wanted, experience preferred
May 8, 2014, 12:45 pm
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Mike Babcock has another year remaining on his contract with the Detroit Red Wings and, according to general manager Ken Holland, who also has one year remaining, is staying put.

Ken Hitchcock, who has seen his St. Louis Blues bounced from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round two springs in a row, on Wednesday was renewed by the Blues for one more season.

Peter Laviolette was removed from the market on Tuesday when he was hired as head coach of the Nashville Predators.

So where does that leave the Capitals, who are one of four NHL teams [Vancouver, Florida and Carolina are the others] without a head coach?

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After hiring five straight coaches – Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter and Adam Oates -- with zero games of head coaching experience in the NHL, the Capitals likely will change that trend and hire a seasoned head coach.

With that in mind, let’s revise their Most Wanted list, in order of [perceived] desirability, if not NHL experience:

Barry Trotz

Age: 51

NHL head coaching experience: 15 seasons, Nashville Predators

Games as NHL head coach: 1,196

Record: 557-479-100 [60 ties]

Availability: As of today, Trotz is considered the most qualified coach on the market. A well-respected teacher and motivator, Trotz was the first and only coach of the Nashville Predators, taking the team from a 47-loss season in 1998-99 to a 51-win season in 2006-07.Trotz led the Predators to 90 or more points in seven of the last 10 seasons, eclipsing 100 points four times.

Ron Wilson

Age: 58

NHL head coaching experience: 18 seasons, Anaheim, Washington, San Jose, Toronto

Games as NHL head coach: 1,401

Record: 648-561-91 [101 ties]

Availability: According to a tweet by TSN Hockey Insider @DarrenDreger, Wilson is under consideration for at least one of the head coaching vacancies, adding “experience is a big plus for some teams in the market for a coach.” Wilson has not been behind an NHL bench since the Maple Leafs fired him near the end of the 2011-12 season after failing to get them into the Stanley Cup playoffs for a fourth straight season. During those four seasons the Leafs were five games under .500. Prior to that Wilson led the Sharks to four straight playoff appearances, winning six of 11 playoff series. Another no-nonsense bench boss, he spent five seasons as the Caps’ head coach from 1997-2002, getting into the playoffs three times and taking the Caps to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final. He served as head coach during he playing careers of Caps assistant coaches Calle Johannson and Olie Kolzig.

Terry Murray

Age: 63

NHL head coaching experience: 15 seasons, Washington, Philadelphia, Florida, Los Angeles

Games as NHL head coach: 1,012

Record: 499-383-41 [89 ties]

Availability: Murray, who began his head coaching career in Washington in 1989, is currently the head coach of the AHL Adirondack Phantoms, who will begin play next season in Allentown, Pa. He was fired by the L.A. Kings 29 games into the 2011-12 season after the Kings got off to a 13-12-4 start. Under new coach Darryl Sutter the Kings turned things around and won the Cup as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. A stern head coach with an ability to work with young players, Murray has taken his teams to the playoffs in 10 of his 12 full seasons behind an NHL bench, twice getting to the conference finals and once getting to the Stanley Cup Final, where his Flyers lost to the Red Wings in 1997.  

Mike Keenan

Age: 64

NHL head coaching experience: 20 seasons, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York Rangers, St. Louis, Vancouver, Boston, Florida, Calgary

Games as NHL head coach: 1,386

Record: 672-531-36 [147 ties]

Availability: This is not as far-fetched as you might think. Keenan interviewed with the Caps two summers ago and after leading Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the KHL championship this season he would love the opportunity to lead Alex Ovechkin to his first Stanley Cup. Keenan has worked with star players like Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Pavel Bure, Jeremy Roenick and Brett Hull and has taken teams with less talent than the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals, getting there four times and winning the Cup with the Rangers in 1994. Keenan’s teams reached the playoff in 13 of the 17 seasons he completed and although he has a reputation for straining his relationships with players, many of his former players say he made them better players.

Todd McLellan

Age: 46

NHL head coaching experience: 6 seasons, San Jose Sharks

Games as NHL head coach: 458

Record: 271-130-57

Availability: McLellan is still employed by the Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson has recommended that McLellan return for a seventh season in San Jose, but Sharks owner Hasso Plattner will have the final say on the futures of both men. McLellan is coming off the embarrassment of becoming just the fourth coach in NHL history to see his team blow a 3-0 series lead after his team fell to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games. It was the second time in three years the Sharks were eliminated in the first round. McLellan has led to the Sharks to the playoffs in all six of his seasons as coach, winning three Pacific Division titles in that time. If McLellan is relieved of his duties he might jump to second on teams’ lists, behind only Trotz.

Randy Carlyle

Age: 58

NHL head coaching experience: 10 seasons, Anaheim, Toronto

Games as NHL head coach: 664

Record: 343-244-77

Availability: Carlyle is still head coach of the Maple Leafs, but for how long? With Brendan Shanahan now running the show in Toronto and fans clamoring to have Carlyle removed following the Leafs’ epic collapse this season, Carlyle could be on the unemployment line by early next week. In his 10 seasons behind the bench in Anaheim and Toronto, Carlyle’s teams reached the playoffs six times, winning the Cup with the Ducks in 2007. Carlyle missed the playoffs in two of his three seasons in Toronto and has not won a playoff series since 2009. Carlyle has a brief history with the Capitals, serving as an assistant coach to Cassidy and Hanlon from 2002-04. If Carlyle is fired by the Maple Leafs and hired by the Capitals, don’t expect Mikhail Grabovski to return to Washington, not after calling Carlyle an “idiot” last summer.

John Tortorella

Age: 55

NHL head coaching experience: 14 seasons, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Vancouver

Games as NHL coach: 936

Record: 446-375-78 [37 ties]

Availability: Tortorella became available when the Canucks cut ties with him after just one season behind the bench. He reportedly has four years and $8 million remaining on that contract. Another hard-nosed coach who plays a defense-first style, Tortorella has a reputation for getting under the skin of his players. Former Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who was traded to the Rangers near the end of last season, said Tortorella and his assistant, Mike Sullivan, who was also fired by Vancouver, ran the team like a “boot camp.” Seems like the furthest thing from what the Capitals want or need. But, hey, he’s got experience, right?