Now that the Capitals and Nashville Predators have hired Barry Trotz and Peter Laviolette as their new head coaches, the number of NHL head coaching vacancies is down to three.
With the NHL Draft now three weeks away, the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks remain without a bench boss, although all three teams are expected to have a coach in place before the end of the month.
Among the top assistant coaches in the Stanley Cup Final, both Ulf Samuelsson of the New York Rangers and John Stevens of the Los Angeles Kings could draw interest.
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Samuelsson does not have any NHL head coaching experience, but the former defenseman has been an assistant coach for six seasons with the Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes. Samuelsson was teammates with Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis with the Hartford Whalers and Pittsburgh Penguins from 1984-94.
Stevens has been an assistant coach with the Kings since 2010, and helped lead L.A. to its first Stanley Cup in 2012. The former Philadelphia Flyers bench boss has also been an NHL head coach for parts of four seasons and won a Calder Cup championship as head coach of the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms in 2005.
Stevens was a finalist last year for the Canucks head coaching job which eventually went to the since fired John Tortorella.
The Canucks have new front office personnel in place with team president Trevor Linden and general manager Jim Benning, but Benning has said that he wants his team to play an up-tempo, skill game, while Stevens has traditionally worked with more physical, grinding teams.
AHL head coach Willie Desjardins of the Texas Stars has also been linked to the Canucks opening, but Desjardins’ AHL club is still competing in the Calder Cup Finals. Desjardins spent two years as an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars before taking over the reins of their top minor league affiliate in 2012.
Another name that has surfaced in the Canucks head coaching search is former Vancouver bench boss Marc Crawford.
Crawford told the Vancouver Province this week that he has spoken to all three teams that still have head coaching vacancies and that after a two-year stint coaching in Switzerland (which included a Swiss-A League title), he is refreshed and ready to return to the NHL.
Crawford missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his last five seasons behind an NHL bench (his final year with Vancouver plus two years each with the Kings and Stars), but he is reportedly among the finalists for the head coaching job in Florida.
Two Detroit Red Wings assistant coaches are also in the mix for the Panthers job, in Tom Renney and Bill Peters.
Renney spent the past two seasons as Mike Babcock’s associate coach in Detroit and has eight years of NHL head coaching experience with the Canucks, Rangers and Edmonton Oilers.
Peters is eyeing his first career NHL head coaching gig after spending the past three years as an assistant in Detroit. Prior to joining Babcock in Detroit, Peters spent three years as the head coach of the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, leading the Chicago Blackhawks’ affiliate to a pair of playoff appearances.
Peters was hired to coach Rockford by then-Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon, who now holds the same position in Florida.
Another candidate for the Panthers head coaching position is Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Gerard Gallant, who spent the past two years working alongside Habs bench boss Michel Therrien.
Gallant coached Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau with the St. John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2009-12, and led the team to the national championship in 2011.
As for former Capitals head coach Adam Oates, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported last month that while the Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed interest in bringing him onboard as an assistant under Randy Carlyle, Oates would like to exhaust all head coaching opportunities before accepting an assistant position.