***This is a reprint of today's entry from <a href=http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?blogger_id=90>my main page Lightning blog</a>.***
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Ron Wilson's ousting as head coach of the San Jose Sharks makes him the latest name to be added to the ever-growing list of NHL coaching candidates. Technically, there are six vacancies at present - Atlanta, Colorado, Florida, Ottawa, San Jose and Toronto - with three other intriguing situations - Los Angeles, the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning - where coaches under contract have nothing certain other than lame duck seasons ahead.
Three of the teams with definite coaching vacancies - Colorado, Ottawa and San Jose - all qualified for the postseason this year and, of them, only Ottawa failed to advance past the first round. These clubs will surely be looking for an experienced leader to take them to the next level and perhaps that someone will have a bit more fire in their belly than the previous bench boss. (To borrow from the National Football League, this can be known as, "The Dungy-Gruden Complex", first discovered when a steadily improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers club seemingly hit a wall under head coach Tony Dungy, who was then replaced by Jon Gruden - a known kick-in-the-pants type of guy - who led them to a Super Bowl victory in his first season at the helm.)
Which of these franchises seems to fit that mold? You have to start with San Jose, a team screaming "Cup contender" for years now that, for whatever reason, just doesn't seem to have the moxy to break out of pretender mode. Who best to kick the Sharks in the pants? How about Lightning incumbent John Tortorella? Prior to Wilson's firing yesterday, I had already made up my mind that Tortorella - if he is let go, of course - would be the perfect fit as his replacement in San Jose. Here you have a team and a star player in Joe Thornton, mind you, who both look to be in dire need of something other than coddling. Kick things off in the preseason with "Camp Torture-ella", add a little bit of that old "Safe is death" mantra from the Bolts Cup run and maybe sprinkle in the odd Tortorella blowup at a player, an official or a local reporter or two and you just might get that spark ... nah ... that explosion that you're looking for.
From a Lightning perspective, you all know that I feel it's high time for a change behind the bench. My personal gut feeling gained some real momentum as the season came to a close and may have actually started to blossom as recently as last month, when Tortorella suggested - and quickly retracted - that his exit may indeed be what's best for both he and the club. Couple that with the Al Strachan-reported Oren Koules/Barry Melrose connection and, at the very least, you've got the makings of a juicy rumor ... with some legs to it ... and a little bit of solid ground to stand on (hint, hint ... wink, wink ...)
Of course, nothing could happen in terms of Tortorella going to San Jose - or anywhere else, for that matter - until the Lightning ownership situation is finalized, though that is expected soon enough.
Rumblings out of Los Angeles have Marc Crawford's return as coach as anything but a sure thing as well. There's another Cup winner to throw into the mix ...
Another coach's status worth monitoring is that of Ted Nolan of the New York Islanders. The Isles, hamstrung by a slew of injuries to key players and a glaring lack of scoring prowess, took a significant step backward in year two of the Nolan regime. In the last year of a three-year deal, Nolan's future with the club is unclear. Owner Charles Wang, in a late season interview, said nothing of his expectations for Nolan other than that he would fulfill the current contract and that they would re-evaluate things thereafter. Clearly, the 2008-09 season will be make-or-break for Nolan on the Island, though recent public comments from the man himself quite possibly elude to his own desire to move on.
"It's a tough situation, but I've faced a lot of tough situations before. I just want to go into next season, concentrate on fulfilling my contract, do a great job and make sure I get another contract somewhere. I want to fulfill my contract, hopefully do really well next season and hopefully they'll want to re-sign me. I'm going to coach somewhere."
Something Islander fans - and anyone else who might envision Ted Nolan as their next coach - can take solace in, however, are Nolan's thoughts on the postseason.
"The playoffs should be automatic. It's winning championships that should be the hard part."
My sentiments exactly.
It appears as though Nolan will indeed at least finish out his current contract, so his status may not affect this off-season's coach-go-round but, if a club doesn't nab their guy now, surely a handful of teams would be keeping tabs on this former Jack Adams Trophy winner.
Of the non-playoff clubs looking for coaches as of right now, the Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers are the most likely to give an unproven candidate their big shot. The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the other hand, likely will add a big name to replace Paul Maurice. (Would the Leafs fans accept anything to the contrary?)
The list of candidates is becoming gargantuan, with a good mix of retreads, NHL assistants and up-and-comers from the junior and minor league ranks and a couple of men who may be looking for one last shot at the big time.
A quick, off-the-top-of-my-head shortlist:
Joel Quenneville, Bob Hartley, Doug MacLean, Paul Maurice, Pat Quinn, Pat Burns, John Paddock, Perry Pearn, Peter DeBoer, Dale Hunter, Tim Hunter, Rob Zettler, Ron Wilson, Patrick Roy, Kevin Dineen, Barry Melrose, Andre Savard, Craig Hartsburg, Terry Murray ...
... and maybe, just maybe, Marc Crawford, Ted Nolan and John Tortorella ...
Quite the selection ... all it takes is one hiring (or maybe a firing?) to get things started.
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