The Las Vegas franchise is set to embark on it's National Hockey League beginning in fall 2017 and speculation has begun on who would be the best fit to be the inaugural Head Coach for the Vegas Franchise. In lieu of how Team Europe performed at the most recent World Cup, there are a lot of hockey pendants who are advocating for Ralph Krueger but there a variant amount of red flags that pop up when imagining Krueger patrolling the Vegas bench. Even though from the exterior Ralph is selling himself as a hot shot commodity, we as a hockey community must harken back to his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers which from all accounts was a miserable experiment. Krueger's fundamentals come from an old school way of thinking the game as he doesn't necessarily endorse creativity as much as he harps on a structural alignment that stifles rapid puck movement. Record wise, Team Europe didn't disappoint as they surprisingly secured a spot in the best of three final however the brand of hockey implemented was as boring as it was watching an episode of 'Caribbean Workout', a fitness show that used to air on TSN in the nineties. I question a couple things, A) Would Krueger be willing to leave a comfy gig in Southampton to venture back to the NHL? and b)will the Bill Foley led ownership group have reservations with hiring someone that doesn't present a style that is engaging to a lot of beginner hockey fans that will flood the rink in it's infant years? Krueger is an excellent tactician but just ask former General Manager out of Columbus in Doug McLean who in the Blue Jackets expansion season hired Dave King who carried forward a resume similar to that of Krueger and what ultimately transpired was the players weren't willing to buy into King's X's and O's philosophy. At the end of the day I'm not convinced that they'll look towards his direction and below will provide the top five candidates from my vantage point when it pertains to the coaching search that George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon and the aforementioned Foley will administer.
Listed in alphabetical order.
As a Head Coach, he had great success in junior coaching the juggernaut Windsor Spitfires. Some will look at that and suggest he was the benefactor of the Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis led Spitfire dynasty that resulted in a Memorial Cup title(ironically against McCrimmon's Wheat Kings) but what sets Boughner apart is how he encourages constant flow and while he had the reputation of being a meat and potatoes player, his encouragement for creativity and penchant for developing skill will provoke excitement to the Vegas market. During his time with Taylor Hall, everybody knew Hall was an exceptional talent and had speed for days but before Boughner's tutelage he was known across Ontario as someone that just showcased his brazen speed but just skated up and down the ice with no real purpose, Boughner changed that and all of a sudden Hall's puck work vastly improved and as we know, the Edmonton Oilers took notice. Since Hall left Bob's side, he's slowly drifted away from the player that drives the net with a purpose to someone that is better suited for speed skating competitions. It's work like this that makes him the perfect fit for the initial growth of this franchise.
This is a unique option. On paper not the most attractive name however his experience with the expansion Atlanta Thrashers would allow him to come in full well knowing the tribulations an expansion organization faces.In Atlanta, his hands were tied from the get go as the ownership group was not well equipped to oversee a hockey team and dismal drafting led to his eventual termination. There was never a plan in Atlanta, blame who you like for that but in Las Vegas this is a energetic ownership that will supply any resources needed to field a competitive team. The hiring of one of the best junior evaluators in the history of the Canadian Hockey League in Kelly McCrimmon speaks volumes to that. Immersing himself in the Detroit culture where he spent four seasons overlooking the Grand Rapids program where there it's all about caution and sticking to the program will have taught him that the key to success is patience and coddling prospects is an effective strategy. There's a high probability that with the natural restrictions an expansion team faces that there will be pressure to give it's early second and third round strong looks but can use his wisdom having been with the Thrashers and Red Wings organization that the key to long term prosperity is allowing prospect development to play out organically.
As a newfound fan of the New Jersey Devils, I was pushing hard the Devils keenly consider bringing Benoit on board eventually settling on John Hynes(nothing against John) but with Benoit I have no qualms proclaiming that he's the next prodigy coach in the community and you better not pass up the opportunity if you're Vegas because it's inevitable he gets plucked up in short order. Kudos to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization for identifying what I've long known and that is the inclusion of Groulx instantly makes you a deeper organization. His World Junior exploits, being the one Team Canada bench boss that has reached the gold medal plateau after so many failures explains to me that he's a motivator and can reel strong egos together. It's never easy convincing youngsters to insert themselves into a role they're not used to at the betterment of the team because players come into that tournament having been first liners their entire lives and to force them to check their egos at the door isn't as easy as it sounds. Same applies to the National Hockey League where particularly for youngsters, adapting to new roles can be a daunting task and because Groulx has done this at the International level as well as with the Gatineau Olympique, he'll comfortably be able to handle all sorts of different personalities. Essentially, the main reason why I feel he's a primo candidate is because he's paid his dues, it's only a matter of time before a National Hockey League club picks up on this and with the realization that Michel Therrien could be in hot water if the Habs again miss the playoffs,you know Bergevin's first or second call will be to the Francophone Groulx. Better jump at the opportunity.
Out of the five names proposed in this article, I view Roy as the least likely but had to include him for the sheer fact that he abruptly resigned from the Colorado Avalanche which from an outsiders perspective starts to stir theories to whether he has something else lined up. The Montreal Canadiens once the Habs and Therrien inevitably part ways? Back to the Quebec Remparts where it's believed are in consideration to host the 2018 Memorial Cup? The Remparts I'm ready to rule out for two reasons, for starters I'm skeptical if Roy is ready to again ride buses at the junior level and secondly everything I'm hearing the nation wide application process will ultimately come down to between Oshawa and Regina. A lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacks out there(I can be one at times) have scolded Patrick for his work, or lack thereof with the Avalanche but let's face it, there's not one coach out there that could stay sane when looking down at this lineup card and visualize a defence that a Minor Midget team would salivate playing against. The Avalanche were a fun team to watch because the team mimicked it's head coach, up tempo and played with no holds barred approach. As evidenced from his tumultuous departure from the Montreal Canadiens as a player where Patrick is only interested in doing what Patrick wants,I'm not sure he's a good fit in an setting where a modern approach will be taken built around analytics and a strict hierarchy. After all of that, I've talked myself out of a Roy to Vegas partnership, although I'm not sure I was ever talked into it in the first place,
When John Stevens looks back at his coaching career, and if Vegas turns their cheek on Stevens, he'll ponder what he could've done differently. After his playing career was cut short, he immediately latched onto a Philadelphia Phantoms coaching job which led to, at the expense of Ken Hitchcock, the head coaching position of the Flyers. All Stevens did was take a team marred in a rebuild when he entered the fold to the conference finals the following year, and his reward for that you ask? A pink slip the following year! His next coaching assignment was the top assistant with the Los Angeles Kings, working in unison with Darryl Sutter as Hollywood transitioned into a mini hockey dynasty winning two Stanley Cups. What I hope you'll get out of this is that Stevens knows how to find that winning attitude in it's players and that attitude rubs off on the ice as the Kings in many capacities are the model franchise. The one knock against John, and I'm not sure if it's totally fair is that the Kings had it's most paramount success as a run and tumble team and with where the game is headed, a lot of hockey pendants including myself wonder aloud if this style is still applicable and whether this Broad Street Bully-esque structure has staying power. Nonetheless, the most enticing entree he'll bring to the dinner table is his championship track record an whether or not you believe the Kings reputation can correlate to another organization and keep in mind for those don't that it's Darryl running shop in Los Angeles, Stevens is just the right hand man.
Two notable omissions from this list were the aforementioned Krueger and Marc Crawford. I respect the fact that Crawford is a past Stanley Cup Champion but the game has drastically changed since he bore his most prestige. Among such factors as personality, adaption to change the biggest knock against him is his inability to buy into a 'rebuild'. The first couple years project to be trying and as we saw in Vancouver, when the core needed a shake, he pleaded with management to make moves to further the immediate cause whilst stunting prospect growth, a penalty that in some respects the Canucks are still serving. His time spent in Europe nurturing Auston Matthews has me speculating if he's a changed man but I think Bill Foley will be more than content to leave Marc alone in Ottawa.
All five(well maybe four excluding Roy) are superb candidates but my prediction is when the cookie crumbles, John Stevens will be the first ever Coach in Vegas.