NHL teams are notoriously quick to change coaches. Even talented coaches that oversee playoff squads aren’t immune to turnover. Last year, plenty of coaches got the ax: this year, plenty of new ones will get their first crack at the quest for Lord Stanley’s cup. But which coach will be the best in his first year with his new team? Here are our power rankings.
- John Hynes, New Jersey Devils
Hynes, who made his name as a coach for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, has a lot to prove. His record in the minors is impressive, but he’s now the youngest head coach in the NHL.
- Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks
DeBoer is the former coach of both the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils. He’s had mixed results, but he’s also had to deal with some really putrid rosters. His 2011 run to the Stanley Cup Final with New Jersey is the highlight of his career so far. The Sharks hope he can replicate it. DeBoer comes into a bit of a leadership vacuum, so motivation will be key. This squad missed the playoffs last year, but is in win-now mode this year. It’s going to be a tricky job.
- Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings
Blashill is 41 and getting his first crack at head coaching at the NHL level. He earned the respect of the organization by coaching the Grand Rapids Griffins, and he’s also coached in the college ranks. His teams have been consistently competitive at every level. Detroit is an exceptionally well-run organization, and their confidence in Blashill gives him a boost in our rankings.
- Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers
Hakstol has had a remarkable career in the college ranks. As the coach of North Dakota, he had his squad in the NCAA Ice Hockey tournament for all 11 years of his tenure. North Dakota made it to the Frozen Four six times under Hakstol – more than half of the years he was there. Some of those skills won’t translate (there’s no need to recruit in the pros), but others will, and Hakstol is a very, very good coach.
- Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers
McLellan had a long and impressive career with the San Jose Sharks, but his failure to win it all with talented teams got him sacked. Still, McLellan is the winningest coach in Sharks history, and the Oilers were more than happy to pluck him from the ranks of the unemployed. Fresh scenery should do him good, as will the lower expectations for this rebuilding squad.
- Dan Bylsma, Buffalo Sabres
The Penguins fired Bylsma because they thought their team underperformed in the playoffs. That may be so, but Bylsma was also responsible for turning the Penguins around mid-season and leading them to a Stanley Cup championship in his first year ever as a head coach. He boasts a .551 winning percentage and has never missed the playoffs once. The Penguins’ postseason mediocrity was there before Bylsma showed up, and it was there last year after he left, so it’s hard to say that he was the force behind Pittsburgh’s early exits. Strip away that complaint and all you have left is an exceptional regular season coaching record.
- Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s still kind of weird to realize that this off-season’s hottest free agent was a coach. But here we are! The Toronto Maple Leafs threw as much money at Babcock as possible, and the result is a record-breaking 8-year, $50 million deal.
Babcock tops this list because of his sterling coaching record. He has a career winning percentage of .569 as a head coach and he won the Stanley Cup in 2007-08. He’ll have his work cut out for him in Toronto, though: their team is going to take more than a great coach to make the playoffs. Rebuilding the Maple Leafs will take years, but if Babcock can do it, he’ll go down in history as one of the all-time great hockey coaches.