Here at TPS we are constantly shining the spotlight on the future of hockey from a players perspective. Today though we'll take a look at some coaches who are due for a promotion. In the past few years hiring from the AHL has become a popular trend for NHL teams, that's not to say that clubs aren't recycling former NHL coaches, but those who have paid their dues in the minors are getting their opportunities.
John Anderson in Atlanta, Bruce Boudreau in Washington, and Scott Gordon on the Island all were hired in the off season, while Dan Bylsma was a mid season replacement who went on to win a Stanley Cup with the Penguins. Then there are guys like Corey Clouston in Ottawa and Joe Sacco in Colorado, both of whom came from the AHL and should be candidates for the Jack Adams Award this season. Most, including me thought Sacco was just keeping the bench warm for Patrick Roy to take over next year, especially after Roy told us on the show that he was offered the job in the off season.
5. Roy Sommer-Worcester Sharks
When you talk about paying your dues, Roy Sommer is the definition. He started coaching as an assistant in 1987 with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the IHL. Since then all but 2 of his seasons have been in the minor pro leagues. Sommer was as assistant coach with San Jose from 96-98 before returning to the AHL, where he recently became just the 4th coach to record 400 AHL wins. He hasn't always had the best record, but he did win an ECHL championship and he's done a nice job of developing talent with the likes of Evgeni Nabokov, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and coming to an NHL arena near you soon, Logan Couture. While some might think that Sommer may have spent to many years in the AHL already, remember Bruce Boudrea was considered a career AHL coach before getting his chance, and the very succesful John Muckler plugged away for 14 years before joining the Oilers as an Assistant in 1982.
4. Kevin Dineen-Portland Pirates
Unlike Sommer, Kevin Dineen has only been behind the bench for 4 years, including the current season. But he's been pretty successful in a short time. Dineen was named coach of the year in his first year where the Pirates won 53 games and reached the AHL's Eastern Conference final. He followed that up with 45 wins and another trip to the conference final, while this season has Portland 7 games above .500 and securely in a playoff position. While Dineen doesn't have a lot of coaching experience, his 19 year playing career makes up for it.
3. John MacLean-Lowell Devils
The former 1st round pick (6th overall by New Jersey in 1983) wasted little time deciding on a life after hockey when he retired after the 2002 season. The next year MacLean jumped behind the bench with the New Jersey Devils and remained at the post until last season. He'd now coaching the Devils top affiliate in Lowell where they are battling for home ice advantage in the playoffs. MacLean is the Devils all time leader in goals and was a candidate for the head coaching job in the swamp before Brent Sutter was hired in 2007. When Sutter left the Devils he remarked that MacLean was ready to be a head coach, however Jacques Lemaire was lured back to New Jersey from Minnesota. Most though, think it's only a matter of time before MacLean gets called back up to Jersey where he'll take over from Lemaire.
2. Don Lever-Chicago Wolves
Don Lever has only felt the sting of a losing record behind the bench once in his AHL coaching career, and he disliked it so much he won the Calder Cup the next season in Hamilton. Lever coached the Bulldogs 2 more years and despite winning 49 games in 2008-09 he was let go, some have said the decision was made when Jacques Martin took over as head coach of the Habs. Lever wasn't on the wrong side of employment long though, the Chicago Wolves snapped him up and he has them firmly entrenched in a playoff position. Lever is a former AHL coach of the year who also spent 11 years as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.
1. Scott Arniel-Manitoba Moose
In his 3 seasons in the Manitoba capital, the former Winnipeg Jet forward has never had less then 45 wins. Arniel led the Moose to 50 victories and a Calder Cup Finals appearance last season, and his name came up quite a bit this off season for a number of NHL jobs, including the Oilers. Arniel paid his dues for 5 years before his current head coaching job, serving as an assistant for the Buffalo Sabres for 3 seasons and the Moose for 2 before that. This year the Moose are holding onto 8th place in the AHL's Western Conference in a season that could be Arniel's last riding the buses in the minors.
Here are 3 others who came close to making my list:
Greg Gilbert-Won 50 games with Toronto Marlies before getting the axe a year later. Has NHL head coaching experience with Calgary, currently behind the bench for the Flyers top affiliate.
Mark Morris-Played college hockey at Colgate University, then when playing career was over coached at Clarkson University for 11 season. Has been with the LA Kings minor league club in Manchester for 4 year winning 51 games in 2007. Does a nice job getting LA's prospects ready for the show.
Bill Peters-Won a Memorial Cup with the Spokane Chiefs before taking the job with the Rockford Ice Hogs, the feeder team for the Chicago Blackhawks. Peters won 40 games in his first year and has the Ice Hogs sitting 3rd in the Western Confrence this year.
Who's not on my list that you think should be?