There are several teams looking for a new NHL head coach this season. The Rangers, Kraken, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, and Sabres are all interviewing candidates today. It’s expected that after the first round of the playoffs, there could be some more openings as well.
In order to better understand the process of searching for and selecting a coach, I spoke with Neil Glasberg of PBI Sports. He represents several of the biggest names out there when it comes to coaches, with Gerard Gallant being one of them.
Finding an NHL coach will be a challenge
“Nothing is normal this season,” he explained to me. “As it relates to coaching changes, it’s anybody’s guess and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them.” Traditionally, he said that more coaching changes happen after the first round and not necessarily based on if a team loses but how they compete.
“The other phenomena this year is a lot of coaching contracts were not renewed, and we still have a lot of coaches who have either already been fired or have not sat down for a renewal discussion,” Glasberg noted. “That typically does not happen.”
When I spoke with Neil, Travis Green had yet to sign his new extension. However, one potentially big name is Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour who still hasn’t signed a supposed three-year extension. There’s also rumors that Florida’s Joel Quenneville may want to move on, but he signed a 5 year deal in 2019 so I wouldn’t put too much stock into this one yet.
All these factors are making it difficult this offseason for many teams with coaching vacancies, with the possibility of more to come. That means more options for coaches and teams alike. This simply further complicates the situation and will prolong hirings in many cases.
What NHL teams should be looking for in their next head coach
When it comes to what one of the top agents for coaches thinks teams should be looking for in a bench boss, he felt very strongly about the criteria. “A head coach’s responsibility, at least over the last five years is being an incredibly effective interpersonal communicator,” Glasberg asserted. “A head coach is not the X’s and O’s guy. In the olden days he was, but today it’s the assistants.”
As to why that’s no longer the case, Neil states that analytics and video being readily available thanks to bench iPads has changed the game. “With the assistants being the X’s and O’s guy, they are executing the strategy but it’s the head coach that is managing the communication with the 20 guys on the bench.”
For a man who represent so many coaches, he wants to help people change their understanding of the game. “This is how coaching works,” he emphasized. With so many experienced coaches available, Neil believes for each team it will simply boil down to whom they believe is a fit.
Neil Glasberg weighs in on some of the top available coaches
As teams search for a new coach, Neil offered his insights on some of the candidates. At the top of his list is Gerard Gallant whom he feels blessed to represent. “He’s got game in him, and he’s a fantastic coach,” he exclaimed. “Gallant would be great in multiple organizations. He’s the best of the unemployed experienced coaches out there.”
Gallant is currently coaching Team Canada at the World Championships and has interviewed for the New York Rangers coaching vacancy. According to Pierre LeBrun, that conversation went really well and he holds the inside track to land the job.
One client that Neil truly believes in is Patrick Roy. “He is a winner through and through,” he said. “And he’s competitive as hell.” In his mind, any team who is really looking to shake things up should consider Roy for a position. Whether that be in management or as a coach, he’s got the pedigree to get it done.
“The problem is he’s very intimidating, and what happened in Colorado five years ago is irrelevant,” Neil acknowledged as to why some teams may have trepidation hiring him. “He’s one of the smartest hockey guys I’ve worked with and is an incredible assessor of talent. He knows how to get guys motivated.”
What’s next for John Tortorella and advice for young coaches
Speaking of fiery head coaches, John Tortorella is a listed client per the PBI Sports website. “I really haven’t worked with him much lately,” Neil said. “He’s not ready to retire, but if someone presented him with a management opportunity I don’t think he’d say no. He loves the game and he’s passionate.”
This could be why we really haven’t heard much about Tortorella regarding some of these vacancies. I’m not ruling out a Torts return behind the bench, but it could explain why we haven’t heard his name yet. As far as I’m aware he has yet to speak with any NHL teams.
Another bit of insight, and advice Mr. Glasberg had for young coaches was to be uncomfortable when selecting your assistants. He feels that’s why so many young coaches struggle early on, “because they hire their friends to be the assistants.”
“I’ll give you an example,” he continued. “I worked with Geoff Ward and John Hynes, so Hynes gets the job with the Devils and I said to him, ‘who are you going to pick as your assistant?'” The question certainly gave Hynes some pause and that’s when Neil offered that he should talk to Geoff Ward. “Why Geoff Ward? He’s a Stanley Cup winner in Boston, been in the NHL for 20 years, and a teacher by trade.” Hynes did bring Ward on and that was the last time New Jersey made the playoffs.
I don’t know about you, but after speaking with Neil I’m ready to help any struggling GM select their best fit. Let’s start with the Arizona Coyotes. Pick up the phone and give Patrick Roy a call.
Note: I would like to thank Neil Glasberg for giving us his time and would like to wish him and his clients great success this summer.