It’s a tenuous position, one that no one has held for more than three seasons in the past 30 years. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli hopes to name a successor to Dave Lewis – fired after just one season – before Friday’s draft in Columbus.
“I think I’ve got a guy in mind,” Chiarelli said Monday.
In the past 30 years, 16 men have held the job. Harry Sinden had two stints, and Mike Sullivan served three seasons but was cast aside in favour of Lewis after Chiarelli became general manager. Chiarelli was hired on May 26 last year but continued at the Ottawa Senators’ insistence as their assistant general manager until July 10.
When Lewis was hired June 29 from among five candidates, Chiarelli described the former Detroit head coach as a “highly motivated, team-focused, NHL coach.”
Now, Chiarelli said, “I’ve got it narrowed down to four (candidates). I’ll be making a decision shortly” although he’s “close” to working out contract details with one of them.
Chiarelli wants a tougher team and may have looked at two former head coaches – former Bruins and New York Islanders coach Mike Milbury and Claude Julien, fired as New Jersey’s coach with three games left in the regular season. Scott Gordon, coach of Boston’s top affiliate at Providence of the AHL, also could be in the mix.
One important factor in the search was for someone who can relate to young players and may have familiarity with some.
“That’s important because we do have existing young players (in Boston) and we’ve got some young players in Providence that are close,” Chiarelli said. “There has to be a track record of that there.”
Bruins executive vice-president Charlie Jacobs didn’t think the short tenures of past coaches – the Bruins will be hiring their sixth in this century – would dissuade a candidate from taking the job.
“If you speak to a candidate in the National Hockey League about coaching an Original Six franchise, namely the Boston Bruins, I think there’s quite an allure to it,” he said.
Last year’s hirings of Chiarelli and Lewis were part of a shake-up of an organization that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup championship since 1972. Sinden left as president and Jeff Gorton, named interim general manager after Mike O’Connell was fired, stepped aside when Chiarelli took over but remained in the front office.
That transition continued throughout the season as Chiarelli kept obtaining new players. Last Friday, Lewis became part of it again when he lost the coaching job but remained in the organization in an undetermined capacity.
Chiarelli said he spoke with all four candidates “at length,” and Jacobs said Chiarelli will make the choice.
“There will be no second guessing of the next selection” by management, Jacobs said. “I have faith that Peter will make it work.”