Changing teams is always equally exciting and nerve-wracking for players in the NHL, but the same can be said for coaches. After all, they’re responsible for everyone’s play, not just an individual performance. We’ve seen some fantastic first-year coaching jobs recently, from Gerard Gallant in Vegas to Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh (he didn’t even need a full season to win the Stanley Cup).
There is a raft of new bench bosses this season, but expectations should be varied for all. Some inherit great situations, some are walking into full-scale renovations. Let’s take a look at the scenarios each coach is walking into and what to expect. We’ll go alphabetically.
Calgary, Bill Peters: Coming over from Carolina, Peters has some old Canes coming in with him in Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Derek Ryan. The bench boss also has a ton of skill from elsewhere and expectations will be high in Calgary. The Flames have the talent to win the division and since certain coaching decisions seemed to knee-cap the team last year, Peters merely has to be solid in order to get Calgary on a good playoff run.
Carolina, Rod Brind’Amour: There is a possibility that Brind’Amour’s first year resembles that of Rick Tocchet in Arizona last year. Brind’Amour has never been a head coach before and he’s taking on a roster with some pretty obvious holes at center and in net. But the Canes also have some tremendous young talent coming in (Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas) and the youth can benefit from Brind’Amour’s experience as a player. Commanding respect should not be a problem here.
Dallas, Jim Montgomery: The Stars have underperformed lately (hence the coaching change), but there’s a ton of talent there. Montgomery brings great structure from his time with NCAA Denver, but also a fresh voice. Dallas will have top-end forwards and the defense corps should get a boost from rookie Miro Heiskanen, though obviously John Klingberg is the key on the back end. This is a playoff team as long as they buy into Montgomery’s program.
New York Islanders, Barry Trotz: The hiring of Trotz was one of the bright spots in a summer of pain for the Islanders, as the veteran bench boss comes in with a shiny new Stanley Cup title on his resume. This will be a big feeling-out season for the post-Tavares Islanders and having a steady voice behind the bench will help. In terms of results, Trotz and new GM Lou Lamoriello will bring accountability – but that probably won’t translate into a lot of wins this first season. New York is beginning a new epoch and it will take some time for more success to come.
New York Rangers, David Quinn: Though he’s a rookie NHL head coach, Quinn finds himself in a pretty nice situation for Year 1: we know the Rangers are rebuilding and we know there are some promising youngsters who will make their cases as regulars this fall. Quinn is a great communicator and as a former NCAA coach with Boston University, we know he can work with the youth. Whether or not the Rangers make the playoffs this year is almost immaterial; it’s all about laying a foundation and a new system under Quinn.
Washington, Todd Reirden: In a different sense, Reirden will have the same level of external pressure in Washington as Trotz does in New York. Reirden of course worked under Trotz in Washington and now takes over the big job with the Capitals, who are riding that sweet, sweet wave of victory through a summer of good vibes. Reirden’s work with the defense corps really helped shape that championship team, so his value is known. The Capitals could very well make another run at the title, given that nearly the entire roster returns this fall – but should the team lose in the first round, I can’t imagine a lot of Washington fans will mind (at least for one year).