For some teams, the off-season has been underway for a month now and the process of finding a new coach has been a top priority.
Three of the top choices – Todd McLellan (Los Angeles Kings), Alain Vigneault (Philadelphia Flyers) and Joel Quenneville (Florida Panthers) – have found new homes in recent weeks, drying the market up a bit. But their new gigs led to some considering long-time Swedish national team coach Rikard Gronborg as the next-best choice for the teams still in the hunt. Gronborg has three World Championships to his credit, two as a head coach, and has earned medals at every major international tournament Sweden had competed in on the men’s side. NHL teams have reportedly had interest in him for years, but Gronborg instead signed a two-year deal to lead Switzerland’s ZSC Lions next season, which will be his first coaching job with a domestic club team.
So, who else is available? Several others have been linked to NHL teams over the past few weeks. Let’s take a look at some of the notable names available:
Dave Tippett, Seattle senior adviser
Some believe Buffalo’s coaching gig is Tippett’s to lose, and it’s entirely possible that he’s announced as the team’s bench boss early next week. Tippett has been out of the coaching game for a few years since leaving the Arizona Coyotes in 2017, but he was hired to work with the Seattle expansion team as a senior adviser last summer. Tippett, who has coached 1,114 regular season games, won the Jack Adams Trophy in 2010 as the and both of his previous coaching stints with Dallas and Arizona were lengthy ones.
Jacques Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant
Martin, a Jack Adams winner in 1999, has 17 years of coaching experience and is one the more veteran presences on the market. Martin was highly criticized during his time with the Montreal Canadiens, where he last held the top job in 2011-12, but has helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cup titles since joining the team as an assistant. Martin is a finalist to coach the Sabres and was interviewed by the Ottawa Senators, a team he previously coached. He could very well lead a team next season.
Todd Nelson, Dallas Stars assistant
Nelson coached just over half the season with Edmonton in 2014-15, back before the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl era. Nelson went back down to the AHL afterwards, leading the Grand Rapids Griffins to three consecutive 90-plus point seasons and winning the Calder Cup in 2017. Nelson joined the Stars last summer and helped the team to one of its most impressive playoff runs in recent history. They fell to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the second round. Nelson will be a head coach again.
Marco Sturm, Los Angeles Kings assistant
The Oilers, specifically, seem to like former NHLers in top jobs within the franchise, and Sturm fits the mold. His track record with Germany was impressive: he won the Deutschland Cup in his first event as bench boss and led a ragtag team without any star power to the gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics, where they fell to Russia in overtime. Sturm took over as an assistant coach with the Kings last fall and has expressed interest in becoming an NHL coach in the past. It might not be long until he’s given a look.
Brad Shaw, Columbus Blue Jackets assistant
Shaw is often credited with helping Columbus and St. Louis turn around their penalty-kills, and given John Tortorella has done a fantastic job with the Blue Jackets, it might be time for Shaw to move on if he wants the chance to lead a team himself. Shaw has coached at one level or another since retiring from the NHL in 1999, serving as a bench boss in the IHL and AHL before a short stint as the New York Islanders’ main man in 2006. He’s been an assistant ever since and is regarded as one of the most respected in the league.
Chris Taylor, Rochester Americans coach
Many believed Taylor, who spent a large portion of his career with the Sabres organization, was going to be one of the leading men for the Buffalo gig. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, despite the strong season the Americans had before getting swept by the Toronto Marlies. At 47, he’s still young and will get another chance down the road.
Dallas Eakins, San Diego Gulls coach
Eakins’ stint in Edmonton didn’t go well, but to be fair, the roster wasn’t much to write home about. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t his fault. Eakins was highly sought after when he was with the Toronto Marlies several years ago. He was fired after a season and a half with the team before Nelson took over. Eakins joined the San Diego Gulls in 2015 and has done well with the club. It might be time for him to get a second chance in the NHL, and he might need to look no further than the NHL gig currently (and temporarily) occupied by Ducks GM Bob Murray.
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Marlies coach
The Toronto Maple Leafs intend on keeping Mike Babcock around. Thus, after a couple fantastic seasons with the Marlies, with whom he won the AHL’s Calder Cup in 2018, it’s time for Keefe to get a serious look at an NHL job. Keefe, the winner of the 2015 CHL top coach award, has done wonders for the Marlies in his short time in the AHL and any team looking for a fresh face with a solid resume should have Keefe high on their list.
Patrick Fischer, Switzerland coach
Fischer has to be an option at some point over the next few years. He led Switzerland to an improbable silver medal performance at the World Championship last year and was an assistant on the team’s equally incredible 2013 run. Fischer is one of the best coaches at the World Championship level and is highly regarded in Europe. He still has one year left with the national team, however.
Scott Sandelin, Minnesota-Duluth and USA junior team coach
At some point, Sandelin will be an NHL coach. He has coached Minnesota-Duluth to consecutive NCAA championships (he also won in 2011) and the Bulldogs were finalists in 2017. Sandelin is set to coach the United States at the World Junior Championship this winter, a roster that should have no problem contending for gold. Sandelin’s body of work is impressive, and if yet another NHL team wants to tap into the college coaching pipeline, Sandelin’s phone should be ringing.
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