After Patrick Roy escaped a second playoff-less season with his job in tact, few would have imagined that the Colorado Avalanche would be searching for a new bench boss come the 2016-17 campaign.
The entire coaching situation in Colorado was turned upside down Thursday, though, when Roy shockingly announced his resignation from the Avalanche, ceding both his coaching duties and position as vice president of hockey operations. With Roy stepping down, Colorado finds themselves in need of a replacement. Making matters worse, the Avalanche won’t have much time to consider replacement and do a thorough search with training camp fast approaching.
According to Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, the team isn’t going to waste any time getting to work on finding Roy’s successor. He announced Thursday that the coaching search will begin “immediately." With that in mind, here are a few names to keep an eye on:
Eric Veilleux — Coach, San Antonio Rampage
It might be unrealistic for the Avalanche to promote their AHL bench boss before he’s even coached one game in the minor league, but Colorado clearly saw something in Veilleux when they brought him aboard to lead the Rampage. It’s not as if he’s entirely new to the coaching profession, either.
Veilleux stepped into his first major coaching gig in 2005-06 when he took over the Shawinigan Cataractes and he found immediate success. Over his seven-season stay in Shawinigan, he led the team to the post-season each year and even took the team to the QMJHL final in 2008-09. He made two consecutive QMJHL final appearances with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in 2012-13 and 2013-14, but left the organization the following season to go to the AHL.
His first minor professional season as a coach came as an assistant with the Norfolk Admirals in 2014-15, and he moved to the top job in 2015-16 as the club switched to the ECHL. Veilleux’s experience in the minors actually gives him more experience coaching professional players than Roy had when he came to the NHL in 2013-14.
Travis Green — Coach, Utica Comets
This would be tricky for the Avalanche to pull off, but getting permission to interview Green and bringing him aboard would be a big move for an organization in need of a spark. Green is considered one of the top coaching candidates not yet in the NHL, but he’s currently set to be the bench boss of the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate this coming season. Prying him away won’t be easy.
Green’s done an excellent job in a few short seasons in Utica, and he led the Comets to the Calder Cup final in his second season behind the bench. Even last season, with a roster decimated by injury and call-ups, Green managed to get his team to secure a post-season spot.
There was a lot of talk about Green joining the Anaheim Ducks, but he lost out on that gig to Randy Carlyle. Some considered him a possibility to coach the Calgary Flames, too, but that job went to Glen Gulutzan. Maybe the third time is the charm for Green and he finds his way into the NHL's coaching ranks with Colorado.
Paul MacLean — Assistant coach, Anaheim Ducks
If the Ducks want to go with a coach who has experience and could instantly command the respect of the locker room, MacLean might be the guy. He was brought in as an assistant in Anaheim after being fired by the Ottawa Senators, but MacLean was passed over for the top job when Bruce Boudreau was fired. Like Green, the Avalanche would need permission to hire MacLean, but he’d be a veteran coach for a team that needs a quick fix.
MacLean is an intriguing candidate because during his three full seasons with the Senators, the team boasted above average possession numbers. Having a coach who has had that kind of success in terms of advanced statistics makes him an interesting option, because if there’s one area where the Avalanche were outright abysmal under Roy, it’s their possession numbers.
The pieces are there for MacLean to play with — maybe more so than his time in Ottawa — and it’d be interesting to see what the Avalanche could do playing an up-tempo game that sees them control the run of play.
Kevin Dineen — Assistant coach, Chicago Blackhawks
Dineen was at the helm of the Canadian women’s national team before joining the Blackhawks. While that may not seem significant, consider that he came aboard as the coach in December 2013 and by February 2014 — two months later — Dineen was having a gold medal placed around his neck at the Olympics. That’s getting results in a hurry, and it may be exactly the type of thing the Avalanche need.
The issue with Dineen is that his record as an NHL bench boss doesn’t look great. During the 146 games he spent as coach of the Florida Panthers, the Cats had a 56-62-28 record. He did help the team to the post-season in his first year behind the bench, but even that ended in a 4-3 first-round defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.
That said, Dineen has spent two more years behind the bench in Chicago and has had the opportunity to learn under Joel Quenneville, one of the most successful coaches in league history. Dineen was reportedly in the mix for the Flames job, so there’s reason to believe GMs see him as a potential NHL coach in the near future.
Bob Hartley — N/A
How about a reunion? Hartley spent four and a half seasons in Colorado from 1998-99 until 2002-03 and he’s the second-winningest coach in the history of the franchise. Sakic won a Stanley Cup with Hartley as his coach during one of the most successful seasons the Avalanche have ever had. Considering he’s only months removed from losing his job and won the Jack Adams Award in 2014-15 with the Flames, Sakic might give some thought to bringing Hartley back.
The one thing to consider when it comes to Hartley is the style he coaches because it doesn’t bode well for the Avalanche becoming a much better possession team. While Colorado ranked 29th in the league with a 44.8 percent shot attempts for percentage under Roy from 2013-14 until the end of the past season, Calgary didn’t fare much better under Hartley. The Flames ranked 28th over that same period with a shot attempts for rate of 46.3 percent.
The Avalanche reuniting with Hartley would be interesting because of the history he has with the organization and with Sakic, but there would be questions about how he stands to make a bad possession team any better.
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