Learning from VGK Seattle should look to Q as its first coach
December 05, 2018 3:00 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Learning from the Vegas Golden Knights’ experience, NHL general managers are already peering into their respective crystal balls to determine strategies for the next expansion draft after Tuesday’s anticipated announcement that Seattle (Totems?) will become the league’s 32nd franchise.
Why? Because the non-existent “Totems” are already preparing to exploit mistakes by the GMs, which already allowed the Knights to piece together a Western Conference championship roster.
Dave Tippett, the ultimate NHL “Yes Man” after coaching the Arizona Coyotes while the club was under league ownership for three seasons, is the front man bringing hockey to the Pacific Northwest.
Tippett has already, reportedly, cornered the market on a new coach. Joel Quenneville, who coached the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships this decade before getting dumped last month, is a close friend of Tippett’s after they played together for the Hartford Whalers over seven seasons.
Quenneville knows a thing or two about coaching, owning the second-most victories (890) in NHL history. The fact that Chicago GM Stan Bowman, son of all-time coaching wins leader Scotty Bowman (1,244), is the person who fired “Q” is purely coincidence – or so they say!
The meaning of change
Why have so many teams already made coaching changes, or in the case of Philadelphia, decided to axe the general manager?
Some clubs want to win now and believe a switch behind the bench could be a difference maker. Others want to sign desired personnel because an expansion to Seattle also means jobs for quality assistant coaches and minor league staff.
Besides, unlike other sports, there is precedent that changing coaches can lead to a Stanley Cup. Since the lockout ended, Pittsburgh made a midseason replacement three times, twice capturing the hockey’s Holy Grail.
In 2008-09, Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien after 57 games, going 18-3-4 then 16-8 in the playoffs. Then in 2015-16, Mike Johnston (an O.K. 15-10-3, but the players hated him) was let go and Mike Sullivan stepped in. The Penguins proceeded to hoist back-to-back Cups.
In addition, John Stevens (who was just let go by the Kings ) was gone in Philadelphia after a 13-12-1 mark in 2009-10. His replacement, Peter Laviolette, who led Carolina to a Cup, got the Flyers to the Cup final before falling to Quenneville’s Blackhawks. He also led Nashville to a West title two seasons ago.
Where does that leave clubs – Chicago, L.A., Edmonton and St. Louis (Mike Yeo was jettisoned last week) – which already made bench changes? Among the 36 clubs to switch mentors after at least 10 games since the lockout, teams improved 22 times, just 10 lost and four were statistically indifferent.
Thus, you can look at these basement or near-basement teams at plus-money for possible value wagers as the season progresses.
Avalanche at Panthers: Remember when the Panthers went to Finland and split with Winnipeg, igniting a nice 5-game win streak? Forget it – they’ve gone 5-10-5 (5-15 ATS) against the spread over the rest of the season entering the week. Ugh! AVALANCHE
Hurricanes at Ducks: Speaking of 5-15, how are the Hurricanes doing in California over the past decade, including Sunday’s 2-0 loss at L.A.? DUCKS
Sharks at Coyotes: The Sharks enter the week on a 2-5 downer, out-scored 20-10 on the road until finally beating Montreal. Take the hotter club: COYOTES
Devils at Ducks: It’s hard to play against the Ducks’ system, except New Jersey plays a form of it, too. DEVILS
Last week: 3-1