I have no idea who New York Islanders GM Garth Snow talked to before hiring Scott Gordon as his new coach, but I do know John Stevens and Bruce Boudreau served as great references.
When it comes to coaching hires in the NHL, the ties, they are a changin’. A league that’s long been known for giving out more second, third and fourth chances than Mother Teresa has finally caught on to the notion that fresh blood and new approaches can invigorate a franchise.
Boudreau, the reigning Jack Adams winner, has been a full-time pro hockey coach since 1992, but never once stepped behind an NHL bench until taking over the Caps last November.
Stevens, anointed 2007-08 coach of the year by The Hockey News this summer, was just eight games into his first NHL season as an assistant coach in 2006-07 when he was tabbed to take over the Flyers from Ken Hitchcock.
Two guys, a pair of first chances, results that can’t be quibbled with.
And the trend, it seems, is gathering steam.
Already this off-season we’ve witnessed first NHL head coaching cracks be dolled out to Todd McLellan in San Jose, Peter DeBoer in Florida and John Anderson in Atlanta. Now, Gordon’s hire on Long Island brings the total number of bench bosses currently on their first NHL coaching gig to 15, making an even 50-50 split league-wide.
Moreover, it seems GMs aren’t even particular about where their new generals come from. The majority are men who were head coaches in the American League, while McLellan was an assistant in Detroit and DeBoer made the jump from major junior hockey.
Not long ago, it would have been unfathomable to imagine such new faces being hired ahead of out-of-work coaches with previous NHL experience such as Joel Quenneville, Paul Maurice and Mike Sullivan, let alone men with Cup rings such as Bob Hartley, Marc Crawford and John Tortorella.
Now, those fellas are left double-checking their cover letter for typos, while hoping the NHL hasn’t completely morphed into the New Hires Only League.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blognormally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every other Friday.
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