Coaches' second year's the charm
In this era of instant access and gratification, how much time is enough when it comes to coaches taking over a team and getting results?
Well, by this season's early returns, the second season is when a coach's vision becomes clearer. Certainly, every situation is unique, especially when veteran coaches take over without missing much time between stints behind the bench.
Last season, though, wasn't really about proven bench bosses. It was more about coaches getting their first shot in the NHL.
This season, McLellan's Sharks are again atop the league in fine fashion. For the coach -- who took the post after winning a Stanley Cup as an assistant in Detroit -- and his players, the scrutiny won't truly begin until April. In the other three situations, however, the questions began on opening night. All three teams had missed the playoffs last season, so the curiosity factor was immediate. And to date, all the look markedly better, with winning records thus far.
The Panthers almost overcame a 4-9 start to the DeBoer era by finishing with 93 points, only to lose a tiebreaker to Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot. This season, DeBoer faced the loss of lynchpin defenseman
While DeBoer came from the ranks of Canadian junior hockey, Gordon and Anderson are from the AHL. Both initially struggled to instill their brand of hockey with their respective teams. There was uncertainty, as both men wanted to change not only the philosophy, but the culture in the locker room. With such wide, sweeping agendas, their teams' early struggles were probably predictable. But, they stayed passionate, diligent and open -- themselves learning as they went along. This year, the Islanders and Thrashers have surprised many with their cohesive competitiveness, much like the L.A .Kings out west under
All three coaches cite teaching as the root of their experience. All three teams have prodigious young talent, with many of the key players still teenagers:
For Anderson, he knew there would be an adjustment period when he came in, as the Thrashers learned his progressive breakout and attack schemes. The biggest lesson learned in year one? "I thought the guys in the NHL would be more familiar with certain things, but there is much more teaching at this level than I realized," he says. "It took longer than I anticipated to see things gel."
Still, the second half of last season saw the Thrashers post a winning record and they've picked right up where they left off. Anderson's team is aggressive offensively, engaging the defensemen to overwhelm with numbers on the attack. Last season, Atlanta's D scored 31 goals. This season, the blueliners have already netted 19. That's just one measure of the growth -- and promise -- in the second year.
Gordon, too, had lots of teaching to do. He also found the Islanders garnering plenty of attention after they drafted Tavares first overall last summer. Tavares hasn't disappointed, but some of the other youngsters who were there are showing definite signs of advancement, especially
How much time? That's the question applied to coaching. In the cases of the guys who took over their posts a year ago, definite improvement is evident in their second seasons. Their programs are in place at the NHL level, where the expectations include building, growing and winning, and they're delivering.