Barry Melrose one of nine new NHL coaches to open season

Barry Melrose one of nine new NHL coaches to open season

Barry Melrose one of nine new NHL coaches to open season
By: Ron Raymond

Coaches are hired to be fired as the old saying goes, and that was especially true in NHL this past year as nine new head coaches take over on the ice for the 2008-09 season.

NHL coaches, compared to other coaches from other sports, have always left me wondering where exactly is their impact felt on the ice. In football, the head coach's strategy is either attack on the ground or via the air or blitz the opposition’s offense all game long. Or they can play the field position or time of possession game.  There’s other strategies, but for the purpose of this article, I’m giving a nutshell point of view.

In baseball, managers have the choice of naming their starting pitcher and work their batting line up depending on which way the other pitcher throws; either he’s a lefty or righty. Plus a baseball manager can bring in a relief pitcher at any time during a game and work his team’s base running philosophy in a mild or aggressive nature.

In basketball, to be honest, I’m a hockey guy and not a huge basketball philosopher, but I guess a coach’s strategy is about bringing in speed vs. strength or height, or bringing in a shooter or a good rebounder. I’ve always felt hockey and basketball are games of “instinct” and sure you can put in some plays, but since you’re starting from a running position, it’s tougher to set plays because you never know if you’re going to start on defense or offense right off the tip off or puck drop.

In football and baseball, you know when you’re going to be on offense and defense and you have time to rest between plays and get set, whereas in hockey and basketball, it’s all about instinct in the line of fire and I’ve always felt the coach's impact is more based on their leadership and motivational skills than their X’s and O’s strategy.

With the 2008-09 NHL Season just a few weeks away, there are nine new coaches who will be behind their new teams bench this season. As you will see from my short write-up, some have been promoted, while others have done the lateral shuffle.

Atlanta Thrashers: John Anderson
Anderson played for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1977 to 1985 and played with the Nordiques, Whalers and finished his playing career in the AHL, IHL and a stint in Italy. Anderson coached the Chicago Wolves of the AHL and led the Wolves to four titles in eight seasons. It’s one thing to coach in the minors, but it’s another to coach in the big leagues.  Still, if his four AHL championship means anything, look for the Thrashers to be competitive our of the gate.

Colorado Avalanche: Tony Granato
This is his second stint with the Avs after coaching them in 2002-2004, and he’s relieving Joel Quenneville of his duties. Granato played for three NHL teams (New York Rangers, LA Kings and San Jose Sharks). He has a reputation of being a hard ass, so look for the Avs to take no short cuts and play hard each night.

Florida Panthers: Terry Murray
Murray is now Jacque Martin’s man in Florida, as Murray has a winning record of 360-288-83-6 in 737 games coached. The Panthers are getting an experience NHL coach, but I think the game has changed too much for a veteran guy like Murray. His Brother Bryan is the GM in Ottawa.

New York Islanders: Scott Gordon
Gordon never won anything in the AHL, but did lead the Providence Bruins to some division titles. This tells me they might be a good regular season team, but that’s about it as the jury is out on Gordon at the pro level. Gordon was a journeyman goaltender in the AHL, ECHL and IHL, so I guess it’s not surprising a GM like Garth Snow who played goalie in the NHL would give an ex goalie like Gordon a shot at the show.

Ottawa Senators: Craig Hartsburgh
Here’s the keys to the Porsche, have it home by midnight! Talk about walking into a dream job. Hartsburgh is another coach with a heavy hand reputation and if the start of the preseason is any indication, the Senators will be a gritty team. What worries me about Hartsburgh is he has never won at the pro level and his teams never did well during the regular season.

San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan
Not sure what to expect from Todd McLellan, he’s a journeyman AHL player and was the assistant coach in Detroit. I don’t like this move, as I have a theory about hiring an assistant coach who just won the Stanley Cup, it’s nothing more than a PR move.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Barry Melrose
The Mullet is back! Barry Melrose is back coaching in the NHL and nothing proves my theory of head coaches being motivators more than bringing back Barry Melrose to coach in the NHL. There are a lot of coaches in the system, why bring a guy who’s been behind a mic the last nine years to coach the Number 1 draft pick in Steven Stamkos? I’m not getting a good vibe with the new Lightning management team as they seem to be throwing money around like it’s candy and they are pissing off a lot of people in the process.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Ron Wilson
Bit of a surprise the Leafs would go out and get another unproven coach; Wilson has never won in the playoffs, but he’s always had his team prepared and has four division titles. The Leafs are a mess right now.  Management is trying to clean up the culture of the room and bringing in Wilson to stir the pot might work for the first three seasons, but if they don’t make the playoffs it’s going to be a rough ride.

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