FINAL UPDATE: Adam Oates is the new head coach of the Washington, I for one am happy with this choice. He's smart, he's had past success with special teams and knows how to lead. I look forward to seeing what does with the Caps.
Thank you all for your input!
Speaking for myself, I was not surprised that Dale Hunter decided not to continue coaching the Caps. He did not sound like someone ready and eager to go again in his game 7 post game interview. He's going back to what's comfortable and I for one thank him for helping the team grow some fortitude through the playoffs. Now though, it's time to look forward.There are a lot of possible head coaching candidates out there and since GMGM has never been one to rush a coaching hire, as seen by how long he waited before hiring Bruce Cassidy to replace Ron Wilson...hopefully he learned from that experience because this is the first real coaching search McPhee has done since then.
Without further ado, here are the candidates as catagorized. Please note that this list was hastily assembled from a combination of Wikipedia, news articles and my sometimes brilliant but often faulty memory (yes I am quite modest). On a serious note though, these judgements are my own and I appreciate all constructive feedback. Now without further ado, the list:
STANLEY CUP WINNERS
PROS: Hartley has had experience filling in big shoes. We talk about the importance of following Hunter but imagine following the head coach who guided the team to a Stanley Cup championship? Hartley did that when he succeeded Marc Crawford and boy did he ever. Two straight trips to the Conference finals, winning the Stanley Cup in 2001 and made it back to the Conference finals the next year before being bounced in 2003. As coach of Atlanta, he helped mold what was basically "Ilya Kovalchuk and the whatevers" into a real competitive force, taking Atlanta to their only playoff appearance. One can only imagine what might have been if it weren't for the combination of off ice tragedy (Dan Snyder), struggles with ownership and Don Waddell's reign of error. Of course now, in just his second year, first full season as coach of the ZSC Lions in Switzerland, he won the championship in an upset. Also of note was that he was also following a big name there, succeeding Bengt Gustafsson (we'll get to him later). Overall, as Jeff Tambellini said, "The man wins championships." It also doesn't hurt that Hartley is well respected by Kovalchuk. CONS: His no-nonsense, demanding attitude has a limited shelf life. Slow starts lead to his demise in Colorado and Atlanta. Atlanta's was particularly gruesome: Lose 10 straight games dating back to last spring's embarrassing sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers, and it's hard to rationalize that you're still getting through to your players. The team has yet to garner a single point this season, it has scored only nine times in six straight losses, has allowed 27 goals and boasts the NHL's 28th-ranked power play and 29th-ranked penalty-killing unit. Also may need to elbow aside Montreal and soon if the Caps want Hartley. Finally, this may be an unfair point but I have to imagine there's a reason why a coach of Hartley's pedigree and record has been passed over for numerous job opportunities since he was dismissed from Atlanta. OVERALL: To be honest, looking over his record and remembering what he accomplished in Colorado and Atlanta while succeeding in Switzerland, I have to say that Hartley looks like the ideal head coach for this Caps squad. We'll see though if McPhee comes to the same conclusion. UPDATE: Calgary snatched him away. Good hire by the Flames though I wonder how close they are to actually contending, their top six are long in the tooth.
PRO: Crawford was once the hottest head coach of the 90's. After success in the AHL, winning Coach of the Year honors in 1993, Crawford took over a young Quebec Nordiques squad in 1994 and promptly lead them into the playoffs with a first place record in the Northeast conference. Crawford was recognized for this, being the youngest ever to win the Jack Adams Award. The next year, the now Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. After two more playoff appearances, Crawford resigned and took over the struggling Canucks and following a two year rebuild, took the Canucks to the playoffs four straight years. Overall he has over 500 career wins and a Stanley Cup ring to bring to the Caps.
CONS: Crawford has not experienced the same run of success since Vancouver. In two year stints with the Kings and the Stars, his teams finished in the bottom of their division. When he has been in the postseasn, Crawford's teams haven't made it past the second round of the playoffs since 1997. Finished in fourth place as head coach of Team Canada where he made some questionable decisions in a decisive shootout. Also, there's his involvement in the Todd Bertuzzi incident.
OVERALL: Where I grew impressed with Hartley the more I read about him, I look at Crawford and come away very underwhelmed. Was he really great in the 90's or did he just benefit from having an insanely talented squad which then got boosted up when Patrick Roy was acquired? I feel that Caps would be advised to steer clear of Crawford.
PRO: Mike Keenan is a coaching legend. Over 1300 games coached, 672 wins and 96 playoff victories including the 1994 Stanley Cup, Keenan knows how to win and there would be no questions about accountability under him. In his last stint as head coach of the Calgary Flames, he took them to the playoffs each year.
CONS: Boy there are a lot to choose from. First there's the fact that his Iron Mike dictator schtick gets old very quickly. I also love how Keenan was already set to leave the New York Rangers before the playoffs were even over -- very classy. Almost as classy as how he quit as GM of the Panthers just after he traded away Roberto Luongo and Bryan Allen in an astonishingly awful trade. Finally if you didn't like how Boudreau wouldn't commit to his goalies, well get your maalox because under Keenan, goalie switches are part of the norm. Oh and the clashes he had with stars like Brett Hull and Trevor Linden does not portend to a good relationship with Ovechkin. Finally, the 94 Rangers were loaded at all positions, I question how valuable Keenan's coaching was to the team -- still, need a hand to steer the ship and he did that well...him and Messier.
OVERALL: At this stage, Keenan is a desperation hire for teams trying to get a quick fix of credibility. There is almost no chance that Keenan is coming here and I for one am thankful for that. That aside, it would have been fun to take bets on how long it would be before Keenan tried to take McPhee's job.
PRO: It's Scotty Bowman, do we need to explain why he would be great for the Caps? The multiple Stanley Cups? The many, many years of consistent success? The fact that Bowman was probably the greatest coach in the last 20 years and is a Hall of Famer? The fact that shortly after he joined the Blackhawks organization, they won the Stanley Cup? Well here's the raw numbers for the uninitiated.
CONS: Scotty has been pretty clear that he had nothing left to prove as a coach and has publicly indicated that he loves his current position with the Blackhawks and working with his son Stan.
OVERALL: As icehammer97 said, "aim high if you're going to dream" and indeed that's all what this is, a dream. If Stan ever leaves the Blackhawks though, then things may change but that won't be for awhile.
PRO: Endorsed by J.P. himself. Has plenty of experience, coaching the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms to four postseason appearances and a Calder Cup Championship in his six seasons there. Was a solid coach for the Flyers, making it to the conference finals his second season. Now a Stanley Cup winning assistant and hopefully could bring that to the Caps. According to JP, Stevens is well prepared, offensively minded and requires his players to be well-conditioned, which some players on this team could certainly use. As Peerless pointed out in the same comments page, there is an effect of reaching the cup on their second or third teams.
CON: Like Tom Renney, the Flyers showed noticeable improvement under Laviolette. Needs to show that he can demand accountability while still having player loyalty -- the main complaint from Philly was that he was "too quiet, too accepting that effort was there, but not results."
OVERALL: If he hasn't been seriously considered by the Caps yet, the LA Kings's historic Stanley Cup Championship should now make him a top-3 candidate for any coaching vacancy. I certainly regret not including him on the list the first time around.
Paul Maurice PRO: Familiar with the Capitals and the division, youngest ever to coach 1,000 NHL games, lead the Carolina Hurricanes to their surprising Stanley Cup run in 2002, when he has been in the post season, his teams have advanced past the second round twice. CON: Overall has a losing record and presided over some underachieving Hurricanes squads in his second stint as their coach, for his 14 years, has only 4 playoff appearances. OVERALL: This is a tough one to judge. His coaching record is extremely mediocre except for his Stanley Cup appearance. That said, he has presided over some bad teams in his tenure. The Caps could do worse though I'm not convinced Maurice can lead them to the promised land though god knows I've whiffed on many predictions. UPDATE: Looks like Maurice wasn't too high on the Caps list because he's off to Russia along with Tom Barrasso. Safe travels to them both.
PRO: A reunion? Not completely far fetched, lead the Capitals to their only Stanley Cup appearance in 1998, lead Team USA to a Silver Medal in 2010 and took the Sharks to the conference finals in 2004. Overall, Wilson is a proven winner with 648 wins and would likely continue Hunters defensive responsibility scheme.
CONS: First there's the argument that the Caps 98 run was a fluke as the top three teams were also upset in the first round and the Caps had no answers at all against Detroit. Then there's the fact that Wilson hasn't made it past the second round since 2004. Finally, Wilson can wear thin with his last season in Toronto being such a debacle that fans were regularly chanting for his dismissal.
OVERALL: He has a better record than Maurice and he shouldn't be entirely blamed for Toronto's collapse. Not sure though that Wilson can find the buttons to push to get Ovechkin and the Caps past round two.
PRO: Like Dale Hunter, he comes in having been a real leader as a player. One of the best defensive centers to play the game, the QMJHL version of the Selke Award is named after Carbonneau. Of course the three Stanley Cups he helped win with the Canadiens and the Dallas Stars don't hurt either. In his second year coaching the Canadiens, he guided the team to the second round and was runner up for the Jack Adams (the winner of course, Bruce Boudreau). In three abbreviated years coaching the Canadiens, Carbonneau racked up an impressive 124 regular season wins.
CONS: He has a reputation for being very rigid with how he plays his lines which as we saw with Hunter, has some major liabilities. More concerning though is how Carbonneau reportedly struggled to communicate with his players, especially with mercurial Alex Kovalev.
OVERALL: His reported communication difficulties and rigidity are worrisome but he looks like he'd be a solid hire for the Caps.
Craig MacTavish PRO: The last player to play without a helmet, MacTavish is a tough customer. A solid player on all fronts, MacTavish won three cups with the Oilers and one more when he was traded to the Oilers reunion at MSG. As head coach, helped lead the Oilers to their surprising cup running, bringing back the trap to upset the Detroit Red Wings and battled back in the Stanley Cup to force a decisive though unfortunate game 7. Current coach of the Chicago Wolves, lead the team to a first place record in the division. CONS: I think our esteemed editor Becca summed up the arguments against in this roundtable discussion and subsequent comments debate. For a quick summary though -- questionable coaching acumen, missed the playoffs three straight years after the Cup run. Unlike Hunter, he wears his emotions in public. OVERALL: I don't think I'd go "god help us all" if MacTavish was brought in. Seems like a fairly solid choice but expectations should be suitably tempered. UPDATE: Not that he was seen as very likely for the Caps but MacTavish is back with Edmonton as their new Senior VP of Hockey Operations. Apparently MacTavish was told he'd be interviewed for the Caps but no one called.
PRO: He's an experienced coach who in his last two stops, lead the previously underachieving Rangers to their first postseason appearances in what felt like a long while and made the very young Edmonton Oilers a competitive team to deal with. He's someone who could be a solid fit with the Capitals.
CON: Hated how Bruce Boudreau juggled his lines? Renney's line juggling was apparently the subject of internet parody. This may be unfair but the Rangers became a tougher team under Tortorella than they were under Renney.
OVERALL: A solid pick, would not be surprised if he was one of the top candidates for the job.
PRO: If everyone is talking about bringing back Ron Wilson, why not throw Jim Schoenfeld into the mix? He has a winning record and would certainly continue to provide the Dale Hunter toughness.
CON: First there's no sign that he's interested in leaving his current gig as Assistant GM of the Rangers to return to coaching. His record as a coach is rather mediocre and it's been awhile since he was head coach though he did do an emergency coaching stint in game 6 of the 2009 playoffs.
OVERALL: Not happening.
PRO: Has a very long record of success, whether it was leading the high flying Ottawa Senators of the early 2000's or leading the stifling Canadiens to massive upsets over the Caps and the Penguins (though I still blame poor shot selection and drive to the net for that abysmal failure). Very calm and soft spoken as a coach so not a radical departure from Hunter. Has coached 1,294 games, winning 614 of them.
CON: His Senators were notorious for their playoff choke jobs and has only reached the conference finals twice.
OVERALL: Solid choice but do we want to bring in someone with a record of questionable postseason performance?
PRO: Has lengthy experience as a player and as a coach to draw upon. Was an associate coach to the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 and lead the Flyers to a playoff appearance in 2001. He is respected among the Japers faithful below for his one season with the Atlanta Thrashers, keeping the young squad out of the cellar. Familiar with Capitals given his time coaching the Thrashers and spending last year as an assistant in Florida.
CON: For someone with as much experience as Ramsay, he has been passed over a lot for coaching gigs, having only an abbreviated stint in Buffalo in 1987, Philadelphia in 2001 and Atlanta in their last year there. Also haven't heard much of anything connecting Ramsay to the Caps.
OVERALL: I honestly don't have much to say about him but some of the Japers faithful are very high on him. I don't think he'll be coach but he wouldn't be the worst hire.
PRO: No, I'm not going to this, just no, we're not going back down that road (though the rather mellowed out and I assume gambling debt free Jagr would not be a bad guy to bring in on the Capitals)
PRO: He has experience following Dale Hunter's footsteps, serving as Captain of the Caps after Hunter was traded in 1999 and held the title for three years. As a player, he was an undrafted free agent who ended up playing until he was in his 40's because he was so smart and skilled as a playmaker. It is not a surprise to see that he has made a name for himself as an assistant with the Devils. Credited with designing their power play success, something the Caps could use desperately. Also credited with helping the Tampa Bay Lightning with their special teams success in his first ever coaching stint in 2009. Assistant to Stanley Cup winning coaches Larry Robinson and Jacques Lemaire and could earn his own ring this year as assistant to Peter DeBoer.
CON: No actual head coaching experience.
Overall: I would be a big fan of bringing aboard Adam Oates, seems like a very good fit and could be the one McPhee is waiting for. Here's a more detailed analysis from Rock the Red about Adam Oates's candidacy.
Craig Berube PRO: The Chief himself. Like Dale Hunter, Berube won't have any worries commanding respect and unlike Hunter, he has a track record to work on at the pro level. In his only full season of coaching the Philadelphia Phantoms club, he finished with a 46-27-7 mark and made it to the second round (quite a number of players from the squad have ended up on the Bears recently). Is widely respected for his work as assistant under John Stevens and Peter Laviolette. Has made it known that he's interested in coming here to coach. CON: Only one full season of being a head coach and Philadelphia's second round collapse against New Jersey raises questions (to me anyway) about whether Berube can instill a disciplined mindset in the Caps. OVERALL: An excellent fit for the Caps in every way except head coaching experience. UPDATE: Darren Dreger reports that Berube is no longer in consideration. I respectfully disagree with JP though that Berube would have been a poor choice for the Caps.
The Hot Assistant/Minor League Coaches
PRO: AHL coach of the year, his work with the current Calder Cup contending Norfolk Admirals has made him the hottest coaching prospect in the minors. Won it all at the USHL, could do it with the AHL this year, has huge potential. UPDATE: Apparently, he's met McPhee and Boudreau through Nate Ewell and has expressed interest in the Caps job though no one has called...yet.
CON: Lack of experience at the NHL, fear of being too much like Boudreau (minor league success translating well in regular season but not post season play).
OVERALL: I know the preference is to bring in an experienced coach but the Caps should take a good hard look at this guy. If he can be anything like Guy Boucher of the parent club, then the Caps should move in.
PRO: Endorsed by Ed Frankovic. Was head coach of the Calgary Flames in 2006-07, leading them to the final spot of the playoffs before being replaced by Mike Keenan after getting eliminated in the first round. Won the Calder Cup in 2001 with Saint John, widely respected as Associate Coach for the resurgent Coyotes franchise.
CON: No championship experience at the NHL level.
OVERALL: Sounds like someone who would be interesting. I trust Frankovic's judgment but other than that, I don't have much to add about him.
PRO: Was top assistant to Joel Quenneville, won 2 championships at the ECHL and had a winning record as head coach in the AHL before becoming an assistant, endorsed by Troy Brouwer.
CON: Fired by Quenneville after a rather turbulent season that included being removed from power play duties as it faltered.
OVERALL: The circumstances of his dismissal in Chicago raises a few red flags for me.
PRO: A highly rated coaching candidate especially after his work under John Tortorella, who strongly endorsed Sullivan for head coaching vacancies. Touted as a strong candidate by quite a number of Caps media figures. Lead the Boston Bruins to the playoffs in his first year as head coach. Would bring that sandpaper style of Tortorella's that not only meshes well with what Hunter taught the Caps but could continue its natural progression.
CON: That Bruins team was upended by Montreal in a first round upset and the next years squad missed the post season altogether. While he was Tortorella's assistant, he is not Torts. May have to compete with Calgary if we want to bring Sullivan aboard.
OVERALL: Looks like a good fit but the Caps will have to move quickly if they want him.
PRO: Highly regarded and respected around the league as an assistant coach and considered a likely head coach soon. Having been there through Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau and now Dale Hunter, Evason is the rare candidate who has not only seen it all on the Caps but has been immersed in widely varying styles. Also given the turbulence surrounding the team and the coaching position, Evason would be a familiar and possibly calming force the Caps. Of course what profile of Evason would be complete without his memorable speech? CON: First, the Caps did not exactly respond as they gave up 2 goals in the final period of a 7-0 laugher. The fact that he's been passed over twice does not suggest that the odds are favorable for him. Finally, I don't how much of this is on him but given that he (and Blaine Forsythe) handle the power play units, the results have been underwhelming, especially in the post season. (Apparently I was mistaken, Evason handles the penalty killing which in that case is kind of a mixed bag given the drop off from 2nd in 2011 down to 21 last year but did finish 6th on the PK in this year's playoffs.) OVERALL: Dean Evason will be a head coach someday but I don't think he's the answer for the Caps. Wouldn't be a terrible move but I have to ask what he could provide to lift the Caps over the hump. Of course if Dean Evason is passed over again, I would expect that he won't be back with the Caps and I wouldn't blame him. UPDATE: No surprise but Evason is moving on, going to coach the AHL Milwaukee Admirals. Check out this excellent tribute from RMNB
Jim Johnson PRO: Deservedly lauded for his work with the Caps defenseman. No mean feat to be brought in as a mid-season hire and have such a noticeable impact on the team. Where Dean Evason might be too familiar (if there is such a thing) Johnson would certainly qualify as a fresh voice. CON: His coaching experience is very limited and aside from the US Jr. National Team, he has yet to spend a full season as a coach at any level. OVERALL: I would be very surprised if Johnson is head coach. I don't think he has the experience but would love to see him back as an assistant but we'll see what happens. UPDATE: Nothing official but given McPhee's comments and Evason's departure, I think it's safe to assume Johnson will not be returning.
PRO: I don't know about the rest of you but when I think of Stanley Cup leaders, I think of two players: Mark Messier and Patrick Roy and since Messier is reportedly being groomed to succeed Sather, Roy is the slightly more realistic option. His three Conn Smythes certainly speak to his impact as a player on the championship stage. He is now garnering buzz as a future head coach with his work coaching the Quebec Ramparts. He has yet to have a losing season and hasn't finished with a winning percentage below .600 since 2008.
CON: Very much the opposite of the unflappable Dale Hunter in terms of temperament. His volatility as a player is well documented and has flared up at least twice. In 2008, he was suspended 5 games for allegedly inciting his son Jonathan to fight during a 7-1 loss in 2008. The year before, Roy allegedly threw punches at a co-owner of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, Pierre Cardinal. Cardinal withdrew his complaint six days later. Also in similar situation as Dale Hunter, being a coach and owner of a Canadian junior team. Finally, would be going against the small track record of goalies as head coaches.
OVERALL: I do not understand why teams would want Roy as a head coach. He is still a very unpredictable figure at the very least would be a poor fit for the Caps who responded well to Hunter's calm demeanor. Best of luck to which ever NHL team Roy eventually will be hired by.
There are so many options for McPhee to choose from including multiple candidates I haven't listed such as Doug Jarvis, Tony Granato, James Patrick, John Stephens and Terry Murray for starters. If anyone is interested in what my top five candidates would be, here is my list:
1. Bob Hartley
2. Adam Oates
3. Mike Sullivan
4. Craig Berube
5. Tom Renney
Now though, if you want a realistic top five after considering the rumors (Hartley to Montreal, Sullivan to Calgary), this is what my list becomes:
1. Adam Oates
2. Craig Berube
3. Tom Renney
4. Jon Cooper
5. Jim Playfair
UPDATED LIST: In light of recent developments: Hartley going to Calgary, Montreal moving to bring back Therrien and Edmonton being the only other team with a coaching vacancy, and the Kings Stanley cup victory, here is my new updated list on most likely Caps coaches.
UPDATE II: With Berube out, here's my guess as to the current contenders
1. Adam Oates
2. Mike Sullivan
3. John Stevens
4. Jon Cooper
5. Mike Haviland
Thank you for your patience, I hope that my reasoning and analysis isn't too laughable.