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Sure, we all know the front-runners for the job vacancies in the NHL, but what about the potentials that aren’t being talked about? Is it Tortorella, Ruff, Tippett or bust? Might the Stars fear getting shut out of the premier coaching talent in the league?
Well that’s where research comes in. More people are aware Alain Vigneault was a premier option this year than are aware where he came from. Most can tell you Ken Hitchcock is a great coach but would struggle to tell you the man who won the only Stanley Cup in Stars history’s origin. So with that in mind, let’s take a spin through the hockey world and see who isn’t getting any mentions, but might be a great find.
Pulling anyone directly from junior hockey can be risky, but the Boogieman has a history of winning. He is also no stranger to the NHL where he played with six professional organizations. After retiring, Boughner led an ownership group that purchased the Windsor Spitfires where he won the Memorial Cup as head coach two years in a row from 09-10 while also picking up two Coach of the Year honors in the OHL. He would also go on to coach Canada’s Under-18 team to a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
In 2011, Boughner spent one year with the Columbus Blue Jackets as an assistant coach before resigning due to work conflicts as executive with the Spitfires and the requirements of being an NHL assistant. This is likely both why he isn’t being talked about and why he might be a steal. The big question with Boughner is would he want an NHL head-coaching job if it meant leaving the Spitfires organization and moving his family? He certainly wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice for Columbus, but a head coaching position might be an entirely different story. For the Stars, the upside may be head coach that is more NHL ready than his coaching resume might indicate with a history of winning. If Nill and Boughner’s philosophies are closely matched, it might just work.
Speaking of brief assistant coaching tenures with Memorial Cup championships, perhaps Mike Kelly deserves a look at the NHL level. The current GM and Head Coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs has two President’s Trophy wins to his credit and one Memorial Cup in recent history. He possesses two years as an NHL assistant coach as a member of Alain Vigneault’s Vancouver staff in 2006-2008.
Is he ready? Kelly has been coaching professionally since 1993 and really hasn’t had much of a shot in the NHL. This may suggest that he’s been looked over and passed on repeatedly. It may also suggest that that he hasn’t been looking to make the jump. Still, at 53 years old Kelly isn’t young anymore and is in the same age range as guys like Vigneault and Tortorella but with none of the NHL experience. That’s not a good thing, but if you’re Jim Nill it might also mean no one else will notice him.
Mark Morris, the five year head coach of the King affiliate Manchester Monarchs may be another option. He also possesses a blink-and-you-missed-it tenure with the Vancouver Canucks in the 2002-2003 season.
While he possesses a record that certainly won’t bring the NHL to his doorstep with dumptruck’s full of money, it’s worth noting that again we are talking about a coach with considerable experience. He possesses the winningest coach record for both Clarkson University and for the Monarchs where he certainly has not dominated the AHL, but has continued to put wins on the board without overwhelming talent. Here may be another coach that is overlooked because of the job he has, yet has proven he can execute the plans of a GM and of an organization. Mark isn’t shiny and new, but he may embody the "win with what you have" mindset this team is going to need during its transition.
Because no list is complete without two Bob’s, perhaps it’s time for Bob Woods to get a crack at an NHL coaching opportunity. Woods career trajectory has mirrored that of Bruce Boudreau whom he replaced on the Hershey Bears before winning the Calder Cup in 2008-2009. After this, he joined Boudreau’s staff where he remained first in Washington as an assistant from 2009 to 2012 until the Ducks hired him when Bruce Boudreau signed on.
Woods certainly has the experience at an NHL level. Woods also possesses the type of winning record you’d like to see from a potential head coach candidate. Like Nill, he’s a person who has been in the background on successful organizations. He’s also relatively young and has a career that suggests that he’s a good team player with the talent to win when he’s called upon.
Why isn’t he in the discussion already? I really don’t have an answer to that, as his career path is highly suggestive of a talented, on the rise coach. It may simply be the case that Boudreau has overshadowed his career. Boudreau’s teams have always been good but without the playoff success that generally leads teams to raid the assistant coaching staff. Woods also may not get full credit for winning the Calder having replaced Boudreau the year before and the Bears also winning the cup the year after he left. For whatever reason people are not talking about him, he bears consideration.