by PuckStopsHere on 06/01/13 at 01:13 PM ET
It shouldn't be too controversial to say that coaches, GMs and other top NHL team executives should be hired based on their track record in coaching, GM and executive positions. Playing experience is a different skill and it doesn't make sense to hire a coach because he was a top NHL player. That isn't to say that top NHL players cannot be NHL coaches and GMs, but that they should succeed in lesser coaching, GM and executive positions before they get their promotion.
The Colorado Avalanche do not agree with that theory. This summer they have made Joe Sakic their executive vice president of hockey operations and Patrick Roy their new coach. Sakic appears to be fast-tracked to eventually take over as their GM. This decision appears to have been made before we learn if he is successful in his new position. Roy was a part owner, GM and coach in the QMJHL. His Quebec Remparts were a good team that finished third in their division. It is hard to argue that he was the top coaching prospect in the QMJHL if he was not a Hall of Fame goalie and it is definitely true that the QMJHL is not the top league to produce coaches for the NHL. If he name was anything other than Patrick Roy, he would have had to work his way up to the NHL with at least one higher level coaching position before he was seriously considered to be an NHL coach. I expect that this experiment in Colorado will end badly.
The New York Rangers have an open coaching position and big names are rumored to be interested in Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. So far they have kept their sanity and got permission to interview former Vancouver Canuck coach Alain Vigneault and Toronto Marlie coach Dallas Eakins. I think this is largely a story the media made up. Wouldn't it be interesting if a team in the largest NHL city had a famous Hall of Famer as coach? Neither of the possibilities is the best coach available and the Rangers will settle on a better coach who was not as high profile an NHL player.
If we look at the Jack Adams award given to the coach of the year (as an imperfect proxy for top coaches) we see two Hall of Fame players have won this award in Jacques Lemaire and Bill Barber. Neither is among the most famous Hall of Famers and Barber was a coach who had a short career and was probably a poor coach of the year choice. This leaves Lemaire as the only Hall of Fame player who was a top coach and he learned the ropes that hard way instead of being fast-tracked to a coaching position. He held coaching positions successfully in the NCAA and Switzerland before getting his first NHL job.
The kind of experience that makes you a top executive or coach with an NHL team is different from being a top NHL player. Successful teams know this. However there always seems to be a team or two that ignores this basic idea and struggles as a result.
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