In Part One, I looked at the Oilers and Avalanche front offices, and I concluded that the Oilers have the upper hand, albeit narrowly. This week, I examine the two teams’ coaching situations.
Both Edmonton and Colorado have recently hired new head coaches, and both hirings caused several fans and pundits to raise their eyebrows. Neither Oilers coach Dallas Eakins nor Avalanche coach Patrick Roy are proven NHL bench bosses, and many have wondered whether or not experienced candidates like Alain Vigneault or John Tortorella would have been smarter options.
Upon further inspection, however, both of these hires present significant potential for each franchise.
Dallas Eakins, though he has never ran an NHL bench himself, has extensive coaching experience in both the AHL and the NHL. For two seasons, he served as an Assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and following that, he became the head coach of the Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies.
During his time as an AHL bench boss, he led his team to an impressive 157-114-41 record, impressing several of his peers and launching himself into contention for an NHL head coaching position. Though he never won an AHL championship, he did guide the Marlies to the Calder Cup Final in 2012, and has received praise for developing several Leaf prospects such as Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne.
Patrick Roy has also had significant coaching success, albeit at a much lower level. Since 2005, Roy has been the coach of the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts, leading them to a Memorial Cup Championship in 2006 and a stunning 307-128-32 record. He has also served as the club’s general manager, suggesting he understands how a successful team is built.
So which hiring was better? It’s difficult to say.
At face value, Patrick Roy appears to be the better choice, as he earned a better coaching record, and certainly has a history of winning with the Avalanche. As a legendary goaltender for Colorado during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, it’s no surprise that Sakic saw Roy as an asset to a team trying to rekindle the glory days.
However, it may be difficult for Roy to adjust from coaching junior players to coaching NHL professionals. The game is faster, the players are bigger and tougher, and adults require a different management approach than teenagers. Most NHL bench bosses start out either as assistants in the NHL, or as AHL head coaches- it’s quite a rarity when someone jumps immediately from junior hockey to the NHL, because the nature of the game can be so different. Though Roy was an excellent coach in junior, the radical change may prove too much for him, at least early on in the season.
This is where Eakins has an advantage. With experience both as an NHL assistant and an AHL head, he’s likely familiar with the more advanced NHL game, and shouldn’t have as much trouble adjusting. With his resumé, it’s no surprise that Eakins was a highly sought-after coaching candidate leading up to his hiring by GM Craig MacTavish.
That’s not to say that there’s no risk in hiring Eakins. Some AHL bench bosses who were promoted to an NHL position have had a difficult time in the role- Guy Boucher is a recent example. But the risk is much smaller than hiring a coach straight out of junior hockey.
In the end, I expect both Eakins and Roy to succeed in their respective roles. But from my perspective, it seems that Eakins was hired because of his history as a coach, while Roy was hired because of his history with the Colorado Avalanche. As a result, it’s the Oilers who likely made the better hire.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know on Twitter @Oilonwhyte.