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16 of the NHL’s 32 coaches are in their first job as head coach

In the world of field hockey, there’s a recurring expression: the good old “bag of coaches”. For those less familiar, it refers to the fact that teams often tend to take on recycled coaches who have already managed another club before.

Yesterday, for example, the Rangers dipped into the famous bag by hiring Peter Laviolette, a recently fired coach whose contract was not renewed in Washington at the end of last season.

So, with Laviolette in New York and Mike Babcock (also recycled) in Columbus, that means that right now, all 32 head coaching positions are filled in the NHL. We’ll see if the Maple Leafs, whose situation is unclear, and the Senators make a move, but right now, there are no vacant positions.

But last night, Ken Campbell made an interesting point: the “bag of coaches” concept may not be as widespread as you might think, since 16 of the 32 coaches currently in place are in their first head-coaching experience in the Bettman circuit.

In fact, if we add Andrew Brunette (who was only interim head coach in Florida), the number rises to 17, or more than half.

For those interested, here’s the list of first-time coaches:

  • Jon Cooper (Lightning)
  • Jared Bednar (Avalanche)
  • Rod Brind’Amour (Hurricanes)
  • D.J. Smith (Senators)
  • Sheldon Keefe (Maple Leafs)
  • Dean Evason (Wild)
  • Don Granato (Sabres)
  • André Tourigny (Coyotes)
  • Martin St-Louis (Canadian)
  • Jay Woodcroft (Oilers)
  • Lane Lambert (Islanders)
  • Luke Richardson (Blackhawks)
  • Derek Lalonde (Red Wings)
  • Spencer Carbery (Capitals)
  • Greg Cronin (Ducks)
  • Ryan Huska (Flames)

What we notice is that nine of the 16 coaches on the list have been hired since the start of 2022, St-Louis being the first of the group. So we’re talking about guys who don’t have a lot of experience in their current positions, but who at least got a chance to prove their abilities.

Ask the Lightning, Avalanche and Hurricanes if they regret giving an inexperienced coach a chance. You could even add the Maple Leafs to the mix, as Sheldon Keefe has had some great regular seasons in town, as I wrote about recently.

That said, the fact remains that there’s still a certain “bag of coaches” out there, as guys who’ve had failures elsewhere continue to get chances with new formations. Even so, it’s good to see that half the league has seen fit to give the runner a chance by hiring a coach in his first NHL position.

And I hope there will be more and more of them, personally.

After having recycled two of its former coaches (Michel Therrien and Claude Julien) in recent years, the Habs have given Dominique Ducharme and Martin St-Louis a chance in recent years.

In bursts

– Speaking of first-time coaches.

– I think Jack Eichel is still at the top of his game, too.

– I love it.

– Interesting.

– We wish him well.

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