With the firing of Bruce Boudreau, the Minnesota Wild are officially in the market for a new head coach. The team is set to move forward with assistant coach Dean Evason as the interim head coach, but general manager Bill Guerin told the media on Friday that the Wild will conduct a thorough search for a permanent replacement for Boudreau this offseason.
Luckily for the Wild, this has turned out to be a pretty good year to be in need of a new bench boss. Several excellent former coaches are currently looking for work, so the Wild have options regarding who will become the seventh head coach in franchise history.
Here are a few names to watch as the Wild begin their hunt for a new head coach.
Gallant may be the most popular coach currently without a job. After inheriting a group of castoffs with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18, he immediately turned the team into the best squad in the Western Conference. He led the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in Vegas’ inaugural season, and his team likely would have made another deep run last season had Cody Eakin not been assessed a questionable major penalty in Game 7 of Vegas’ first-round series against the San Jose Sharks.
Prior to his time in Vegas, Gallant coached the Florida Panthers from 2014 to 2016. In 2015-16, Gallant led the Panthers to their first postseason appearance since the 2011-12 season, though they were eliminated in the first round by the New York Islanders. He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2004 to 2006.
Gallant has an overall NHL coaching record of 270-216-4-51.
The former Jack Adams Award winner was beloved in Vegas for being a players’ coach. His tenure with the Golden Knights ended on a strange note, and it’s expected that he’ll be one of the first coaching candidates snatched up this offseason.
Laviolette may not be a perfect fit for this current Wild group, but there’s no denying his track record. His coaching career began in 2001 when he was named the head coach of the Islanders, but it was with his second team — the Carolina Hurricanes — that he became one of the better coaches in hockey. In 2005-06, Laviolette led the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. However, his Hurricanes teams failed to qualify for the playoffs in the following two seasons, leading to his departure.
It didn’t take him long to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, though. After replacing John Stevens as head coach midway through the season, Laviolette led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. He continued to coach the Flyers until 2013, when he was fired just three games into the season.
Most recently, of course, Laviolette spent six years as the head coach of the Nashville Predators. Once again, Laviolette took his team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, though they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Laviolette’s Predators teams made the playoffs in each of his five full seasons as Nashville’s head coach, but that wasn’t enough to buy him more time in Tennessee. After an inauspicious start to the 2019-20 season, he was fired by the Predators on January 6.
Weight isn’t nearly as experienced as Gallant or Laviolette, but he does have potential as one of the NHL’s up-and-coming coaching candidates.
Weight, 49, has two years of coaching experience at the NHL level. In the 2016-17 season, he replaced Jack Capuano as head coach of the Islanders, finishing the season with a record of 24-12-4. He remained the Isles’ head coach through 2018, though he was fired at the end of the season after finishing with a 35-37-10 record.
It certainly helps that Weight and Guerin spent years playing with one another on several teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues and Islanders. The two remain close, and it wouldn’t be much of a shock if Guerin gives Weight some serious consideration this offseason.
The odds of any team hiring Babcock are slim, but it’s hard not to be impressed with his coaching accomplishments. The long-time Detroit Red Wings head coach has an overall record of 700-418-19-164, and his teams have qualified for the postseason in all but two of his 16 full seasons as an NHL head coach. He has appeared in three Stanley Cup Finals — one with the Anaheim Ducks and two with the Red Wings. In 2007-08, his Red Wings team defeated the Penguins in six games to bring home the franchise’s 11th Stanley Cup. After a decade as Detroit’s head coach, no coach in Red Wings history, including Jack Adams himself, has more wins than Babcock’s 458.
However, as great as Babcock’s track record is, he also may have a hard time earning another coaching job after his four-plus years as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Babcock was fired in November following a six-game losing streak, but it was his abusive coaching style that ultimately cost him his job. Numerous players have accused Babcock of verbally abusive behavior behind closed doors, and in today’s NHL, those coaching tactics are no longer acceptable.
Babcock may be one of the most successful coaches in NHL history, but he appears to be a long shot for Minnesota’s opening.
Who’s to say the Wild will even bother looking outside of the organization to find their next head coach? If Evason manages to guide this year’s Wild team to the playoffs, perhaps the Wild would opt to keep him around for the entirety of 2020-21.
Evason has no coaching experience at the NHL level, though he did have a successful tenure with the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals. In six years as head coach of the Admirals from 2012 to 2018, Evason finished with a solid record of 242-161-53.
Despite the inexperience as a head coach in the NHL, Bill Guerin made it clear in Friday’s press conference that Evason will be one of the candidates involved in the coaching search.
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