It’s been a while since we’ve had any disagreements worth a Drop The Gloves post, but that changed with the recent coaching news including Claude Julien, Ken Hitchcock, and Mike Modano. So here goes.
Yesterday we had our fourth NHL coach relieved of their duty. Not many were surprised when Boston axed Claude Julien or when St Louis canned Ken Hitchcock last week. Boston and St. Louis fans don’t accept underachievers and both organizations were forced to act. The result is now the Golden Knights have two Stanley Cup winning coaches to examine. Ken wrote about Julien’s dismissal yesterday and it’s potential impact to Las Vegas. He noted the former Bruins coach fitting George McPhee’s qualifications.
Experienced, a guy the hockey community knows, fits the culture, and someone who they do not have to evaluate. Julien also brings one more aspect that no one would ever admit is necessary, legitimacy.” –Ken, SinBin.vegas (We’ve officially hit a new low quoting ourselves. Oh well.)
The one thing McPhee’s wishlist didn’t have was ‘Stanley Cup winning coach’ because they don’t grow on trees. Two are now available. But as established as Hitchcock and Julien are, neither are the right fit to coach on the Strip.
Trotz said Julien probably already has offers, which isn’t far-fetched for the previously longest-tenured coach in the league who has a Cup ring and one of the strongest resumes around. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights could have interest in Julien, Gallant, Hitchcock and Capuano since general manager George McPhee is believed to want experience behind the bench. –USA Today
Let’s start with Hitchcock. Anything but the perfect candidate. Hitch has coached since 1995, starting off in Dallas and leading them to a gift Stanley Cup in 1999. No Goal! In seven years with the Stars, Hitchcock led his team to five playoff appearances, three conference finals, and one Stanley Cup championship. From there Hitch had continuous success in the regular season but couldn’t get his teams deep. Only three times since 1999’s Cup victory, Hitchcock made the conference finals. Not a great track record in 16 seasons. Hitchcock’s .606 regular season winning percentage drops significantly to .512 in the postseason.
Hitchcock also seemed to be on the chopping block for a few years and would’ve been gone last year if not for his conference finals appearance. St. Louis fans were down on him and happy for the mid-season change. That’s not a trend Golden Knights fans want for their first coach.
Another factor that makes me nervous about Hitchcock is his age. The Edmonton native is 66 years-old and might be ready for some good old Lake Alberta fishing. The energy needed to support a potential mishmash roster could be more suitable for a younger coach. One that’s trying to make his mark, grow and develop a team into a postseason threat. Closer to the ages of Jack Capuano (50), Gerard Gallant (53), Jon Cooper (49), Dan Bylsma (46), Kirk Muller (49) and even the decade younger Claude Julien (56).
Julien is without a doubt one of the NHL’s best coaches. Boston felt it had to move on after a couple of years of stale hockey. However, Julien led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972. That’s a big deal. Seven out of ten years, the B’s made it to the postseason and won 393 regular season games. Good enough to become Boston’s all-time leader in wins. With all of Julien’s success, Vegas will certainly reach out. How long will that conversation last? It’s probably up to Claude.
The list of teams in need of a coach is growing and will continue to grow. Boston, Florida and the New York Islanders have open seats. Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Vancouver and Winnipeg could all be without a coach. You can only assume Julien will be contacted by the organizations that can afford him. With 512 wins under his belt, he’ll be on top of most team’s lists. A Stanley Cup winning coach believes he can win again. The Golden Knights will be a few seasons away from that becoming reality. The losses on Julien’s resume wouldn’t help his potential HOF status. Plus, teams like Montreal or Vancouver could throw an endless bag of scratch at the native Canadian.
Personally, I believe Julien will politely pass on Vegas for an established franchise. At 56, Julien wants to win sooner than later. Coaching the Golden Knights would delay his goals. As much as Ken, and pretty much everyone else on social media wants him in Vegas, Claude Julien isn’t brought in to develop a club, he’s brought in to make a deep playoff run. Exactly why Boston hired him ten years ago.
That’s not saying I’m not on board with Mr. Julien turning into Sir Claude, I just can’t see it happening.
A SinBin.vegas reader asked us to compare Julien, Gallant, and Hitchcock to NFL coaches. I’m going to attempt that request. Help me out if you think I’m off. Just comment below.
Hitchcock= Mike Holmgren or Brian Billick: One Championship each, multiple division titles, multiple playoff disappointments.
Julien= Mike McCarthy or Pete Carroll: One Championship each, consistent franchise success, multiple deep postseason runs, handles high talent athletes.
Gallant= Chuck Pagano or Mike Zimmer: Minimal playoff success, highly regarded coaches, underachieving teams.