Wednesday, October 17, 2007
New coach? Here are some places Waddell could turn
By Scott Burnside ESPN.com
So, maybe it turns out Atlanta GM Don Waddell can channel Scotty Bowman (they worked together in Detroit) or Toe Blake or Dick Irvin, and the Thrashers pick themselves up off the mat and become the feel-good story of the NHL season.
Let's assume "not" for a moment and imagine Waddell will end up following through on his plan to find a new NHL coach for the Thrashers, the third he will hire in his tenure in Atlanta.
Where does he turn? Who does he call? Here are some thoughts:
Scotty Bowman was pursued by the Toronto Maple Leafs, so why not Atlanta?
How about Scotty Bowman?
Well, he should call Bowman just because you can, but the game's finest hockey mind appears pretty comfortable being a consultant in Detroit and we're pretty sure he likes being wooed for bigger and better things like running the Toronto Maple Leafs. Scratch Scotty.
(As an aside, that might be a good thing for the Thrashers to pursue, bringing in another hockey mind to help out as an advisor to Waddell, the way Cliff Fletcher was in Tampa and Phoenix, or Bowman and John Muckler were asked to do in Toronto. Just a thought.)
How about Pat Quinn?
The former Maple Leafs bench boss has been out of work since the end of the 2005-06 season, with the exception of coaching Canada's Spengler Cup team last winter.
He told ESPN.com on Wednesday he still has the passion for the game and would love to get back into the NHL, even though he has not spoken with Waddell.
Quinn played in Atlanta and he's used to coaching teams with huge lineup deficiencies, and his personality would be a welcome addition to the scene in this fickle sports market. The one drawback is Quinn also has experience as a general manager and Waddell isn't likely to hire the guy that could very well move into his office next spring.
How about current NHL assistants like Mike Sullivan (Tampa Bay) or Craig Ramsay (Boston)?
Both have been head coaches in the past. The problem with Sullivan is Tampa GM Jay Feaster and Hartley are close friends and it's unlikely he'd want to help out. Ramsay just took a job in Boston.
In general, Waddell said Wednesday that the ability to even talk to assistants depends on the wording of the language in their contracts. Some will have outs that allow them to interview for head-coaching jobs, while others might be prohibited from even discussing the Thrashers' opening.
• Chicago assistant GM Rick Dudley is one of the finest hockey minds around and loves to teach, but with Bob Pulford being shunted to the side, it's believed Dudley will have a bigger role to play in the Blackhawks' front office. So, you can likely scratch him.
• Tony Granato is an assistant in Colorado and had a brief taste as a head coach. Plus, he's American.
• Don Lever is the coach of the defending Calder Cup champions from Hamilton, Ontario, and has had an impressive run for the Montreal Canadiens' farm club. There's also former Montreal stalwart Doug Jarvis, who has a long résumé as both an AHL head coach and NHL assistant.
• Randy Cunneyworth has had a terrific run with the Buffalo Sabres' AHL team in Rochester and was rumored to be in the running for the New Jersey Devils job that went to Brent Sutter.
• Speaking of Sutter, who made the jump from junior hockey to the NHL, another such candidate might be Dale Hunter, who has turned his London Knights into a junior powerhouse in the same way Sutter made Red Deer a power in Western Canada. Pete DeBoer has also had a stellar junior coaching career, but that seems like a big leap for him.
• John Anderson, the former NHLer and longtime coach of the Thrashers' AHL franchise in Chicago will get a look, but scouts and other GMs suggest Anderson may not have what it takes to be a coach at the NHL level.
• Don't expect current Thrashers assistants Steve Weekes or Brad McCrimmon to get much more than a cursory look as replacements for their former boss.
• As for television celebrities (and we don't mean Britney Spears or Jerry Bruckheimer, even though Jerry loves the game), how about ESPN's own Barry Melrose? Or TSN of Canada analyst Glenn Healy? Or former Thrasher Ray Ferraro?
Probably not. But you never know.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.