Analyzing Each NHL Head Coach Hired During the Off-Season: Part One

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 25: Head coach Paul Maurice of the Florida Panthers looks on against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at United Center on October 25, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The position of an NHL head coach is a very difficult one. Often the coach becomes the scapegoat and is susceptible to the finger-pointing that comes with a team’s poor play or undesirable results. During the 2022 off-season, 10 new head coaches were hired. One month into the season has provided a small sample of how each franchise has responded to their new bench boss.

Analyzing Every NHL Head Coach Hired During the Off-Season

San Jose Sharks – David Quinn

The San Jose Sharks are going through some significant changes. From being a perennial contender to now being in the midst of rebuilding and re-tooling, they have fallen over the years. Over the summer, the Sharks hired new general manager Mike Grier after long-time GM Doug Wilson stepped down for medical reasons. One of Grier’s first moves as GM was finding a new NHL head coach. On July 26, the Sharks announced they had hired David Quinn as their new head coach.

Quinn comes to the Sharks with some NHL head coaching experience, as he most recently coached the New York Rangers. Entering the season, Quinn held an NHL coaching record of 96-87-25 through three seasons with the Rangers.

How the Sharks Have Started the Season

Under their new head coach, the Sharks have put together a record of 3-8-3 and currently sit in 29th in overall NHL standings. Former Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson has seen a significant resurgence under Quinn’s systems. He has put up ten goals and eight assists through 14 games. His ten goals currently have him sitting second in the league, and his 18 points lead all defenceman. Aside from Karlsson, goals have been scarce for the Sharks as they sit in 31st with 2.46 goals scored per game. Early on, one positive note for the Sharks is their penalty killing, which ranks second with a 92.3 success rate.

San Jose’s expectations coming into the season were not very high, and the team will be amongst those hoping to draft the next generational star Connor Bedard by winning the draft lottery at the season’s end.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Luke Richardson

On June 27, the Chicago Blackhawks announced they hired Luke Richardson as their new head coach. The hiring marked Richardson’s first crack as an NHL head coach. He previously held an assistant coaching position with the Montreal Canadiens. During the Canadiens’ surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021, Richardson admirably filled in as head coach in the Conference Finals. With Dominique Ducharme having to isolate due to a positive Covid-19 test, Richardson helped lead Montreal to a series win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

How the Blackhawks Have Started the Season

With the franchise entering a rebuild, the Blackhawks have performed better than many expected. Currently sitting in fourth place in the Central Division with a 5-5-2 record, Chicago may be playing their way out of the Connor Bedard lottery draft sweepstakes. The Blackhawks have had a potent powerplay this season, capitalizing at a 26.5% success rate, good enough for sixth-best. However, Chicago has difficulty generating high-danger scoring chances, with a total of 74, well under the league average of 85. The Blackhawks also give opponents plenty of high-danger scoring chances, as they have allowed 93.

Overall the finger can’t be pointed at Richardson as the Blackhawks continue to navigate through the early stages of their rebuild.

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Florida Panthers – Paul Maurice

After setting a franchise record for points in a season and winning their first President’s Trophy in 2021-22, the Florida Panthers let interim head coach Andrew Brunette walk. Instead, they brought in experienced NHL head coach Paul Maurice. This decision was quite a surprise; however, following another early playoff exit, the franchise decided to bring in Maurice. “After taking the appropriate amount of time for analysis, we determined that we needed the perfect fit to continue with the growth of our players and stay on the path for our franchise goals,” Panthers GM Bill Zito said about the hiring. Maurice has most recently coached the Winnipeg Jets and entered the season with a 775-681-99-130 (W-L-T-OTL) coaching record.

How the Panthers Have Started the Season

The Panthers certainly look to have taken a step back and have shown signs of regression early on in Paul Maurice’s inaugural season as head coach. Florida currently sits in sixth place in the tightly contested Atlantic Division. With a record of 6-5-1, the Panthers only find themselves two points behind second-place Tampa Bay Lightning ¬†Maurice has the Panthers shooting the puck in high volumes, averaging a league-best 39.9 shots per game. However, this season, the Panthers’ special teams have been abysmal early on as their powerplay ranks dead last, converting at just 10.6% and their penalty kill sits 30th with a 70.7% success rate. Additionally, despite the high volume of shots, Florida’s shooting percentage of 7.8% sits dead last, which points to the possibility of lousy puck luck in the season’s early goings.

The Panthers will continue to push for the playoffs as they get key defenceman Aaron Ekblad back from injury and their puck luck converts to more goals scored.

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New York Islanders – Lane Lambert

After the New York Islanders fired Barry Trotz on May 9, Lou Lamoriello appointed Lane Lambert as the Isles’ new head coach. This is Lambert’s first NHL head coach position, as he previously held the Islanders’ assistant coach role. The Melfort, Saskatchewan native Lambert has plenty of experience on the bench, albeit not in the head coaching role. Before being the Islanders’ assistant coach, Lambert served as the Nashville Predators’ assistant from 2011-2014.

How the Islanders Have Started The Season

The Islanders have responded to their new head coach with a 7-5-0 record through the season’s first month. They currently sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 14 points. The Islanders have continued their solid defensive play as they sit third in average goals against, allowing just 2.45 goals against per game. The penalty kill has also been stellar for the Islanders, successfully killing off 91.9% of their opponents’ powerplays. While the Islanders’ powerplay has room for improvement, sitting 26th overall, they have scored at a higher rate than in past seasons. Achieving an average of 3.73 goals per game ranks the Islanders fourth in the league in goal scoring.

Lambert has followed his predecessor quite well, and the Islanders will compete for a return to post-season hockey as the season wears on.

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Philadelphia Flyers – John Tortorella

On June 16, the Philadelphia Flyers announced they had signed experience NHL head coach John Tortorella. The hiring of¬† Tortorella is fitting to the culture of the Flyers. “John demands the best out of his players every game,” Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said of the hiring. Tortorella’s last coaching job was with the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he coached for six seasons. “Having faced the Flyers for several years, I know first hand how tough of a city Philly is to play in, and I look forward to being on the right side of the bench on opening night in front of such a loyal and passionate crowd of Flyers fans,” Tortorella said shortly after the hiring.

How the Flyers Have Started the Season

The Flyers have enjoyed a decent start to the campaign, boasting a record of 6-3-2. Philly currently sits in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Expectations coming into the season took a hit with the news that two-way center Sean Couturier and defenceman Ryan Ellis would be sidelined long-term. However, Philadelphia has found a way to win games under Tortorella. While none of their offensive stats jump off the page at you, the Flyers have limited opponents scoring, averaging just 2.7 goals allowed per game. Carter Hart has rebounded from a difficult season and seems to have regained his stellar form this season. However, with the Flyers Expected Goals For sitting well below the league average at 16.5, the Flyers’ early success doesn’t look sustainable. They also don’t generate many high-danger scoring chances, with just 55 this season. In addition, they have given up 106 high-danger scoring chances against them.

If they cannot provide Hart with more offence and generate more high-danger scoring chances, the Flyers will lose more games as the season progresses.

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