It’s been an interesting few days around the hockey world, in particular with news out of the Western Conference. The Dallas Stars recently informed veteran Head Coach that they would not be extending his contract to continue on for the 2017-2018 season. A few days later another Pacific Division rival made the decision of letting go 2-time Stanley Cup Champion Head Coach Darryl Sutter.
As it stands right now the Golden Knights are among 5 teams around the NHL without the services of a Head Coach the other 4 organizations are Vancouver, Dallas, Florida, and LA Kings.
For George McPhee and the Vegas franchise they have prior to the recent news had already spoken to a few candidates. Those candidates however were not disclosed by the Golden Knights.
A few weeks ago I posted a piece called Golden Knights GM George McPhee On His Ideal Head Coach. In that post I reported that McPhee had hinted on what he wants in his guy as the franchises first ever Head Coach.
He summarized the kind of the qualities that his guy must have, those were that he has the ability to coach a hockey team with the flexibility in leading players that can play in the current evolution of the game.
The current state of the league is around the speed game which has gotten faster over the years. Teams like Chicago and Pittsburgh in recent years who have gone on to win the Stanley Cup have built their hockey clubs on speed.
This season in particular we have seen what speed does and the Edmonton Oilers lead by the speedy Connor McDavid they have benefited from his skill and are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
McPhee has also made mentioned of to another quality that he wants in a head coach and that is the mindset of helping to grow the talent of the players he’s going to coach.
Which leads us to the very important question, who is the better fit as Head Coach of the Golden Knights, Darryl Sutter or Lindy Ruff?
For McPhee being a former General Manager in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Capitals he has seen a lot of the then Head Coach of the Buffalo Sabres Lindy Ruff when his former team would come into town and play against his old hockey club.
With Lindy Ruff he has 18 years of NHL coaching experience under his belt having coached the Sabres for 14 seasons and most recently with the Stars for last 4 years. He has lead both of his teams to 10 Stanley Cup Playoffs appearances while behind the bench.
He’s been to the Stanley Cup Finals once in his coaching career in the 1998-1998 season when his Sabres lost to a much deeper Dallas Stars squad. He’s a bit of a what you would call an “Old School” kind of coach. However he’s been able to change his ways thanks to working with Mike Babcock on the Team Canada National Team.
While working with Babcock and Hockey Canada he’s been able to learn that he can make the necessary changes needed in order to be successful with the players he is given. As McPhee has said he wants people that work hard and doesn’t give up with Ruff he definitely has that skill set as an NHL coach.
He has a zero tolerance level of players who are lazy when they are out there on the ice. Ruff also doesn’t have patience with those who slack off on defense. In addition to those attribute’s Ruff communicates well with his players and that is in part to the fact that he is former player himself.
In today’s NHL players appreciate coaches more who have played previously because they can relate better. Having that skill he’s able to allow his players to be achievers on the ice.
With that said Lindy Ruff he could have the upper hand with George McPhee. However one could argue that Darryl Sutter would better the choice for Vegas.
For Darryl Sutter he brings more Western Conference and Pacific Division coaching experience with him than Ruff has. Sutter has coached the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, and Los Angeles Kings.
With Chicago, San Jose and Los Angeles in particular Sutter has lead those three hockey clubs to a combined Western Conference Finals appearances 4 times and has advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals three of those 4 times (Flames in 2003-04, 2011-12 and 2013-14 with LA). In those three appearances he’s won the Stanley Cup twice with the Kings in 2012 and 2014.
What Sutter has in his coaching tool box is that he’s a great motivator which he been able to craft over the course of his career behind the bench. He can push the right button’s that enables his players the opportunity to understand the importance of key moments and situations that unfold on the ice.
Like Ruff he too is a former hockey player himself, having played in the NHL for 8 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. Another key skill set he brings to the table is the ability to preach to his players the “Buy In Factor”. This is a very important thing to have when coaching a group guys on any hockey team.
His “Buy In Factor” is that he a defense minded coach first. He stresses to his players the importance of playing strong hard defense against the opposition. This mindset allowed his 2012 and 2014 Kings squad to win the Stanley Cup.
A very important quality that Sutter has in his back pocket is the mental toughness x-factor. That x-factor is one that is required in Wild Wild Western Conference of the NHL. He’s instilled in his player the fortitude to overcome adversity.
With Sutter he gets that the current fabric of the game is speed. Last year against San Jose in first round of the playoffs the Sharks dispatched the Kings easily in 5 games because they were the much quicker team in all areas of the ice.
Both Lindy Ruff and Darryl Sutter still have the experience to coach a hockey in the NHL and understand where the game is going. It will be interesting to see if McPhee entertains his option in speaking with either candidate going forward.