The NHL Coaching Market: Who’s Available Now, Near Future and Long Term?

October ends, the NHL season sets in, most teams pass the 10-game mark, and a fire erupts. Then another. Soon, several NHL markets are blowing smoke, their fans begin to panic, calling for mid-season coaching changes. And recent precedent suggests that the frenzy is not an overreaction. Heads could soon be rolling on the benches of the NHL.

In 2021-22, we have seen seven coaching changes mid-season:

Joel Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers on October 28.
The Chicago Blackhawks fired Jeremy Colliton on November 6.
The Philadelphia Flyers fired Alain Vigneault on December 6.
The Vancouver Canucks fired Travis Green on Dec. 6.
Paul Maurice stepped down as Winnipeg Jets coach on December 17.
The Montreal Canadiens fired Dominique Ducharme on February 9.
The Edmonton Oilers fired Dave Tippett on Feb. 10.

Again it was just during the season. Many others were fired after the season: Barry Trotz in Long Island, Rick Bowness in Dallas, Bruce Cassidy in Boston, Pete DeBoer in Vegas, Bob Boughner in San Jose, Jeff Blashill in Detroit. Only 19 of the 32 head coaches in place at the start of last season still have their jobs today.

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So when we look at the simmering situation, say, in Toronto with Sheldon Keefe, Vancouver with Bruce Boudreau, or Nashville with John Hynes… any potential coaching candidate should have their LinkedIn profile up to date.

What are the best options available if and when NHL teams make coaching changes this season? Here’s a tiered list, from big fish to retreads to emerging new names that might not be available until the offseason.


Barry Trotz
Following his shock ousting from the Islands last offseason, the two-time Jack Adams Award winner is weighing his options. He turned down an offer to return home and coach the Jets. He mentioned last week that coaching an Original Six team would intrigue him. Does that mean he has to go to Toronto if Keefe is fired? It could hinge on whether Trotz is willing to explore the management side of the sport. That’s why it’s worth keeping an eye out for his original team, the Predators, who might be able to offer more variation on any potential gig.

Rick Tochet
Tocchet’s last head coaching job ended after 2020-21 when he and the Arizona Coyotes reached a mutual agreement to part ways. He currently works as a TNT panelist, but he still regularly tops most lists of candidate coaches. He is known for his reliability as a player coach.

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Alain Vigneault
Vigneault is an interim rookie for a veteran team that still wants to make the playoffs this season and needs a seasoned coach who provides defensive structure. He’s reached the playoffs in 10 of his last 13 tries.

Dave Tippett
Tippett brings a similar profile to Vigneault: better suited to a veteran team that’s winning now, preaches defense-focused hockey, moderate track record of success.

Andre Brown
Brunette is less than a year away from being a Jack Adams Award finalist at a Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers club. Yes, they got choked up in the second round of the playoffs, but he’s a cerebral guy who clearly deserves another shot. He is currently working as an associate coach with the New Jersey Devils.

travis green
We probably don’t know who a coach really is until we see him with a second NHL team. Watch Cassidy on his lukewarm first try with the Washington Capitals. Green couldn’t get the Canucks hall to follow him in the end, but the Canucks are also struggling under another coach now, so what if Green wasn’t the problem? Think of all the bad contracts GM Jim Benning rigged Green up with during their overlapping tenure in Vancouver.

Jeff Blashill
Blashill took the Detroit Red Wings to the playoffs in 2015-16, his first season, but it was a team in decline, dragged to the bottom of the ocean by bad deals with veterans. Blashill was then practically asked to tie an anchor to his leg and sink for the rest of his time in Detroit. He was a shepherd for a franchise of tankers. So we don’t have much idea what he could do leading a team that wants to win in the present. For now, he operates as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Todd Nelson
Nelson had just 46 head coaching track games with the Oilers in 2014-15 and helped a poor pre-Connor-McDavid team to a respectable 17-22-7 record. He went on to win a Calder Cup coaching Grand Rapids in the AHL and was one of Bowness’ trusted assistant coaches on the Dallas Stars team that reached the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals- 2020. Nelson is now the head coach of the Hershey Bears of the AHL, an affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

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UP-AND-COMERS (Summer 2023 applicants)

Spencer Carbery caught the eye last summer after taking the Toronto Maple Leafs’ power play from average to league-best. He interviewed for the vacant position of Sharks coach.

Ryan Warsofsky was there in the hunt for the Sharks coaches before they opted for David Quinn in the end. They ended up hiring Warsofsky as an assistant coach. He coached a dominant Chicago Wolves team to the AHL Calder Cup title last season.

nate leaman is likely high on many lists of the next great college coaches to have an NHL look. He has been an institution at Providence College for the past decade.

Kris Knoblauch Was a hugely successful major junior coach, winning league titles in the WHL and OHL, before working as an NHL assistant coach with the Flyers. He is now in his fourth season coaching the New York Rangers with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

Jay Leach Has extensive experience behind an AHL bench and worked his way up to the NHL level, working under Dave Hakstol as an assistant coach for the Seattle Kraken. He interviewed the Arizona Coyotes for their opening ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Ryan Huska is a regular riser. He had a great run in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets, spent his time with the Flames affiliate in the AHL and is now an apprentice under Darryl Sutter at the NHL level in Calgary. Huska interviewed for the vacancy in Detroit over the summer.

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Rocky Thompson was the head coach of some strong Windsor Spitfire teams in the OHL and took the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup final in 2018-19. The former NHL and AHL enforcer served as an associate coach with the Sharks for a few seasons and now holds an assistant position with the Flyers.

Seth Appart, like Don Granato, is particularly suitable for supervising the young players of a team undergoing reconstruction. Appert, like Granato, worked with United States under-18 club NTDP, and Appert now coaches the Buffalo Sabers AHL affiliate in Rochester while Granato manages the NHL club.

Ian Laperriere spent eight years as an assistant coach with the Flyers and finally got a taste of head coaching with their AHL club in Lehigh Valley starting last season.


Mike Vellucci still hasn’t been a head coach in the NHL? He led the Charlotte Checkers to a Calder Cup victory in 2018-19 and is now one of Mike Sullivan’s assistants in Pittsburgh, but maybe not for long. Vellucci was interviewed for the Bruins coaching vacancy after Cassidy was fired – and for the Flyers vacancy.

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Benoit Groulx, currently coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, has been around forever. His name was tied to the Coyotes and Canadiens the last time they had vacancies. He was instrumental in helping the Lightning produce viable NHL players from the farm.

Rikard Gronborg hasn’t had a chance yet after so many years of coaching everything related to the Swedish national team. He is now the bench boss of ZSC Lions in the Swiss League.


by Mike Babcock Reputation was tarnished when reports surfaced in late 2019 of psychological warfare he used against young Toronto Maple Leafs players such as Mitch Marner. Babcock hasn’t touched an NHL job since being fired in November 2019. He coached the University of Saskatchewan at U Sports last season.

by Joel Quenneville one of the NHL’s most successful coaches of all time, but hiring him would bring significant – and justified – backlash. He resigned from the Panthers in disgrace last year over revelations about his role in covering up the sexual assault of Brad Aldrich during Chicago Blackhawks practice in 2010.

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jessica campbell go up quickly. In the past three seasons alone, she has gone from Swedish League skating coach to German League assistant coach to AHL assistant coach. It might not be long before she becomes the first woman to earn a head coaching job in the AHL, and the NHL would be the next logical step after that.


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