Pipeline Show hosts Guy Flaming and Dean Millard have been doing some tremendous work on the show’s blog lately, but of particular interest was their run-down of possible candidates for the open assistant coaching spot in Edmonton.
Flaming tosses out four possible names; let’s take a brief look at each of them in turn.
Boucher (pictured, centre right) has been rumored as a possible head coach for Montreal’s farm team in Hamilton, and he’s got a remarkable background, even for a hockey coach. Only 37 years old, Boucher has a master’s degree in sports psychology, as well as arts and engineering degrees from McGill University.
He’s coached in France (leading junior team Viry Chatillon to a national championship) and has experience as an assistant coach in the QMJHL and also with various Canadian junior teams. He ran the powerplay on last year’s gold medal-winning team, which was coached by (obviously) Pat Quinn.
This past season he was the head coach of the Drummondville Voltigeurs; his team went 54-10-4 in the regular season (with a rather remarkable powerplay – 31.9% efficient) and won the QMJHL title this past year.
Desjardins (pictured, far right) has been extremely successful as the head coach and general manager of the Medicine Hat Tigers, who he’s coached since 2002-03 (he became G.M. as well in 2005-06). He already has some experience with Quinn – Flaming mentions that he ran the defenseman for Team Canada at last year’s World Junior Championship so perhaps he could fill a similar role with the Oilers.
Desjardins has coached college hockey at the University of Calgary, like Bill Moores he’s spent a few seasons coaching in Japan, and he’s also worked with the Canadian National team before it was disbanded. With his current team, he’s already won two championships. Perhaps most interesting is this quote from the Tigers’ website:
In twenty one years of coaching, Willie has missed the play-offs only once and has taken his teams to league finals a total of thirteen times.
Long-time WHL coach Don Hay has had his share of success as a head coach (two Memorial Cup wins, gold medal with Canada’s 1995 World Junior team) but very little of it has come in the professional ranks. He’s been an NHL head coach twice; spending 1996-97 in Phoenix (the Coyotes lost in the first round) and starting 2000-01 with Calgary before getting booted midseason in favour of Greg Gilbert. In fairness, on both occasions he did as well as could be expected with a poor team.
He’s been successful all over the WHL, currently with the Vancouver Giants (he was Gilbert Brule’s junior coach); Flaming points out that Quinn owns a part of that team so there’s an established connection there, and also that in his early WHL days in Kamloops he workedwith Tom Renney.
Perry Pearn has coached in the NHL every season since 1995-96, but he needs to find a new home if he doesn’t want that streak to end. Pearn was the special teams coach in New York but he was also fired when Glen Sather decided to replace Tom Renney with John Tortorella. Before Jacques Martin hired Peter DeBoer he asked the Rangers for permission to speak to Pearn about his vacant head coaching job (Pearn was an assistant to Martin in Ottawa) but strangely Pearn never got an interview.
Pearn’s no stranger to the Edmonton area; he coached NAIT’s team for 15 years, and while doing so was involved in many of Canada’s world junior entries. In 1993 he was the head coach of the gold-medal winning team. He then spent one season coaching in Switzerland, and one more as head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers before getting his first NHL job in Winnipeg.
There isn’t a bad option on this list, but for my money the best candidate is Boucher. I like the notion of hiring a coach with a degree in sports psychology, and I love the notion of hiring a coach who has a great track record running a powerplay; the Oilers’ unit has long been unimaginative and predictable, and it would be great if that were to change.