Travis Green, the head coach of the Canucks AHL affiliate in Utica, is talk of Canadian hockey media right now.
By all accounts, he’s a hot commodity, and has a shot at landing one of the available NHL head coaching gigs.
Any list of potential NHL coaches should include Travis Green. Has done a great job for Canucks' AHL Team in Utica.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) May 3, 2016
Travis Green on Anaheim's list of candidates to replace Boudreau, per @FriedgeHNIC
— Jason Brough (@JasonPHT) May 6, 2016
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) May 6, 2016
With a somewhat unexpected change in Cgy, it seems more likely Utica coach, Travis Green is going to land one of the NHL jobs.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) May 3, 2016
Given all of this chatter, it’s not surprising that a section of Canucks fans are panicking about possibly losing Green to another team.
It’s no secret that confidence in Willie Desjardins isn’t at an all-time high among Canucks fans right now. If the team puts together another poor season, conventional wisdom is that Vancouver will be looking for a new bench boss at season’s end.
Green appears to be the heir apparent. If Green walks to another team now, that plan will have to change.
It’s been an interesting three seasons for Green, after he took over as the head coach of the Utica Comets following a WHL championship in his first season as head coach of the Portland Winterhawks.
Green took over a team that was short on talent in 2013, and after a rocky start where his team went 0-10 to start, the Comets went 35-22-9 the rest of the season. They finished 19th out of 30 teams, which isn’t bad when you consider that Alex Biega was the only player from that bunch to play more than 40 games in the NHL this season.
The following year Green was given a lot more talent to work with, including an NHL-calibre goalie in Jacob Markstrom, and the Comets made it to the Calder Cup Finals. Utica finished with the league’s second best regular season record.
This past season, Utica had more good young talent, but certainly a drop in veteran talent, and came back to earth. They finished mid-pack, 13th overall in the overall AHL standings, and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
With so many AHL coaches getting promoted to the NHL in recent years – with varying success – how do we accurately measure a coach’s ability? Willie Desjardins was the flavour of the month in 2014 after winning the Calder Cup and many people had a lot of great things to say about him.
— gary lawless (@garylawless) May 14, 2013
Remember when Canucks fans were calling for Mike Gillis’ head because he missed out on Dallas Eakins in 2013?
Healy thinks Canucks have dropped the ball….which makes me think Eakins will suck.
— 5th overall Coop (@1Cooop) June 9, 2013
Of the 30 NHL head coaches that finished this season, only nine are in the midst of their first NHL head coaching job. Just four of them made the playoffs.
Most of the other 21 NHL head coaches were head coaches in the AHL at one time of course and not all of them had great starts to their NHL careers.
Gerard Gallant was 56-81-10 in his first tour of duty as an NHL head coach with Columbus. This year, Gallant coached a surprising Florida Panthers team to a Division title. Mike Sullivan lasted just two seasons in Boston in his first NHL gig, but he’s been touted somewhat as a saviour in Pittsburgh this season.
A successful AHL coach without NHL experience can be successful in the NHL, but we shouldn’t discount a coach looking for his second tour of duty in the show.
All this is to say that evaluating coaches is really difficult. Is it the coach that made a bad team look good, or was the team better than we thought? Did the AHL coach ‘develop’ his young players, or did he benefit from having a good crop of young players that would have made any coach look good?
If Green gets the Anaheim or Calgary job this year, we’ll find out what category he fits in.