New Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has been quoted as saying he wants a head coach with “presence,” so his team respects the direction he gives them.
It’s easy to take that as a shot at former coach Dan Bylsma, but it also indicates that Rutherford prefers a leader with NHL pedigree, at least when it comes to this situation.
With that in mind, it’s a little surprising that the only coaching candidate Rutherford has mentioned by name is AHL Penguins boss John Hynes, who has put together a good reputation and excellent results during a four-year run in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Still, Hynes doesn’t fit at least a major part of the profile Rutherford has made known publicly, as he’s never run an NHL club.
That factor may not mean everything to Rutherford – you don’t need to coach in the NHL to have “presence” – but one would imagine at least a couple coaches with top-league tenure will come under consideration before the Penguins make a decision.
Penguins scheduled to talk to Marc Crawford and Ron Wilson about coaching vacancy in Pitt.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 17, 2014
Of the two, Wilson appears to be the more qualified candidate. The 59-year-old has helmed four NHL teams, most recently the Maple Leafs, where he was in charge from 2008-12.
While his time in Toronto was marred by disappointment and losing seasons, Wilson enjoyed good success with the Sharks (2002-08), Capitals (1997-2002) and Ducks (1993-97). His teams have compiled a combined regular-season record of 648-561-91, plus 101 ties.
Wilson’s clubs have made the playoffs eight times in 18 seasons, with his longest stay in the postseason occurring in 1998, when his Capitals fell to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup final. The Rhode Island native has served as head coach of the United States Olympic team in 1998 and 2010, the latter of which produced a silver medal.
Wilson has become known for promoting an aggressive style of play, which has served him well when he’s had high-level offensive talent at his disposal.
Crawford, 53, just finished his second season coaching the ZSC Lions in Switzerland. Like Wilson, he has also headed four NHL franchises: the Nordiques/Avalanche, Canucks, Kings and Stars. Crawford’s all-time record of 549-421-77 with 101 ties is comparable to Wilson’s, although his previous two NHL stints in Los Angeles and Dallas ended after two seasons each.
Crawford’s NHL coaching career started spectacularly, as he led the Nordiques to a division title in their final season in Quebec City, then won a Stanley Cup in 1996 as the Avalanche made their Denver debut. His Canucks teams made four consecutive playoff appearances from 2000-04, but won just one playoff series in five tries.
With Wilson and Crawford apparently joining former Flyers head coach and current Kings assistant John Stevens, the Penguins’ short list of candidates to replace Bylsma is looking more experienced by the minute.
Rutherford has said he would like to have a coach in place by the NHL free agency period, which begins July 1.