Now that Jim Rutherford has taken over as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, there is one huge question that still looms: who will be brought in as the Penguins next head coach?
Rutherford has expressed that there is no rush to make the decision before the draft on June 27th. Rutherford did note that the new head coach will be announced prior to the start of free-agency on July 1st, but up until then, it’s anybody’s guess.
So who’s in the running? Let’s break it down a little bit.
John Hynes – Many see Hynes as the front-runner to take over now that Dan Bylsma is gone. The head coach for Pittsburgh’s AHL Affiliate in Wilkes-Barre the last four seasons, Hynes is seen by many as one of the next up-and-coming future NHL coaches.
He’s reached the Eastern Conference Final in the AHL the last two years in a row, and would have first-hand experience coaching the glut of young Penguins defenseman like Scott Harrington. Hynes plays an almost identical system in Wilkes-Barre to the one Bylsma played in Pittsburgh, so if you want a big shake up in the way the Penguins play, Hynes is most likely not your man. That said, he is very adapt at adjusting mid-game and mid series, and has been called a stern, defensive-minded coach by many of his players. It really is him and then the rest of the field.
John Stevens – The former Flyers head coach is fresh off of a cup win Los Angeles, where he has been an assistant the past three seasons. in his time there, he was done wonders defensively for the Kings, turning them into one of the tightest defensive teams in hockey. Pittsburgh would almost certainly be a tougher team to play against with Stevens as their head coach, however, as of yesterday, Kings GM Dean Lombardi said no one has reached out to Stevens for an interview.
Willie Desjardins – Another up-and-coming AHL coach, Desjardins has led the Texas Stars to the Calder Cup Final, and is being sought after by at least one other NHL team as head coach. Desjardins was named the AHL coach of the year last season, and has had sustained success both in junior, where he won two WHL titles with Medicine Hat, as well as in the AHL and in the NHL where he served as an assistant in Dallas. He likes to give his players input, but ultimately makes most final decisions on his own.
Mike Keenan – Iron Mike has been coaching in the NHL since the 1980’s, however his last gig as a head coach in North America was with Calgary in 2009. More recently, Keenan guided Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL to a win Gagarin Cup this past season. He is 6th all time in wins for a head coach, however his abrasive style and personality are infamous, having cost him his job on more than one occasion. He is notoriously tough on goaltenders.
Other names like Ron Wilson, Jeff Daniels, and Todd nelson have been thrown into the mix as well, but with Pittsburgh keeping everything quiet, no one can say for certain who just how heavily they are being considered.
Just for fun, the Bovoda oddsmakers have released the odds for the list of potential Penguins coaches:
John Hynes 2/1 (+200)
Mike Keenan 5/2 (+250)
Willie Desjardins 4/1 (+400)
John Stevens 4/1 (+400)
Jeff Daniels 6/1 (+600)
Todd Nelson 6/1 (+600)
Ron Wilson 9/1 (+900)
One final thing: Pittsburgh is notorious for making decisions straight out of left field, as many saw with the hiring of Jim Rutherford as GM. While all the candidates listed are distinct possibilities, don’t be surprised if the Pens’ head coach is someone no one was expecting.