Canucks remain only team with head coaching vacancy

Jeff Gross

With the Dallas Stars and New York Rangers expected to introduce their new head coaches on Friday, the Vancouver Canucks remain the only NHL franchise with a head coaching vacancy.

Then there was one. With the Dallas Stars and New York Rangers scheduled to introduce their new head coaches on Friday, the Vancouver Canucks remain the only franchise in the NHL that presently has a head coaching vacancy.

As of Friday morning, it remains unclear in what direction the franchise is leaning. Reports have indicated that John Stevens, John Tortorella and Scott Arniel are still in consideration for the position. Tortorella is seemingly the favorite for the job, although that speculation might solely be based in his visibility as a big-name candidate.

Stevens was also mentioned as the "favorite" for the job earlier in June. Having previously acted as the Philadelphia Flyers head coach from 2006-10, Stevens has spent the last few years as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings (in addition to acting as interim head coach for four games in 2011-12). The potential relationship between Stevens and the Canucks was described as a "glove-like fit" by David Ebner of the Globe and Mail because of Stevens' experience coaching young players and working with a core of veterans.

Manager Mike Gillis stated that the ability to work with a wide demographic of players will be key for the next head coach of the team. Ebner, among others, believe Stevens' ability to coach the Philadelphia Phantoms to the American Hockey League's championship in 2005 and his experience on the Kings' Stanley Cup winning staff in 2012 makes him the individual best suited for the job.

Arniel is a candidate who hasn't received much attention, at least, in terms of media reports. He spent the 2012-13 season as the head coach of the Canucks' AHL affiliate in Chicago and has two years remaining on his contract. His only head coaching experience in the NHL came in a short stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which lasted 123 games (45-60-18).

A wild card for the position could be Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. Tippett's contract with the Coyotes expires on June 30, which will make him a free agent on July 1. The coach has expressed his desire to remain with the franchise, that is, as long as the franchise remains in Phoenix. Given the Coyotes' unstable ownership situation, that might not be the case.

Many believe Tippett would become the most coveted coach available if he decides to leave the Coyotes. With all the other jobs taken, this might open up an opportunity for the Canucks.

If the Coyotes were to relocate, it appears as though they would resume operation in Seattle. Given that Vancouver is around two and a half hours away from Seattle, it would be perplexing why Tippett would accept the position if moving away from Phoenix is his biggest issue with leaving the team. Of course, that decision could be rooted in the Canucks potentially having a larger operating budget than the relocated Seattle franchise.

That remains to be seen and is merely speculative, as is Tippett's legitimacy as an available candidate.

Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet has stated that Tippett and general manager Don Maloney have a contract already worked out that can be signed as soon as the Coyotes situation is resolved. Kypreos insinuated that the contract might have an out-clause in the event of relocation.

(Editor's note: Since the publication of this story, reports have surfaced stating that Tippett and the Coyotes have agreed in principle to a contract extension.)

Whatever the case might be, the Canucks remain the only franchise without a head coach. One would imagine that won't remain the case for much longer.

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