Plenty Of Strong Candidates For Few NHL Coaching Vacancies

LONDON CANADA - SEPTEMBER 23: Head coach Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs shouts direction in a preseason game against the Philadelphia Flyers on September 23,2010 at the John Labatt Centre in London Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Flyers 3-2 in a shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

There aren't many jobs available for hockey coaches in the NHL this offseason, but the four teams looking to hire new coaches have several qualified candidates to choose from.

With only four jobs up for grabs in the NHL (barring an unforeseen change) this offseason, it doesn't take a rocket scientist, brain surgeon, or even a smart person to deduce that the four teams in question -- Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, and Washington -- will have plenty of good candidates to pick from.

There also should be no rush. Outside of the "handshake with the new coach" photo opportunity at the NHL Draft, there is simply no tangible reason for any of these four teams to hire a coach anytime soon. This isn't the NFL, where players are at team facilities for workouts and meetings on a somewhat regular basis during the offseason. There is no real need to match a prospect's style of play to a coaching philosophy during the draft, since it's going to be three or four years before most drafted players have a chance to make their mark in the NHL.

As we've documented before, the four teams seeking coaches shouldn't be fearful of reaching out for a candidate that possesses NHL coaching experience, or for one that doesn't. There are no rules or guidelines when it comes to that. For GMs and other executives involved in the hiring process, it's a matter of picking out some candidates, interviewing them and getting their thoughts on your current roster and prospect pool, and picking the one you liked the most to take over as head coach.

More: All NHL coaching jobs | Stanley Cup Finals coverage

The candidates listed below don't come from any inside knowledge. I'm guessing, but these are names that we've heard in the last few weeks, and I think many of them are names we'll hear in the weeks to come.

Bob Hartley: I've seen his name connected to openings in Calgary and Washington, and frankly it's an interesting possibility. Hartley did some really good work in Colorado and Atlanta, and hasn't been an NHL head coach since 2007. The French-speaking Hartley also can't be ruled out as a possibility in Montreal.

Tom Renney: He did a lot with a young, thin roster in Edmonton, but GM Steve Tambellini decided Renney's work wasn't good enough to justify keeping him around. Renney has a solid track record as a coach, and if he's not deemed a fit for the opening in Washington -- the others seem unlikely destinations for him -- it makes sense that he'll find a gig as an assistant.

Larry Robinson: The former Canadiens star and Stanley Cup winning coach is probably going to be looked at as a candidate for the Montreal vacancy, despite his vehement denial amid reports of interest in the job. With the young defensemen Montreal has, and Robinson's track record working with blue-liners, new GM Marc Bergevin is almost obligated to make a phone call. Isn't he?

Brent Sutter: The deposed Calgary coach might land in Alberta's other NHL city, as he's been connected to the now-vacant gig in Edmonton as of late. Sutter didn't get good results out of high-priced talent in Calgary, but Edmonton is a different animal. The Oilers are young, and he may be called on to help the kids grow into well-rounded NHL players.

Troy Ward: This a name we're hearing connected with the Calgary vacancy. The longtime hockey coach is seeking his first NHL opportunity after a successful run with AHL Abbotsford. Given the Flames' struggles in recent years, it seems like a good bet that they'll go with a first-time NHL coach.

Ron Wilson: Yeah, I'll go there. Could he return to Washington? I wouldn't rule it out, but also wouldn't bet on it. The Capitals need to decide what direction they want to go with this hire. Wilson's a good coach, but I'm not sure he's a great fit for a team with so many big names, especially after what Dale Hunter appeared to teach them.

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