Best Options for the Minnesota Wild Coaching Job
After almost four years as the bench boss for the Wild, Bruce Boudreau was fired in the midst of a playoff push by the team. While a lot of people debated the timing of the firing, General Manager Bill Guerin felt a change was needed in order to motivate his team into the playoffs. Boudreau's contract would have expired at the end of the season, and new general managers tend to like to install their own coach anyway.
So, whats next? I've put together a list of the best available options for the team. I'll break down the facts, then give you my expert opinion at the end.
Definitely the easiest hire Billy could make. Formerly the assistant coach, Evason was brought in by the former GM Paul Fenton, and took over for Boudreau upon his dismissal. A former player, much of his coaching career has been in the Western Hockey League. He has had a few assistant coaching jobs around the big league, but his stint as interim for the Wild was his first head coaching gig. For six years he was the head coach for the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. He became the winningest head coach in Admirals history, posting a record of 242-161-53. Despite his NHL head coaching experience, Guerin has indicated that Evason will be a candidate for the position. If not, he wouldn't be in this article, right?
This one would be a pretty controversial hire. Due to allegations brought against him this year, most people wonder if Babcock will ever land an NHL job again.
In case you didn't know, multiple coaches were fired this season for allegations of racist, sexist remarks, as well as mental and physical abuse. This goes far beyond a coach yelling "Get your head in the game," but that's another story in itself. While Babcock was fired for the team's poor performance, after these allegations came out one can't help but wonder if they did play a part.
However, Babcock has had a very successful career. The longtime bench boss of the Red Wings has posted a 645-380-19-152 record in his coaching career. If Billy (or another GM) can see that he can alter his methods and still be a winning coach, perhaps he gets a shot again. If not, he better give TSN and Sportsnet a call.
Army is the head coach of the Iowa Wild, our AHL affiliate team. Before the season was cancelled, he was well on his way to leading Iowa to it's second straight playoff appearance. He has some ties to GM Bill Guerin. Army was an assistant coach at Providence when Guerin was playing for Boston College, two bitter rivals. Army was the assistant coach for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who Guerin was the GM for before taking the Minnesota job. However, Army is lacking experience. He has a grand total of five years of head coaching experience. Guerin might want to pass on him this time around, in order to let him get some more years as the skipper under his belt.
Weight is a close personal friend of Guerin's. The two spent many years playing for NHL teams together, including the Blues and the Islanders. Weight took over for the Islanders as head coach, and remained the coach for a year and a half, ending in 2018, and hasn't held a coaching option. Many people think Weight would be a better option as front office staff rather than coach. If you were Billy, would you really feel comfortable hiring your best friend, knowing you will (most likely) have to fire him at some point?
Look familiar, Wild fans? Laviollete spent 6 years as the head coach of the division rival Predators, Leading them to the playoffs in each season, including one trip to the Stanley Cup Final. He also coached the Carolina Hurricanes to their Stanley Cup title in 2006. With a career points percentage of 58.8%, he's a winner. He's proven it everywhere he has coached. While some people may not think he is the best fit for this current Wild roster, his track record certainly speaks for itself.
You can't ask much more from a head coach/general manager duo than what Gerard Gallant and George McPhee accomplished during the first few seasons of the Vegas Golden Knights. A trip to the Stanley Cup Final with the Golden Misfits in their first season? That's absolutely unheard of. Which is why the hockey world wash so shocked when he was fired this season. I believe they were just a point or two out of first place in the pacific division when he was let go. I guess they built the ultimate culture of success that will be almost impossible to replicate for seasons to come. He has also been the head coach of Columbus and Florida. Gallant, with an all time coaching record of 270-216-4-51, will probably be the most sought after coach this offseason. Him and Guerin do have a connection, which could help the case for the Wild. Gallant was an assistant coach for the Islanders when Guerin was playing there. However, Gallant and Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman have a long relationship that many believe will draw the coach to the motor city.
Who's it Gonna Be?
So who on this list is the right choice? Who knows. The only way to see if a coach is a good fit with a group of players is to have him coach those guys. However, I believe the best choice would be Gallant.
He is known as a player's coach, which I believe would be a good fit for this organization. His coaching performance in Vegas was exceptional. His ability to bring that group of guys together and make them buy in was shown each and every Knight (ha). This was a group of guys who had (largely) never played together before, and he took them to the doorstep of Lord Stanley's house. Given the youth and the new players coming into this Wild team...
...I think having the ability to bring those guys together could really help in Minnesota. However, if Billy agrees with me and wants to bring Gallant in, he needs to pounce, and fast. With the massive amount of coaching vacancies this year, almost half of the teams in the league will be giving him a call. And he won't be cheap.
My runner-up for this position would be Laviollete. As I said above, the guy is a winner. He was initially my front-runner, but then I saw someone make a good point on Twitter. (I would credit them, but I forgot who it was. Seems like a Giles Ferrell or Tony Krassenstick thing.) Notice the difference in Kevin Fiala's play under Laviollete versus Boudreau. Now look at Mikael Granlund. When Fiala got under a different coach, he lit it up. Granlund became a shell of his former self in Nashville. Now, it's hard to say if Laviollete is the reason for this change in play or not, but would we be willing to risk it on Kirill Kaprizov? Food for thought.
So there you have it. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section, or reach out on twitter.