Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blog Blast Past: Throwing DeBoer a bone

There is a better than average chance Ottawa saw the last of Craig Hartsburg behind the Senators bench after tonight's 2-0 loss at home to New York. Hartsburg was a conservative choice, a coach who had already been fired twice in the NHL. From June 11, 2008, here's a reminder that there was a very successful junior coach who they might have had, Peter DeBoer, who does have the Florida Panthers in the playoff chase.

While the Leafs recycle, Ottawa is apparently looking a bit outside the box (just a bit, the NHL is very much firmly inside the box on most matters) for its next head coach. It’s widely reported that Kitchener Rangers headman Peter DeBoer is the front runner for the position.

Good on the Sens. Who knows if DeBoer will be a good NHL coach (although the evidence seems to suggest that he may well be). The point here is that it’s refreshing to se a team look beyond the same old, same old candidates for its head coaching position.

The NHL is stupidly conservative. Few teams are ever willing to move beyond the fraternity and as a result the game stagnates. Again, this isn’t so much a comment directed at DeBoer, but rather a celebration of something just a bit new.

It’s thought that you want an experienced guy behind the bench in Canada to deal with the unique media pressure. Why? How bloody hard can it be to spout off clich├ęs once a day? In DeBoer’s case it can be argued that he has already faced a pressure cooker situation by coaching in a junior hockey mad market in Kitchener. Sure, there will be more press in Ottawa, but he’ll be less likely to have to deal with the postman giving him advice on how to run the PK in the larger centre (although it must be said that Ottawa’s not that much bigger than K-W).

Dealing with pro athletes will be a new experience, but CHL players aren’t exactly lacking in the ego department — plus they’re teenagers and we all know what a mess that can be.

DeBoer seems to be a good coach. Hopefully the rumours are true and he will get a chance to show that in Ottawa.

(You know the rest of the story. DeBoer went to Florida largely because the Senators maybe didn't like that he was negotiating with other teams. Ottawa went with Hartsburg and while there are a ton of extenuating circumstances for why the Senators are who they are, the rest is history.)


Dennis Prouse said...

You'll have to pardon my cynicism, but my suspicion is that Murray wants a young, inexperienced coach so that his position isn't threatened, and he can still call the shots.

Murray, of course, knows how place a shiv between the shoulder blades of his GM - just ask John Muckler. Bringing in Pat Burns or especially Pat Quinn threatens Murray's job security, and God forbid that should happen. Fat better to bring in a first time NHL coach who will be grateful for the opportunity, and receptive to helpful suggestions from the GM.

I am all for giving young coaches an opportunity and for shutting down the coaching recycle machine, but in this case I am deeply suspicious of the GM's true motives.

sager said...

Can DeBoer handle the difference in emotional maturity going from the OHL to the NHL?

Most of his Kitchener players are more mature than certain 20-something Senators.

dr said...

It's been a longtime since a coach coming out of junior with no pro coaching experience has had anything approximating success at the NHL level. Hasn't it?

Dennis Prouse said...

Hey, coaches coming right out of junior can be very successful!

Yours sincerely,

Bill LaForge

sager said...

This actually happened ... I was going to post, "Dennis will be along to tell us about Bill LaForge" (who lasted 20 games with the Canucks), but the phone rang.

Duane Rollins said...

sager said...

Fair enough, but wouldn't Scotty Bowman be an exception to the rule when you consider how long ago that was, the circumstances (the league doubling from six to 12 teams), and the fact he had coached briefly in the minors?

Duane Rollins said...

Oh, probably. But your sample size on this little experiment isn't very big. It's hard to say whether it's too big of a jump when so few people have ever had the chance to test the theory.

With the NHL getting younger, maybe it will become more frequent to see junior coaches hired...

DR said...

Also I think the Bowman example counts as a long time (not longtime) ago.

Speaking of Bill Laforge, I was going to mention George Burnett but forgot about his time in Cape Breton. (I didn't, however, forget his stint in charge of the Junior C Port Perry Mojacks. Apparently, standing on the visitor's bench of the Bowmanville Arena while Goodyear and GM employees, back when there were still enough of them to fill an arena, chanting "What's a Mojack?" isn't suitable preparation for the NHL.)