There has been some talk about coach Marc Crawford and his possible return to the NHL. The 55-year-old veteran coach is in his fourth season with the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League, where he won the 2014 championship and the Swiss Hockey Cup this year. Rumors that Crawford is leaving Switzerland came up in the past two offseasons. After winning the Swiss Championship two years ago, Crawford had talked to multiple NHL organizations according to several newspaper reports out of Switzerland and North America.
Furthermore, when ZSC lost in the final last season to HC Davos, there were rumors again that Crawford might use his NHL exit clause to sign with an NHL team. However, in both offseasons, Crawford decided to stay with ZSC, but this year the time might be right for him to rejoin an NHL team this summer.
— Thomas Roost (@thomasroost) February 14, 2016
His contract expires this summer and last week a report from a major Swiss Newspaper indicated that he won’t extend his contract with ZSC. The report also mentions that he gets a lot of publicity because of possible first overall pick Auston Matthews. Only a few days after the Swiss report was published, The Hockey News uploaded an interview with Crawford stating that his goal is to return to the NHL.
“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have that thought,” Crawford said. “I’ve got, I don’t know if it’s an ego, but I have enough confidence to know I am still at that level and I am hopeful that will again be the case.”
Further down in the interview, Crawford is making his intentions pretty clear.
“I want to give myself the best opportunity to get back in the NHL next year,” Crawford said. “If that is being a head coach, which I hope it is, or if it’s being an assistant coach or if it’s going back to one of the other leagues, I want to give myself every opportunity.” That does indeed not sound like Crawford is going to stay in Switzerland and if he gets the chance to play a role in any NHL-organization, he is going to take it. The only question remains which organization is looking for a new head coach prior to next season.
Are the Canadiens Looking to Replace Therrien?
The Canadian teams have faced the most trouble as of late. This is surprising, especially for the Montreal Canadiens. They have started the season with nine straight wins but find themselves nine points out of the playoffs right now. Surely the injury to Carey Price did not help the struggling team, but there has been a lot of noise around their coach Michel Therrien and most of the Habs fan base is demanding general manager Marc Bergevin to fire Therrien in order to somehow save the season and make it to the playoffs. The relationship of Habs fans and Therrien might have taken another ugly turn in Denver the other night as he benched, then blamed, star defenseman P.K. Subban for a fall in the closing minutes of the game.
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) February 18, 2016
Maybe the Habs would be a good fit for Crawford, the only issue is that he is only available for the coming season. Meaning if Bergevin is willing to do everything possible to make it into the postseason, then obviously Crawford is not their guy. At least not now.
Winnipeg, Vancouver and Minnesota Also in the Mix?
When looking at other potential destinations for Crawford, two Canadian clubs, Winnipeg and Vancouver, are crossing my mind. Both organizations are struggling this season and are near the bottom of the Western Conference. The Jets, as well as the Canucks, have a deep pool of promising prospects and Crawford has shown that he can work with young players with the ZSC Lions, not only with Matthews but also with other drafted prospects such as Denis Malgin from the Florida Panthers or Jonas Siegenthaler, the Capitals’ 2015 second-round pick.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 17, 2016
Another possibility is, of course, the Minnesota Wild, which have parted ways with Mike Yeo. The Wild are currently coached by interim head coach John Torchetti.
Whatever will happen, indeed it seems that Crawford is ready to move back to North America and make his comeback in the NHL. In the end, he stayed longer in Switzerland and has resisted calls from NHL organizations for quite a while, unlike his precursor Bob Hartley, who left the Lions after only one season. And after hiring Hartley and Crawford, the ZSC Lions might make themselves a name to former NHL coaches who are looking to restart their careers — something the Swiss team definitely could live with.
Independent Scout covering European Hockey and Prospects for TheHockeyWriters. Located in Switzerland and blogging on www.scouting-factory.blogspot.com. Opinions on blog are my own